From Unemployment to Entrepreneurship—A Roadmap

August 10, 2020
Suzanne Murdoch
unemployment to entrepreneurship

We don’t know about you, but we really don’t like the term “unemployed.” Have to imagine it’s hard enough being laid off or losing work one had had counted on without being reminded you are not being put to use. How about “at liberty” or “newly liberated” instead? Think of all the possibilities you could pursue with the extra time.

Beyond the hobbies and extracurricular activities, there’s also training for your next career. And if you’re like many of the newly liberated, you may be considering taking the leap from unemployment to entrepreneurship.

That may seem like a step too far, but bear with me. You’re actually in good company. Ever heard of Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban? That’s right. They were ‘newly liberated’ from jobs before finding their personal success trajectories. In Steve Jobs’ case, he was actually fired from Apple, the company he founded, before being brought back years later.

Think about it for a moment. When you work for someone else, you are exchanging a lot for that paycheck—your time, your energy, the decision about what your job will be… even your schedule. And your employer has ultimate control over whether you will keep that job. Even if you are a top performer, a sudden business downturn can take your position down with it.

So, as inviting as binge watching from your favorite corner of the couch may be right now, consider the possibilities. What if you could take control of your future and start on a path that could ensure you’d never be in this position again? What if you decide how you will spend those valuable work hours?

What is it like going from unemployment to entrepreneurship? Well, the research tells us a couple of things: Self-employed people are happier. They’re more engaged, more satisfied with their work environment, and thrive on their freedom, control, and ability to innovate. It’s also important to note that small businesses play an important role in job creation and employment in the U.S., employing about 50% of the workforce.

So, dream a little. Take the time you have while you are still able to access unemployment benefits to explore life as an entrepreneur. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

What do you love doing? If you could spend your time doing anything you wanted to, what would it be? Think of favorite hobbies, or what you are interested in knowing more about. Consider, too, what your talents and abilities are and if those support your interests.

Make a plan. Even if you’re not sure this is for you, thinking about your business plan is a valuable exercise. Don’t let visions of a two-inch binder discourage you. Essentially, it’s putting down in writing what you will do and how you will do it. Consider what you will offer, who your customers will be, and how you will promote and sell your products. The Small Business Administration offers valuable information and resources for entrepreneurs, including sample business plans.

Identify training or education you need. Perhaps you’re an excellent weekend carpenter, but you know your skills need a little finish work before you market your services. Research reputable trade schools and what they offer. If going in person is not an option right now, look at online training and virtual info sessions to get you started.

Find individuals who are doing what you want to do. There is nothing like talking to entrepreneurs who have already launched a successful business. Put yourself in the role of a customer and find the best by using your own network and research or connecting with alumni of the trade schools you’ve identified. (If you’re considering a skilled trade, check out our career and alumni information.)

Whether or not you ultimately decide to start your own business, the process of exploring your self-employment options can be a very empowering exercise that is sure to get you closer to your next job, whatever that ultimately turns out to be.

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