THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Get ahead: Act like you own the company

Starting a company used to be a result of a midlife crisis or an ageless streak of recklessness. Today, entrepreneurship is a way to establish some sense of stability and self-determination in a workplace that is rife with layoffs, downsizing, unreasonable job descriptions, and unbearable bosses.

In fact, entrepreneurship is such a common alternative today that the trend is not only shaping work outside of corporate America, but inside those big companies as well. So here are five ways to make a corporate job better by thinking in terms of entrepreneurship:

1. Test the corporate waters

If you don't like the job offers you have, you can leave. Start your own company. The history of "the organization man" is someone who is defined by whatever track the company puts him on.

Today, you can take freedom to figure out who you are and what you want, even in the context of the company, because if you find out that you are not compatible, you can leave.

The freedom to leave gives you the freedom to truly examine who you are.

Chris Britt is chief executive of Priviley, a Boston accounting firm. He founded the firm after a stint doing finance in the hotel industry and finding that the work was not exciting him enough to stay. Britt is an example of the massive wave of young people who are testing big-company waters and then striking out on their own.

2. Find  an "intrapreneurship"

Seventy percent of young people say they eventually want to work for themselves. The problem is that only a fraction of those people have an idea for a company– or a friend with an idea for a company. So there are a lot of people in corporate America waiting for their moment, but thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs at heart.

These people are great at taking a project and making it their own. Creating arenas for themselves that have a feel for a small company within a large company and then taking ownership like it's a start-up. Of course this is incredibly annoying to some old-school managers, but to a young person hellbent on entrepreneurship, starting something small within something big– an intrapreneurship– is often the only way to make big company life palatable.

3. Consider rotational programs

Some of the most popular postcollege routes today are management training programs at companies such as General Electric Co. and Procter & Gamble, where superstar candidates get to test out the work in lots of departments in a company. Candidates often see these programs as stepping stones to running their own business, when the time is right, because as an entrepreneur you wear so many different hats.

4. Use your connections

Even if you fall into the category of people who don't want to launch a start-up, you still end up functioning like an entrepreneur in today's new workplace. There is no long-term stability, so the way you create stability is with your skill set and your connections. You are the product, and you are the sales and marketing team for your product. On average, people today are changing jobs every two to five years, which means you must function like an entrepreneur nearly all of the time if you are going to bring in a steady paycheck.

5. Conserve thy cash

It used to be that you were either corporate or an entrepreneur. Today, people move in and out of big companies and start-ups, using the steady paycheck to fund the risky venture. This is what Britt did, using the money he earned from the hotel industry as the seed funding for Priviley. This model gives founders the benefit of not having to divert their attention to raising angel funding.

The self-funding model has spawned a generation of scrappy founders who use virtual tools and low-budget marketing. Priviley, for example, provides services to a wide range of other start-ups, creating a community of entrepreneurs that model these larger trends.

And, of course, the self-funding model also allows founders to reap benefits more quickly because they don't have to share large pieces of their pie.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.