Entrepreneurs, it turns out, aren’t all Kim Kardashian-types. Some of us sit in cubicles from 9 to 5, work in entry-level positions, or even aspire to corporate jobs. But almost everyone, regardless of field or ambitions, can get a career boost by thinking like an entrepreneur.
In practice, that means earning income from multiple sources, constantly investing in and upgrading our skills and promoting our own “brands.” On average, we’ll change jobs 10 times before age 36 (PDF), which means that even if we technically have a boss, we won’t have him for long – and we need to be ready to impress the next one.
Create Multiple Income Streams
As my friend Chhayal explained when I interviewed her for my book “Generation Earn,” that kind of flexibility can save you in today’s economy. She works as a professional videographer, but always keeps up a second source of income by working as a fitness instructor at local gyms. She’s passionate about exercise, and loves encouraging other people to work out. When she unexpectedly lost her job, she was able to quickly ramp up her teaching gigs to make it easier to weather that rough patch of unemployment. And in the future, she wants to turn her exercise expertise into a full-time small business, especially now that she’s also a new mom.
We’re not all exercise buffs, but most of us have some kind of hobby that could potentially earn us some cash, such as teaching a second language, designing websites, or even blogging. Brainstorming with a friend can turn up some unexpected ideas. At the very least, moonlighting provides some extra income insurance in case your full-time job suddenly disappears one day.
Invest in Your Skills
Investing in the skills you use everyday also helps. Career expert Alexandra Levit told me that she didn’t always feel like she knew how to excel in the corporate world. She learned the hard way about the importance of relationships after she didn’t get promoted despite working hard, while she watched as her more social and networking peers did. To help her with the social side of work, she took a Dale Carnegie course in personal development, and that’s when she started getting promoted.
Personal or group coaching, in fact, can be just the kind of investment that helps you take your career to the next level. Whether it’s learning better public speaking skills, mastering the art of goal-setting, or picking up a new certification in your field, working with professionals can be worth their price. Coaching usually starts around $200 per hour, but sometimes employers offer to pay part of the cost or coaches offer discounts in exchange for helping to spread the word about their services. Of course, you can always try to get free help by taking a more experienced colleague out to lunch.
Promote Your Brand
Lastly, brand promotion – what seems second nature to Kim Kardashian – can be one of the hardest tricks to learn, but it’s essential for almost everyone today. We might not all need a Twitter account (although it doesn’t hurt), but we do need to know how to highlight strengths and accomplishments to supervisors, clients, and other decision-makers.
As brand guru Dan Schawbel points out, successful “personal branding” can even help you in the most traditional of job interviews. He suggests deciding what your long-term goals are, and then cultivating your online presence around that goal. When someone runs your name through a web search, your LinkedIn profile and other identifying websites will appear – and they should read the way you want them to.
If these traits don’t come naturally to you, then you can nurture them with a little TLC. Maybe self-promotion feels a little icky to you; if that’s the case, run ideas by a trusted significant other or friend first. If you receive praise from a client, then you probably want to pass on the message to your boss, and that trusted cheerleader can help reassure you that it’s the right move.
After some practice, you might decide that you’re actually more like Kim Kardashian than you thought.
Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book “Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.” You can connect with her on Twitter.