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Building Sustainable Careers. . . 
Think Entrepreneurially and Spark Innovation - The 5th Characteristic of a Sustainable Career
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

“Corporate Culture has more to do with the mind than with the organizaton.” — Donald Karatk, Jeffrey Hornsby, Douglas Naffziger and Ray Montagno

"...find a need that requires attention and fill it. In doing so, we discover our own calling, our unique way of adding value to the planet."Introduction
Is your career on a treadmill going nowhere? Are you following the same daily routines, doing just enough to stay safe? To keep your job? Taking fewer chances, avoiding risks for the security of a paycheck? If so, you may be suffering from a case of “Career Rustout.” Learn how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset - to add the spark of innovation into your career!

“Rustout is the opposite of burnout. Burnout is over-doing. Rustout is underbeing,” according to Richard Leider. He thinks the antidote to career rust-out is “to find a need that requires attention and fill it. In doing so, we discover our own calling, our unique way of adding value to the planet.” (emphasis added) Leider suggests we use our special talents to fill a need and then build a career around it. (We discussed this in a prior article on the 1st characteristic of a sustainable career – “Address Human Needs and Problems You Care About. ….” Richard J. Leider.” The Power of Purpose, ReadHowYouWant, 2008, chptr 8.

Do You Have an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

If you want to develop your career to the max, start thinking like an entrepreneur. If you have a good idea, others will be interested and help you launch it – whether inside or outside of your organization. Draft proposals within your organization to champion your ideas and find support. Always be aware of the trends and look for career possibilities within newly developing products and services. Be curious and ask “what if” questions. Be positive and optimistic. Adapt with grace and ease to changes and new environments, requests, needs, problems and opportunities that affect your career development. Most of all, don’t resist change. Change is our constant and our careers need to develop in lock-step with or in advance of change. Find time to explore, experiment, and embrace change, but always be willing to take risks, to think and dream big and to trust your heart. These keys open the doors to a vibrant and sustainable career.

Sustainable Careers Embrace an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Why is an entrepreneurial mindset so important? It seems like our jobs, professions and careers are being snowed under daily by mind-boggling numbers of changes. If you’re an auto mechanic, you have to deal with the computers in vehicles and are then bombarded by manufacturing advisories and software changes. If you’re a surgeon, you’re faced with mastering new laparoscopic surgical techniques, updated digital robotics and changing computer programs. For those who have an entrepreneurial mindset, innovation and change are welcomed. Careers are built on innovation; innovation sparks and develops talent. For example, when the DaVinci Robot was developed for surgery, it brought the state of the art to a new level and created new and more effective surgical intervention. Those who accepted the robot machine moved to a higher state of their art, while others, who resisted the changes were left behind.

How many times have you heard that you’re the one who is responsible to develop your own career? Your career is your business. You have to be a career entrepreneur and continue to learn, invent, and innovate just to stay current in your job and profession. Sustainable careerists not only accept change, but they look forward to innovative improvements that accompany change. Think like an entrepreneur, look for trends, ask “what if” questions, ignite your curiosity, take risk and most of all accept change.

There are too many companies hung up on the current bottom line, so they can’t see that the future bottom line is only as good as their most creative and entrepreneurial talent. People outside of organizations are creating support platforms for innovative ideas because people inside organizations are often more focused on their current bottom lines. When people cannot air their ideas in their organizations, they tend to leave and start their own businesses. Organizations often lose their best people when they don’t manage and develop innovative talent.

If you are working in a culture that doesn’t address your entrepreneurial vision, you might look at two websites that may satisfy your entrepreneurial mindset and respond to your ideas. Go to and Kickstarter at two support platforms for creative projects. Another option is to explore starting similarly creative, project-sourcing platforms in your own organization. How can you organize a funding platform in your organization?

A Proven Method to Build Entrepreneurial thinking - Increase Your Capability

Over the years, MasteryWorks has worked with hundreds of thousands of managers and employees facing massive organizational changes. You can practice the 7 steps below and unleash your entrepreneurial mindset.

atch the trends -
Relevant trends originate from a variety of places – customers, competitors, countries, organizations, think tanks, society, or technology. Any relevant trend – such as open-source code, increasing medical costs, talk of global warming, low cost of digital cameras, exploding number of apps - can become your career platform and spark ideas for new products, services or inventions.

ACTION: Think of ten trends impacting your job, profession, organization or industry. If you get stuck, go to for ten trends in the wind. Determine the ones that will most impact your industry, organization or profession. Write them down. Discuss with others.

Anticipate new possibilities -
Entrepreneurs not only recognize trends but can anticipate specific new possibilities generated by those trends. They frequently join skills from several fields to create their new product or service. For example: Scott Jones was steeped in the sciences of robotics, vision systems, optical storage, and parallel computing at MIT. He founded Boston Technology, Inc. in 1986, and created a voicemail system that was faster, more scalable, more reliable, more user-friendly and 20 times more powerful than those of competitors such as AT&T, Siemens, Northern Telecom and others. Since his mid-20s, Scott's resulting patented inventions have been implemented by nearly every major telephone company in the world and have enabled those companies to offer highly profitable voice-mail services to hundreds of millions of their customers. Or, look at the accomplishments of 25 young entrepreneurs. to see possible niches, products, services.

ACTION: Brainstorm and write ten ways you could address one of the trends you’ve listed above with a new or improved product or service. If you get stuck, ask some people in your network.

Propose realistic options -
Choose a product or service you’re well-positioned to offer. Take the time to craft a novel and creative proposal that engages the passion of possible stakeholders. Writing is key. It helps us think. Be sure that you focus on only one niche. Show how your offer meets specific needs or mitigates existing problems.

ACTION: Choose one exciting option from the ten above and draft a specific written offer, identify your target group and pinpoint possible results. Craft the offer in a few short sentences and be specific, credible and demonstrate you can deliver.

Analyze the benefits -
Do your homework. Learn about the target group or stakeholders before making your proposal to them. Do at least a threefold analysis: 1) benefits to the company; 2) benefits to the customer/target; and 3) benefits to the industry.

ACTION: Write down your threefold analysis. Quantify benefits when possible.

Build a business case -

Review your prior accomplishments and experiences. Which of them will make your proposal credible? Have you delivered similar products or services? What competencies do you possess that will give others assurance? Catch their interest? Who do you want on your team?

ACTION: List your accomplishments, experiences and competencies and make links to the proposal you're making.

Leverage your reputation -

Make a list of the people who have witnessed your accomplishments. They are your best PR sources. Survey your network of people. Who will vouch for you – current and former colleagues? Past employers? Customers? Colleagues in the industry? Who would be willing to put their reputation on the line for you? Who might fund you?

ACTION: List the names of people you can count on. Tell them about your idea and get feedback. Ask for their sponsorship or partnership.

Engage your services -
Even before your proposal is accepted, think about what you need in return. What sort of environment do you need? Colleagues? Seed money? Hours? Location? Technology? Compensation – stock, bonus, percentage of profits, patent or trademarks?

ACTION: Put your proposal in writing. Be clear. Be fair. Support your recommendations and have a fallback position. Choose your stakeholders carefully.

Many people claimed these CAPABLE topics were the most helpful part of our work with them to develop careers through an entrepreneurial spirit. This coaching method is best described in detail in my book, Who’s Running Your Career? Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times, Bard Press, 1997. In the text, I examine how to become a CAPABLE entrepreneur. The process may be intuitive to entrepreneurs, but for the rest of us, it’s a thoughtfully learned process.

We all look to discover the "element" within ourselves, to "fit in" and work in a zone where our passion and personal abilities are combined. What if you and everyone on your team "fit" their work? Felt like they were working in their element? Can you imagine the sense of meaning, productivity and creativity you would feel? Finding your element will go a long way in creating a sustainable career.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks, Inc., provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is the leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients. In her current series, “Facing Changes of the Next Decade,” Dr. Farren describes the most important characteristics of Sustainable Careers.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.

MasteryWorks, Inc.
2230 George C Marshall Drive, Suite 122 Falls Church, Virginia 22043 USA 800-229-5712