Two years ago, I found myself in the right class at the right time at Allegheny College. As a result, I accidentally became an entrepreneur.
My college startup experience would later on define my postgraduate plans. Months later, I found myself at Startup Institute, learning technical marketing skills and diving into New York’s vibrant startup culture. After completing this 8-week career accelerator, I would go on to intern at a healthcare startup called Audicus.
But, soon after finishing my internship at Audicus, I was back on the job market. At that point, I felt both frustrated and lost. I was frustrated because I still didn’t have a full-time job since graduating, and I felt lost because it I had to start my job search all over again. Why did I even stop? On the side, my family was also pressuring me to consider a “Plan B,” since they felt that my determination to work/intern/be part of a startup was a fool’s errand.
By chance, I came across a group called WEN (Women’s Entrepreneur Network). Their meetup page mentioned that Tammy Jersey, President and Founder of TKJ Associates, would be giving a talk about “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Women Entrepreneurs.”
I immediately thought of my favorite college professor, Chris Allison. Former CEO of Tollgrade and Allegheny College’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Professor Allison’s entrepreneurship and financial literacy classes were geared towards preparing his students for the real world. During the last class of the semester, he would always deliver an inspirational “last lecture.” In all of his last lectures I attended, he always recommended his students to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
With that memory in mind, I became very curious about what Tammy Jersey had to say. At that point, I was looking for inspiration, guidance, and a sign that I was doing the right thing. So, it shouldn’t come to you as a surprise that a few days later, I found myself at a chocolate factory, sipping coffee and listening to this engaging executive recruiter and leadership coach tell the story of how these seven habits made a difference in running her own business:
1. Live By Your Own Rules
Who are you? Why do you do the things you do? Most of the time, if you do something because you feel like you should, then you might have to stop for a moment and reflect. Think of it this way: instead of undertaking something because you “should,” do it because you want to. Don’t live by someone else’s rules, and most of all, don’t be afraid to do what it takes to make you happy.
2. Work to Live
What are some of the things you need to do for yourself? Do you enjoy working out? Gardening? Reading a book? Writing? Spending time with your family? Whatever work you pursue, make sure that it allows you to accomplish things that matter to you. Ultimately, you are in charge of your work-life balance. Set your boundaries and be committed to enjoying your personal pursuits.
3. Deny the Impostor
For those of you who don’t know about the Impostor Syndrome, here’s a brief synopsis: it’s a situation where a person feels like an impostor because they feel that their accomplishments don’t hold a candle to the people around them. To overcome the Impostor Syndrome, believe in your potential and display confidence by remembering past successes.
4. Be Assertive
How do you come across when engaging in conversation with others? Do you tend to be apologetic about your services/skills or your pricing? Or do you convey your interest in the other person by asking questions and listening to what they have to say? In whatever environment, be assertive! Don’t ask for permission, over-explain, or apologize. Own your power and display confidence in yourself.
5. Recognize the Trends
Understand that markets fluctuate and learn to deal with it. If you find yourself in a situation where your business isn’t performing as it should because of a situation outside of your control—take a deep breath. Then, figure out how to adjust to the downturn in performance and implement a strategy that you can rely on when it happens again (because it likely will).
6. Keep it Fresh
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment, and be adventurous! Read The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander so that you can gain a new perspective, see situations through a new lens, and strive to be better than who you think you are. Keep thinking, “I am an A,” and find examples to prove yourself as a capable professional.
7. Virtual is Virtuous
Create a virtual team if you want to minimize cash flow issues and more easily ride out market downturns. As you recruit your virtual team, find people with a shared set of values that you can trust. It’s especially important to make sure that your team can deliver in a standard you expect or even exceed your expectations.
Listening to Tammy speak, I was inspired. Instead of looking at myself as a failure for not having a job, I saw myself as a determined individual who made enormous strides professionally in the months since I graduated.
In the past year, I’ve not only realized that I definitely want to be part of New York’s startup scene, but that I also want to learn what it takes to build a successful business before I venture out on my own. And while I may not have a job yet, I’m grateful that I have the time to complete an online Google class, write articles, read a book, practice my languages, volunteer, spend time with my mom, and reflect on what I truly want from life.