By: Drew Starbird, MBA '84
Last fall I attended the Give2Asia Ignite + Inspire Gala in San Francisco. The keynote speaker was Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank was the world's first microfinance organization supporting small businesses in developing nations. One of the things that Dr. Yunus said was that teaching people to look for a job is an obsolete concept. His advice for students: "Tell yourself repeatedly that I am not a job seeker, I am a job creator. And act like a job creator, think like a job creator."
I am not sure that looking for a job is an obsolete concept just yet, but I do agree that teaching students to create their own jobs is a valuable goal for universities. Students should know how to do both. Moving toward self-created jobs aligns with the philosophy of infusing the traditional work world with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Why is it important to know how to create a job? Obviously, if you didn’t create your own job, someone else did. You are relying on that someone to make decisions that will keep your job alive and healthy. Does the person who created your job have your best interests at heart? Are they experienced and smart enough to ensure your job will be there in the future? The answer might be yes now, but it is good to be ready for when and if the answer becomes no.
So how do you create your own job? You’ll need to know how to do the following:
- Recognize opportunity. Jobs come, directly or indirectly, from the exchange of goods and services between people in a market. Everyone who has ever seen Shark Tank knows that there are a lot of ingenious and innovative products out there. To create a job, you’ll need to identify goods or services that people want and are willing to pay for. It takes awareness of people’s needs and preferences, insight into human behavior and propensity, and imagination to recognize that there is a viable opportunity to connect your product or service with people’s needs and wants.
- Overcome constraints. Opportunity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Social, legal, and political environments impact the viability of business ideas and the jobs that go along with them. Job makers must identify barriers and develop strategies for breaking them down. The good news is that there is a lot of help out there from the SBA, SCORE, and SCU’s MOBI.
- Find a solution. To take advantage of an opportunity you’ll need to find a viable, sustainable solution—that is, a good or service that meets the needs of the market and makes money, too. Your job won’t last very long if you are losing money. Also, keep in mind that solutions come with an expiration date. While you’re doing your job, the needs of your market are going to change. Be ready to reboot and pivot to accommodate these changes.
- Make it happen. Delivering goods or services is almost always a team effort. Your new job will include setting goals, making plans, gathering partners, and leading a team. All of a sudden, you’re the person creating jobs for other people. Think carefully and work hard—they will be counting on you.
Creating a job is more challenging than finding a job, but it leads to significant personal and community benefits. One of Dr. Yunus’s most compelling predictions is that by teaching our students to create jobs, we will be working toward a world with almost zero unemployment. Now that’s an intriguing idea.
Dr. Drew Starbird is the Director of My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business. He is also a professor in the department of operations management and information systems.