When I was in high school, I thought business sounded like the most boring career path ever. (That’s me on the right, during my time working at an orchard.)
Really. When I thought ‘business’ I thought paperwork and endless spreadsheets and meetings where people dress in formal clothes and talked for hours about numbers. It seemed cold and soulless and utterly boring, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
If you’d told 18-year-old-me that someday I’d be the Program Manager at a startup, talking about things like KPIs and ROI, thinking about the SEO of my blog posts, and helping people land roles at SaaS startups, I would’ve been disappointed. I would’ve thought, “Wow, I didn’t think I’d grow up to be a sellout!”
But here’s the thing: I love my job. And not because I’ve fundamentally changed.
I just completely misunderstood what business was.
We all know the stereotype: people in khakis and button downs, starting and ending their days in their Honda sedans in standstill traffic, drinking bad coffee from styrofoam cups and sitting in cubicles watching the clock.
Those stereotypes exist for a reason. Some people do work in jobs like that. But that’s not a catch-all for business.
Business — especially in startups — is all about creativity. It’s about finding problems and coming up with solutions. It’s about creating something where nothing existed before; changing one little piece of the world and making it better than it was when you found it. It’s convincing people that your product or solution can positively impact their lives.
Business is innately creative in nature. You’re building something (a product) and then crafting a model (business plan) to allow you to sustain yourself creating that product.
If you’re a creative person, business is a great place to work. Let me explain why:
1. It’s really fun.
Seriously. In business, things change fast (so it’s exciting). There are always new things to be built (so it’s creatively engaging). There are direct rewards tied to your work (the income from sales, the attention garnered by good marketing, the review or thanks of a happy customer). It’s a fast-paced and engaging environment that holds your attention and helps you keep having fun.
2. There are always new challenges.
Just like the quote says, “you’re either growing or dying.” Just like all your favorite apps release software updates every couple months, good companies are always innovating and growing too. If they don’t, our changing world will leave them in the dust. The constant change means there are constantly new challenges, and new problems to solve, and new things to build — so you’ll never be bored, and there will always be room to get better.
3. You’re building things that have never existed before.
Think of how different your experience of going out would be if you couldn’t call a car from your smartphone. Think of how much your communication would change if you didn’t have Gmail or Facebook DMs. Think of how much of your friends’ lives you’d miss if you didn’t have Instagram. Those are all extreme examples, but smaller products have an impact too — usually just on a smaller number of people, instead of on a societal scale. The impact can still be profound. This is where the intensely creative part comes in — you’re bringing something into the world no one has ever created before. And that’s a really cool thing.
4. There’s lots of room to create the results you want.
Business is about setting goals (we want to accomplish X) and then figuring out what will most effectively move you towards those goals. There’s ample — nearly infinite — room to advance your own opportunities within that. Get good at helping businesses effectively move towards their goals and the sky’s the limit in terms of growth.
5. There’s lots of room to make the world your own.
What do you think should exist? What ideas do you have for the company? What new companies should we be starting? As you teach yourself to think more innovatively, you can actually turn those ideas into a reality.
6. It teaches you about people.
There’s no better way to understand people than through economics — not the monetary kind, but the kind that studies human interactions. Why do people make the choices they make? What’s the benefit and the rationale? Business forces you to understand people on a deep level — how to communicate with your colleagues, how to predict the behavior of your boss, how to convince someone to buy your product.
7. It develops character and personal mastery.
Just like sports, business is competitive. And just like sports, you have to train and focus and put in the hours to get good. There are only so many customers, and the best company wins. The best employees move up within that company. You have to do hard things to be successful, and those hard things build character.
8. You build transferrable skills.
No matter what you do in life, you’ll have to be able to sell things — even if you’re just selling your significant other on going to see the new Disney movie you really want to see, not the high-speed action movie he’s more interested in. No matter your career path, being organized and efficient is going to help you get more done faster. And no matter what you do, you’ll need to make money. People use business as a training ground to become artists, videographers, actors, and writers. It’s the best place to learn the skills you’ll need to be successful in those fields, too.
9. It’s the best teacher of how the world works.
We live in a world where business is an important factor. The store at the mall where you bought the jeans you’re wearing? That’s a business. The company that built the laptop or phone you’re reading this on? That’s a business — and so is the network provider that’s connecting you to the internet. Even the organic farm across town where you get your vegetables is a business, with a business model (do they sell their produce at a farmers’ market, or are they running a CSA?). You’ll be interacting with businesses all your life, at every turn, so the more you learn about business, the better you’ll understand the rest of the world around you.
10. It teaches you to constantly be effective, efficient, and evolving.
No matter what, you always have to be effective in your job and efficient at getting things done. You have to be growing or your job will move on without you. These skills are invaluable no matter what you decide to do throughout your life.
Business is a lot more fun than people think it is. Most people just don’t give it enough attention to take a look inside and see what it’s all about.
⬅️ (That’s me back in 2019, doing an interview after speaking on a panel at a conference, talking to young people like you about—you guessed it—business!)
If you think business sounds fun, I’ve got good news. It’s not that hard to get started. If I’ve made you curious and you want to learn more, check out this great guide my colleague put together on launching a business career in less than a year. Good luck!