Michael McDermott, 32, spent four years as an attorney before deciding to turn his daily lunchtime ritual—a visit to the taco truck parked outside his Austin office building—into a business of his own. Today McDermott and partner Eleanor Burkett are cofounders and owners of Yes! Taco, and, after two years of success expanded this summer to a second truck. The lawman-turned-foodie credits his days as a litigator with helping his small business to navigate industry regulations, but more than that, for helping to develop an effective sales pitch.
“As a litigator I was always playing the advocate,” he says. “And now, sales are advocacy. Those skills help to think about the strength of our position and to make an attractive case or argument of why a customer should buy.”
While the media likes to champion dorm room entrepreneurs—the young golden men and women who launch successful companies straight out of college—more founders take a much more circuitous path to ownership. But the experts say that some jobs can serve as better preparation for entrepreneurship than others.
According to jobs expert Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., author of 150 Best Jobs for Your Skills, there are a host of job-options that are proven testing grounds for aspiring entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly, lawyers are near the top of the list.
To compile the list, Shatkin culled the 1999 best high-skilled jobs in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) for those that match a key personality type of entrepreneurs: the enterprising personality. Personality types are used in job inventories to identify career paths that best meet a person’s disposition and skills.
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Shatkin describes jobs that suit people with an enterprising personality type as occupations that involve taking the lead on projects. “These occupations involve leading people and making many decisions,” he says, noting that risk-taking is also a key indicator, all qualities that entrepreneurs would be wise to develop. The result? A list of careers where young people with a variety of skill-sets can test their mettle before striking out on their own. “People in the enterprising personality type can be particularly entrepreneurial,” Shatkin says. “They want to run the show and are often impatient to work in a more take charge capacity.”
At the top of the list, sales manager is the best job for aspiring entrepreneurs with an enterprising personality type. The occupation features an annual median salary of $98,500, and, with more than 12,600 job openings each year, it’s a promising opportunity for recent grads looking to dip their toes into sales, which is easily among the most important qualities of a newly minted founder.
While the position calls for management, social and thought-processing skills, its the management skills that Shatkin says are the most important for would-be CEOS. “If you’re going to be an entrepreneur it’s absolutely imperative that you have management experience,” he says. But it’s the intersection of several different managerial skills (time, people and resources) that make for a great leader.
To that end, half of the top-10 list is comprised of managers: Marketing managers (No. 3) earn a median of $112,800; computer systems managers (No. 4) earn $115,780; construction managers (No. 5) earn $83,860; and medical and health service managers (No. 7) earn $84,270.
Even if management positions aren’t a possibility (as they often aren’t for entry-level job applicants), Shatkin says employeed within these industries should look to gain management experience. The intersection between hot industries for entrepreneurship (health services, IT) and leadership positions can be the stepping stone to success. How to do that? Shatkin says it’s easy: just ask. “Ask to sit in on interviews or hiring decisions,” he advises. “Taking on managerial tasks to gain that experience is key for enterprising personalities.” The remaining positions in the top-10 list of jobs for aspiring entrepreneurs seems like a mixed bag at first glance: lawyers (No. 2), registered nurses (No. 6), financial advisors (No. 8), public relations specialists (No. 9) and sales reps (No. 10). But upon closer inspection, each of these positions develop skills that are absolutely critical to the entrepreneur and have one very basic thing in common: hustle.
“Enterprising personalities and entrepreneurs both thrive in environments where there’s a lot of risk but also a lot of reward,” says Shatkin. “These job descriptions all positions where an enterprising person can have a lot of impact within the organization, but also one where there’s a high level of recognition for a job well done.” Whether you’re after new clients, more billable hours, higher profits, or—the ultimate hustle—to save lives, employees in these occupations go to work each day with the drive to get things done. This “by any means necessary” quality that Shatkin says can help people to climb the career ladder are just as important, if not more so, in entrepreneurial endeavors.
A lot of that hustle, he says, comes down to the great social and communication skills of the enterprising personality. “Communication is key to getting others to work with you and for you in leadership positions, and more importantly to get them to towards a common goal, to understand your vision.
In this list, Shatkin recognizes careers that open opportunities for the rising tide of both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in America. “With our current economy, it’s unrealistic that you’ll stay with the same employer for 30,40 years,” he says, pointing to the trend of second-act entrepreneurs among Baby Boomers. “To that end, it’s helpful for every employee to think entrepreneurially, to develop that hustle and to build a brand for yourself from day one.” You never know when those skills will come in handy.