In my book, The End of Jobs, one of the paths that I talked about for people trying to get started in entrepreneurship was to find an apprenticeship.
Put simply, an apprenticeship is a paid job that prioritizes your learning and long-term career trajectory by working with established entrepreneurs to develop a valuable skill set and business relationships.
By taking on an apprenticeship, you get the opportunity to ‘train at altitude’, while also being paid. Instead of learning entrepreneurship on your own dime, you get your foot in the door at a fast-moving startup or online businesses where you have more resources and opportunities.
Author and angel investor Tim Ferriss put it this way:
“If you optimize for money too early, you will be minimizing for learning, almost without exception,” he said.
“So look at the first few years out as an apprenticeship where you cover your costs,” he said. “And if you’re looking in business, I would say, be in the room as much as possible to observe the decision-makers and dealmakers.”
I believe in apprenticeships because it worked for me. I spent two years working with a fast growing, multi-million dollar business and learned more than some people I knew who had gotten MBAs.
In exchange, I’d helped the company grow one of its product lines by over 5x in an 18 month period.
It wasn’t just successful for me though.
Charlie Hoehn began working with Ferriss as an apprentice in 2008 and helped Tim launch a New York Times Bestseller by 2010 at the same time as he launched his career.
It’s not just for young 20-somethings, either. Elisa Doucette took an apprenticeship role as a way to make a career transition from insurance sales to novelist and editor. Now she runs a content editing agency and writes novels.
The Case for Apprenticeships
More than at any other time in history, the career landscape today is at once full of both opportunity and peril.
Never before has there been a time where a single individual can create as much of an impact as they can today. The technologies of the last two decades have created immense new possibilities for our careers, but with a corresponding increase in uncertainty.
The challenges these new technologies pose are well documented: job displacement, automation, and an increasingly competitive global job market.
Less remarked upon is that these same trends create a tremendous source of leverage for those with an entrepreneurial skill set. Never before in history has it been so cheap to start a business that has the potential to reach around the world.
Apprenticeships offer a path to navigate the most complex work environment we’ve ever faced, by teaching us how to build an entrepreneurial skillset.
Today’s world demands hands-on-the-wheel experience that can’t be elucidated through university degrees or online courses alone.
Apprenticeships are the best answer we have for acquiring the valuable entrepreneurial skills that are becoming essential to succeeding in today’s career landscape.
Why Apprenticeships Matter
Today, apprenticeships still seem novel. In fifty years, we will look at apprenticeships in much the same way as we look at an undergraduate degree today. It will be a default part of a smart career path.
Apprenticeships create a win-win opportunity for individuals in a fast-changing career environment and companies around the world. Apprentices get paid to learn valuable skills that will serve them over the long-term, while giving employers a way to recruit talented, motivated team members.
In today’s world of rapidly changing technology and uncertainty, career scripts once safe have begun to collapse. It’s a change that’s evidenced through millions of jobless graduates carrying mortgage-sized debts with nothing tangible to show for it. It’s shown in millions of dismayed employers — unwilling to take on the extra risk of training someone who might not stick around.
Apprenticeships provide an answer for both. Apprentices gain practical skills while employers gain tangible ROI. Everything old is new again.
Last Updated on January 4, 2022 by Taylor Pearson