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Never Get A Real Job

Scott Gerber is a serial-entrepreneur and author with a lot to say. Still in his twenties, Gerber owns several businesses, is an entrepreneurship columnist for Entrepreneur, Inc., and the Wall Street Journal, and has just released his first book, Never Get a Real Job.

He graduated from college and immediately launched his first business, a new-media and technology company. It failed. He wound up moving back in with his parents, plotting his next move. His mother had an idea: Get a real job.  But Gerber had other plans. He took the last $700 in his bank account and started a new company. Whereas his first endeavor didn’t have a clear market in mind, his new effort was built for a niche market, had low overhead, and was managed much more frugally. It was called Sizzle It, and it put together “sizzle reels,” or promotional clips, for various companies and products. Sizzle It is still in business and now services clients like Procter and Gamble, OBI, and the Gap.

Scott Gerber is not a millionaire, and his book, Never Get a Real Job is not a how-to for getting rich quick. He wrote it for his fellow Gen-Y’ers, for many of whom the idea of a real job–think an office, boss, and cubicle–has little to no appeal. At the essence of Gerber’s message is this: Don’t waste your life handing out resumes, trying to get a job you most likely don’t want, and don’t waste your time trying to come up with the next million-dollar idea that will erase all your financial woes overnight. Get practical, and get busy.

Here at Why Didn’t I Think of That? we profile a lot of companies that seem to be the antithesis of Gerber’s advice: unique or quirky business ideas, many of which turned out to be “million-dollar ideas.” But the two philosophies are not at odds.  Going into any endeavor with a “get-rich-or-bust” mentality simply isn’t good business. Your idea very well might exceed your wildest expectations, but it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is  keep you employed, keep you interested, and keep making a profit.

“The lesson,” wrote Hanna Seligson in a New York Times piece on Mr. Gerber that ran last month, “may be that entrepreneurship can be a viable career path, not a renegade choice — especially since the promise of ‘Go to college, get good grades and then get a job,’ isn’t working the way it once did. The new reality has forced a whole generation to redefine what a stable job is.”

Blogtrepreneur recently posted an interview with Mr. Gerber. In it, Gerber elaborates on some of these ideas, and touches on the concepts presented in his book.

Gerber’s advice for young college graduates, and other people looking for an alternative to the “9-5, work until you die” philosophy:

Well, first thing I would say is that you have to kill your ego now.” Don’t go into any business thinking that you are “the exception in the world or thinking that the rules don’t apply on some levels to you,” Gerber says.

“[N]ow, more than ever, we have got to start thinking of making money making income, not making a million. And part of that means that we need to build simple, practical nuts and bolts businesses that are capable of generating immediate revenue…So, you really need to find ways to avoid things like building a business based on hypothetical exit strategies or massive online traffic… [Y]ou have to get back to the basics and build essential service-based businesses that are going to enable you to move your business forward.”

Gerber says that building things off the premise of “we’ll just use social media and get a thousand hits overnight” is not only unrealistic, it’s bad business.

“Tech is an amazing opportunity to level the playing field, almost instantaneously. From the way we do virtual offices and services, to the way that we communicate, and can have a global audience nearly instantaneously, through platforms.

“However, at the same time, it makes us delusional into thinking that, all of a sudden, just because we’ve got a great platform, that we open the doors and oh my god, here we come, look at my great idea. So, I would encourage people, especially the graduating classes now, and those recent college grads, use technology to increase an existing tried and true business model, to do something unique to an old school idea.”

Well gosh, that sounds familiar. That’s because it’s one of the many business Axioms featured on our website: Think tried and true, and make it new.

“Whether that means taking something like a simple cleaning service, or taking something along the lines of a tutoring business, and adding the level of technology that doesn’t exist in the other competitors in your market, so you can have a more, deeper entrenched relationship with your audience, with your core consumers. You’re going to find a lot more success than trying to build some platform that may or may not work. ”

You can read the full interview here, or just buy the book. In it, Gerber talks about the trap of a traditional business plan, why you are not special, the type of people to avoid when partnering, and much more.

It’s not the be-all end-all book on starting and running a business in today’s climate, but it’s an interesting perspective from a member of the new lost generation: kids who were taught to go to school, work hard, and get a job, only to graduate and find that not only was the job market in the gutter, along with the economy, but that no one–least of all the people in charge–seemed to know what the hell was going on anymore. For better or worse, the landscape of business is changing rapidly, and it’s up to people like Gerber to help draw a new map.

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