Friday, November 16, 2007

Entrepreneurial guidance for PhDs

Lemon University happens to have a highly rated program in entrepreneurship. I know because I had hoped there'd be benefits available to me, like tuition waivers. (Apparently, there are such waivers for adjuncts, but not available to newbies). I had thought I might enroll myself in some courses on the subject. I browsed through the text books they use in the bookstore, picked up a paperback, and checked out a couple books from the library.

What I came to realize is that entrepreneurship is mostly viewed as a vocation, like restaurateur, hotelier, bus driver. Most business books are disappointingly vague, and full of filler (like a bad undergraduate essay). I had been reading the volume "The Answer to How is Yes" thinking it a great image. Yes. Yes! And, though there are (ever so randomly) an occasionally pithy remark by the author, so much of the work is overwritten, and generic. But then, who'd pay $16 for a 15-page tract (likely the real length it ought to be).

I've been thumbing through "The Entrepreneurial Journey" (ISBN 0-324-17688-0) While you find sentences like "Successful entrepreneurs do things they love and for which they have a great passion," these are quickly followed up with passages that discuss the sorts of businesses each personality is best suited for. The emphasis is on how you might run your business, not on how you create a business from those passions just referred to.

The conclusion I draw is that entrepreneurship is seen as the work of business folk, not the work of researchers. But then, that simply couldn't be the whole picture. The point I make is that there appears to be little guidance out here for the motivated entrepreneurial researcher. I think of my experience and expectations in graduate school.

I never once considered the possibility that I'd be three years out from my PhD without a solid and established affiliation with a university. I never once considered it. So, all of the talks and workshops and resources that university staffers may have made available to me as a graduate student (and they did, I admit) regarding alternative careers made not a dent into my consciousness. And for most of the ensuing period, I have kept expecting that it would all work out. I wish I knew how those staffers might attract interest from those students who'd best benefit, how they might couch their information in terms that don't seem like failure ("alternative career"... you know, for those who just can't make it).

Finally, about a year ago, I hired a career and life coach, to help me break out of my rut. We met for about 4 months. It helped. I don't know if there are any other entrepreneurial-minded readers of this blog. I wish I knew of more resources available to me, guidance from those who've succeeded from similar origins. Entrepreneurship (like much of research) is a solitary and isolating activity. I wish I could find a community of like-minded folk, to help break the isolation.

No comments: