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Let me say from the outset, so there is no confusion, we’re living in uncertain times. The current world of work is placing unprecedented demands on all of us to respond with courage, with determination, with energy, with skill; entrepreneurially.

In this brief article I explore the landscape in which we must all now work, one which many observers increasingly describe as an ‘entrepreneurial’ one. I want to provide a few insights on how the entrepreneurial individual is understood and the popular contexts in which they are active. I’ll look at the challenges this presents every individual to develop their own entrepreneurial potential if they really plan to fully realise their career ambitions and how the Ulster University Business School can help.

The entrepreneurial landscape

The current new world of work has been described as an entrepreneurial one. Unprecedented societal and political changes, globalisation, rapid advances in technology, the rising concerns of green and sustainability agendas are just a few of the dynamics defining the landscape into which the entrepreneurial individual must step. Who could have thought February 2020 just how much our world and our lives would change with the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic?

Our new world of work presents those who are prepared with considerable opportunities as well as challenges. Today’s new entrepreneurial landscape can be characterised as one of dynamic and consistent change and of considerable uncertainty requiring more and more people to behave more entrepreneurially in response.

Insights to the entrepreneurial individual

The entrepreneurial individual is someone who sees an opportunity to add value to someone’s life, perhaps through exploiting a new innovative idea, and who is prepared to shoulder reasonable levels of risk and to act in order to exploit that opportunity.

To be really entrepreneurial is the relentless pursuit of opportunities and the thoughtful acquisition and use of resources to create meaningful value from those opportunities for those who benefit from them. This managing of scarce resources in order to exploit innovative opportunities is a dynamic entrepreneurial process with change and, as a consequence, uncertainty at its core.

Where there is change that can be described as radical and dynamic with high levels of uncertainty as a consequence for many individuals there is discomfort and even anxiety. It takes particular types of individuals to be able to step out of their comfort zone and choose to act entrepreneurially.

Entrepreneurial people display, to a greater or lesser extent, particular behaviours and competencies. With respect to entrepreneurial behaviours, for example, they will have a strong positive mindset in the face of high levels of uncertainty and risk, they will have a high need for achievement and high levels of self-belief to help them deal with circumstances when plans fail to work out, as they so often will.

Indeed failure, which results, even after an honest and determined effort to succeed in an enterprise, while disappointing, will be increasingly viewed as an opportunity to learn, to build resilience and to make amendments, prior to having another go.

Entrepreneurial individuals will combine such essential attitudes with high levels of entrepreneurial competencies, for example, as strong communicators, as effective negotiators and as strong team players.

In addition to demonstrating agility in the face of change they will be individuals who can provide inspirational leadership that reflects courage, determination and vision. They will be thoughtful networkers, building strong, open, mutually supportive relationships amongst their personal contacts as a key entrepreneurial resource.

Entrepreneurial individuals are both born and made. We all have our own innate personal strengths, which can be developed and supported. Equally, it is important to develop essential entrepreneurial competencies. I said earlier that entrepreneurial people display particular behaviours and competencies to ‘a greater or lesser extent’.

Everyone has the potential to behave entrepreneurially, it is essentially a choice that an individual makes as to the extent to which they want to invest in developing their entrepreneurial potential as a fundamental part of their career development and the context within which they want to practice.

The UK economy, as with most economies, is one where, if it is to remain competitive, needs people in every walk of life to behave more entrepreneurially, in starting new businesses, in developing or growing an existing business or in launching and developing a social enterprise, to mention just a few important contexts where many more entrepreneurial people are needed.

Contexts for entrepreneurial effort

Entrepreneurial new business venturing, (ENBV), or business start-ups, is the most obvious context where entrepreneurial individuals are active. It is certainly the most common context that people understand when talking about ‘entrepreneurship’. It describes a dynamic process, where an individual entrepreneur, works with others, to challenge market norms by investing personal effort and limited resources, (which they may or may not own), in order to exploit the potential of an innovative opportunity they have identified in a market, in order to start a new, small business.

Similarly, ‘self-employment’ defines a way that entrepreneurial people can exploit a specialist knowledge or skill that they have in order to build a career, where they work solely by themselves. Increasingly entrepreneurial people are also active within growth-oriented, medium sized businesses and even larger, more established companies. The management of such enterprises recognise that, if they are to remain competitive and grow, they must be able to maintain and maximise their entrepreneurial potential lodged in their employees. Such companies are constantly searching for more entrepreneurial people who can help them to maintain a competitive edge in their markets.

But we also need entrepreneurial people in other sectors too, for example in the area of social and community renewal and development, in our health and social care sector and in our education sector. Each of these contexts requires many more people, who have been educated and supported in realising their entrepreneurial potential, as problem solvers and change managers.

Learning to become more entrepreneurial

Many programmes exist across Northern Ireland, for example, to support those who might want to set up their own business venture to write a business plan.

More comprehensive opportunities for entrepreneurial learning and practice where the individual learns to develop their entrepreneurial potential exist at the Ulster University Business School (UUBS). All programmes at the Business School, at Magee, Coleraine and Belfast, reflect its ethos for entrepreneurial learning and practice in terms of programme content and in the way student learning is designed.

There are also programmes that have been specifically developed to focus on the learner’s career ambitions in different contexts. For a full picture of programmes available in the Business School at both undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) level visit the UU website.

For those with specific career interests, for example, in self-employment, or owning your own business or in launching a social enterprise, look specifically at the BSc Marketing and the BSc Business Studies at UG level.

Alternatively, if you are already employed, with some years’ experience in an existing business or organisation, no matter what the sector, then take a look at programmes at Masters level in Marketing, Business Development and Innovation, Business Improvement, Executive Leadership or Strategic Growth. Visit Study at Ulster University Business School webpage

It is possible for an individual to learn to become entrepreneurial and maintain their entrepreneurial potential as they develop their career. Indeed, given the current entrepreneurial landscape, it is arguably, essential that everyone should do so.

Entrepreneurship support at Ulster University

You can find more information on the entrepreneurship support available to Ulster University students and graduates below:

  • For a summary of the support available to students and graduates at the University, please see Student & Graduate Enterprise - Ulster University
  • So She Did is the University’s free programme that helps female students identify business opportunities, validate their ideas and start a side-hustle or new venture
  • An Enterprise Placement Year (EPY) provides the opportunity to fully develop your entrepreneurial idea and establish a new venture
  • The Young Enterprise Start-up Programme enables teams of students from each Ulster University campus to set up a business for a semester
  • Gain valuable industry insights and one-to-one support to help you discover your future career prospects with Alumni Mentoring

Featured in the Department for the Economy, Careers Occupational Information Unit bulletin – Entrepreneurship, 2022