There is a day from class 5 that I clearly remember. It was the first month in high school.
It was the last period and it was taken up by the assistant headmaster, GM sir, because the regular teacher was absent that day.
GM sir decided to utilize this period by telling us what are our various career options. It was a very inspiring class. It made me think of the future – what do I want to do when I grow up?
GM sir drew a hierarchy of careers on the blackboard.
At that time, I wanted to be an astronaut. Or a soldier. Not very sure.
GM sir however never mentioned these careers. As per his opinion, the top choices were to be an IAS or IPS officer. They run the country, he said. After these, there was WBCS – our state civil services. He also mentioned other white-collar professions, doctors, engineers, architects. Then there was teaching.
He focused mostly on government jobs though. He told us about how there are 4 classes of government staff – Class 1, 2, 3, and 4. Class 1 and 2 are officers. Class 4 staff are peons, cleaning personnel, manual workers.
In that universe, there was hardly any scope for private jobs. It was not worth talking about much. Or maybe he mentioned in passing with the caveat that you have to work unreasonably hard in private jobs and there is no job security.
It was 1997 and I was 10 years old.
Those were the times in India when government jobs were the most coveted jobs, the private sector was nascent, and everyone craved job security, a term I have not heard in the last 10 years at all.
I turned out to be an entrepreneur after starting my career as a lawyer. These were two professions GM sir did not mention at all.
However, times have changed. I imagine today when a teacher begins to explain the universe of careers to 10-year olds, startup founders feature somewhere towards the top. So does law as a profession, it would appear, given the massive and increasing popularity of CLAT.
In any case, I did what I wanted to do, marched to my own drum beats, never wrote any government job exams, and instead built my own enterprises that today employ close to 100 wonderful professionals, the vast majority being lawyers.
I am very pleased, therefore, that researchers are claiming that the new generation entering the workforce, Gen Z, is that of builders. The trend surely started with millennials, with our idealism-driven career choices. India saw the startup revolution. Indian built billion-dollar startups from ground zero rather than just accepting jobs in MNCs as was the norm before that.
I can identify with that sentiment too. After graduating from one of the top law schools, I went to work for a big law firm and was soon disillusioned about working in that environment. I wanted to chase my passion, building products, and services that filled a gap in the market and made a difference to my customers. This was unthinkable for my parent’s generation. Admittedly, these choices were not made by too many of my contemporaries either, who preferred to stick to well-paid jobs.
However, Gen Z is a lot different. They have grown up in a world where building a startup is not a stay-hungry-stay-foolish kind of adventurism, but as cool as India winning the cricket world cup and potential and sensible career choice reserved for the best. For them, they are used to seeing the invention and adoption of new products, apps, services and brands every other day, and they aspire to build things themselves!
A counstancy called Ziba spent over 1 year researching Gen Z all over the USA, talking to them and actually spending time with them. They came up with a very interesting report, and the foremost observation is this:
People have been making things for all of recorded history, but never so many things, so enthusiastically, with so little standing in the way. The Builder Gen grew up with YouTube, Soundcloud, Minecraft and open source everything.
With a host of powerful, accessible tools and a culture whose heroes are innovators and entrepreneurs, the kids think they’re ready to reshape the world now, with joy, curiosity, and a level of technical fluency that previous generations could only dream of.
So this is a generation that does not grow up to stumble upon becoming leaders, builders or entrepreneurs. They know they will grow up to build businesses and change the world. And this is not about a few exceptional kids anymore, but an entire generation growing up with these ideas as mainstream sentiment.
What will be the impact? We can only wait with a lot of expectations. And give this new generation the tools they will need to build what they want to build.
Here are 9 skills Gen Z builders should start to cultivate early if they want to start their own businesses a few years down the line. This is true for anyone wanting to build a business though, and by no means relevant for only Gen Z.
Become a knowledge and skill acquisition machine
Business is a world today where incremental knowledge and skills matter a lot. Just think of the stock exchange, where even one bit of secret information that is exclusively available to you can make you rich overnight (heard of insider trading? It’s banned though)?
The world of entrepreneurship is pretty much like that. Do you know something, or foresee something that most others do not? That is huge. If everyone knew what products or services to build, or what ideas to put their career behind, then everyone will be a successful entrepreneur. But that is not the case.
To build something of value, you need to have a diverse level of skills, knowledge and interests. Even after you start a company and even after you reach a certain level of success, you will have to learn new skills and knowledge very fast and you have to keep evolving in the right direction faster than your competition. It is not going to be easy.
Being a successful entrepreneur, a successful builder of products or organizations will require you to be engaged in learning and development. You need a lot of skills and knowledge and much more than the next guy.
Train yourself to make learning new things every day a constant habit. If you cannot rest easy on days on which you do not learn anything new, then you are on the right track
What is the most important skill in today’s world? It is the skill to learn skills very fast.
On that note, if you love to keep learning continuously, do check out our LawSikho courses. These ones are open for enrollment right now and are very relevant for future entrepreneurs:
- An entrepreneur can derive tremendous competitive advantage from a functional knowledge of business law, government policy and regulations. This will help you to make better decisions. If you want a course just tailor made for this, our diploma course in business laws will be something you should check out.
- Our diploma in technology law can help an aspiring entrepreneur understand technology law better which is a must in this new normal.
- Any lawyer turned entrepreneur who is starting his own practice in the legal world or considering building a legal tech startup, should definitely check out our legal practice management course.
- And we most definitely believe that every businessman should know how to decode and read financial statements. Do check out that micro-course.
Become a world class communicator
Communication is a key to success in a world that is so well connected, and you need to master it. Communication is not just languages, though it helps if you know multiple languages really well.
It is a lot about content, charisma, credibility and clout.
It is very much becoming about the distribution of content apart from the quality of it. It is also about how many people will amplify your message.
If you can get even some of this right, you are on your way to be a successful founder. You will need some other skills, also, sure. But someone who is really good at communications has a lot of their work sorted.
Here are some specific skills to learn in the domain of communications:
Personal: oral and writing
A lot of people today are comfortable in virtual communication, but not so good at personal interactions. As a leader, you need to develop an ability to influence people one on one. If you are not impactful in personal meetings, if you are not good with personal written communications, you will find it harder to succeed as founder of a company. You will find out why quite soon.
Video is decisively the preferred mode of content consumption today. If you can share your message, or even someone else’s important message over video, it will get far more distribution and attention.
Blogging and article writing
Writing articles and blog posts continue to be an important tool of influence. While it is not the most consumed content, thinkers, influencers and other leaders continue to use the written word to communicate with each other.
It will probably remain this way in the foreseeable future because a small percentage of intelligent human beings find it to be the preferable way to learn. Articles are also faster to consume, and more people than every buy and read books despite all the digital media.
Writing well will give you access to a very important intellectual class, and also help you to organize your own thoughts and refine your own ideas far better.
Being a good writer will bring you clout and credibility that is otherwise missing in most of the virtual world today.
Communicate with actions and not just words
It is easy to mistake words as the most important form of communication when you are young. Remember this, words convey far lesser than actions. All words are interpreted in the context of the actions you take.
It is better to understand therefore that each of your actions communicate something. What are you communicating with your actions?
Ditch the vague and cliche
Is your communication genuine and authentic? Do you really have something worthy to say or are you repeating cliches? Is your communication clear or do you leave things vague and superficial?
In today’s world, more and more people are annoyed by cliche, fake, and vague messages. They crave clarity and authenticity. They crave to be part of things that they can be passionate about. Give them a reason to look forward to your communication. Ditch everything that is not authentic, important or original.
And beyond communication, instead of just passing on information, attempt to connect.
Become world-class at self-management
This is perhaps one skill that is hardest to learn and at the same time most rewarding.
I have spent most of my post-high-school life trying to learn to manage myself. Today I know most of the pitfalls, and I would credit most of whatever success or achievements I have managed to accomplish, to winning the war of self-management a little bit.
Whatever I failed to accomplish was also a great deal attributable to a failure in self-management.
How do you stay sane and productive while facing insane pressure?
How do you stay focussed and keep your team focussed when missing targets seem to be an inevitability?
How do you prioritize when there is an endless, overwhelming task list?
How do you manage your relationships with people who are not doing the work that you need them to do?
How do you know how much to promise and how do you ensure you deliver whatever you promised?
How do you know if you are just doing busy work or if you are truly being productive?
How do you set achievable goals and how do you make actionable plans that you can then pass on to a team? How do you get a buy-in from the team?
How do you prevent yourself from going into a depression when you have been dealing with a lot of stress and disappointment, which you are almost certain to face, much more than others, as a startup founder?
And there is so much more. And so many rewards as you crack every level of the game.
Relationships and networking
The relationships you form early in your life are critical. Are they nurturing, supportive yet challenging your assumptions? Do they force you to rethink your own biases and blind spots? Do they pull you into groupthink and inhibit your intellectual development?
Your relationships and the people who surround you in your formative years will have a huge impact on your future career. You have to learn to surround yourself with people who encourage and support your growth.
You need critics, you need people who give you emotional comfort, you need friends who challenge you, you need competitors who force you to set higher standards, and mentors who broaden your horizons. You need domain experts who can help you with specific challenges. You need coaches who can speed up your development.
How you shape up over the years will depend a great deal on the kind of relationships you form as well as the ones you get away from.
You also need to build a professional network that will appreciate your work and help to spread the word when you need it. You need allies and supporters who believe in you and will be ready to recommend you and connect you with opportunities when you really need it.
The earlier you learn the art of networking and start to build the most critical relationships, the better you will be placed in the race to build the next amazing startup.
Learning to build and manage a team
You have no startup without a team. It took me ages to learn to build a team and then actually build it. Then I realized building a team is just getting started, there are lots of other steps, such as getting the team to work well together, and retain people after you have trained them and helped them to get to success.
If you have no other skills but if you are great at building the right kind of teams and keeping it together in the journey to growth, you will be a fantastic startup CEO.
Here are some of the steps you need to take and skills you have to learn.
Your success as a startup founder will depend a great deal on your ability to connect with the right kind of people, who can someday work in your team and even help you to build a team. The process starts with you connecting with these people. You do not know exactly who will be in your team in the future, and most of them will not. You, therefore, need to be able to connect with a fairly wide range of people. Strength of the connection apart from the number of people you connect with matter a great deal.
Connecting is level 1, and level 2 is being able to inspire them or contribute to them in some way. If the inspiration leads them to join your projects or something you are working on, nothing like it. However, this cannot be fake motivation while you are just thinking about how you can recruit people in your team. Authenticity matters a great deal at this point. Some people are the right fit, but they are at a point in their lives where they cannot join you. Do not try to manipulate them. Inspiring is the exact opposite of manipulating.
You can invite them to join your team. Maybe the actual startup is many years away. But can you hire them for other small projects you are working on today? Hiring is a difficult skill to learn, starting early and making your rookie mistakes on smaller projects with less at stake gives you an opportunity to learn hiring in an environment that is not as challenging.
Set high standards
Do you set high standards for yourself and for people around you? This is something you will have to do day in and day out as a startup founder. You may as well get used to doing this now. You also need to get used to getting a lot of pushback from others and then negotiating your way.
Learning a skill or a solution yourself and then training others to be able to do the same is a key skill of a startup founder. Can you teach other people and delegate the work? That is how your team will grow and become sustainable. For instance, initially, you may be doing all the sales, or marketing yourselves. Can you replace yourself by hiring people? Not unless you can train them as well. Finding people who are already trained is quite the utopia in most startups, so you should learn and practice how to train other people to learn new skills.
Managing is not shouting instructions and forcing people to work. It involves measuring work, productivity, and finding ways that create efficiency. It also involves giving people a path to accomplish something and then putting together a system that makes the journey easier. And once more, as the father of management Peter Drucker said, what gets measured, gets managed.
Support as they grow and evolve
A key skill of a startup founder is to support team members through different stages of growth. You need to learn to create environments that encourage other people to evolve and grow. You need to develop patience, vision, and some coaching skills. It is a hard thing to do, but also extremely rewarding. If you learn to support people in your life to grow and evolve and can build environments where people want to achieve excellence, this will help you a great deal as a startup founder.
When you help people to grow and evolve, when they are highly trained and performing well, they will be in high demand. Everyone else will want them in their teams. How will you retain them? Your team-building efforts will not succeed unless you can retain people in the long term. You have to learn to retain people, despite many initial disappointments.
The other universally recognized skill that is very helpful for every startup founder is leadership. There are a few points I have identified as very important aspects of leadership that you can practice and develop early in your life.
Integrity and accountability
These are qualities that ensure people trust you and are willing to see you in a leadership position. Without these, it is hard to command enough moral authority to get people to do what they must do. Without this, people will not accept all the hard decisions you will have to make and the discomfort you will have to subject them to.
Socio-political, philosophical and legal perspective
Do you understand how the world works? To be a good leader you have to. You have to see trends and anticipate what is ahead. You have to know where to be aggressive and where to go short. Your decision-making ability will be informed a great deal by your understanding of politics, social signals, philosophy and even the law. Can you anticipate the legal and regulatory changes coming ahead? Can you understand how the current political environment can affect your business? Can you understand the historical factors and philosophical context of what you are trying to disrupt as a startup?
Can you imagine a world that is drastically better than how things are today? Are you passionate about this vision? Can you transmit it to others effectively? The ability to generate a vision is not something that comes to you suddenly one day. Your vision develops over the years. Work on it already! You are not developing a vision when the startup is already getting built! It has to get started now. Also, this is what will attract your collaborators, investors, future employees, early adopters, and even competitors!
Questioning the status quo
Part of developing a vision is to question the status quo. If you are a conformist, you will suck at idea generation. You will also not be creative, and you will fail at building and sharing a vision and even if you generate one, it will not appeal to people. Being able to ask the right questions, and not accepting the standard answers that people in a position of authority offer are important qualities of an innovator and startup founder.
Developing the ability to build
You can start by building small things. Maybe start a local NGO. Start a mobile library. Start a new college fest or magazine. Build a small app and try to market it. Build communities on Facebook or Linkedin. When you build small projects and see them through, it will not only give you a lot of confidence and experience, but you will generate a new capacity: the ability to build.
There are two important parts to building something. You have to conceptualize it, come up with a design, then iterate till it actually works or serves a real purpose. The other skill that is critical and hard to develop is the ability of product picking. There are thousands of ideas. What is viable? What is possible to build now? What will be popular? What will be a commercial success? What will be spot on as per new trends?
These judgments you will want to develop.
Marketing and outreach
I read this somewhere many years back in a job ad: are you the sort of person who sits during the holidays on a beach, with a glass of pina colada in hand, and still wonders: how can I make the entire world learn about my product and give it a shot?
The marketers mind works in a very different way. It is not necessary that every startup founder has to be good at marketing, just like not every founder needs to know how to code.
However, understanding the fundamentals of marketing is very important for every founder. How do you build a brand? Why would anyone be a loyal customer? What makes them talk about your product or services to others?
Should you opt for content marketing? How does media buying work? How to build communities? What does it take to build a popular blog, instagram or a youtube channel? How does a newsletter or a podcast grow? How do people build a large following on social media?
You can start small no matter where you are. However, learning these lessons can go a long way in preparing you for a breakthrough startup.
Become good at managing money
One of the most important jobs of the startup founder is to manage cash flow, and knowing in which direction to invest your resources, including money. If you go in the wrong direction, your startup will die. If you fail to balance inflow and outflow, it won’t work. You probably have to be able to raise money, which means you will have to learn how to make business projections and P&L. If you choose not to raise money initially, you may still do so later and you have to know how to evaluate your options. You have to know what is the right valuation because investors will try to negotiate it down to unfair levels. And you will have to learn to say no a lot, because your colleagues will come up with ideas to implement that they think will work, but are not aligned with your vision.
Bringing, spending and managing money is a key skill of a startup founder, you can’t really survive or progress without this skill.
LawSikho courses prepare you to develop these skills and qualities
Our courses are designed to prepare you to be a leader, a critical thinker, an organization builder, and an idea generator. If you want to startup someday, we have courses that can serve as fantastic preparation.
Here are a few things any premium LawSikho will help you with:
- You will learn to write, review, edit and publish. You will learn to express your arguments powerfully. You will learn persuasion, communication and how to defend your ideas. You will learn to use the internet to spread your ideas. We will even give you access to our platforms – iPleaders blog, SuperLawyer.in and LawSikho youtube channels – that can take your ideas to tens of thousands of people. You will get to attend classes where we discuss how to write, improve and publish your articles.
- We will start training you on video making too. We still have some work to do in this department, but we have started to support our students in video production and publications as well. In the coming months, this will become very much a part of our regular course activity.
- Our team at LawSikho also makes sure that you get high quality advice about your career through our counsellors and placement office. We also have a robust placement team who helps people get placed in different roles and organisations. We can help you to get opportunities and internships with top startups that can get you the necessary hand on experience of seeing first-hand what makes a startup grow and what challenges they have to overcome.
- We have built several ventures ourselves, including iPleaders blog, LawSikho and SuperLawyer and helped many of our students to build their startups and legal practices. We can guide you, counsel you, stand with you and point you in the right direction whenever you need us.
- Networking is very much a part of the curriculum in a LawSikho diploma or executive certification course. We will train you to connect with others, build a deeply engaged professional network, and make an impact that becomes your calling card.
- We counsel our learners to become builders and pioneers. We help them to set high standards for themselves. LawSikho pushes you to set your aim high and help you to build a roadmap to accomplish your most difficult goals.
- You will learn to ask the right questions, think critically and look beyond the obvious solutions. You will learn to come up with your answers. You will develop strong problem solving skills. This is how we teach all our premium courses after all, through experiential learning.
- You will widen your horizon of thinking, and understanding of the socio-political, economical and cultural aspects of the world we live in. You will begin to understand the legal context too, but you will realise that law is not a standalone megalith, but something that is constantly being influenced by politics, socio-economic factors, cultural issues and dynamic demands of the time we live in. This is a necessary foundation for successful leaders, organization builders and founders of the future.
- You will do plenty of team activities that will prepare you for understanding team dynamics. You can learn how to build teams, how to manage them and how to operate with the team rather than being a lone wolf.
What are the LawSikho courses that are open for enrollment right now?
- If you are interested in corporate governance, you should check out the diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations;
- If you want to get that in-house counsel job, go check out the diploma in Business Laws for In-House Counsels;
- If Industrial and Labour Laws interest you, go take a look at that diploma course;
- The Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws will be booming in the coming times, if you’re inclined towards that career, check out that diploma course;
- If you’re sure that your niche lies in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE & VC transactions), go check out that course;
- The Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts is in dire need of good young talent if that is what ticks for you, go check out that course; and
- Every young lawyer should check out our diploma course in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.
Check out our other executive courses which can be helpful:
- We have a certificate course in Advance Corporate Taxation;
- You can also check out this course for Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code;
- If Trademark, Licensing; Prosecution and Litigation interest you, we have a course for that;
- LawSikho also teaches Competition Law, Practice and Enforcement in a course;
- Technology Contracts will be essential to every business in the future, you can check out that certificate course; and
- Knowledge about Banking & Finance Practice: Contracts, Disputes & Recovery is essential for every BigLaw layer, you can check that out too.
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While you can see past recordings of webinars on our YouTube channel, to participate in one personally is quite a different experience, as you can ask questions and interact with such amazing speakers and even other attendees. How can you attend these webinars in person? Sign up over here.
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