After graduation: start your own business or find your first permanent job?

The belief that you need to gain work experience before starting your own business persists. However, this is not true in all cases. There are industries in which it is not uncommon to become self-employed directly after graduation – or even during it. After graduation, your own career path does not necessarily have to lead to a traditional permanent position. Both options have advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed against each other. Thus, which is the right decision is something everyone has to figure out for themselves; over and over again. The following tips will help.

Advantages and disadvantages of self-employment

It cannot be said in principle that self-employment is better or worse than a permanent job. As we all know, there are two sides to every coin and ultimately the working model must fit your personality and your own (professional) goals. It is therefore first worth taking an objective look at the question of what advantages and disadvantages self-employment brings with it:

Self-employment means being your own boss. This allows maximum freedom of choice and, depending on the job, flexibility of time and place. Self-employment is therefore often more compatible with private life and offers, for example, the opportunity to work entirely from a home office. But even if you like to take on a leadership role and dream of running your own company with many employees, you should consider starting up your own business. If self-employment flourishes, you can earn significantly more money than in an employment relationship. This argument also weighs heavily for many people.

Above all, who likes to be independent and would like to develop as a personality, finds more leeway in self-employment. Self-discipline and sense of responsibility are naturally a must for it. If you have an innovative business idea, you might even be able to make the world a little better by starting your own business, which is why ideological reasons can also play a role in the decision. But at the end of the day, self-employment means above all to work as you like – with higher earning opportunities.

However, these opportunities also come with a higher risk. After all, no one can guarantee that self-employment will be successful. There is no secure income; possibly even one's own savings are at stake with the initial investments. In addition, depending on the type, industry and size of the company founded, there may be a certain amount of pressure from investors, business partners & Co. This can affect the feeling of freedom. Pressure is an important keyword, because many self-employed people feel it. After all, you have to do all the work yourself, which often leads to long working hours and little time off, especially in the early years. After all, in self-employment there is no paid vacation in the true sense of the word. Those who do not have the personal prerequisites, such as a high level of discipline or the know-how, are in danger of quickly losing control. Because of the complexity of the tasks involved in self-employment, it is never boring.

What founders need to consider when looking at the business

The list of advantages and disadvantages is long and always depends on the individual case. It is therefore advisable to draw up your own pros and cons list and to consider what life would be like after setting up a business – what opportunities, but also risks, you would face. Professional advice can also be useful before setting up a business. In addition, it may be possible to found a company with a partner, which in turn has its advantages and disadvantages. It is therefore difficult to make general statements, because working as a freelancer in a home office is completely different from founding a large company with its own employees at various locations.

The business plan is therefore the first and most important step when it comes to deciding whether to become self-employed or not? On this basis, the individual advantages and disadvantages, opportunities and risks can be weighed up. And only then can the right decision be made. Before starting the business, founders should therefore consider the following questions:

  • How does the competitive situation look like?
  • How realistic is my business idea??
  • Which financing is necessary?
  • Do I have the right personality??
  • What "sacrifices" am I willing to make, for example in terms of time or financially??
  • Is my know-how sufficient??
  • Which location would be optimal?
  • How important is (financial) security to me??
  • What support does my social environment offer??

Depending on the type, industry and size of the company, other questions may also be relevant. This is another reason why professional help is recommended when drawing up a business plan. The more detailed and realistic this is, the lower the entrepreneurial risk when deciding on self-employment. In any case, it is important that the business is not an emergency solution, for example to prevent unemployment after graduation. Self-employment can only be successful and make people happy if the founders put their heart and soul into it.

Foundation and bureaucracy

Finally, bureaucracy is an important issue when considering self-employment. This applies both to the start-up process and to the subsequent day-to-day work. It is estimated that around two hours per week must be permanently planned for bureaucracy. Many self-employed people find this a burden, even the greatest difficulty in setting up a business. Nevertheless, this is a reason for very few people to be dissuaded from their plans. Bureaucratic tasks include, for example, tax matters, questions around financing, accounting obligations or other legal regulations. From data protection to the working conditions for your own employees, everything is regulated by law, and accordingly, founders are subject to many bureaucratic obligations. This begins with the choice of legal form, obtaining permits for the establishment of the company and its official registration. Self-employment can therefore be a months-long process until the actual work begins – and thus also until the first income is generated.

Then, however, all the opportunities already mentioned beckon, not only of a financial nature. Bureaucracy should therefore not be considered an insurmountable obstacle. Instead, the main thing is to look to the future and ask yourself what your professional goals are. More on this later. Self-employment can be the answer, but it doesn't have to be. Finally, a permanent position is also an option with advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages and disadvantages of a permanent position


Most graduates decide to apply for jobs after graduation. The permanent position is therefore the classic career path. Nevertheless, it is of course possible to switch to self-employment at any time – and vice versa. What many people appreciate about permanent employment is the security it offers. There, a fixed monthly salary beckons, which seems attractive especially as a former student with little savings. But a permanent position brings even more special features with it, which can also be divided into advantages and disadvantages:

As just mentioned, a permanent position means financial security. Employees do not become rich in many jobs, but at least their livelihood is secured. This allows one to fulfill bigger dreams such as owning a car or a home shortly after graduation. With a permanent employment contract also the creditworthiness increases. Other advantages include regulated working hours and paid vacation, which is difficult with self-employment, at least in the first few years. With a permanent position, life becomes predictable to a certain extent.

At the same time, career starters have to bear less responsibility. They are only responsible for their field and have the opportunity to learn from experienced colleagues. It is, so to speak, a smooth entry into professional life with training and further education as well as a slow hierarchical advancement, if desired. But a specialist career is also an option if you are less comfortable with management and bureaucracy. There are thus various perspectives to choose from depending on personality and professional goals. There is also a flexibilization of work models taking place in many industries, so that, for example, it is possible to work entirely or at least partially in a home office. This allows for more personal freedom without having to give up the security of permanent employment. To a certain extent, the boundaries between the advantages and disadvantages of self-employment and those of a salaried position are becoming increasingly blurred.

What many people also appreciate about a permanent position is the collaboration with colleagues and the feeling of belonging to a company. This may also be the case with self-employment, but less so when working as a solo self-employed person. This is another reason why it is not easy to make sweeping statements: A permanent position can take as many different forms as self-employment. Thus, everyone can and should consider what kind of employment would suit them – or not.

The disadvantages that can accompany this career path are also dependent on this. An employment relationship means a narrow framework, which is given by other people. Working hours, content, location & Co can, if at all, only be determined by the employee within certain limits. This can affect the work-life balance as well as the compatibility of job and family. A permanent position therefore always requires a certain degree of adaptation and this does not suit every personality. Those who long for freedom and self-development, but are also willing to bear a certain risk, are better off in self-employment. However, for those who prefer security and are prepared to be "guided" by other people in return, the employment contract is more suitable.

Other disadvantages of a permanent position are lower earnings – assuming that self-employment would go well – and sometimes high pressure to perform. The latter depends to a large extent on the employer. Sometimes a lot of overtime is required and the willingness to sacrifice one's entire private life for the job. In other companies, there is a high degree of personal responsibility, so that independent work is made possible, almost as in the case of a start-up.

Identifying a suitable employer

The differences between employers are therefore great. It is therefore difficult to say whether a permanent position would be suitable for you in principle or not. Each company has its own advantages and disadvantages. Anyone who has decided to take on a permanent position, or is at least considering it, should therefore keep an eye out for suitable employers. Only then can you say with certainty whether a job suits you. It is worth taking a look at job advertisements. In addition, it is important to search the hidden job market, for example through contacts or with unsolicited applications. This strategy has a higher chance of success and makes it possible to find exactly the right job with exactly the right employer.

The only question that remains is how you can actually tell whether an employer is a good fit for you or not? Various factors play a role. On the one hand, it is important to check general criteria, such as whether the employer is reputable. Unfortunately, there are now also fake job ads on the Internet. It is therefore important to know and check the criteria that indicate the trustworthiness and authenticity of employers. This is another reason why it makes sense to try one's luck with a company in which personal contacts may already exist. Because they increase the job chances significantly and at the same time they can give you interesting insights into topics like the working atmosphere.

But also job advertisements, the homepage and other internet presences of the companies give an impression of what kind of culture prevails there. This allows you to check whether the company's values, work ethic, etc. match your own. Because the corporate culture is a key factor in ensuring that employee and employer are a good match. In addition, of course, the "hard facts" of the job must fit, i.e. working hours, areas of activity, place of work or salary. If the first impression was positive, the interview provides further insights and the probationary period also serves the purpose of checking whether the employer and employee are actually a good match.

So, if sooner or later it turns out that the job is not (any longer) a good fit for you, you can always switch to self-employment. Many young people therefore use a permanent position to start their career, in order to first gain experience and save up some money – and then perhaps one day fulfill their dream of self-employment. In this respect, too, there is no "right" or "wrong", but ultimately everyone has to find their own career path.

Mastering the interview

With the interview, another important keyword has fallen. It follows the sending of the application documents or an interview with the existing contacts in the company. Either way, it means that the applicant is eligible for the job. Now it's time to make a good impression and be convincing all along the line. This means that both the "hard skills" and the "soft skills" must match the potential employer's expectations. Preparation is therefore essential in order to present oneself in the right light and to credibly explain where one's strengths lie in each case.

It is also important to know the basic facts about the company in order to demonstrate interest. Since some questions are asked in almost every job interview, these can also be easily prepared in advance. And for everything unpredictable, the following applies: Be authentic, but show your best side, then your chances of getting the job are good. If I still receive a rejection, this is sometimes better in retrospect, because then employer and employee simply did not fit together. It is perfectly normal for application processes not to work at the first attempt.

By the way: The first impression is lasting, they say, which is why appearances also play a role. Because this impression is formed by the brain at the first glance, even before a word has been exchanged. A self-confident appearance and an appropriate choice of dress are therefore also important success factors for every job interview.

A look into the future: long-term position or career stepping stone?

So there are many questions to be answered when your studies are coming to an end – and it doesn't always have to be the classic path to a permanent position. This phase is therefore the perfect time to start thinking about long-term career goals. Now there are no longer abstract scenarios in the room, as there once were when choosing a course of study, in which profession or in which industry one would probably like to work at some point in the future. Now it is time to be more specific: How do I want to earn my money from now on and which goals do I want to achieve at which points in my career?? Only with long-term career planning is it possible to act with determination. This may involve starting a business, applying to the employer of choice, or even pursuing further study.

As so often in life, there is no one "right" solution for everyone. Therefore, everyone must define their own career goals. They decide whether permanent employment or self-employment suits you better – or in what order. Because even the decision for one of the options does not have to be permanent. A permanent position can be a great career stepping stone to other positions or even an opportunity to gain experience for later self-employment. On the other hand, it is possible to hold a job for a long time, perhaps even until you retire. For others, that's too boring; they'd rather seek the thrill of entrepreneurship. Having at least a rough idea of what would make you happy therefore helps with important career decisions.

In the end, however, life is always about change. The personality changes and with it possibly also the goals. Or the company changes and suddenly no longer suits you. Or the industry changes and self-employment is no longer as successful as before. A "Plan B" therefore never hurts, and career goals can and should change. It is therefore important to constantly redefine, supplement or delete them. The main thing is not to leave your career to chance. Because if you actively take it in hand from day one, you will have no reason for regret later on. After all, there are many possibilities, as has already become clear at this point – they just have to be seized.

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