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How intrapreneurship can fast-track your career

By Dr Paul Newbury 11 Apr 2019
Professional team work together at meeting table.


You may not have heard the term ‘intrapreneurship’, but in the workforce it can be a highly valuable skill that sets you apart from the crowd. So, let’s first explore what it means to have an intrapreneurial mindset, and how you can develop and use it effectively to boost your employability and accelerate your career to the next level.

To be an intrapreneur is to have an entrepreneurial mindset within an existing organisation. This means you can act as an innovator and problem solver with new ideas, within your workplace, transforming an idea into a profitable venture for the benefit of the organisation.

Characteristics of an intrapreneur

1. Freedom to act is a key driver

Although there may be other motivators involved depending on the individual, having an intrapreneurial mindset means that you are able to identify and create practical solutions for problems and are motivated to make change happen.

2. They don’t wait for change, they drive it 

Graduates in today’s world are expected to contribute strategically, within an organisation, earlier in their careers than ever before. Due to the nature of technology, organisations and senior management-level staff can often rely on the more technology-literate graduates to contribute ideas and opinions and drive change with an intrapreneurial spirit.

3. Seed and nourish an idea until it is ready

A good intrapreneur is not too quick to jump on an idea before it has been thought through. Before they present their idea, they have researched the possibilities, understand the risks and benefits, and are prepared for questions, with logical reasoning as to why their idea should be implemented.

4. Visualise and map solutions

When developing an idea, it is important to have a clear understanding of the organisational culture, where the organisation currently stands, and what are the short and long-term visions. If an idea does not align with the goals of the organisation, it can be hard to convince management of the benefits and to gather support for the change.

In turbulent times, they find strategic directions – Finally, intrapreneurs are organisationally ambidextrous as they help to find solutions and keep up with trends. What does this mean? Intrapreneurs can simultaneously focus on their current role within the organisation and are confident in their ability to perform, while also having an eye on the future and upcoming competitive environments for the organisation.

Applying your intrapreneurial mindset

The biggest challenge for intrapreneurs is dealing with the ‘corporate immune system’ – an expression referring to corporate organisational structures such as bureaucracy, hierarchy, rules etc. that do not support entrepreneurial culture and behaviour.

Although these challenges can make it difficult to thrive as an intrapreneur, there are still ways to bring this mindset into any organisation, regardless of culture and structure.

1. Understand your company and its culture.

Is your organisation traditional or emerging? Consider where they are now, where they are heading, how far they’ve come already, and the openness to change within the organisation.

2. Evolve your organisation from the inside out.

Practise organisational ambidexterity by keeping your mind on the future, while perfecting your present practices.

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Be prepared to fail; most ideas will have a risk element. There are no guarantees of success, but if you are not experimental, you will never find anything new.

4. Build informal leadership as the resident problem solver.

Become a specialist in your area and be known as a problem solver, so that people will come to you for advice and view you as a leader in your area. Ask questions often, especially ‘why?’, and offer thoughtful ideas and solutions.

The world is changing at a faster speed than it ever has before with organisations developing at an equally rapid rate. Employers value intrapreneurship as the secret weapon of the business world, seeking creative problem solvers who can work in a team environment to produce fresh ideas and ultimately gain the competitive edge.

To unlock your potential, why not register for one of the Entrepreneurship 101 self-paced programs developed to help students who are interested in pursuing entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial endeavours?

Contact the Careers and Employability team for more information on how to boost your employability or for any questions you may have about how to launch a successful career now.

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