The Third Option: Choosing a Job That Will Become a Gateway to What You Really Want to Do

How to reap the benefits of a gateway job – work in a profession leading to your dream career,  and meet the people who can get you there!

Plus a Bonus Update:

Maintaining Your Presence—and Your Livelihood—During the Pandemic! 


Episode 14 - The Third Option: Choosing a Job That Will Become a Gateway to What You Really Want to Do

by Roger Reid


​With a majority of business authors, bloggers, and work strategists touting the advantages of being an entrepreneur, why would anyone try to create a successful and rewarding career by working for someone else?

Hey, welcome back! This is Roger Reid with another episode of Success Point 360.

You want to know the best place to gain experience, skills, and credibility while you work toward building your own business?

It’s while you’re working for a company in the very same industry in which you plan to launch your own enterprise.

This idea becomes an even more important consideration if the marketplace is extremely competitive, which is kind of a moot point, because when is the market not competitive.

The concept is simple: Simply Consider the advantages of working in a profession that puts you close to your dream career — and more importantly, close to the people who can help get you there.

Now, I know that the idea of working for someone else is just the opposite of the popular argument that preaches self-employment as the ideal way to wealth, independence, and happiness.

But a lot of the rhetoric surrounding corporate employment — the inherent politics, hidden agendas, defaulting to the herd mentality — are often just inaccurate generalizations. Especially when we look at the corporation as a stepping stone to where we really want to go.

And don’t forget, the benefits associated with being an employee while you working toward your ultimate goal of starting your own business–is hard to overestimate. In fact, there’s plenty of people who are now in business for themselves who would not have been successful as an entrepreneur without first having received the background, training, and experience that they gained while employed by others. 

For example, let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a software developer. If that’s the case, the opportunity to spend two or three years at a large software company learning the business could be the best way to begin your career. 

Let’s compare that strategy to the alternative of setting up shop in your spare bedroom. Now, working from home would certainly provide the option of showing up to work in your underwear. But, that privilege comes at the cost of an immediate income, health insurance, and a structured investment plan — and these are benefits that are difficult to ignore.

So the real question isn’t how much independence you’ll have to sacrifice as an employee, but rather, the experience and training you’ll gain by working for a recognized leader in the industry which can be the ideal first step toward the career you really want.

I’ll tell you a quick story that will help illustrate the point…

As electrical engineering majors in our senior year, we were given the opportunity to visit local companies to better acquaint ourselves with “real world” engineering jobs. 

We toured a dozen different facilities, including the Palo Verde Nuclear Power plant, Allied Chemical in Idaho, and the Motorola semiconductor division in Phoenix.

But the most exciting visit was a trip to a large recording studio, where we saw an Ampex sixteen-track recorder (state of the art at the time), a million-dollar sound-mixing board, and a large, walk-in echo chamber.

The engineer talked about working with some of the more well-known artists, and at that time, that included Alice Cooper and Glen Campbell. And if you don’t recognize the names, that’s okay, just know that there were nationally recognized recording stars that played to very large audiences. 

It was a very interesting presentation, and I’m certain that the engineer could see the excitement that he’d built around the job, because the ended his talk with an admonition, a warning of sorts:

Here’s the gist of what he said: “I know there’s probably a few of you who would like to work in this business, but please don’t submit your resume or ask to fill out an application. We’re swamped with a back-log of entry-level people who want to work here.

Occasionally, we have an opening for an experienced part-time engineer for remote work, but we don’t look at anyone with less than five years of experience, gained while working in a high-end studio.”

The engineer was right; several of my classmates were hoping to work in the recording industry and had been looking forward to the tour, hoping it would offer a short-cut to getting a job in the business.

And yes, they were disappointed.

Except for one.

His name was Thomas. And while we were in the studio, he began asking the engineer a few questions:

“What microphones do you like better, Shure or Electro-Voice? How does the 3-M Tape hold up under repeated passes? Is it as good as Ampex? Or do you recommend another brand?”

Now, the rest of us thought he was trying to flaunt his limited knowledge of studio operations.

But while it may have sounded like he was showing off, he wasn’t. He was asking intelligent questions that could only be answered by an experienced recording engineer.

As soon as we returned to campus, Thomas began writing letters of application. 

The first one went to the Shure Company — because a prominent studio engineer had recommended Shure mikes during their recent conversation. Another letter when to 3-M, because they made recording tape that would stand up to repeated passes with fewer drop-outs. He added it was a fact he’d learned at XYZ studios in Phoenix.

He cautiously stayed away from name dropping and concentrated on the facts.

Did it work?

Thomas ended up as a sales rep for Shure, and many of his customers were recording studios. He was great at his job because he had the expertise to talk about audio specifications and recording techniques at the same technical level as his customers. 

Not only did he sell a lot of microphones, he offered his engineering capabilities to solve problems with feedback, distortion, and signal-to-noise concerns.

Four years later, Thomas left Shure and went to work in Los Angeles, doing on-site recordings of concerts and musical events. He started out with a single employee, someone to help set up equipment, run cables, and test the sound levels. A year later, his business had grown. He now had six employees and two sound trucks, both equipped with sixteen-track recorders, full effects, and a mixing board. 

And because he kept his overhead low, he was able to compete with the more established studios.

Thomas’ success was the direct result of his decision to pursue a job at Shure. 

In fact, he used his position at Shure as a gateway to gain the knowledge and build the relationships he would later need to realize his ultimate goal of working in the recording business. 

And in this particular industry — where there were far more capable applicants than openings — he knew a “back-door” approach would be more effective. Certainly more so than trying to convince a studio owner or manager to hire him right out of school.

So, if you’re struggling between pursuing your future career as an employee or an entrepreneur, add a third choice: 

A short term transitional job (typically less than 5 years) that will provide you with an effective route to your ultimate dream career. 

Even if you’re a mid-life career changer, you can use this approach to make strategic moves with an eye toward where it can take you.

It’s another route, another strategy, to learn what you need to know, to be able to compete with the competition, and to learn the business from the inside out –and here’s the important part: while you’re preparing for the future, you’re getting paid, you’re being compensated as you become more capable, more valuable. It’s a hard bargain to beat.

I’ll like to shift gears for a minute and talk about a subject that’s on everyone’s mind. I’m talking about doing business in this current pandemic.

First, I want to talk primarily to small business owners and freelancers, And then I’ll address the situation from the perspective of an employee.

 I have several conversations every day with clients who talk about how the service level has dropped in almost uniform fashion across the business world.

It doesn’t seem to matter which industry you’re talking about, it just seems like when you make a phone call, the live person you used to talk has been replaced with voicemail.

And then there’s the question of response time: how fast do they call you back? How quickly can they route you to the right person? How well do they solve your problem?

Unfortunately, some businesses are applying the old rules; if the call comes in after four or five I the afternoon, they return the call the next morning. If it comes in the morning, they say they’ll call you back that same afternoon.

But hey guys, the 8 to 5 regiment has been disrupted. And that means the old rules don’t apply. At least not if you want to stay in business.

Things have changed. And that means we have to change and adapt to the new rules.

But unfortunately, a lot of people have become handicapped by their own emotional response to the need to quarantine. To the need to wear protective gear, to having to work from home instead of going into the office every day.

Yes, I know the world is in turmoil. We have a problem. We’re fighting this invisible enemy. And if it doesn’t take a direct toll on our health, the isolation from being in a long-term quarantine can negatively affect our attitude and motivation. And because of that, many small business owners and freelancers have decided to put their business on hold. They’ve taken a step back, waiting for the quarantine to be lifted, or waiting for mass distribution of a vaccine, believing they’ll be able to return to normal business operations in the near future.

Changing the way you do business to accommodate the pandemic is expected and in many cases, required. Yes, I get that. But those who have decided that the pandemic is an excuse to sleep in and binge on Netflix are taking a huge risk with their future.

To ensure you’ll have a business to come back to, you’ve got to maintain your presence. Your customers need to know that you’re still here, you’re still ready to take care of their needs, regardless of whether you sell a product or service.

Making yourself available and being able to serve your customers, even in some modified fashion, is going to help ensure your longevity on the upside of the curve. You’re going to fair much better than those who pull the covers over their head and hope we get back to normal in the short term.

Here’s your bottom line: People need to know that their supply chains are still intact. That the service they’ve always depended upon is still available to them.

But when that stops, your customers are going to go elsewhere.

This is especially true if you sell business to business. We’ve seen so much of that part of the economy shut down because many of these operations have been classified as non-essential.

But people are still out there. They still need products and services. And just because you sell business to business doesn’t mean you get a free pass. In fact, others are going to look to you set the example.

During these difficult times, you need to be doing everything you can to prevent your customers from finding other people and other companies to do business with. Because if you don’t. when the economy comes back, when the virus is resigned to the history books, you may find yourself sitting in the unemployment office, wondering how you’re going to make your house payment. Oh, yeah, you’ll have all the right kind of excuses, you’ll blame it on the pandemic, you’ll tell everyone how the virus put you out of business.

 But the reality? You quit. You are the reason you’re business failed. You’re the reason your customers went somewhere else.

Yes, there’s a lot of tough love here, but if You want to maintain your income and financial base through this mess, you have to show up. You have to answer the phone. You have to answer your correspondence. And that doesn’t mean tomorrow or the next day. It means before the customer gets tired of waiting, before she decides to try another supplier, another organization. It’s just that simple.

The pandemic isn’t a holiday. It’s not an excuse to shut down and call it quits until the world gets back to normal, because frankly, there’s a good chance we’re not going back to normal, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Let’s shift our perspective a bit and look at the situation from the standpoint of being an employee.

Working for someone else during the pandemic is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to go beyond your normal job description, it’s a chance to express your dedication, and loyalty – and just a side note here – if you were going to put a priority on which of those three attributes have a greater influence on who will still have a job in six months from now, the factors of dedication and loyalty are very powerful influencers, and remember, those are derived from your actions and performance. Simply telling your supervisor that hey, I’m loyal, I’m dedicated, well, that’s nothing more than lip-service, unless it’s backed up with action.

So if you’re an employee, and you’re working from home, it’s a good idea to keep a work diary, a daily log of what you did and how you spent your time. You don’t need to turn it in like a homework assignment, but it can become a great reference tool when it’s time for your next evaluation, that’s when you can pull out your work diary to “refresh” your memory about a particular activity or action you took to take care of a customer, or solve an internal problem.

And this is in addition to any time-recording or clocking that is part of your company’s internal software to record your hours on the job, or in front of your computer.

Because you’re going to include your thoughts, impressions, and suggestions as they occur while you work from a remote location. These kinds of notes can be very valuable, and add lots of credibility for your next evaluation. Yes, your environment was different, but you were on the job, taking your responsibilities seriously. Which is another way of saying, you can be counted on in a crisis situation, and that goes a long way in establishing future value to the company.

I also suggest making yourself visible to others. Based on your job responsibilities, you may want to Use Zoom to conference call your boss. You also may want to initiate a joint call with your supervisor – to contact a customer or supplier. And don’t jump on a video call of any kind wearing clothes that cast you in a substantially less professional image than would be expected in your usual setting.

I realize that the influences of the pandemic have created a different economic environment. On top of that, we’re being constantly distracted by negative news, by the threat of an unknown future, and as a result, it’s tempting to dial back on our response and availability. But just because we’ve been granted a little added flexibility in the way we do our work, it doesn’t mean we’ve been given permission to put our best efforts on hold.

There’s a thin line between managing your time on behalf of your employer and abusing it by taking advantage of the circumstances. The pandemic has had some extremely negative consequences, and at the same time, it’s providing an opportunity to go above and beyond, to exceed expectations, and to make a difference when it’s needed the most.

Hey, that’s it for this episode. If you’d like a transcript, you’ll find it in the show notes at  Just click on the link under the appropriate episode. If you have a question or comment, I want to hear from you. You can submit your questions and comments by clicking on the voicemail button located in the menu on the successpoint360 website. You can also send your questions to me by email at

Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.

© 2020, Roger A. Reid