Talk to any independent business owner, and he or she will tell you that one of the best parts of the job is “being their own boss.” But while the self-employed enjoy certain freedoms -- from operations, marketing to working hours -- unavailable to those who draw a salary, every successful employee should be the “boss” of their own future and career advancement. Whether there are two or two dozen names ahead of yours on the company letterhead, it’s important to remember that no matter who you work for, you also need to be working for yourself.

I like to think about this in terms of a model I call “YouCo,” where each employee is CEO of their own job -- not only their daily tasks and deliverables, but also their broader personal and professional goals. YouCo is a company within a company, and allows you to grow in your role by acting entrepreneurially to produce results for your employer and burnish your professional credentials. By placing yourself at the center of your personal one-person company, you’re also forced to confront important decisions about your career ambitions head on, and to devise short-, middle-, and long-term plans for attaining those goals.

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“MichaelCo,” for example, has helped me make the most of my opportunities while working in a variety of roles at large PR firms and smaller nonprofits alike. The most time-honored way to move up in the workplace is to deliver results for your employer, but for younger professionals, proving that you can think outside the box to maximize productivity and create new and better processes for your role is critical to personal and career advancement.

YouCo requires that you take on entrepreneurial initiatives in the workplace that allow you to grow. Smart employers understand the benefits of allowing their staff to take ownership of their roles -- the risks they take, if successful, can be applied to processes throughout the workplace and come at a fraction of the cost of consulting. Room to maneuver within your role allows you to learn how to act like a manager, even if you’re the low man on the totem pole.

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I’ve been fortunate to work for employers who recognize the importance of professional development, and as a manager, I now encourage my staff to seek out opportunities for themselves (another win-win, as appropriate professional development seminars increase their quality of the work). But for those working in less permissive environments, it’s critical to take time on weekends and personal days to sharpen your own saw before heading back to your employer’s grindstone.

Working for MichaelCo hasn’t been the best paying position I’ve held, but it’s been just as important to my past, present and future success as any job listed on my resume. You may not be an entrepreneur in the traditional sense, but it’s important to act like one, and to set your personal company on the path to success.

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