Overrated Career: Small-Business Owner

Running a small business usually requires you to be good at many jobs.

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The Appeal: Work for yourself, and you're automatically the CEO. You get to make all the decisions, set your own hours, and keep all the profits. And you're inspired by the stories of other entrepreneurs who became wealthy.

The Reality: Most new businesses fold within a few years. There are good reasons. For one thing, running a small business usually requires you to be good at many jobs: salesperson, buyer, accountant, marketer, operations manager, even janitor. Few people can do it all. Yet hiring others often cuts too deeply into profits. In addition, you must be a self-starter—no one is going to make you do anything or structure it for you. It's all on you. Even though you set your own hours, they tend to be long. And you have to provide your own healthcare and other benefits. For an individual, that can be very expensive, especially if you or a family member has a pre-existing condition.

An Alternative: Be the No. 2 person in someone else's small business. You'll have a seat at the table and a say in company decisions. But you'll go home with fewer headaches than the owner does. And probably go home earlier.

Learn more: The World's Shortest Management Course (abridged), by Marty Nemko