Small Business Economics

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 487–501 | Cite as

Entrepreneurship as a twenty-first century skill: entrepreneurial alertness and intention in the transition to adulthood

  • Martin ObschonkaEmail author
  • Kai Hakkarainen
  • Kirsti Lonka
  • Katariina Salmela-Aro


Given the importance of entrepreneurial thinking and acting as a meta-skill in the future world of work, we focus on the emerging entrepreneurial mind-set in the transition to adulthood. We study the role of personality characteristics and age-appropriate entrepreneurial competencies (leadership, self-esteem, creativity, and proactivity motivation) in the prediction of entrepreneurial alertness and career intention. Using two-wave longitudinal data from high schools in Helsinki, Finland (N = 523), we tested a mediation model with competencies as mediators between personality and entrepreneurial alertness and intention. The findings suggest that entrepreneurial alertness and career intention (a) are rather independent career development constructs of the emerging entrepreneurial mind-set, (b) are both an expression of an entrepreneurial personality structure, and (c) are predicted by different underlying competencies: leadership and self-esteem mediated the personality—entrepreneurial intention link, and leadership, creativity, and proactivity motivation the personality—entrepreneurial alertness link. Consistent with the balanced skill approach to entrepreneurship, the intraindividual variety of these competencies was also a valid mediator; it did not show incremental predictive power though. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


Entrepreneurial alertness Intention Personality Competencies Adolescence Balanced skills 

JEL Classifications

A2 A21 J24 L26 



The first author gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Jacobs Foundation Zurich (Project: 2013-1069).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Obschonka
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kai Hakkarainen
    • 2
  • Kirsti Lonka
    • 3
  • Katariina Salmela-Aro
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Behavioral SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Teacher EducationUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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