In the age of Facebook, Apple, and Groupon, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. The Internet has helped tremendously in lowering the barriers to entry, meaning that everyone CAN be a successful entrepreneur, if they have a strong work ethic, a bit of luck, and the wherewithal to withstand lots of initial failure. If you are still in school and want to eschew a traditional 9 to 5 and embark on the entrepreneurial journey, keep the following in mind:
1. No matter what Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did, complete your degree.
It’s important to understand that the most visible entrepreneurs, like the late Steve Jobs and Facebook’s figurehead Mark Zuckberg, were exceptionally talented human beings and learned very advanced technical skills when they were very young. This isn’t to say that you aren’t very intelligent and capable, but these people also had something else that you may not have—relatively well-to-do, well-connected families that they could fall back on if things didn’t turn out okay. In other words, they could afford to take risks. It’s always important to have a backup plan. If your entrepreneurial plans don’t work out and you finish college, you’ll at least have that one necessary entry ticket to most decent, salaried jobs—a bachelor’s degree.
2. Learn some hard, in-demand skills while you’re in school.
Softer entrepreneurial skills, like leadership and communication, you can easily learn in just about any setting, whether it’s in school or out. On the other hand, there are certain skills required of most entrepreneurs that take lots of time and practice to master, like computer programming, accounting, etc. The one luxury that you have as a college student is ample amounts of time. Take classes on hard, technical skills, or learn them on your own.
3. Join entrepreneurial or industry-specific organizations.
It’s very important to develop a strong, supportive network as early as you can. Since you are still in the process of finishing up school, or you’ve just graduated, you don’t yet have the type of professional network that’s built after years of working. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t build a network by other means. One of the best ways to do so is to join entrepreneurial or industry-specific organizations in your school or your community. Most universities have business or entrepreneur clubs, and your wider community should also have business organizations that focus on a specific industry that you may be interested in. Larger organizations, like the Youth Entrepreneurship Council, are also a great place to start.
4. Read entrepreneur-focused books.
Even if you’ve graduated from school, to be a successful entrepreneur, you absolutely must keep learning. Reading is really one of the best ways to soak up new ideas efficiently and there are tons of entrepreneur-focused books to help inspire you and get you on the right track of becoming your own boss. Personally, I balance out my reading list—half of the books that I read are biographies or memoirs of entrepreneurs that serve more to inspire, and the other half are more technical books that can teach me about specific problems in entrepreneurship, running a business, etc.
5. Start your own business now, no matter how small.
While you can read all that you want about entrepreneurship, there’s no replacement for experience. If you think that you are too young or inexperienced to start a business, think again. All you really need is a website and a product or service that’s easy to offer. When I was in college, I knew several friends who had very small, not necessarily lucrative businesses on the side, like a tutoring company that connected college tutors with high school kids and a late-night snack delivery service. Even if your venture isn’t wildly successful, it’ll help you understand the fundamentals of business in a hands-on way.
Don’t get me wrong—becoming an entrepreneur is tough work and it doesn’t happen overnight. One thing that cannot be emphasized strongly enough is that you must prepare yourself for constant failure, but always keep an eye toward success through hard work. Good luck!
Are there any ideas that you want to add to this list? Please share in the comments below.