The primary goal for many college students is to pursue a major that leads to a career related to their field of study.
But it often doesn’t work out that way. Job prospects in certain fields may not be promising after graduation. Some graduates end up taking positions unrelated to their major, and while that can ultimately be a positive, bringing higher earnings and better career advancement, it may take years to achieve satisfactory results.
One career approach that can spring graduates out of the starting gate is to start a business while in college, says entrepreneurship professor James H Hunter III.
“Many college students working toward a degree in a particular discipline have little knowledge of the prospects for financial success in their chosen field,” says Hunter, author of Graduate A CEO: Why College Is The Perfect Time To Start Your Business. ”The thought of starting a business has not crossed their minds.
“However, college students with motivation and drive are missing a valuable opportunity if they do not consider starting a business while still in school.”
Entrepreneurship is soaring in the U.S., and more young people are getting involved. One report showed an unprecedented number of 18- to 24-year-olds had high entrepreneurship rates or intentions to start a business.
Hunter explains some of the benefits of starting a business while in college:
- Getting a jump-start on your career and directing your destiny. Starting a business while in college offers students the chance to bypass the job-seeking stage and begin shaping the career they want right away, Hunter says. “Instead of trying to fit into a corporate mold that may not be right for you,” he says, “you can create a job that fits with your goals, priorities, dreams, and values. You don’t have to wait until graduation for real life to begin.”
- Capitalizing on a learning environment. Many colleges and universities offer a wide range of resources for student entrepreneurs. “Those include campus contacts and courses, specialized programs, conferences, and competitions,” Hunter says. “The access to mentoring for aspiring entrepreneurs is a big plus. Many schools offer mentoring programs in which experienced entrepreneurs counsel and work directly with students in the process of developing ideas and launching their businesses. Mentors provide emotional support and real-world advice and guidance.”
- Having community and government resources. If you happen to attend a school that doesn’t offer many entrepreneurial resources, help and guidance are available online and within your community, Hunter says. “Two key organizations that offer assistance are SCORE – a large network of volunteer, expert business mentors – and the Small Business Administration (SBA),” he says.
- Gaining rewards and learning from challenges. The rewards of starting and running your own business in college are many, Hunter says, including: independence, the satisfaction of achieving something on your own – with help from mentors and associates – building a team, creating jobs and a positive work environment, providing a useful product or service, and eventually financial rewards. On the flip side, he notes there is no guarantee that your business will succeed, but there can be a long-term payoff in learning how to deal with the challenges of entrepreneurship at a young age.
“The uncertainty and ambiguity of entrepreneurship is the most challenging aspect,” Hunter says. “Market conditions change, employees come and go, and new competitors emerge. Successful entrepreneurs face problems head on and are not afraid of a challenge. They are able to quickly size up a situation and make a decision.”
“Entrepreneurship is a learning experience,” Hunter says. “There’s no better way to learn than on the job – the job you have created. You don’t need a degree to start your own business.”
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