Sam Davidson is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Batch and Cool People Care. A nationally recognized speaker and Gen Y workplace expert, his speeches deal with topics of student entrepreneurship, the power of story and leadership. Sam is a graduate of Samford University.
The other day, I was sipping champagne on my pal Mark (Zuckerberg)’s yacht and he was telling me the keys to being a successful entrepreneur.
After we told a few jokes, I left and then went to hang out with those dudes who started Instagram who were all like, “Yo! Do you want to go shoot hoops with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett?”
And then I woke up. (I knew it was a dream when they were talking about shooting hoops with Gates and Buffett. Everyone knows those two play chess.)
Welcome to the wildly alluring world of entrepreneurship. If you’re a college student today, I’m willing to bet that you and all of your close friends will either start your own company or work closely with someone who has.
It’s easier (cheaper and faster) than ever before to get an idea off the ground and more people are taking advantage of it. If nothing else, you’ll need to treat your own career as a start-up in order to find work that matters and lets you earn a living.
Whether or not you’ve got an idea for the next big thing or are just curious about what it could mean to dip your toes into the dangerous and glorious world of entrepreneurship, here are four important ways you can start to think like an entrepreneur while in college.
1. Start something. Anything.
A fraternity chapter, a movie club, a study group, a protest. Just start anything. On most campuses, you need little more than a few friends and a willing faculty member to get something officially recognized by the university. So, why not try your hand at getting people together for something?
Whether you’re dissecting Star Wars movies in the lobby each week or raising money for something you deeply care about, starting a group or club will give you a crash course in entrepreneurship. How do you spread the word? What will you call this? Who wants to be involved? How will you grow it? What happens next? These are all questions you can’t answer until you jump in with both feet.
2. Make something or someone better.
Sure – starting movie clubs or video game nights can be fun, but you won’t feel the real impact and potential of your ideas until you make something or someone better. What group or idea currently at your school could you improve? Or how can you make your classmates’ lives better? Is there something convenient you could invent? (This is how many campus-based food delivery services got off the ground.) Or a cause you can impact? When you make things better, you’ll stick around for a long time because people will eagerly seek you and your idea out.
3. Bring other people to the table.
You can’t do this alone. No matter how big you want to grow, it’s going to take other people. Tweet this.
At some point, your talents will need to be focused, so other people will be needed to strategize, recruit, sell, or market. Get them involved and see what it’s like to truly lead. To motivate people. To try again and again to keep people interested and performing. And, be sure to enjoy the upside of real, dedicated teamwork and what it feels like to accomplish a big goal together. This is a skill and a pleasure you’ll want to hone as you grow in any career field.
4. Don’t idolize. Connect.
My dream about hanging with Zuck? It would be fun, but ultimately, irrelevant. The companies I have started are neither in his sector nor aspire to scale as his has. So what should I do? I should find mentors and advisors who have grown similar companies and sit at their feet.
It’s easy to idolize and admire the people who grace magazine covers, but we’re better served when we seek connection. What professor has succeeded where you’re looking to grow? Who can connect you with a local business woman who’s knocking it out of the park? These people will happily mentor and guide you on your way.
I’m not overly concerned with whether or not you end up starting a company. But, I do hope you’ll begin thinking entrepreneurially about your studies and future career. The happiest and most successful people I know are those who didn’t follow the narrow road, but invented their own trail.