Some people make the jump to entrepreneurship fast – I mean really fast. They get a great idea in college and run with it. Just think about the big names that have done this over time: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and more.
But for every shooting star, I would venture that there are 10 slow and steady entrepreneurs that have been gradually building their businesses while gaining the skills and experiences necessary to succeed. That’s my story – I’m working my way there right now. I’m a believer that you don’t need to have overnight success to be an entrepreneur. Rather, you can build a skillset over time that will empower you to be successful when you do make the jump to self-employment.
The first aspect of the slow and steady approach to entrepreneurship is building a solid skill set early on. I’m a huge proponent of working through college because college isn’t just about a “book education.” It’s about building life skills that will help you through the rest of your life.
Just think about it – you need skills regardless of what age you start. If you want to be an Under 30 CEO, you need to start in college. Otherwise, the learning curve will just hit you later in life.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you also need to know how to balance your time, build relationships, network and have basic business skills. Working can give you all of these.
In my experience, I worked as a supervisor for a retail store throughout college. It was a great experience because it taught me a lot of leadership skills that I wouldn’t have learned in any other environment that early. I mean, how many places entrust employees and lots of money to 18- to 20-year-old students? Very few.
This responsibility and experience helped shape me and gave me very useful skills that I’ve been able to translate into my current businesses. It’s also an experience that I think a lot of college students forget or bypass. Too many come out of school with a lot of education, and few real world business skills.
Leveraging Side Hustles After Graduation
Once you graduate, you can’t stop there. Chances are you’re not going to get your dream job right out of college. And it is even less likely that you’re going to be self-employed and support yourself right out of college. While it does happen, the odds are slim.
Instead, move into a career where you can build your skills while also allowing you to figure out what you want to do entrepreneurially. For example, I want to develop an online publishing company. So, while I work in a completely different field, I spend my free time on nights and weekends pursuing this avenue. This approach has allowed me to build up my income stream while still working in a 9-to-5 business setting during the day. At some point, expect the income from the side hustle to replace the income from the 9-to-5. When that happens, I’ll make the leap.
That is just one example of a side hustle that you can do. Building a business does not happen overnight, and in a lot of cases you don’t need to immediately give up your full-time 9-to-5 job to do it.
While some will say that complete focus on the business can yield great results (and they aren’t necessarily wrong), continual long-term focus on a side hustle can also yield great results.
Think about it this way – if you’re 22, how do you know where your passion lies? I know that I didn’t have a clue. I knew that I had an entrepreneurial spirit, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
That is the benefit of side hustles – you can try out several different things pretty risk free. You don’t have to go all-in on an idea that you may not love in one or two years. I’ve been building web properties going on five years now, and my passion continues to grow. That is a great indicator on my part that online publishing is something that I love to do and I have years of a successful track record to back it up.
Moving to Entrepreneurship with a Foundation
The end goal, of course, is to move to entrepreneurship and beat your 9-to-5 job. But remember the reason you’ve been doing all of it – to build a solid foundation for when you do make the transition.
A solid foundation includes great personal finances, a solid skill set and a viable business opportunity. Not all of those things can come overnight for everyone. Many people take years to develop just one of these things, not to mention all three.
So my challenge to you is this – you can be just as successful with a slow and steady approach to entrepreneurship as you can be with the shooting star version. You just have to layout a solid foundation so that you can continue to be successful as an entrepreneur.