Why Students Should Gain Entrepreneurship Experience Before Graduating

Editor’s note: Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. He is also the #1 international bestselling author of Me 2.0 and was named to the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 list in 2010. Subscribe to his updates at Facebook.com/DanSchawbel.

More and more students are realizing that they can’t pass their degree in for a job upon graduation anymore. The old promise made by our education system was that if you worked really hard in school, you would be almost guaranteed a job as a reward for your efforts. Furthermore, corporations used to hire most of their interns into full-time positions. Both of these promises have been broken due to economic constraints and global competition. Based on a recent report by my company, we found that employers expect students to have at least one internship, yet only half of them are bringing on new interns and few have hired them into full-time positions. The normal path to growing your career is non-existent. In today’s world, you can’t rely on anything or anyone to make you successful – you have to be accountable for your own career and create your own path.

Students are stressed out because there are few paid internships and it’s even hard to get unpaid ones. To me, the solution to this mess is clear: Students who can’t get internships should start a small business or a side project, both of which can act as an internship. If the business fails, they still learn something and have experience on their resume. If the business is successful, they don’t have to worry about getting a full-time job upon graduation. Instead of sending resumes, praying and begging your friends, you can do things your way. Years ago, it would be rare for a student to have entrepreneurship experience on their resume because the cost of starting a business was so high and because they didn’t have the resources or expertise to pull it off. Times
have changed!

Now, hundreds of colleges offer entrepreneurship courses and employers are starting to understand the importance of that type of education. In our research, we found that some employers are actually looking for students with entrepreneurship experience when hiring for entry-level positions. Why do you think? Well, it’s because students who have an entrepreneurial mindset are accountable for their own actions, aggressive and know how to execute. They also have the communication and sales skills that are necessary to be successful in business today. Smart companies fully understand that if they don’t innovate, they won’t exist in the future. By recruiting young entrepreneurs, they bring new perspectives and youthful ideas into the workplace.

When speaking to employers about this phenomenon, some of the top executives said that they would rather hire a student with entrepreneurship experience over a student that had five internships. Entrepreneurs naturally develop soft skills, such as communication skills and teamwork skills that employers are desperately looking for right now as they scout to find the next generation of leaders at their companies. If you’re a student right now, make it your mission to take your career into your own hands and start a project or small business, whether you’re selling clothes on eBay, selling products to fellow students or you come up with the next big Facebook idea. Employers don’t care if it succeeds or fails, just that you gave it a shot and learned something from it. If you want to graduate with a job, then you better brush up your entrepreneurship skills today – your future depends on it!