What job should I get if I want to become an entrepreneur?

Often, people in college are very frothy and anxious to get started on their career. Recently, I answered a question for a person that was curious what type of job they should try to get if their long-term goal was to become an entrepreneur.

This is a difficult question because an entrepreneur can mean very different things to different people. In this case, this person ultimately wanted to be a business owner and was curious the best steps to reach that goal. I have included my response below but I thought I would add some content for the purpose of this blog post.

When I started Zipline in 2005, I was still in grad school. I had some limited industry experience but very little actual job experience and even less management experience. Like many young people, I was excited to get to work and I knew I one day wanted to own my own business. I figured the best solution was to start one and get to work. What I didn’t know is the long and difficult journey I was embarking on. I had to learn how to run a business, marketing a business, hire and manage employees, deal with finances, and so much more. Much of this I probably could’ve learned much faster had I worked at a bigger more experienced company. I would’ve learned how they bid for projects, how they priced their work, how they dealt with processes, how they dealt with good and bad clients. All of this we had to learn on our own. We have now gotten to a point where we can often compete with those agencies but the road to get here was long and difficult. I am on the walking path but there is a freeway that runs parallel and if you’re interested check out this advice:

I believe you could find good experience with any of the job opportunities you have listed. I personally work at an advertising agency and we work with hundreds of clients, many times we work directly with the business owners themselves. I get to look into tons of business and leadership styles so that may be something you want to consider. That said, based on my observation, the most successful entrepreneurs aren’t the people who call themselves entrepreneurs but instead the people that spent several years working and learning an industry and then turned this experience and knowledge into a business in that industry.

I would suggest thinking about an industry that would interest you. Spend some time researching its future prospects. Make the effort to find an industry that suits you well and is poised for future growth then get whatever job you can in that industry. Look for innovative companies or good leaders you want to learn from, get a job with them and work your butt off to learn everything you can. Eventually, as you learn the industry you will start to spot opportunities and efficiencies you can leverage to create a business. By that point, you will have the skills, industry experience, and contacts necessary to get your business off the ground.

When you get your great idea and you go to look for outside investment your investors will want to know if you have business skills and if you have industry experience. This is the best way to get plenty of both.

While this is certainly not the only way to go I think it is one solid way to set yourself up for success. If you are too impatient like I was I want you to know you can make it on your own but you will need to work hard to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to find a job and learn as much as you can. Those business that are hiring are successful for a reason and as a future entrepreneur learning what makes them work may be the difference between your success or failure.

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