Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on February 21, 2022.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that during their prime working years, individuals hold approximately 12 jobs. In a Feb. 2 interview on Money Matters TV, Donna De Carolis, founding dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University, described the traits and mindset needed to navigate your career.
De Carolis said, “Higher education, especially today, has an obligation to teach students how to be resilient and confident. This generation is going to have to learn how to change jobs – how to pivot. Companies are looking for students that have initiative, resilience and confidence, how to marshal resources, deal with people, mitigate risk, how to network, how to build teams and how to lead.”
An entrepreneurship education teaches these skills. They are valuable whether one starts a business, works for a startup or works for an established company.
In January 2018, I wrote an article headlined, “Want to learn CEO skills? Become an entrepreneur,” which described my experiences and learnings while attending annual Startup Fests of the Close School. This is an update of that article.
During Startup Fest, students from across the University pursuing many courses of study showcase the businesses they are building. These students are not only learning entrepreneurship skills, but also important skills as the leaders of their fledgling businesses.
In real time, these entrepreneurs are honing their elevator pitches, developing business strategies, choosing partners, hiring their first employees, building their teams, raising funds from investors, protecting their intellectual property, choosing channels of distribution and dealing with customers. They also are learning how to de-risk their decisions and manage a P&L statement. These are the skills and responsibilities of all CEOs.
I asked these entrepreneurs to describe the market they were aiming to penetrate, how they would compete with other companies currently in the market and how they would differentiate their product or service so their business would attract customers. Asking “why will people want to buy from you?” focuses entrepreneurs on the most important question that will determine the success or failure of their business.
Students starting businesses are learning to be leaders in an environment where their decisions have real consequences – much different than only learning from case studies while sitting in a classroom. Many graduates do not get the opportunity to lead people or experience such a wide range of responsibilities until well into their careers.
An entrepreneurship education teaches you the importance of focus, perseverance and tenacity in pursuing a goal; getting out of your comfort zone; and how to pivot to another course of action when it appears you are proceeding down a dead end. It also teaches how to overcome or avoid obstacles.
Future bosses may say “Don’t tell me it can’t be done. Find a way to do it.” You learn to exhaust all possibilities as an entrepreneur before deciding to pivot. One learns how to handle inevitable failure, and how to recover and try again
A future boss will want to know what you have accomplished in your previous positions. Entrepreneurship skills and mindset will help differentiate you within your current company when going for a promotion or when applying for your next job at a different company.
Starting a business teaches you how to sell your ideas to others, both verbally and through graphical presentations, something all of us will be doing our entire careers, regardless of the position within an organization. Entrepreneurship students get real-time feedback on whether their selling skills are effective and can adjust them if needed.
Entrepreneurs learn networking skills due to the numerous interactions they have with a variety of people. These skills are critical to your career success. Future jobs will most likely come from your network, and the ability to effectively expand that network will help you land that next job.
My advice to all college students: If you can obtain entrepreneurship training, do so. It will differentiate you among your peers, which will make you more attractive to future employers.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.