Arming America’s Youth: Entrepreneurship is Possible for Any Generation
Posted on November 12, 2012
Across the country, questions are being raised about how America’s youth will fare once they enter the job market. With the economy in such a poor state, what will happen when these students graduate college and move on to the job search?
Speculation abounds: Will this generation be the first to encounter worse financial hits than their parents did? Yet entrepreneurs are getting started younger and younger, and they’re continuing to prove that starting one’s own business can still be a successful endeavor.
I am 26-years-old and the CEO of a company I started back when I was a junior in college. What started out as a small tutoring business with a few friends eventually became a nationwide company called Varsity Tutors, currently operating in 14 major cities, and helping students with a wide array of subjects such as SAT prep and chemistry tutoring. My hope is that the increasingly younger entrepreneurs will go after their aspirations like I did and end up offsetting some of the negative private sector growth trends our society is facing.
I formed my business as an undergraduate student at Washington University in St. Louis and continued to run it later on, while working in a junior venture capital position. The advice I offer stems from my own experience and I sincerely hope it encourages those with similar ambitions to follow through on them. Formal education is key, but it must be complemented by real-life experiences and insights from those who have personally been through it.
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Lessons from School and Work
Staying focused in college truly keeps you goal-oriented for job prospects. The social aspect in particular provides you with endless opportunities to refine your ability to interact within a wider network, but the educational aspect is crucial. Choose your major carefully; pick something you can pursue with passion so you can further develop your skills for it. If you truly master those skills, you could easily find yourself well ahead of your colleagues and eventually able to start a business based on your specific expertise.
I studied my preferred major in school, but my greatest learning experience came from outside of the classroom. Upon graduation, I continued to build upon my education through both of my jobs – working in finance by day, and running my tutoring business on the side. I believe it is unlikely that I could have been successful with my tutoring business had I not gained both academic and real-world experience first.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Parents can encourage their kids to take formal education seriously, but there is another level of understanding that’s critical to entrepreneurship. A student can only learn so much in a classroom – what’s going to help them genuinely absorb the necessary information is a more demanding, hands-on experience.
These extra elements learned outside the classroom became the main inspiration behind my company. We knew this information was valuable, we knew the service was not yet offered, and we knew it was something students would pay for. We also sought reputable entrepreneurs who could give insider tips. They gave do-it-yourself examples and the honest guidance needed to create a thriving business.
What to Take Away
Sustainable success is not spoon-fed, it’s not earned solely in a classroom vacuum, nor experience alone. Aspiring youth must both study hard and seek input from those who have been entrepreneurs themselves. Ultimately, real experience can offer the reasoning and comprehension necessary get your feet off the ground. Once you gain knowledge from all these invaluable lessons, you can confidently begin your entrepreneurship journey.
Combined with a formal education, these lessons will help lay the foundation for future success before you even start looking for jobs. Begin learning the tricks of the trade while simultaneously earning a higher education, and you will undoubtedly be ahead of the game at a younger age. Others may not do as well as their parents’ generation – but you can.