How to Prepare for a Career as an Entrepreneur

The persona of an entrepreneur is often preempted with ideas of controlling one’s own destiny and living a lifestyle free of things we dislike.  While this mentality is certainly acceptable and is ultimately the end goal that many entrepreneurs work toward, it seems that many new, fresh, and aspiring entrepreneurs expect that they will be living the four-hour workweek soon after launching their first business.

If you are willing to put in the study time and the hard work to learn entrepreneurship and business building inside and out as an aspiring young entrepreneur, you will greatly increase your chances of success when you finally decide to step out and launch your own venture.  The following suggestions will allow you to develop academically, creatively, and through experience, so that you can successfully change from young aspiring entrepreneurs to successful startups.

Get Educated

Getting educated does not necessarily entail pursuing a business degree in college.  The debate on whether formal education is necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur is still on the forefront of the minds of many, yet it is almost irrelevant.  Ultimately, an entrepreneur’s success has a lot to do with their level of self-motivation and discipline.  If you are motivated to learn outside of formal education you will have basically the same chance at success of someone who prefers to exercise their motivation and discipline in the institutional environment.

Young entrepreneurs can get educated by joining classes and workshops.  Many high schools offer business courses, and many community colleges offer periodic entrepreneur and small business workshops.  Likewise, many colleges offer business degrees with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.  Joining a business club in your school, university, or community is also an option.  A few great clubs you may look into joining include Leaders of Tomorrow, College Entrepreneurs Organization, and Students in Free Enterprise.  Also, feel free to pick up a book and do a little bit of learning on your own.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Once you have a basic level of knowledge, it is time to put that knowledge to the test and expand it by gaining firsthand experience.  One of the best ways to build knowledge and experience while you are young is to find a business or mentor who will not only guide you in thought but also in process.

The catch here is that internships and jobs at startups and new businesses are not necessarily easy to come across, especially if you are looking to get paid.  Job boards like Enternships.comCrunchBoard, and the Mashable job board can be a good starting point for the more established and well-known startups.  Despite the lack of formal job openings, your chances of getting an internship with a startup or new business by simply calling or approaching them are fairly decent (especially if you are willing to do your internship for free).

Build a Network

Knowing people is important, especially if you are interested in building your own company in the future.  The majority of business development partnerships made, especially on the smaller business level, happen as a result of networking.  The people that you know and that know you, can become instrumental to your future success.  These people can act as advisors, partners, investors, or simply sounding boards for your next idea.

Building a network should be a relatively easy task if you are involved in the business department or programs at your school, working alongside business leaders and other smart employees, and attending local or even national events focused on your niche/industry or industry of interest.  Websites, social profiles, and email are also great ways to connect and network with people and form mutually beneficial relationships.

As you build upon and cultivate your education, experience, and network while you are young, you lay the foundation for long term success.  Each of these activities, along with hard work and a high amount of self-discipline will prepare you for a career as an entrepreneur and maximize your chance of entrepreneurial success.