There are two basic types of entrepreneurs-those who have an idea for a business and as a result become entrepreneurs, and those who know they want to be entrepreneurs but are in search of the right idea. Most young entrepreneurs fall into the latter category, and waiting for that one great opportunity to materialize can take time and be incredibly frustrating. True entrepreneurs, however, are the sort of people who make things happen, and there are several things you can do to make the most of your time and prepare yourself for that moment what the right opportunity presents itself.
1. Get an entrepreneurial education-Entrepreneurs with four or more years of college education have far lower failure rates than average, and taking courses in entrepreneurship, finance, and marketing can boost your chances of success even further. While you’re at college, be sure to take a few science and technology-related courses, if for no other reason than to network. High-growth ventures are generally hi-tech in nature, and if you’re not an inventor yourself than college is a great place to meet and partner with one.
2. Talk to experienced entrepreneurs-While a college education is extremely beneficial, one drawback is that the courses tend to be overly theoretical, even in business school. But there’s no teacher like experience, so try to have lunch or coffee with as many experienced entrepreneurs as you can find. Down the line, they may become potential investors for your future ventures, but for now just ask questions and listen to them talk about their experiences. Most people like to be asked for advice, and successful entrepreneurs generally want to help the next generation. Just remember to be respectful of their time.
3. Work as an intern for a startup or venture capital firm-Try to leverage your relationships with more experienced entrepreneurs into a summer internship at a startup company or a venture capital firm. Even if it’s unpaid, the experience is invaluable. Working for a startup will give you a feel for the challenges involved in launching a new venture, while a venture capital firm will give you exposure to many different business plans and insight into how investors analyze business opportunities. Do both if you can.
4. Enter a business plan competition-Even if you haven’t hit upon that great idea yet, enter one anyway. There’s no better way to learn the mechanics of writing a business plan and obtaining funding, and the feedback you receive and the contacts you make can be extremely valuable in the future.
5. Research trends and practice spotting them-Great business opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. They generally involve spotting a trend early and figuring out a way to exploit it. So pick an industry or area of expertise and then immerse yourself in it. Try to predict how others will capitalize on emerging opportunities, and then watch and learn which ideas succeed and which ones fail. Eventually, you’ll get a feel for the market, and the right idea will come to you.
The time to start learning how to be an entrepreneur isn’t when you decide to launch a business, but rather many years before. Entrepreneurship is a complex task, one that requires thousands of hours of experience to master, just as with any other vocation. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be ready.