You’ve probably heard or read this before: treat college like a 9 to 5 job. Don’t. The sentiment behind it is nice. The idea is that college students have more time on their hands than they know what to do with compared to the set schedule and extracurriculars they experienced during high school. But what if treating college like a full-time job is the opposite of what you should be doing? Here’s why I’d argue that’s exactly the case and then I’ll propose an alternate goal to strive for.
The average person goes into a full-time job with an employee’s mindset when they arrive at the office. The average person also leaves with an employee’s mindset that they then take all the way back home when the day is done and right on into the weekend until Monday morning when the cycle starts again. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it simply means that they will remain an excellent employee — nothing more.
An entrepreneur, on the other hand, has to think about their business and personal development around the clock. If they fail to do so, their business either fails to grow or they do, which will lead to failure either way. But if they stay focused and hungry for knowledge, there is no upper limit on what an entrepreneur can do or earn.
Start a business while you’re in school.
Come up with a business plan based on a problem you’ve observed. The most surefire path to a successful business is to simply provide the solution to an inconvenience. People are inherently lazy, so if you can answer that question — how is this going to make my life easier? — you have a winner.
Build your team.
You are surrounded by one of the best resources you could possibly have: other people all trying to figure out what to do with their lives. The beautiful thing is that every single student is working to classify themselves by major and to position themselves in a career field, so this should make finding people with skill sets that compliment your own a tad easier. You need a coder? Talk to the computer science majors. You need someone who knows finance? Hit up the finance majors. There’s a buffet of ambitious, talented people all around you waiting to be given purpose and to find the answer to the big question: what’s next? Show them.
Once you’re out of college, it’s hard to find the time to be around the sheer number of people you’ll encounter on campus with any sort of regularity. One of the first rules of business is that you have to verify the problem you’re addressing to make sure it actually is a problem — and that the solution you’re proposing is actually addressing it. Go around your campus and talk to the thousands of students around you. The key is that you leave the questions open-ended, so you’re data is accurate and you have the chance to hear something that sparks a new idea and innovation.
Use your professors as mentors.
Take this with a grain of salt. Being a lifelong academic doesn’t necessarily make someone a great source of entrepreneurial knowledge and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that they know how to monetize their mastery of subject of matter. But professors can and often do have a certain level of clout and respect in certain industries. In fact, some serve as consultants to high level executives. Furthermore, they can offer guidance and the expertise needed to break through the problem.
Tap into the campus resources.
College essentially has all of the perks of an accelerator, plus a few extra perks stacked on top: gym membership, edu student discounts, entrepreneurial programs, competitions to win money, alumni connections, career counseling, etc. Treat it like an accelerator and tap into those resources. You have typically about a four year window to maximize every opportunity in college and you should be savvy enough to treat both your peers and your professors as if they’re a part of the accelerator. That will keep you operating above the fray if you hold yourself to that standard.
College is the perfect time for experimentation. You have a window where you’re really not expected to have everything figured out. Your responsibility is to be working towards that point, but use this period to prove to yourself that there is no ceiling before you have heaps of obligations placed on you in the real world.