Expectations of the “right” way to be successful after college have drastically shifted over the years (especially because of the pandemic), as young adults are being encouraged to chase their own dreams and turn their business ideas into realities. This puts college graduates with an entrepreneurial spirit at a crossroads: Should they be diving straight from study hall to startup, or are there benefits to joining the 9-to-5 (or 9-to-6, or 9-to-7) world of full-time employment first?
Let’s look at three reasons to get full-time experience before jumping on the entrepreneurial train, and three reasons to launch a startup right after college.
Office Hours First
Get set for success
Jobs provide an inordinate amount of real-life learning opportunities, which you can later apply to your startup to help it thrive. Bill Clerico, CEO and founder of WePay, cited his experience at his first job as what gave him the skills to start his successful fintech company. And, as every startup has to answer a need, choosing an industry-specific job can help you recognize a pain point in your field that your startup could address. Take Bob Evans, founder of a nationwide restaurant chain and sausage plant, who initially started making his own sausages because he couldn’t find any of quality to serve the customers at his diner.
Fewer than six percent of startups in the US are backed by venture capitalists or angel investors, so as much as you may be optimistic that you’ll be part of that statistic, the odds aren’t in your favor. An estimated 46 million Americans have student loan debts. As 65% of college students graduate with debt, starting your business right out of college will dig an even deeper hole into your already-empty wallet. Working a full-time job, on the other hand, will allow you to find your financial footing, so that you’ll have savings to fall back on after venturing off on your own. And, when it comes to looking for investments, teamwork experience is a MAJOR factor in the likelihood of raising funds – experience you need to first gain.
Have a backup plan
The unfortunate reality is that more than two-thirds of startups fail in the first five years, which means you need a backup plan if things don’t turn out the way you want. As employers tend to evaluate your candidacy for a job based on the most recent job you had, you don’t want to find yourself stuck at twenty-five with a failed business and no job prospects. Your resume needs nurturing if you’re to have a safety net when all else fails.
Start with Startup
Startups are experience
Starting a company, whether or not it succeeds, may be one of the biggest learning opportunities that exists, if your goal is ultimately to have your own company. It’s do or die when you run your own business; you are forced be a jack of all trades, taking on sales, networking, marketing, data crunching, and a myriad of other skills that you would otherwise find difficult to come by at a desk job. For those who don’t yet know which career path interests you, launching your startup will give you the chance to try a bit of everything and see what you love. Sources say that your chance of starting a business that will succeed increases if you’ve started a business in the past, so the best way to get to successful venture number three is by launching venture number one!
You have nothing to lose
The years after college are the ones in which you have the highest risk-tolerance of your life. Most recent grads don’t have families to support, and besides for paying off loans and making rent, they’re free to do anything they want – with little consequence if they fail. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and some of the world’s other famous entrepreneurs didn’t even finish college before starting their businesses. As Warren Buffett, one of the most successful business magnates the world has ever seen, says: “Whatever you want to learn more, start doing it today. Don’t put if off to your old age….You’ll have a more rewarding life not only in terms of how much money you make, but how much fun you have out of life; you’ll make more friends the more interesting person you are.”
Avoid the job rut
Working in something you love is rewarding for both your psyche and physical health. Unfortunately, the opposite holds true as well; most recent grads don’t land their dream jobs right after school, and it can be difficult to transition to a different career path you may like more once you gain experience (and adopt the mindset) in that initial field. This is a common recipe for job burnout, with studies linking work stress to physical and emotional health disturbances. If starting your business means doing what you love, then it easily trumps settling into a job you may not want. As the saying goes: Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.
The Bottom Line: The vitality of your twenties, coupled with the lack of responsibilities facing the average college graduate, make for a convincing reason to get your business started right out of school. That said, there is much to be gained from the lessons of the workplace so that you can take the entrepreneurial plunge on the right foot. What do you think – which option would you recommend to a new college graduate?