Entrepreneurship in College: Building valuable real-world skills

Self-employed individuals.
Self-employment. Image via U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics website.

TULSA, Okla., December 18, 2014 – College students today are worried. Will their massive investment in a $100,000 liberal arts degree pay off in the future? Will the non-paying internship they’re involved with actually open the door to a career after graduation?

The problem here is actually a simple one. The one thing that college students consistently forget to do is build and perfect a valuable skill that the market place is willing and possibly eager to pay for.

College students can study all the books they want, but a valuable, useful and above all much-needed skill must be learned first hand with hands-on experience. Just because one can cite Shakespeare chapter and verse does not provide automatic value-added in the current market. Unless, of course, one wants to be a Shakespeare professor. And the problem with that one is that there’s virtually no demand for English language and literature professors in America’s dying university English Departments.

One way to gain valuable workplace skills is in pursuing the area of entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurship field is gaining rapid academic popularity across college campuses. Some campuses, such as Oklahoma State University, even boast departments or schools entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship.

There is nothing more cutthroat and hands-on in the competitive game of life than starting a new business. Any new venture, while exciting to contemplate, is fraught with peril. From the outset, the leader of any start-up business begins with key twin issues.

Will your target market actually buy your product? Will investors, “angels,” or venture capitalists even care to hear your business pitch?

Yet the skills required to answer these questions could be your eventual key to success. In entrepreneurship programs, the very idea of writing the business plan (and actually doing it), and the possibility of presenting your plan in a business plan competition helps build skills such as public speaking, selling, or creating Excel spreadsheets−all key components necessary for eventual business success.

Creating a business while in college also gives the student the opportunity to get a dose of “real life” experience, including all the negatives and setbacks, such as potential investors being up front with their criticism of your product and/or marketing plans, or other potential customers saying “no” the product even before it’s launched.

Clearly, not every college entrepreneur will be able to invent the next Facebook or Dell computer from his or her dorm room. But that tantalizing possibility does exist.

To understand the arts of product resort, creation, development and marketing, today’s college student must get comfortable with and get involved in the world of entrepreneurship. Whether your goal is to compete on TV’s “Shark Tank,” start the next Facebook from a dorm room, or build valuable skills, becoming involved in a startup can provide valuable job market skills that the marketplace really is willing to pay for. And these days, that will provide you with a significant leg up on the competion in one of the most difficult job markets in recent memory.

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