Career Transitions

Turning chaos into careers.

Developing the Entrepreneur in Every Student

Entrepreneurial skills can help you succeed in any career.

Entrepreneurship is hot on college campuses these days. Representing a new type of career energy, students want to create their own careers rather than rely on a shaky job market. Many colleges and universities already have well-developed entrepreneurship programs and majors, and others are starting to recognize the value of teaching entrepreneurship and adding new courses.Driven by creativity, energy, and enthusiasm, students are flocking to these opportunities.

And it’s not just the business and engineering students you might expect to see involved in such projects. Liberal arts students are developing entrepreneurial ventures as well.  I have been team-teaching a course called “The Liberal Arts Entrepreneur” for three semesters now: student interest continues to build, and several business have already been launched.

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The students at my school, The University of Texas at Austin,recently ran an Entrepreneurship Week. Created and managed by students, it was a testament to their passion and drive for innovation. In this video, Dr. Bob Metcalfe (co-inventor of the Ethernet and Professor of Innovation at UT) shares his views of the value of entrepreneurship activities on college campuses:

(Here's the link in case you can't view it.)

So given all this energy and enthusiam on campuses for entrepreneurial activity,  it’s not surprising that when Dan Schawbel of Millennial Branding combined forces with Monster Inc. to survey entrepreneurial interest and activity across three generations, he assumed that the current college and recent graduate cohort would be much more entrepreneurial than previous generations. And yet—the survey revealed just the opposite: older generations consider themselves more entrepreneurial.

To quote Dan’s report, 41% of Gen X employees (loosely defined between ages of 30-49 years) and 45% of Boomers (loosely defined between ages of 50-69 years) consider themselves to be more entrepreneurial compared to only 32% of Gen Y (loosely defined between ages of 18-29 years) workers. Here's an infographic which summarizes the key findings. 

Just as interesting from a career development perspective, is the recognition that individuals need to develop entrepreneurship-like mindsets even when working within an organization or company—to become intrapreneurs who work for corporations and “take direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished project through assertive risk-taking an innovation.” According to Schawbel, the Monster Millennial Branding research demonstrated the concept of intrapreneurship is alive within many companies today.

Jeffrey Quinn, Vice President, Global Monster Insights, also quoted in the press release, states, "This survey revealed that the entrepreneurial spirit resides in all of us and across all generations of workers. Whether it’s a direct result of the current economy, or a person’s independent drive, we are seeing more and more people across generations starting their own businesses as alternatives to traditional jobs or careers. Employer retention strategies could benefit from creating environments that encourage entrepreneurial culture and opportunities for workers.”

And therein lies one benefit of supporting the entrepreneurial mindset in college students: the potential to apply the knowledge and skills to a variety of work settings. I’ve learned from teaching the entrepreneur class and observing where my students go after graduation, that developing an entrepreneurial mindset— such as being creative, independent, action-oriented, and a willingness to take calculated risks—can help students succeed in the traditional job market as well. Not all students will go on to entrepreneurial careers, but many will find those skills can enhance any career path—regardless of the field or title. I will be exploring this topic further in future blog posts. Stay tuned.

©2013 Katharine Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Image credit: IStock

Katharine Brooks, Ed.D., is the Executive Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. She is the author of You Majored in What?

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