Let me first tell you why I’ve heard not to study entrepreneurship in school.
- You cannot learn entrepreneurship in a classroom setting, you need real-world experience.
- You can’t actually get a job if you study entrepreneurship.
These were the reasons why I initially had hesitations to pursue an entrepreneurship degree in my business school. These concerns come from a legitimate place, yet like many half-baked statements made by students, this concept requires a bit more critical thinking.
I’d like to first address my own thoughts on the hesitations above, and then outline why I studied entrepreneurship in school, what I got out of it, and why I encourage students to look into this major as they move through their university years. I’ll then outline resources for those who may not have the opportunity to formally learn entrepreneurship in a classroom setting.
How can someone actually learn entrepreneurship in school?
Having parents who are both entrepreneurs, friends who have had both successful and unsuccessful businesses, and briefly operating my own startup, I agree with this statement. To learn how to build a company, the best way to do so is to actually build a company.
But what if you don’t have the time, experience, resources, or motivation to run a company in the near future? Does studying entrepreneurship prepare you at all to one day run a company? Alternatively, can these learnings help you even if you decide to never pursue building your own company? I would assert that it does, yet in a way that is slightly unconventional.
The biggest thing you learn by studying entrepreneurship in school is how to think like an entrepreneur. It is this mindset that is the biggest takeaway from a degree in entrepreneurship. It will help you be more successful in the organizations in which you decide to work and allow you to see problems in your personal or professional life that you will now have the confidence and tools to solve.
How can someone get a job studying entrepreneurship?
More and more, employers are disregarding your degree in their search for qualified candidates. Employers are consistently seeing applicants from the same business specializations such as finance, accounting, and marketing. Why not try to stand out a bit?
Having a different story than everyone else applying for the same job can serve as a competitive advantage. For me, having an entrepreneurship degree helped me obtain interviews with the major consulting, finance, and technology companies. This happened because of the skills that I was able to learn in school and the experiences I had outside of school.
I challenge you to think outside the box when considering what you would like to study, realizing that now employers want someone who does not fit the traditional mould.
Why You Should Consider Studying Entrepreneurship In School
The common theme throughout this piece has been to think differently, let us continue that message by first outlining a few reasons why I think you should consider studying entrepreneurship in school. I’ll then go into a deeper dive into these sections, and provide a brief summary at the end.
- Adapting to a changing workforce, what skills are required for our generation of students?
- Access to a world-class network of teachers and mentors.
- Being able to identify and solve problems and develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
Adapting To A Changing Workforce
I know that you have heard it time and time again, but soft skills matter. They’re usually overlooked in society today with the advent of new technical skills such as software development, data analytics, and many more. Students sometimes mistakenly think these are the only useful skills to learn, and while these skills will help you earn well-paying jobs and set you up for long-term career success, there exist other equally as important skills.
Skills such as communication, leadership, reasoning, critical thinking, and being able to work with teams have become scarce in today’s workforce.
Because we have been thinking about how to equip ourselves technically, we have forgotten to spend enough time in our education system developing the non-technical skills.
-LinkedIn Economic Graph Team
With our generation entering into the “4th industrial revolution”, we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we work. Many of the white-collar jobs that exist today have the potential to be fully or partially automated, including accountants, lawyers, and even doctors! Will all of our jobs one day be automated? If so, what we will do with ourselves?!
These soft skills are the least susceptible to artificial intelligence or robots. These skills are taught to us as we work our way through business school, but even more so in our entrepreneurship classes. Classes such as New Venture Design, where we are teamed up with 3 engineers and 2 business students to create a prototype for a product, allow us to take leadership roles, speak to clients, and make pitches to investors.
This is done in order to further develop these soft skills that will be necessary to potentially be a successful entrepreneur, but more importantly for us to be productive members of this changing workforce and economy.
Access To a World Class Network
For anyone who has read any of my previous pieces, you know how much of an importance I put on developing your network of teachers and mentors. They are the ones who can teach you the most about how to excel in your professional and personal life. They are the ones who can introduce you to friends of theirs in companies or other organizations you would like to work with or support in the future.
For the most part, especially in technology, these individuals are the ones changing the world, the ones who are creating or investing in new inventions that you probably have heard of, or that may one day affect many of us in our daily lives.
Through classes like the Creative Destruction Lab, I have had the opportunity to be in the same room with individuals like Darrell Kopke, Jeff Booth, Boris Wertz, and Natalie Dakers. A few of them have even taken the time to meet with me one-on-one to share their wisdom to help in my professional life, and in my personal life.
Our professors are former executives and directors of companies, who provide a real-world education. By real world education, I mean learning practical skills, using current day examples, and engaging in class discussions. This “real world” education is a breath of fresh air when compared to the repetitive and dated content that is taught to us in many of our classes in university.
By being a part of this community, doors that you never knew existed will open up for you. It is then up to you to take advantage of those open doors and make long-lasting relationships with these powerful individuals.
Being Able To Identify and Solve Problems
I remember vividly, for the first time in class, I was excited to go through our reading list for a course called “Economics of Entrepreneurship”.
The course readings included books such as the Lean Startup, written by Eric Reis. In the book, Reis provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups. The book taught us how to find problems, how to test our hypotheses, and how to ensure that our assumptions were being met or disproved by our target customers.
The key learning from the Lean Startup was its process to go from building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), creating metrics for testing, learning from those metrics, creating new ideas, and continuously repeating the process.
This Build-Measure-Learn cycle was vital for our development of the products students created throughout our education, but the real manifestation of them occurred in other areas of life.
For example, are you a part of an organization and are bothered by a certain problem that no one seems to be fixing? Use this model. Are you curious about spending some time on a personal project like writing or artwork? Use this model! The aspect of building a small version of a final product, testing it with your customers, then rebuilding it to fit those customer needs are lessons that can help in a lot of different areas of life.
We can adopt this mentality to tackle problems in our daily lives but is difficult to maintain unless we use it consistently. Being in entrepreneurship courses, and spending time with like-minded people allowed me to learn this mindset, and is something that I am proud to still be enhancing today.
Yes, there are reasons why students think that studying entrepreneurship is frankly a waste a time. These concerns stem from the idea that you cannot learn entrepreneurship in school or think that the degree cannot help you in landing your dream job, along with a few others in between.
Like many areas of our lives, we must challenge ourselves to critically think about concepts, career paths, or even what to study in school, rather than to listen to the majority of people. Use this critical thinking approach when deciding your major as well, and maybe while doing that, you may stumble upon entrepreneurship as an area to study.
For those at the University of British Columbia who do not have an opportunity to formally study these concepts in a classroom setting, look for other resources around campus. Organizations like E@UBC, the Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing, Hatch, eHub, and a few others are allowing students from all over the campus to engage in entrepreneurship.
Looking for any other ideas or resources? Please feel free to reach out, love connecting interested students with these organizations.