Academia doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the cut-throat nature of the world of business. However, if you use your time at university wisely you can make sure you are already one step ahead of the competition.
At university, you are relatively time - and contact - rich
Students may love to have a good moan about stress, but they have a surprising amount of spare time in the cracks between their busy schedules of lectures and seminars. They are also surrounded by peers in a way that won’t happen in their future life off campus. These two factors, if they are recognized and acted upon, give them the scope to explore and expand business ideas in surroundings that are an ideal testing ground
Draw on the resource of your professors
Leverage the huge experience your academic mentors have. Many professors have built their own businesses; think of them as the kind of advisory board that would be hard to assemble but that you have access to. They will often be inspired to share knowledge that is off the immediate syllabus by the sight of individuals trying to push themselves at a time when their peers can often seem directionless and unmotivated. Who knows, it might even raise your grades.
At this time in your life you should not fear failure
Everyone knows what university is really about: experimentation. Students experiment with all sorts of ideas, behaviors and notions. Your approach to starting a business on campus should partake of the same sense of uninhibited freedom. It’s not like the huge ‘real-world’ risk of giving up a paid job and throwing everything behind your dream; if one dream dies, you still have plenty of time to dream up another. Perhaps during that calculus class.
Find yourself a co-founder or two
Your co-founder may share your passion or be your first convert. They may share your background or be from another world. Find someone who complements you, expands the skillset you can draw upon: if you’re art, find business, if you’re business, find art. Throw some medieval history in there too, if you want. Diverse opinions and experiences can only broaden your appeal. And that’s a great lesson to carry with you to life outside.
While university is a useful environment for learning it can also be a bubble protecting you from the real world too - if you let it. By taking advantage of everything that the average campus has to offer, you can make sure that your billion-pound idea lives up to its potential once your studies are done.
By Rashid Ajami, founder and CEO of CampusSociety