I believe there is a distinct similarity between entrepreneurship and starting your career path. That similarity is simply needing to start… and to start anywhere.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine who’s had a huge vision for a business for a long time now. She was contemplating her next steps and it seemed to me she was having the classic entrepreneur’s early hurdle, not knowing how to start. So to anyone else having this issue, know that the place you can start (which actually isn’t so difficult) is one of a few options.
1) You can talk to target customers and simply learn about their experiences. Running “customer interviews” is a great way to validate your early assumptions and ideas before diving in.
2) If you do have a great idea and have a low stakes way of setting up a small experiment to start to test that idea, do it!
3) You can try to find entrepreneurs in a similar field and pick their brain on how they got started and for any advice they could give you.
4) You can try to find an incubator-type program that will help you go from idea to experimentation (tackleboxaccelerator.com).
That last one is the most relevant and it’s how I see entrepreneurship relating to careers. When I was a Human Development major, I knew I wanted to go into the business world but had no formal way to figure that out (the School of Management career office only served business majors). So what did I do? What was the very first “business experience” I had? I interned at a local day camp doing business development. I found this opportunity through a family friend. This was the lowest stakes, “closest to me” opportunity that I could land that was relevant to anything in business. That experience helped me land a consulting internship at a boutique firm. From there, I gained enough baseline business experience to land a financial operations internship. Because of all of this, I was able to land an operations role at a bank. I started in a way that at the time felt very irrelevant to anything I’d want to do but at least it was in the right ballpark, I entered and forged my way into the world of business. By starting somewhere, I was able to later push closer and closer towards what I wanted.
The other steps above relate directly to starting out in your career, as well. I did my own ‘customer interviews’ by networking constantly with Binghamton alumni (emailed 100 alumni, held ~50 conversations) to learn more about the consulting world. What’s more, I used my internships as ‘small experiments’ to test out the consulting field first hand. Lastly and most importantly, I found a “formal” way to get started, with an early, low stakes internship through a family friend.
So whether you’re thinking about a startup, getting started in your career, or even trying to make a career change, remember to simply just start somewhere, anywhere.