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School of Thought

No matter what you studied, your education can help guide you.
April 1, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/76654

Did you know what you wanted to be when you were 21? Were you one of those "born to be an entrepreneur" types? I knew I wanted to be a journalist--that's why I attended the renowned Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia--but I sure didn't set out to be the editor of a business magazine.

I was reminded of this last night when I attended my first-ever Mizzou alumni function (yes, it took me 31 years after graduating to show up at one of those events). In addition to the alumni, about a dozen students from the university were there, all members of the advertising club. As they introduced themselves, most of them told us what they wanted to do/be after graduation. I'm sure many of them won't fulfill their current dreams.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Some of us may know what we want to do when we're that young, but many of us don't. I suspect most of you didn't set out to be entrepreneurs. Since the average age of Entrepreneur readers is 39, most of you didn't have the option of studying entrepreneurship in college--there simply weren't a lot of options. It may be a little late for you, but if your children want to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps, click here and check out our 3rd annual ranking of the nation's top entrepreneurial programs.

As I chatted with my fellow J-school graduates, I realized that many of us had detoured from our original paths--some just a bit, while others headed in completely different directions. While I'm a practicing journalist today, my "sequence" major was broadcasting. In fact, I hated the one magazine course I had to take. This being Southern California, several of the alumni were (naturally) trying to break into show business. One aspiring screenwriter told me that studying journalism taught him that everything can be edited, and that helps him in his current endeavors.

All of us have learned things in the past that we may think have no value in our present lives. But think again. As I mentioned, I majored in broadcasting. Though I'm not a broadcaster today, the skills I learned 30-something years ago have still come in mighty handy. I've been a guest on Martha Stewart Living, Oprah and the Today show. Once, after a TV appearance, the producer remarked on my comfort on camera. I'm certain if I hadn't spent two years of my life studying broadcasting, I would be a little more camera-shy.

Think back to your own student days. Some of the skills you were taught may come back to you naturally; others might require a bit of practice or a quick refresher. (Relax--I don't mean you have to go back to school. Sometimes just reading a book or a magazine article might do.) Learning doesn't stop when you're handed your degree. One of the positives of getting older is the more experiences you have, the more knowledge you have to draw upon. As entrepreneurs, part of your job is to keep your eyes and ears open, to adapt other industries' best practices as your own and to remain flexible--ever ready to turn on a dime. And I'll lend you two skills every journalism student learns: Always listen carefully, and never stop asking questions.