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Want to Start Up? Get a Job First Student entrepreneur Brian Ballan on the importance of gaining industry experience before launching your own business.

By Brian Ballan


Being an entrepreneur isn't just a vocation, it's a way of life.

After several unsatisfying jobs, I was terrified that a gig -- outside of entrepreneurship, that is -- did not exist where I could be happy. But then, I figured that simply by having an entrepreneurial mindset while working for someone else can be very fulfilling and invaluable when it comes to launching your own startup.

I wanted to start a company making food, but had never worked in the food industry. To gain some experience, I got a job working on the line at Buddakan, one of the busiest restaurants in New York City, where I learned a ton about food preparation.

Related: How to Decide if a Job or Entrepreneurship is Right for You

Then, I did consulting work for a fast-growing consumer-products company where I learned a ton about operations, sales and marketing. By working with the best of the best, I gained a broader experience base and perspective.

So, before you jump in and start up in an industry where you are a customer but have never been an employee, you should consider these three tips:

1. Get a job. It's important to have some professional proficiency within the industry in which you'd like to start a business. As it turns out, you can learn a lot in books and classrooms, but there's no replacement for real-world, hands-on experience. When you work as an employee within your given field you're able to learn the ins and outs of the business without the risk of owning your own enterprise.

Related: How to Balance a Fulltime Job With Starting Up

2. Build a sound network. Working alongside top experts in your field can accelerate your ability to shape a successful company of your own. By being an employee in my industry I was not only able to gain key knowledge, but I was also able to gather a relevant network of advisors and credibility with customers, supplies and investors before I ever launched my pepper-sauce company A&B American Style.

3. Go beyond passion. Just because you love eating sandwiches doesn't mean you should necessarily open a sandwich shop. You need to love your field on a professional level, as well as on a personal level. Be sure that you're motivated by something more than money because that might take some time to start rolling in.

Do you think industry experience is necessary before starting up? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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