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

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


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.

**Apply Now** Are you an enthusiastic college- or graduate-student entrepreneur, eager to share your on-campus experiences? Apply to be a YoungEntrepreneur.com College Treps columnist.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics


7 Reasons Why CEOs Need to Develop a Personal Brand — and How to Build One.

Here's why crafting a captivating personal brand and origin story is pivotal in today's landscape and how these seven tangible advantages can redefine your success as a business leader.


What's the Best Social Media Influencer Option for Your Business?

The success of an entire marketing campaign involving influencers hinges on the meticulous selection of the right social media blogger. Do you know how to choose the right one?

Business Models

A Company With a Conscience — How to Make High-Priced Products Accessible to Working-Class Families

Some products are inherently expensive. Companies can offer leasing programs, financing options and other marketing approaches to make them accessible to working families.


Deepfakes Are Lurking in 2024. Here's How to Navigate the Ever-growing AI Threat Landscape

Can you tell reality from AI? Discover the evolving threat landscape and the global battle against hyper-realistic deception.

Growing a Business

How to Get Your Business Noticed (and How to Brag About It)

Knowing how to go after important recognition awards and then leverage them can have a long-term impact on your business.