Why College Students Need to Be Entrepreneurial With Their Careers

Here are five ways students can think more like an entrepreneur, and how doing so can improve your chances for professional success.

learn more about Dan Schawbel

By Dan Schawbel


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Students are starting to realize quickly that they can't rely on their college career service centers to help them find employment. Colleges are under more pressure than ever to turn degrees into jobs for their students but something isn't adding up. Over 50 percent of recent grads are either unemployed or underemployed, with an average student loan debt of $29,400.

What does this mean for the average college student? For one thing, students can't be average in this employment market. Second, they have to take matters into their own hands and stop relying on career centers to do the heavy lifting for them.

In a new study conducted in partnership with InternMatch.com of over 4,000 students, we found that almost 50 percent aren't using their career centers, with 64 percent turning to online resources instead. Although 94 percent of respondents think that their career centers are necessary at colleges, almost half aren't using their career centers and 61 percent say they are either never or rarely effective in helping them land a job.

Related: Why 'Gen Z' May Be More Entrepreneurial Than 'Gen Y'

The purpose of career centers is to help students prepare for the real world and support their internship and job searches. But they are falling short due to few resources, not leveraging social media and lacking the staff to scale. The average ratio of students to career service professionals is 1,889 to 1 and we found that almost a third of students in our study say that centers don't have enough staff to support students.

Students need to have an entrepreneurial mindset in order to get hired upon graduation – or if they want to start their own business. Here are five things every student can do to make the most out of college and be best positioned for success:

1. Attend as many events as possible on and off campus.
If your career center is offering an event on campus, you should go. Typically, they offer alumni speakers, panels or meet and greets that could be extremely valuable to you. From events, you can learn more about your industry and connect with professionals who can help you get jobs.

You should also use sites like Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com in order to explore outside events in your city that are relevant to your field. This way, you are getting out there and making connections that you can leverage when you're looking for a job upon graduation.

2. Get your career service center to introduce you to alumni in your field.
Instead of visiting your career center and asking them to just review your resume and cover letter, you should be ask them to connect you directly with alumni. Their alumni database is their most prized asset and, as a student, you need to leverage it because it will make your life a lot easier.

Related: Hiring a 'Newbie' vs. an Industry Pro

3. Register for free or low-cost online courses to boost your skills.
There are numerous online courses that can teach you the skills you need in order to get jobs. Udemy.com and Skillshare.com offer courses focused on every area of business and taught by experts in various fields. Coursera has free online courses brought to you by the nation's leading Universities. KhanAcademy.com offers free courses, specifically in math and science and Udacity.com does the same.

4. Collect as many experiences as you can before graduation.
This means internships, freelance gigs and apprenticeships. Whatever is going to translate into work experience for you, you should sign up for. By getting your hands dirty in different projects, as different companies, you start to figure out what you want to do and what you don't want to do for a job when you graduate. It will also give you a track record and connections that could potentially turn into jobs.

5. Start your own company.
If you aren't getting internships, then think about creating your own through entrepreneurship. Two years ago, we asked college recruiters about the skills they look for when hiring recent graduates and about a third said "entrepreneurship skills."

Through entrepreneurship, students can learn about how businesses operate, and make additional money to help pay of their loan debt. Who knows, their company could be successful and they won't need to apply for a position upon graduation.

Related: 3 Things You Don't Know About Intrapreneurship

Dan Schawbel

Research Director at Future Workplace

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author, and the research director at Future Workplace. He's the author of two career books: Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. His next book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, will be released in November 2018. Through his companies, he’s conducted dozens of research studies and worked with major brands including American Express, GE, Microsoft, Virgin, IBM, Coca Cola and Oracle. Schawbel produces a free monthly newsletter on workplace trends and career tips.


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