This post was written by Mike Beckwith, a student at Indiana University and regular Verge attendee. He is a Project Coordinator of the Young Entrepreneurs Association at Indiana University Bloomington. He has joined numerous clubs and events for entrepreneurs and has found some real nuggets of gold related to getting the most out of a college entrepreneurial experience.
Enter Mike Beckwith on Entrepreneurship at College…
Do you ever wish your college better prepared you to start and grow a company? Most students don’t take full advantage of on-campus opportunities and university resources. But that’s because they don’t know how to hack the system.
Here are four high-impact approaches I have discovered to help you—or your son or daughter—get an entrepreneurial experience out of a university program.
The easiest way connect with your entrepreneurial community is through social media. Look past the picture postings from last weekend and tweets about what someone is eating for lunch, and you’ll see a communication network that almost all industries of business have adopted to share breakthroughs and bleeding-edge strategies.
The most relevant social media sites for me is Twitter. The 140-character structure makes it easy to skim over tweets and pursue more information on the topics that interest you most. A couple of my favorites are @NFIB and @EntMagazine. Entrepreneur Magazine is especially on point with two-minute videos and blog posts on topics ranging from managerial how-to’s, to financial deals and their potential impact.
Attend Class With Purpose
Secondly, listen and engage in the classroom. Of course there will be the dull lecture hall classes that are necessary ground work classes to grind through, but as a junior and senior, the professors should no longer simply be mediators or presenters of a book. Most of my entrepreneurship professors have several years of real-world experience and have come back to share the knowledge they gained from their time in the industry.
For example, my Entrepreneurial Finance professor was Professor Gregory Udell. Outside of his involvement with the University, he is a consultant to the World Bank and the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, with over 60 publications on topics such as financial contracting and monetary policy. Listening to his lectures on the current financial crisis and its relevance to entrepreneurship, among other topics, was the first time I have seen the topic of Finance as anything more than a required course for my major.
This isn’t me encouraging “brown nosing,” your professors, but strive to go to every class with the mentality that the information you are learning is information that may be most relevant and useful to you post-graduation. It’s too easy to get stuck in a routine of attending class just to get the information required to pass the class. What you are learning goes way out of the scope of that specific class. Also, having an industry-specific reference from your university will also do wonders for you when you begin your career search.
Get Entrepreneurial-ly Involved
The most rewarding part of my student entrepreneurial experience was my involvement with my school’s club, the Young Entrepreneur’s Association (YEA). Some students may see clubs as resume builders, but I see my entrepreneurship club as an experience and professional contact builder. Not only are you around other like-minded individuals interested in entrepreneurship, but it also opens the door to former members connecting you to local events and opportunities.
Through my involvement as YEA Project Coordinator, I have come to meet several key players in the Indiana Entrepreneurial community, such as Matt Hunckler, who asked me to write this post in the first place. My experience with the club set me up to personally know the founders and developers of a Seed Capital Company founded in Bloomington. There, I had the opportunity to pitch multiple business concepts to local VCs and learned how to be more efficient in the idea-creation stage of startups. Clubs provide a more interactive entrepreneurship experience than most classrooms. Check your school website for clubs on campus.
Connect, Learn, Grow
The gift of living close to a university goes much deeper than cheap drink specials and sporting events. Attend local business events to connect with executives, developers, students, professors and entrepreneurs. These kinds of people connect to share experience, industry know-how and to encourage the entrepreneurial mentality in all industries.
The most successful entrepreneurs consistently learn, improve, and innovate. Attending events in your area sets you up to hear some of the most relevant and useful information you can receive about today’s business world. Who knows, maybe a speaker at the event can help you hone in on what type of entrepreneur you want to become. You might even find someone who needs your unique skill set in their business.
Finding meetups is as easy as a Google Search. Most events offer a student discount and are usually held on campus. I also recommend using Meetup.com for more events. http://entrepreneur.meetup.com/
So set down the beer…or maybe pick up another…and see what your school can do to help you start or advance your entrepreneurial career!