Do you have what it takes to become the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Sara Blakely? According to Gates, having “good advice and good ideas and lots of enthusiasm” were keys to his initial success along with having “partnerships from the very beginning.” A strong sense of ownership and proprietary values can be applied to any situation, whether you are the ultimate decision-maker operating an independent business or an “intrapreneur” running a venture within an organization. Regardless of the terminology, the decision to become your own boss carries some risk and is not to be taken lightly.
As a budding entrepreneur, you can use your summers (or term time) to explore what it would be like to own and run a business or join a startup company. Be proactive; see if you can create your own experience. Reach out to Harvard alumni and ask those who have launched their own organizations if they've ever considered hiring interns. Familiarize yourself with the startup community. Attend local startup meet-ups, review resources, and join innovation challenges. It is important to note that most early-stage startups will not have a formal internship program, so if you are interested in working at a startup, it is helpful to network with founders and current team members to see if there is a project you can take on at their company. Consider viewing the OCS webinar, “The Startup Search” to gain valuable networking tips .
Is working for a startup or as becoming an entrepreneur right for you?
- Do you like working in teams?
- Are you ok with working extra hours/nights and weekends?
- Is job security important to you? To help you assess this, visit The Startup Interrogation Room.
- Do you want to start your own venture, or join an existing startup?
Remember the following:
- There is no timeline or typical job search for entrepreneurs. In fact, most startup organizations do more “just in time” hiring or hire based on immediate needs. The best way to learn whether the startup scene is right for you is to talk to a successful entrepreneur or get on-the-job training. Reach out to Harvard alumni through Alumni Directory or LinkedIn alumni dashboard.
- Joining a Harvard student group can help you learn about career fields, enhance key job skills, and develop industry contacts.
The central idea of being an entrepreneur is being your own boss rather than “applying” to work for someone else. That being said, many employers often seek candidates with an “entrepreneurial style” who are self-directed and need little supervision, or who have a strong sense of proprietary values about their work. Opportunities in some areas of marketing, for example, often require these qualities. So, if you’re not ready to start your own business, look for options where you can take on equivalent responsibilities.
There are several ways to think about funding for your startup venture:
- Joining a challenge at Harvard or an external challenge.
- Joining an accelerator or incubator.
- Researching and finding venture capital and private equity opportunities.