We’ve seen a lot of young entrepreneurs on Shark Tank — millennials, teenagers, even kids! I love it. One of my passions is to encourage others young people to pursue entrepreneurship. It’s a long and difficult path but can be so rewarding!
I’m often asked – if you could go back and do it all over again, what do you wish someone told you? I like to sit down and put my advice in writing – so for those who are just starting their career, or starting a new business, here is what I wish I knew back then…
Experience is infinitely more valuable than money. I see a lot of young kids in high school and university working odd jobs because they want to enjoy their breaks from school. That’s fine, but in the long run, the experience will be what helps you identify your path and find success. A lot of grads have trouble finding a good job after university and it’s because they’re lacking in experience. The job market is tough — unless your future employer is willing to train you from the ground up (always assume they’re not!), you’ll have to rely on having relevant experience to get the job.
Experience is your most asset, so find a job that gives you the experience you need. Whether that’s a summer internship or teaching yourself a new program, put in the time. Remember — you are your best investment.
Don’t make excuses because nobody cares. Plain and simple. We’ve all experienced hardship in our lives, so the biggest mistake you can make is to make excuses for why you can’t do something. You might get a free pass occasionally but to rely on that would be a big mistake. Focus on what you need to get the job done — and then go do it!
Take risks when you’re able to. It can be hard to take a risk (big or small), like quitting your job to start your own business, when you have a family and kids to look out for. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it is very difficult. I’m a fan of taking the risks earlier in life when you likely have fewer responsibilities and more flexibility. I’m also a believer in not burning the ships – that means to test before you go all in 100% to make sure you have the buy-in of a customer base.
Your degree is a nice to have — get one but don’t go into massive debt. Remember what I said about an experience? Here’s something else to consider: unless you need a specific degree for your career (for example, you’re getting a professional certification), your ability, experience, drive etc. are far more important. Degrees are nearly table stakes today but where I get worried is when I see students shying away from putting their degrees to practice in the job market in favor of adding another minor or perhaps masters. Education is critical but there’s no reason to go into massive debt for the “perfect” degree or multiple degrees in the same field. When you’re in the workforce, it’s your experience that will carry you forward — so I encourage the youth of today to try their hand in their chosen field. Fail. Learn. Succeed. Then decide if you want to pursue further education.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Entrepreneurship is a long, difficult journey and it’s not for everyone. You must be willing to give up your free time, your social life, and sometimes even your family time. You must make a lot of sacrifices and you must be driven to succeed.
But you know what — every entrepreneur I work with will tell you it’s worth it. I would tell my younger self to dream bigger and take more risks early. I didn’t realize what I was capable of back then.
So, get going! You’ve got a long road ahead of you…
To Your Success.