November 19, 2013

If I Could Do College Over Again

...I probably wouldn't go. What?! 

Most careers aren't linear. That means there isn't a straight/direct path to finding a job in most fields. 

Certain industries require a degree or amount of schooling to even qualify, so in those cases you have no choice. 

If you fall outside of medical, teaching, engineering, etc. your college degree isn't worth much. 

Let's take my situation as an example. I graduated with a B.A. in Psych and my first job out of college was as a Youth Pastor which had no correlation to my education. 

If I could do it all over again, these are the 3 areas I would focus on:

1) Building my Network. It's all about who you know. Friends, and friends of friends, will find you a job. They're instant referrals and immediately bridge the gap of trust. If you're not reaching out to people you know, start. If you are, keep doing it and asking for more introductions.

2) Taking more Internships. There's no way of predicting whether you'll actually like or be good at something until you do it. Experience is the best teacher. Trying different jobs is a more productive way of identifying what you want to do than dreaming is.

3) Work in Sales. Arguably the most important skill in business. You can read/talk about it, but you'll never get better at it unless you do it. Whether you want to work for someone or be your own boss, you have to learn how to sell your product, service and/or yourself. 

College sets you up for a few career options, but if it's not a prerequisite for what you're going to do after college, you've got to weigh the cost vs. benefits. College doesn't prepare you for the real world. Experience in the real world prepares you. The three skills I mentioned above can be learned prior to college. No matter where you are in your career, follow this advice and you'll significantly increase your chances to be employable. 

Side Note: As a career coach, I advise people not to apply for jobs online through third party sites like Monster, CareerBuilder & Indeed. You'd have better odds winning the lottery. In fact, studies show less than 1% get jobs through those sites. 

November 5, 2013

The Buffet Strategy

Everyone likes to eat at buffets. There are limitless choices and numerous times to return and try new things. What if I told you starting your own business is similar to eating at a buffet?
Your first plate is filled with all different kinds of foods you want to try. Most of them you enjoy, but some you don't. To me, the best part of a buffet is your "return trip." That's where you skip the things you didn't care for and get more of what you really liked.

The first business you try will be as a "fan." You may not know much about the industry or your competition. Selling your product/service can be a huge challenge. You'll underestimate how much work it takes to succeed. Some areas you'll thrive in and other tasks will stifle you. The second time around you'll choose a business you understand and sales will be your main focus. If you can't map out a plan for massive sales, you won't start it.

This point of this article isn't to say you should try to fail the first time around. Instead, statistics show it's very hard to succeed the first time you start a business. If you're smart you'll take what you've learned during the initial run and apply it towards your following businesses.

I've enjoyed being an entrepreneur, but there are so many mistakes I made the first time around. I loved what I was doing, but didn't know how to sell it. With my second business, we study our competition, created a sales strategy and measure our progress frequently. The questions I ask now are different and moving forward only happens with a sound marketing plan. 

So keep fighting for your dreams and work hard to make them a reality. Your initial attempt will be much harder than you anticipated, but absorb what you are being taught through experiences and you'll eventually get there!