The opportunities available to today’s college graduates are evidence of an exciting and rapidly changing world. In the current economy, it’s vital that you present yourself as the full package to employers or potential investors when establishing your own business. Business leaders seek recent graduates who display solid leadership skills, initiative, and the willingness to truly be part of a team. Your college experience can offer many activities that will help build your résumé, as well as develop practical experience to succeed in your future career. It’s up to you to pursue these opportunities and ensure that you shine as a business prospect. What should you look for during your college years?

Practical Coursework

Not all college activities are created equal. College programs that stick to a traditional approach to coursework are not preparing young entrepreneurs for today’s world. Basic business courses can, no doubt, offer significant value to your understanding of industry, markets, and supply chains. However, a more hands-on experience, beginning with a feasibility study to explore your venture, offers a more practical approach. With your ideas and research as a foundation, you can invest yourself in, and truly benefit from, more formal coursework in which you can perfect your business plan, marketing strategies, and accounting techniques. Seek out the courses that allow you to explore and validate your ideas so you can gain the necessary skills to succeed.

Step outside the Box

In fact, leap right outside of that box as soon as you feel stuck inside it. Entrepreneurship requires developing traits that are critical to success. The most important traits are leadership, confidence, and the ability to take risks. You cannot increase your tolerance or build self-confidence via some professor’s PowerPoint presentation on entrepreneurial characteristics. Experiential activities such as rock climbing, zip-lining, and even acting develop these key traits. All of these activities force you into what are, at first, uncomfortable situations. Your determination and repeated attempts to succeed strengthen your resolve and ability to lead.

An example of a successful approach to these activities can be found in the University of Missouri’s Entrepreneurship Alliance. This group encourages students to pursue these activities, and is even developing an acting retreat for entrepreneurship students. Actors have stage presence and understand voice projection. In addition, the improvisational skills needed for acting translate perfectly to the business world. You have to be prepared for anything and, at the same time, have the ability to command a room’s attention when necessary. The combination of experiential activities and typical business coursework produces students who understand the process of business and have the guts to pitch and execute it. Don’t overlook the value of some outside-the-box extracurricular activities.

Focus on Teamwork

Whether you’re hoping to join a successful business or start your own, teamwork and leadership skills are invaluable. Look for activities that give you chances to work on these skills. The military is the best leadership school. The military takes a very diverse group of people and orients them in a singular direction to complete a mission. Consider this example when seeking your opportunities: if everyone in your course or group thinks the exact same way, then you don’t have to really lead anything. Convincing classmates or team members to take ownership and follow your goal, or implement your strategy, is leading. You need those different perspectives to build a true team. From those different viewpoints, you work to determine a goal, overcome obstacles, and utilize the strengths of the members to succeed.

Find Unique Programs

  • The aforementioned Entrepreneurship Alliance at the University of Missouri is innovative in providing important experiential efforts.  The EA’s approach pushes students to build self-confidence, communication skills, and team-building through alternative measures; this philosophy focuses on the whole student in addition to more traditional coursework.  It is an entrepreneurship talent incubator, not just a business incubator.
  • The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania offers a foundation course that has student teams work with the Wharton Small Business Development Center to collect market research for area clients.
  • The Eller School of Business at the University of Arizona offers undergraduate courses that require community business projects of their students.
  • The Missouri University of Science and Technology offers a very campus-specific effort involving the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization. The school has developed an Entrepreneurial Scholars Class that develops the skills necessary for success. It combines the worlds of science and business in a unique and exciting way.

A variety of opportunities to move beyond textbook business skills are available to today’s young entrepreneurs. You will greatly benefit from a program that offers experiential activities that strengthen your leadership, team-building, and risk-taking skills, as well as one that incorporates practical work within the community. You are in control of the experiences that will have the most impact on making you a complete entrepreneurial package – during and after college.