July 18, 2022

Advice For University Graduates: Learn In Your Twenties, Lead In Your Thirties, Then Leverage Both In Your Forties

It’s easy to get caught up in the quest to be the “next” big and famous entrepreneur. It’s sometime easy to think that an idea has the potential to be the next big business, APP or movement? The fact is there are few-and-far-between next-big ideas, and most entrepreneurial efforts take time to learn, craft and launch. So here is some advice for recent University graduates.

  • Learn in your twenties. Learn everything you can about the business or role that excites you when you are in your twenties. This is your chance to become an expert in everything about the market, the customers, the competition, the technology, and the industry you seem to be drawn to when you are young. Dive in with both feet. Work late, work weekends, and take on the tough assignments. Ask to join teams working on important projects. This will do two things for you: first, it will help validate that you really liked this area/profession/market space or invalidate it, and second, it will set you up for the next stage (leading).
  • Lead when you are in your thirties (or sooner). Now that you have learned and become an expert in your twenties, you’re ready to learn how to be a leader. Being a leader takes time and experience and is a very important skill set for your career and your potential entrepreneurial ventures. You need to learn how to lead diverse groups of people (employees, contractors, bosses, executives, clients, et cetera) toward goals. While you certainly do not need to wait until you are thirty years old to be a leader, it will take a few years of learning before you are chosen or ready to lead.
  • Leverage both the learning and leading aspects of your career to start a business (in your forties or earlier). I refer to this as midcareer. At this point, you are ready to take everything you have learned over many years—you’ve seen numerous economic periods and market cycles—and combine that with your well-honed leadership skills.

By your early-midcareer you will also have hopefully developed a good network of peers in other companies and established yourself in your industry and market. While this will probably not take you until you are literally forty years old, I would proffer that if you venture out before your early to mid-thirties, you may not have the best network you would want to have in launching a business.

The point of this cautionary advice is that waiting to being midcareer is OK and maybe even preferred when starting a business. If you have followed the rubric above, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you are probably ready, and your chances of succeeding are far greater than being fresh out of University.

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