A College Grad's Guide to Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship

by
Freelance Writer

Feb   2015

Fri

27

Can’t find a job? Make your own.

Today’s job market is still pretty tough, and it can be hard to find a job in some fields. Luckily, college not only equips students for a specific career but with a number of skills that can help in almost every area of life, like communication, responsibility, persistence, and problem solving. Using these skills to overcome the struggling job market, many recent college graduates are creating their own jobs. And these innovative businesses aren’t just a means to an end; they can even change the world.

Is there really a market for entrepreneurs?

So, how much of a market is there really for entrepreneurs? A number of surveys have been taken over the last decades to measure how much of a market there really is for entrepreneurship. For example, according to the most recent data of the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 28.2 million small businesses in existence in 2011, and, believe it or not, small businesses make up 99.7% of all United States employer firms. Additionally, over half (52%) of U.S. businesses are home-based without additional employees. It’s not that surprising, then, that students are taking to entrepreneurship. In fact, according to a 2005 poll from Junior Achievement, more than two-thirds of teens said that they wanted to eventually live a life of entrepreneurship.

Starting on the path toward entrepreneurship

Equipping students with the right knowledge of how to pursue their entrepreneurial interests may help further bolster the economy. Although students may not hear about starting their own businesses as a career option as often as they hear about more “traditional” career paths, a number of colleges are starting to offer extracurriculars and programs that can help any self-starter. For example, colleges like Babson College in Massachusetts, which was ranked #1 by the Princeton Review as the top U.S. entrepreneurship programs in 2015, offers 55 courses at the undergraduate level that allow students to hone their entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. With 118 companies started by alumni and an entire faculty with a history in owning and running businesses, programs like these can provide the right tools to launch a career of self-employment.

Other schools, like Tufts University and Rice University, hold a number of competitions that let students develop some of their best business plans and even win resources to help make their ideas a reality. For example, the Tufts 100k Business Plan Competition is open to anyone in the Tufts community and gives away $100,000 in prizes. And Rice University’s Business Plan Competition (held by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship) awards a total of $1.3 million to teams competing across the globe.

Get your feet wet as a freelancer

For students with an entrepreneurial spirit but who are not interested in starting a full-fledged company, freelancing is another option on the road to self-employment. As an “independent contractor,” college graduates can work at their own pace on a variety of side jobs in their fields. The sky is the limit with such jobs, like writing computer code for companies or creating compelling articles for magazines. However, the key to a successful freelance career is networking—spending a decent amount of time meeting people in a certain field and keeping the relationships going. Starting these relationships in college, whether it’s working on the campus newspaper or mingling with others of the same major, is a great first start.

Any discouraging talk of today’s job market isn’t holding college graduates back. With the variety of resources that colleges offer, plus their own plucky determination, students can live successful lives of self-employment.

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About Jacleen Charbonneau

Jacleen Charbonneau is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts. 

 
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