I've had the pleasure to sit with some entrepreneurship students recently to be interviewed for various class projects and papers. One piece of advice I make sure to give each of them:
Go get a job.
Hey - I'm a big advocate of starting things, but until you get a chance to reach escape velocity with your venture, you'll be best served by working for someone else. Hands down, my best move (in retrospect) was working for a hotel for the first two years out of college.
So, whether you're a student waiting to start your first company or you've been out in the "real world" a while and are wondering when your ship will come in, I think you need to get to work.
Here are five jobs perfect for budding entrepreneurs:
Work in the industry you want to start a company in
If you want to start a design firm, but have never done a thing in that world, you need some training. And, chances are that "Running a Design Firm 101" is not a course you'll find offered at most campuses. Therefore, working in the industry you eventually want to disrupt serves as great research, a chance to understand the power players, and to discover more about how you can eventually offer a unique value proposition.
Work for a "best place to work"
Find a company that is perennially on one of those lists (either locally or nationally) and get in the door. With culture being such a crucial part of talent attraction these days, seeing what makes a company a great place for employees will help you focus on how to define your own culture one day and use that as a competitive advantage.
Work for a future supplier
No business exists in a vacuum. Whether you're packing gift boxes or designing an app, you'll have suppliers. Seeing who makes the things you use will help you understand your industry at a deeper level. You'll also learn a bit about the sales game (if you're ambitious enough), which is a key talent for any entrepreneur to have.
Work at a place that makes something you use a lot
Whatever company you start, you'll need customers and you'll want those customers to be loyal. So, what product or service do you swear by? What's the brand you tell all your friends about? Go work there. See what it's like on the inside and what they did to convert you. Then, you'll be ready to systematize something similar when it's your turn to create rabid fandom.
Work doing something you love
If you don't become an entrepreneur to do something you love, then perhaps you've got the wrong motivation in mind. But, you also don't have to start your own thing to find work you love. Who knows? Maybe you'll find a gig you cherish and you never need to strike out on your own. But, breathing the fresh air of passionate work is a wonderful feeling, so why not take a job that's enjoyable while you plot your world domination?
Bottom line: before your idea works, you need to. Get to work (anywhere). But, focus that work on one of the five opportunities above and you'll be that much more ready when the time is right.