Here at the Centre for Entrepreneurship we work with a very wide range of students throughout the university. The one thing that the majority of these students have in common is that they're interested in starting a business. 'Well, of course' you may be thinking. We are the Centre for Entrepreneurship after all. We are here to support students and graduates in starting their own business. While this is true, through the years we have also worked with a number of students who got involved in our activities because they wanted to learn new skills, try out something different and essentially develop their employability skills.
Sometimes students think that entrepreneurship doesn't apply to them as they have no interest in starting a business but in recent years there has been an increase in the number of graduate vacancies asking for characteristics that you would associate with entrepreneurialism. Employees who demonstrate entrepreneurial characteristics within an existing business (known as 'intrapreneurs') are likely to succeed and be highly valued by the best employers. So even if starting a business doesn't appeal to you, there may well be some merit in developing an entrepreneurial mind-set to help land that dream job. Here are some examples:
Entrepreneurial people are great problem solvers. Many of the best business ideas have come from people who were trying to solve a problem in their daily life. Entrepreneurs also come across problems throughout their start-up journey – how to raise the necessary funds, how to find customers, how to reach those customers in innovative and exciting ways. Approaching problems in a creative way is a key entrepreneurial characteristic and also a key skill that employers look for. During your time at university make the most of any opportunities to develop your problem solving skills. At the Centre we run live projects such as our marketing-themed event Concept. There are likely to be numerous additional opportunities via your course, the Careers service and Students' Union – seek out as many opportunities as you can.
Very few entrepreneurs become overnight successes. The vast majority have to work very hard at it, often being told they're crazy and should 'go and get a real job'. The ability to persevere even in the face of adversity is something that often sets entrepreneurs apart. Graduates who can also demonstrate resilience and determination stand a good chance of succeeding in their career path. During interviews you may be asked to talk about a time where you have overcome obstacles or difficulties – make sure you have examples to give.
In today's ever-changing economy, entrepreneurs have to be flexible in order for their business to succeed. Many entrepreneurs find that their business develops into something quite different from their initial idea and they are constantly reacting to (and pre-empting) changes in the market. Flexibility is also important for graduates in their chosen career. The days of a 'job for life' are in the past and portfolio careers are much more common. Graduates who can be flexible and adapt to change are likely to prosper. While at university make the most of opportunities to juggle different types of activities, for example: working part time, running your own business or taking a role within a society.
Some entrepreneurs are natural networkers. Others hate networking but understand its importance for growing and developing their business. Networking doesn't necessarily mean attending a formal event and handing out business cards. It can simply mean building and maintaining relationships with key people who can help to take the business forward. The best entrepreneurs understand this and are great at drawing on the knowledge, skills and expertise of the people they have built relationships with. This can include meeting up regularly for coffee with key people, seeking out opportunities to meet new people and keeping in touch on social media (a great resource for building and maintaining your network).
For graduates also, networking is an essential skill to learn. I wouldn't go as far as to say 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' but knowing the right people can certainly help. Make the most of social networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with influential people in your industry and attend as many events as possible to meet people face-to-face. There may be opportunities on your course to meet professionals within your industry plus we run several 'Mingle' events here at the Centre to help put you in touch with successful entrepreneurs and industry professionals.
Adopting an entrepreneurial mind-set and developing the skills mentioned above can drastically improve your chances of getting a great graduate job. Previous Cardiff Met students who attended some of our skills-development programmes such as Ignite (a 24 hour entrepreneurial challenge) have impressed employers at interviews by drawing on these experiences. Making the most of opportunities available to you shows employers that you're proactive and that you've invested in your future. So while you're at university study hard to get the best qualification possible but also make time for developing a wider skill set to make yourself as employable as possible.
Blog post by Lauren Davies, Entrepreneurship Coordinator