As we approach the next decade, we find ourselves with the next generation of workers entering the workforce — Generation Z (GenZ). Many studies about GenZ note that there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit among these young workers, with nearly half of GenZers planning to become entrepreneurs and focusing on working for themselves.
Of course, saying you want to become an entrepreneur and actually doing it are two different things. To be successful and get their foot in the door, there are three things the next wave of workers should do to build their entrepreneurial foundation, while also discovering more about themselves and the type of business they’re interested in:
Join an internship program. Internships are a great, low-risk way to try out the type of company you are looking to work for. Browsing businesses and interviewing for multiple internships can give you an idea of the type of business you’d like to work for, such as a startup versus a more established company, one with a more corporate structure, and so on.
The benefits of an internship include some of what you would expect, such as the opportunity to build and grow your personal network, as well as a way for potential employers to get to know you and your talents. Any of this could potentially lead to a permanent offer for future employment. Less obvious benefits include:
Find a mentor. While internal mentors — those at your organization or in your chosen industry or circle of influence — are useful, it can often be even better to find someone who is independent of your organization. This gives you the chance to open up and seek advice on a more personal level and address the challenging issues that you may not otherwise feel comfortable sharing with someone who is in the same organization as you.
To gain the most benefit from mentors, you want to show them that you are committed to the learning process and that you value and respect their time and insights. It’s best to create a structure around the relationship to maximize the value of your time together. There are some specific ways you can show your mentor how much you respect and value their time:
Network — and introduce yourself to at least three people each month. Putting yourself out there can be intimidating, especially for someone with little or no experience networking. But it’s a key component to grow professionally, no matter what industry you’re in. When networking, I use a three-pronged approach that I have found helps me get the most out of my interactions with others:
When networking online via professional sites such as LinkedIn, decide how much time you will dedicate to research each week or month and how many connections you’d like to make and any follow up actions to grow the relationship.
It’s also important to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Rejection is a part of life and doesn’t always have to be construed as negative. Often it’s a numbers game — the more people you interact with, the more you will improve your targeting efforts and response rates.
Meeting your goals will, of course, require lots of focus and hard work. But in my experience, finding an internship, connecting with at least one mentor, and committing to building out your personal network are three easy and actionable steps aspiring entrepreneurs can take to build a solid foundation as you begin your journey.