I have great ideas for startups. You know how I know how great they are? Each time I think I’m on to something I research the idea, and I find out it’s already being done. While I know there’s room for competition, I haven’t yet found a techie person to work with, so each time I find my idea in action – even if the startup is still in beta, I write it off. Now I’m wising up and researching present and future trends in hiring and the workplace. (All of my startup ideas have to do with careerism, of course!) By looking toward the future, I’ll be able to hypothesize about career-related problems that people will have and different ways to address them in a way that can set my idea apart from others.
Similarly, it’s not enough to think only about the present when choosing a career path, especially now that career industries change so rapidly. Sure, tons of companies are looking for someone to handle their social media campaigns right now. But will they still be looking 5 years from now? When making decisions about your career path, you should ask, “In what ways will the present shape future trends?” In fact, don’t just ask, do the research. A good place on the Internet to inform yourself about the future of career industries is by reading Martin Ford’s blog.
The next question you need to ask is, “How can I brand myself?” In other words,“How can I set myself apart from others?”
And guess what, if you think getting a 4.0 in college is going to set you apart from others, guess again, especially if the only qualification you have for college or a job is your straight-A average.
You’re much better off doing something that shows leadership and initiative and not having a 4.0. (I keep thinking of this girl I knew who graduated in 2006 from the school district I taught in. She had a perfect score on the math section of her SATs and a 4.0, but she couldn’t get into an Ivy League college because all she did was school. Boring!)
If you’ve got an itch to start a business or a nonprofit, don’t wait until graduating from college. In a Time article written by Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Millennial Branding, he reports getting feedback from 2 executives that they would hire a recent graduate that had started his own business rather than one who had 5 internships. You might say that using the example of what 2 executives say isn’t compelling, but I believe that their answer is indicative of a trend that will continue. Besides, Schawbel is definitely someone you want to listen to.
Even more, if you’re still in high school and you have big ideas, don’t wait till you get a degree to start them. Julie Zeilinger, who’s now studying at Columbia Unversity, started the blog, FBomb, when she was in high school. She’s also just completed her first year at college and published her first book. Jeet Banerjee, who’s still a teenager, started his first business when he was a senior in high school. He’s now studying at California State, Fullerton and recently launched another startup.
Know who your competitors are, and figure out how to differentiate yourself from them. You want to be a graphic designer? Fine. But realize that it’s not just good enough to be great at design. Tons of people are great at design. Find an angle, or two, that sets you apart. How do you do this? That goes back to looking at trends and thinking about the future.
I’ll leave you with a little info about Princeton. In our small town, we have three ice cream shops within walking proximity to one another. On any summer night, each one is packed. One of them, The Bent Spoon, actually is not an ice cream shop really – it serves gelato. Part of its angle is that it’s big into supporting the local farms. Another one called Thomas Sweet is famous for blend-ins, which is similar to Dairy Queen’s Blizzards. And Halo Pub, which is around the corner from The Bent Spoon, serves hard ice cream and boasts all-natural ingredients. Come visit Princeton, and tell me which of these 3 places you like the most!