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When we are young, time is like fertile ground in which to plant for the future. Aspiring entrepreneurs should be especially aware of their first career choices as it may be the experience they need to prepare for their own ventures. At the end of the academic year, seniors across the country are reviewing job vacancies and looking for the best entry-level opportunities.
Some students are looking for a great tech name, some for the best contact with their favorite industry, and others for the job that gets the most paid. But many ask what the best job is compared to the best first job. Instead, first jobs should be a stepping stone – a way to quickly capture knowledge and move on, as opposed to a position that offers instant gratification in the form of compensation, perks, or a title. This is especially important for future entrepreneurs.
If you are a young person planning to become an entrepreneur, here are some tips and considerations to help you evaluate your first job. I come to this both as an entrepreneur myself and as someone who is involved in recruiting through my work. Think of these early career categories as paths that meander to a beautiful beach. They all lead to the same beach but offer different sights and experiences along the way.
1. Great technology
The "traditional" tech giants offer opportunities to work on well-founded experiments, applications with millions of users and to network with brilliant personalities. However, working for one of the “Big Five” is no longer a risk or is particularly entrepreneurial, but a conservative career choice. Joining the already largest companies in the country is unlikely to lead to wealth through stock options, but experience and brand power are hard to overestimate. Having been in recruiting for most of my life, I can tell you that the Big Five are incredible brand signals. Both employers and venture capitalists use these signals to offload their due diligence, and these signals are incredibly valuable.
Related: Check out the first job posting Jeff Bezos ever posted for Amazon
2. Great advice
What should perhaps be called the "work your a @ # off" path, large consulting firms offer young professionals the opportunity to tackle complex problems of large employers, which are usually reserved for much later career management. Firms like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture give their clients a lot of intelligence that they couldn't hire directly. If you have your first job in such companies, you may be working on a complex supply chain issue or branding concept for a national retailer shortly after entering the world of work. This type of experience is hard to come by, and building a successful portfolio of these projects is an excellent professional stepping stone.
3. The hot start
We are often told not to do "what everyone else is doing". But when it comes to startups, the crowd has a certain wisdom. Traction and presence create more traction and presence, so paying attention to what are currently being dubbed hot startups is not a bad idea. Find out about top startup lists like the ones on LinkedIn or AngelList. Be agnostic about what kind of job you can get at these hot companies. Jobs in fast-growing companies develop quickly, and titles mean little. Get on board, gain experience and contribute. Please pay special attention to the quality of your funding sources as this is a key indicator of their stability and future funding availability. That means, for example, giving weight to startups associated with top venture capital firms.
Related: Should You Sell Your Startup To Early-stage Investors?
4. Your friend's couch
I call this a "proximity bet", a career competition in which physical contact with a concentrated network of talent could lead to success. Much like a young actor who comes to L.A. and "sees what happens," young entrepreneurs make that bet on closeness for good reason: Sometimes it works. In any cafe in San Francisco, you can find people playing the same game, and there is real power in that. So brush up your pitch deck and get started. But be aware that this direct "make or break" path carries the greatest risk.
5. Jobs in the money
100-hour weeks are far from over for financial companies like Goldman Sachs. If you have the opportunity to join a major investment bank, hedge fund, or venture capital firm, you can count on it. I count these "jobs in the money" among the best entry-level jobs for entrepreneurs because they don't necessarily lead to a career in finance. People who understand finance understand business, and so a financial career offers incredible opportunities. It is very common for people to get out of the financial world and become start-up founders, not only because finances are good for building wealth, but because finances are alien to the industry. If you work in finance, you can transfer these skills to any industry or area of activity that you choose.
6. Sales and customer service
Understanding people's needs and learning how to really address them is the basic knowledge of the most successful entrepreneurs. Sales positions involve introducing a product, which is helpful, but more importantly, exposing you to a lot of outside people. Especially when you are young and out of school, sales roles are great for getting you out of your comfort zone quickly and forcing you to add value to real people. Customer service positions are also excellent entry-level positions, in which you learn problem-solving, the principles of product-market-fit and how to treat people positively – all of which are particularly valuable skills for entrepreneurship.
7. Solo preneur
You can use your skills and time to provide services right away, regardless of your level of experience. The solopreneurship path does not presuppose a plan for a large company, but rather focuses on the immediate generation of income from its own resources. Gig work falls into that category and franchise-based entrepreneurship that I personally tried while in college. This is the "just get started" or "bootstrapping" mentality that doesn't require a gatekeeper to give you access – whether that gatekeeper is a venture capitalist or a reputable employer. There are no limits to any of these avenues and direct entrepreneurship / solo preneurship is no different – this can be a path you go for a few months, a part-time job to make ends meet, or a lifelong self-started business – The choice is yours.
Successful entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, from all professions and from all ages. Remember, no job that you take will ever prevent you from becoming an entrepreneur. Some paths may get you there right away, others will build wealth so you can do it later, some will teach you skills and experience, and others will give you the free time it needs to develop your ideas. Take the time to consciously choose your overall path so that you can proceed independently.
Similar: The big lessons I learned from my first entrepreneurial job