Editor’s Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
Even for those who back into entrepreneurship, starting up remains a deliberate act that requires thoughtful planning.
According to Clinical Psychologist Meg Jay in her recent TED Talk, “Why 30 Is Not the New 20,” 80 percent of life’s most defining moments happen by age 35. Little did I know that, on a recent two-hour plane ride, I would experience one of these moments.
Beginning in late 2012, I caught the entrepreneurial bug. Hearing a mentor speak about his own business and clients gave me an intense desire to innovate. I started discovering more twentysomething entrepreneurs online who were moving their career needle at a rapid pace. I wanted to attain that same influence in the sports business community. But I never quite got my idea off the ground.
Fast forward to June 2nd of this year, the day Dr. Jay’s book, The Defining Decade: Why Your 20s Matter & How To Make The Most Of Them Now, landing on my lap as I traveled from Detroit to the Big Apple for an eight-week internship. After 70 pages, Dr. Jay had me convinced: This is the perfect time to start up.
Below are three key lessons that I learned from Dr. Jay about how to take the plunge into uncertainty and become an entrepreneur. Maybe she will make a believer out of you, too.
1. Grab some identity capital.
First a definition: “Identity capital is how we build ourselves — bit by bit, over time,” explains Dr. Jay. Some capital gets placed on a resume, like your undergraduate degree or unpaid internships, while other capital is more personal, such as where we’re from or how we interact with our colleagues. Those twentysomethings who embark on exploration eventually develop a stronger sense of self, along with a more nuanced picture of their identities. That in turn, can lead to a more developed sense of purpose and confidence boost.
As I sat there bound for New York City, I quickly realized I needed to grab some identity capital. I wanted more than ever to solidify my identity as a sports career consultant instead of just having a lingering thought that it could happen.
I eventually decided to troll twitter for aspiring sports-business professionals who wanted “free” coaching. The response was overwhelming, as clients started referring friends. To date, I have assisted roughly 15 individuals around topics such as online/personal branding, resume and cover-letter review, and how to leverage social media to advance your career. I did not realize it at the time, but I was investing in myself for my future and who I might want to be next. I now had a clearer sense of myself.
2. Engage with weak ties.
Your close circle of friends. Your family. Your significant other. They are your urban tribe and offer you support in times of need. Their similarities are usually their detriment, though. They are unable to offer perspective because they know much of the same information that you do. Where do you then turn? Our weak ties — those one-time acquaintances, LinkedIn connections, and former employers — feel very different from our urban tribes. Yet, it is through weak ties that information and opportunity spread, according to Dr. Jay.
None of my family members or close friends are entrepreneurs. Naturally, they wouldn’t be too helpful in my quest to start up. That led me to LinkedIn, the best resource for expanding one’s network and engaging with your weak ties, in my opinion.
Over the past six weeks, I have been reaching out to sports-business clubs/societies along with sports-management professors. By consistently communicating with individuals, I have developed relationships – effectively strengthening my weak ties in areas where I needed help.
3. Conquer present bias.
During our 20s, the human brain experiences its second growth spurt. In a sense, we rewire ourselves for the remaining years of life. As a result, it can be harder for some people to plan for the future and accept the consequences for present actions. Others continue to stay distracted and avoid making any decisions whatsoever.
Thanks to Dr. Jay’s narrative, she ingrained in me a sense of urgency, not to rush life along, but rather, to be intentional with my everyday present actions. The little success I had garnered in the past two years and the positive feedback I received from my “free” clients was enough to convince me to enter the world of entrepreneurship for real.
Beginning each month, I outline my plan of action for the next 30 days. Even looking further out, I know how I want the next 60, 90, even 120 days to go. By having a timeline of defined events and benchmarks, I am better able to construct how my future will unfold.
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The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Mark Burns is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan and is currently a third-year law student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. He is in the process of forming a sports career coaching and consulting business. Mark was recently named a 2013 “30 Under 30″ award recipient by Sports Launch Magazine in addition to being named “A Rising Star In #SportsBiz” by the SportsNetworker.com. In 2013, The Migala Report named Mark a Twitter ‘Must Follow’ for #SportsBiz Job Advice.
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