How 20 Entrepreneurs Got Ahead Early (and You Can Too)
Question: Share one thing you did at the beginning of your career that is helping you succeed today?
Get to Know Others
"I networked like crazy, went to events constantly, and got my name out there. As a result, in a few years, people started saying, "You know everyone!" I always connected interesting people together too. So whenever I've needed an important contact, I've always had people bend over backwards to help me out! To this day, I'm still blown away by the people I meet and things I get to do."
Always Get Back to People
"Always get back to someone, whether it was through the phone or email. When I first started out, I always told myself that I would answer every email and phone call, even if it was just a quick reply back. If someone took the time to contact you, the least you can do is acknowledge them. If you don't, you may just miss out on some golden opportunities and networking contacts."
"The best career move I've made is to focus the attention and promote other people, instead of just myself. By supporting other people, they are more inclined to help you. Too many people are selfish with networking, yet if you give, you end up getting a lot in return."
Help a Promising Startup for Free
"When you are first starting out as an entrepreneur, one of your first challenges is to separate yourself from the pack and legitimize yourself. One great way to do so (that not many think of) is to offer your skills to an up-and-coming startup for free! Through this approach, you will learn from established entrepreneurs while attaching your name to a startup with promise."
Pick Up a Few New Skills
"Photoshop, iMovie, and basic HTML, oh my! A little knowledge goes a long way. I picked up the basics on all three of these using Lynda.com and just playing around with the applications. Knowing just a little bit of all three has saved me in thousands of dollars upon startup."
Build Credentials Early
"From the beginning of my career, I have seized every opportunity to build impressive credentials. I've done speaking events for free, nominated myself for awards, submitted my work to the press, and earned professional certificates. Pursue every opportunity at your disposal to build your resume. Ten years from now, you'll be glad you did!"
Learn From Your Mistakes and Failures
"Failure has helped me become the business man I am today. In the restaurant industry, there's so many more downs than ups, due to small and big failures in my systems and industry. But the lessons learned from these failures has given me the thick skin and the knowledge I needed to become successful."
Take a Job in Phone Sales!
"If you can learn to sell someone on the phone from a cold call you are on the right path to success in business. In everything we do, it involves some form of a sale. Learning the skills to create a relationship out of thin air and get someone to trust you and spend their money was an amazing. Sales always came natural to me, however, it is asking for the sale that is the hardest part. Now I can!"
Get Comfortable Presenting
"When I was in college, a buddy and I taught a ten-week course on presentation skills in a business environment. It taught me early on to be comfortable speaking in front of crowds, large and small. It's a powerful skill that still benefits me today."
"I'm a huge advocate of voracious reading, and taking massive action to learn new things. For me, that meant teaching myself all things web-related (in my early teens) and then continuing to learn as new technologies, marketing strategies, and concepts came out."
Travel, Travel, Travel
"It's cliche but true: travel opens your eyes to the world around you. I left on my trip with little more than wanderlust, but returned with a greater understanding of humanity, personal connection, storytelling and more. The experiences I've had in foreign countries both inspires and informs all of the work I do."
Set Goals and Hustle
"Early in my career, I would make time to set goals on my own. I found that gave me shorter term hurdles to strive towards. Overall, there is nothing that can match hustle. Work hard, learn a lot and you'll be set up for success."
"If I hadn't decided early on that my company did not need a physical office space, we would probably still be working toward profitability. You'd be surprised how much capital you save every month getting rid of the expenses that are absolutely unnecessary. Besides, I'd confidently argue that working remotely often makes a team more productive."
Secure a Proven Mentor
"There is no better advice I can give you (regardless of your niche) than to seek out and lock down a proven mentor. This will accelerate your path to success. It will save you years, tears and dollar bills."
Figured Out "Why" First
"Figure out "why" you're doing something, rather than just how and what to do. When you have intrinsic motivators pushing you forward, the how and what become more defined and an integral part of the way you run your business. When you know the why -- why you are solving this problem, why you started this business etc. -- it becomes clearer where you want want your business/venture to go."
I Decided to Rebel
"My first entrepreneurial thought was that I knew a better way to do things, and I should act on that. This thought isn't always true, of course, but I took enough risks and made enough decisions based not going with the flow and trusting myself over someone else's opinion that I was able to establish myself quickly in several congested fields."
Confirm That Your Client Exists
"I was working full-time in book publishing, but knew I wanted to start my own business providing editorial services to various clients. But was the need there? I secured several regular clients before making the leap. Having them let me know that I was on the right track, and also got me through the slow startup at the beginning."
Formed Strategic Alliances
"The best thing I did at the beginning of my career was to form strategic alliances with people who had been in the business world longer then I had. These relationships are invaluable to me. As a solopreneur, you often find yourself learning everything on the spot. Having these relationships has helped me to foster mentorship relationships with these partners, which always helps me learn."
Investing in SEO Upfront
"One of the biggest investments we made in the beginning with our business and our own personal profiles has been investing heavily in SEO so we get ranked within the top ten results for highly targeted keywords. I never thought I could do it, but if you search the fairly generic terms, "Blank Label" or "Danny Wong," we're right up there!"
Took My Time
"Most people start out with a goal thinking that it would be nice if they could reach it. They think that it might happen, or it could happen. These are more often, the people that fail. The people that succeed, however, know that it will happen. To them, it's just a matter of time. They don't need resources, they're resourceful. They create their own luck. Remember that from the beginning."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.