Most college students graduate ready to be employees, not entrepreneurs. While that’s not a bad thing, it does mean that many are unprepared to take on the unique challenges a startup brings. They need to approach it carefully, as any student would when faced with a new field of study. Here is what they should do:

1. Get Some On-the-Job Training
It’s hard to get into a field without experience. Book studies can only do so much, so the best step for a fresh graduate is to go get work. This may seem strange as a first step towards self-employment through entrepreneurship, but it’s necessary. Running a business entails more than a top-down view. Would-be entrepreneurs must know how things run, inside and out.

They should look for a job that gives them a good view of the industry they’re planning on entering. Being an industry authority’s assistant may not be glamorous, but the position offers unique insight that could be invaluable when running a company.

2. Try Freelancing
Being an entrepreneur is a largely self-regulated task. No one is there to give orders or to prompt output. It’s down to the entrepreneur’s discipline and self-control to get things done. Freelancing can help develop this trait in any graduate.

That’s not the only reason to give self-employment a shot. Freelancing in the chosen industry gives graduates the opportunity to make valuable connections that can help when running their own startup. It’ll also teach them how to handle difficult clients, which can save them a few critical sales at the start.

3. Start Networking
One of the most important things a young mind should do in college is to start creating a network that’ll help them found and run a startup. Unfortunately, many don’t know how important this is until they’ve got their diploma. The good news is, it’s not the end. Networking can happen any time – you just have to make an effort.

Attending events is a great start. Attendees will rub elbows with people who are going in the same direction, which can help when establishing a peer support group. Industry events can serve as a bridge to developing contacts. Even graduates who created a strong network in college will be well served by going out and meeting new people.

4. Start Small
The biggest mistake graduates make is to try to run before they can walk. They end up committing a massive amount of resources to an effort they don’t truly understand. This almost always ends in failure, and their lack of base understanding can make it difficult to glean any important lessons from it.

Before a fresh graduate gets into the big leagues, they have to start small. They don’t have to build their dream startup off the bat, they just need to get their feet wet. A one-person company, for example, can be done easily. They just need to think of a marketable skill and sell that, for a time. This will give them valuable experience they can use when they go for their real startup.

5. Work for Another Startup
Graduates can learn a lot from their industry by working in it, but nothing will truly prepare them for running a startup like working for one. It turns out, that’s exactly what they need to do. While each startup is unique and has its own challenges, they share several important traits and experiences.

For example, their structure is flat, owing to how people need to take on multiple hats due to lack of personnel. It’s also far more stressful than an established company. Only by being in that kind of environment will graduates get a clear idea of what they’re in for.

Most people won’t be able to run a startup well straight out of college, but that’s perfectly fine and normal. Entrepreneurship, while readily accessible, is far from an easy task. It should be treated with the respect and care it deserves.

Follow these tips and you’ll turbocharge your entrepreneurial journey.

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