By Chloe Walker
In previous decades, the traditional route for a student from their final year at university would lead them into an internship (or ideally an entry-level job) in a private sector business. Final-year students have no doubt already have received flyers and promotional materials aimed at encouraging them to apply for work in some of the world’s biggest corporations, from banks to law firms, from Deloitte to McDonald’s. This is often still the case in 2020, though careers advisors across the sector are increasingly aware of graduates looking to set up their own entrepreneurial business venture in place of signing up with one of the big guns.
The appeal of entrepreneurship for a graduate
There are a host of reasons for this, and a lot of them make a great deal of sense particularly when you consider the current economic environment, and that’s even before COVID-19 kicked in. Younger generations have seen the lives their parents subscribed to – hefty mortgages, long hours and the (often disappointing) dream of retirement – and have made the decision not to follow in their footsteps. Growing up in the shadow of the financial crash of 2008 caused an increasingly jaded view of the big institutions and organisations of the world. In addition, with the rise of zero-hours contracts and the subsequent movement of risk to the employee, the security of an employed role becomes a rarer commodity. As a result, new graduates are increasingly asking the question ‘what’s in it for me?’.
The real game-changer, of course, has been COVID-19. Almost overnight, the 9–5 commuter lifestyle came to a grinding halt. Jobs that had for decades been carried out from offices in big cities were instead carried out at home. For a lot of people, this brought significant challenges (school closures being one of them), but for others it brought a period of contemplation and a realisation that a better quality of life could be attained through a more flexible way of working.
There’s no time like the present
Technology has also made it easier to operate an small business with low overheads – many entrepreneurs simply require a decent internet connection, however, the costs of financially managing an SME are ever-present. Taking advantage of free advice, particularly regarding business bank accounts, is an essential move towards gaining control of this aspect of a fledgling entrepreneurial business. The Australian Government provides a checklist to help understand tax, ABNs, and other accounting essentials. Investing some time into understanding basic business finances is also essential so as to help minimise accountancy fees and provide a more solid foundation from the outset.
Keeping expectations in check
It’s also worth considering that – during the first few months (or even years) an SME may not actually make a great deal of profit. It depends on the nature of the business, but unless something can come to market super-quickly new entrepreneurs are going to need to consider reducing their own running costs. Living with parents – in the short term at least – might be something they need to consider, and it might be necessary to take on some additional part-time work to supplement their income while they get their new business off the ground. This combined with some good old-fashioned belt-tightening will be an essential step on their journey towards being a successful entrepreneur.
Seeking the right support
Despite all the advantages that an entrepreneurial life can bring it still remains a daunting prospect for many, one that provides little certainty in an increasingly uncertain world. Many would argue that by embracing the uncertainty many graduates are better prepared for the future, where the certainty previously assured by the big institutions of old is becoming more of a myth than a reality. Whatever their reasons are for moving towards an entrepreneurial lifestyle it is more important than ever that they speak to a career advisor at an early stage, ideally before they graduate.
A professional mentor, someone already working as an entrepreneur in a similar sector, would also be a crucial person to identify. Talking to people and getting advice early on could save a great deal of time and money further down the line.