The best graduate job is building your own startup / by Solveiga Pakstaite

This piece was originally written for the Shell LiveWIRE blog

After a quick Google search of ‘the best graduate job’, I, perhaps naively, was disappointed to find that all of the top results are concerned with the highest paying graduate programmes. Did I miss something here?

In my eyes, the whole purpose of a graduate programme is to build your skills, network, and most importantly, figure out what on earth your want to spend the rest of your career doing. The cash? That will come later, but you’re less likely to find the thing you’re passionate about (and therefore much better at) if you’re looking at the paypacket.

What about something completely different to the ‘done thing’?

I want to make the case for starting your own thing straight after graduation, whether you’ve always dreamed of being an entrepreneur or not. I put to you 5 main reasons to believe me:

You have complete control over what you do

It’s so easy to end up doing a job that has very little to do with what you studied and what your interests are. The day you decide to do something for yourself, your destiny is as good as the job description you write for yourself.

This is a great opportunity to work with friends, collaborate creatively, go to events your (hypothetical) boss would never let you attend… it’s your call.

You can manage your work schedule however you please - if you work better in the evening, no problem - you can totally do that.

If you have an idea that could benefit society, you owe it to the rest of us to make it happen

It is an absolute sin that the top science, technology, design and engineering universities are tasking their students with spending the most part of their final year solving a really important problem and then leaving the finished solution to collect dust on the shelf. We’re talking about many thousands of brains working super hard to make something better. Why on earth are we not making most of these solutions into realities!

Some may argue that the point of this work is to achieve a degree qualification, but from a societal perspective, it’s a massive waste of human potential.

Don’t let your amazing idea die. It’s up to you to do something about it. Besides, it’s so much cooler to have something that you worked on benefiting real people than a big fat payslip.

The rollercoaster learning curve

The amount that I’ve learnt over the past year and a bit of running my own company is mind-boggling. A graduate position will probably see you taking care of one facet or department of a company, but in a startup company, you are all the departments. As un-sexy as it sounds, knowing how to manage a patent application, negotiate various investment options while keeping your books balanced makes you a far more well-rounded and competent human being.

I’ve been able to witness first-hand through a microcosm of how a much larger company might operate and the kinds of things it must consider at all times. Also, I’ve gotten to know what I’m great at and what I need to work on very, very quickly.

When you call all the shots in a company, you start analysing and questioning the decisions of other companies too. You become a fluent critical thinker and a far more useful asset to any future endeavor you’d like to pursue. And somebody with their own opinions is way more interesting to talk to, in my opinion.

Your network will spread like wildfire

People are excited by young people doing something innovative so are far more likely to jump in to support you. In my experience, so many company executives are really passionate about young entrepreneurs and will respect you for your boldness and will go out of their way to introduce you to key people you need to make your idea happen. This is probably the most effective way of crash testing your idea - getting it in front of people who can actually make it happen and getting their feedback.

Also, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll also get some press buzz around what you’re doing (cause it’s awesome, right?) and then lots more people will hear about you and know what you’re about. Don’t underestimate the power of having cool things to read about when I Google your name.

You have nothing to lose

Moving on to my favourite reason: you have nothing to lose. You most likely don’t have:

  • A career reputation to wreck

  • Any form of money

  • A mortgage to pay

  • Kids to look after

You can end up greatly improving the first two at a much quicker rate than you would down a traditional path but if you don’t and the whole thing ends up not working then I still believe you would be in a much better position than the one you might have been in if you hadn’t pursued your own venture. You’ll end up way more employable after this experience, but hey - you might never want to be employed again (just warning you).

So what do you do if you don’t have an idea? Try joining an existing startup! You’ll still get most of the benefits from being part of a very new and even smaller team without all of the risk of it all being your idea. Plus, startups do need some employees after a while. It would be a nightmare if we couldn’t find anybody good because they’re all off starting things for themselves ;)

It’s true - startups are not for everyone. Some people struggle with the lack of a 5 year plan and are uncomfortable with changing direction at the drop of a hat. But if you can stomach it, you too will see that discomfort simply means that you’re learning… at an exhilarating pace.