I have worked in career services at 3 different colleges and worked with college students on their career paths for 5+ years. Every career counselor will preach about the importance of having at least one internship during your undergrad career. And let me say, it IS important. But…the most successful students I’ve known haven’t always interned. Many of the most successful graduates I’ve worked with started a side hustle while in college. And while some of them continued doing their hustle after college, many others went on to have traditional career paths.
If you have any interest in business (Note: everything is a business!) or entrepreneurship, I would strongly recommend starting your own side hustle over getting an internship, especially if you already have 1 or 2 internships on your resume. If you have the option, the best thing you can do is intern for a startup and THEN start your side hustle. An internship at a startup will give you some business insight to help you start your own business.
For all of you traditionalists gasping at my advice, here are 5 reasons I think starting a side hustle is better than having an internship:
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1. You have the ability to do EXACTLY what you want to do in a side hustle.
If you’re passionate about makeup, you can create an entire hustle around it. Love dogs? Start a dog walking business. Want to learn web design? Start small and learn it on your own! You have the ability to choose what you want to focus on and learn more about. And there are tons of resources out there now that make it easier for you. I recommend Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup as a first step. And his Side Hustle School podcast takes successful side hustle stories and condenses them into actionable ideas for your own business and is an easy way to be inspired to get started.
2. You can make money AND save money.
I’ve known way too many students in unpaid internships who are paying for gas, public transportation, lunches out, work clothing, etc. That’s not to mention the time spent getting to and from the internship! When you consider that you should make money in your side hustle, it’s easy to see the benefit.
3. Being successful in a side hustle looks really good to future employers.
In fact, if you are really successful in your side hustle, you might be able to work as a consultant to a company rather than as an intern! Regardless, it shows great initiative, innovation, and motivation to start your own business. Most students don’t have what it takes; showing that you do will set you apart from your peers. And even better, if your business is really successful, you don’t necessarily have to work for anyone else — ever. Seriously.
4. You must build a solid network to have an effective hustle.
Businesses aren’t built in a vacuum. You absolutely must create strong connections for your business to grow. And when you make your clients happy, you become well-known for your reputation to deliver. This can help you in future business and if/when you start looking for a job.
It’s also easier to become known as an “expert” in your network when you run your own business. It’s harder to achieve as an intern. Additionally, there’s a huge network of people starting their own businesses online that can become your “tribe”; if you’re serious about starting a business, I recommend that you find your people so you have adequate support.
5. The best way to learn about business is to start one.
Failure is a great teacher and businesses fail often. The likelihood that your very first hustle will be a huge success is small, but the lessons you learn will last forever and could lead to way greater success than you had ever imagined. It’s hard to learn about business without DOING business, and starting a business from scratch teaches you way more than you could learn in any classroom or established company.
At the end of your college career, I want you to have fully experienced the real world of work, and starting your own side hustle helps to accomplish that. Let me also say that I don’t knock internships; they are important and 100% required for certain professions. But if you’re thinking of entrepreneurship, why not start now? There’s no better time and the earlier you start, the better off you are in the long run. Why not now?