Rejecting Wall Street, Graduates Turn Entrepreneurs Instead

June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am | Posted in Advising interns | 4 Comments
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Susan Sandberg

The above is a headline from a recent New York Times article on the growing number of business school students rejecting traditional postgraduate paths like investment banking, hedge funds and consulting. It’s a trend that is accelerating in the wake of the financial crisis as Wall Street loses its luster and Silicon Valley shines with a new crop of multibillion-dollar start-ups, according to the New York Times. As a career services professional, you might want to encourage your students to explore entrepreneurship as a career path. Here are some trends to share with your students:

  • Job growth:  Graduates from the class of 2010 at Harvard started 30 to 40 businesses last year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year, said William A. Sahlman, a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. “The level of entrepreneurship activity here, and I presume at other schools, is up dramatically over the last two years,” said Dr. Sahlman. Since the job market is down, more and more graduates are starting their own businesses rather than settling for unemployment or part-time work in a field unrelated to their majors.
  • Campus programs:  Last year, budding entrepreneurs at Harvard formed the Startup Tribe, a student group. The organization, which has more than 150 members, persuaded Harvard to start the Minimum Viable Product Fund, a $50,000 fund for new start-ups. The program distributes awards of roughly $5,000 apiece to promising teams, including the nine winners announced in March. The school is also planning to open in the fall the Harvard Innovation Lab, a student center for start-ups, where founders can work with peers and Harvard’s entrepreneurs-in-residence.
  • Business plan contests:  Many colleges have business plan contests, which help launch entrepreneurs. Kimball Thomas got his start when he was named one of the top three winners for Harvard’s annual Business Plan Contest, which came with a $25,000 cash prize. He won the competition with an online diaper business in Brazil, which was his second start-up. He and another student had first started, with about $20,000 scraped together from friends and family. The venture — which taught them the basics, like how to coordinate with vendors in China and how to run an e-commerce site — was profitable in its first year, according to the New York Times report.
  • Entrepreneur internships:  Students can learn how start-ups work by taking internships with entrepreneurs. Start-ups are usually small operations, enabling a student intern to study all aspects from concept to launch. Students can have a hands-on opportunity to be part of a new venture without worrying about losing their own money if it doesn’t work. An internship at a start-up is also a great way to network and learn about venture capitalists and investors. Good places to search for internships at start-ups are the alumni office and the business school. Alumni who are starting new businesses would be excellent resources as well as business school professors who often act as consultants for start-ups.


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  1. Great feedback here. We have had numerous interns come and go who have successfully impacted our internship program.

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