Entrepreneurship isn’t exactly the easiest thing to ‘learn’ – in fact, it’s one of those skills that you can’t necessarily acquire just by writing up an assignment or passing an exam. The next best thing to learning how to be an entrepreneur is probably learning from an entrepreneur – and QUT has produced its fair share of young alumni that are disrupting their industries through innovative business models.
Attending the QUT Business Leaders’ Talk (BLT) was not at all like going to a lecture. Have you ever been to a lecture with free burritos*? Hearing the firsthand stories from smart and successful QUT alumni was an awesome way to realise that these opportunities are real – you just have to go out there and make them for yourselves. A successful start-up isn’t about being the next Zuckerberg or ‘Uber-ing’ every business model that currently exists. As Susannah George, Founder and Director of The Urban List says, it’s about taking something ineffective and filling the exposed gap.
(Missed opportunity for free BLTs, but Guzman y Gomez has Susannah’s tick of approval)
If you’re into food, fashion or just scrolling endlessly on Facebook – there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of The Urban List. It’s a go-to resource for anyone looking for a recommendation on, well, just about anything. As Susannah told us, it hasn’t been smooth sailing since its launch in 2011. Even if The Urban List is now a leader in the mass communication game, Susannah admitted that there were times when she missed opportunities for forward planning and strategic growth. And – despite the content of the website – she didn’t sugar-coat the journey: it was tough. When The Urban List Launched, Susannah was running the whole operation from her living room with two interns.
Her advice from all of this? If you have a business idea, don’t get in your own way. Give it a go, and learn throughout the journey.
Maybe you feel like you don’t have an idea right at this moment, but you can still build on your skills and get an idea of what it’s like to be in a start-up space. New businesses recruit those who ‘believe in the journey’ – those who will fit in with the organisational values of the company.
Jayden Vecchio, the Director of Red & Co, provided some great tips on how to stand out. Though he’s now successfully running his own integrated property business, he was willing to share the struggles of graduate employment with a crowd of students soon to enter the same phase of their careers. Standing out isn’t necessarily about wearing a paisley print shirt on your first day of work, as Jayden told us. It’s about building your networks and establishing your point of difference. Capture attention by asking quality questions, Jayden said. Sure enough, at the end of his talk, plenty of students had their hands in the air and were eager to hear more.
All three of the young alumni presenting had something in common: their businesses involve interdisciplinary, integrated client service. Dion Castle, Director of Struber is perhaps the greatest example of this. He built up his career in information technology and business consulting before deciding to start Struber, an ‘advanced consulting taskforce’ that exclusively services certain industry sectors. The services Struber provides range from communications to marketing to graphic design and creative consulting. Dion’s experience speaks for itself: students should amass as diverse a range of experiences and not limit themselves to one discipline. Even if you’re not studying a double degree, the skills that QUT equips you with are transferable to a range of business careers.
He also gave some great words of advice – in any working situation, seek mentorship and look for opportunities to grow yourself; whether that’s salary negotiation or seeking a secondment opportunity and working overseas.
To summarise: free burritos are great, but free career advice is better. Susannah, Jayden and Dion are all working in jobs they love for organisations they are passionate about because they created them themselves.
Successful graduates in our current economic climate must think independently and be prepared for the unknown future job environment. After all, this generation is more trusting of businesses that buck the status quo.