How do I get started in business?

“How do I get started in business?”

Imagine the person who voiced this question: someone young, at the point in life where they need to start figuring out what they want to do to start a career. They know they want to grow, and they want to do something that leaves them feeling both fulfilled and financially stable. Something exciting.
They’ve realized that business is a great confluence of all of these things. They think they’re interested, but they don’t know much about how to get started. They’ve heard about business degrees, but they’re not sure they want one, and other than that, they have no idea where to begin.
They’re very much excited and more than a little bit confused.
Maybe this person is you.
There are two answers to this question, one short and one long. I’m going to give you both — the simple, formulaic process to get you where you want to go, and then a longer strategic breakdown of where to begin — and why.

How to Learn Business: the short version

It feels complicated and confusing when you’re on the outside, but really, starting your business career is more logical than you might think.

The step-by-step-breakdown:

  1. Find an opportunity.
    • Don’t stress about where you start. Most careers aren’t linear anyway. Just pick a place and start getting experience. Look for internships, or companies hiring for entry-level roles. Focus more on which one your skills are best adapted to fill, and less about which one is more fun. It’s just a starting place — you’ll be able to adjust as you go.
    • Remember that a career in business is all about starting at the bottom and working your way up. This is how every success story ever was forged. Do not be precious about where you begin. Read that sentence twice for good measure before you move on. It’s really important.
  2. Close the deal and get your foot in the door.
    • A value prop is your best friend.
  3. Once you’ve gotten an opportunity, your goals are to a) crush your expectations and b) exceed them. That’s how you set yourself up for promotions, new projects, more responsibility, etc.

How to Learn Business: the long version

Now that you understand the formula, it’s time to talk strategy.
The following is a breakdown of the most important things you need to think about when you’re launching your career to expedite the process, maximize results, and help you build a career you’re really excited about. Ready?

Start with Startups

The business world is a big beast, with lots of variations and subspecies — corporate, family, local, you name it. The best place to start? Startups. Hands down. They’re the Wild West of the business world — on the frontiers of expanding territories (often innovative technologies and exciting new ideas), and focused less on playing by the rules and much more on results. They don’t care about your credentials — they care about what you can do. And they’re always growing — which means that once you’re in, you’ll have lots of opportunity to grow with them.

Understand What Matters

The business world is economically driven. It’s all about value creation and improving numbers. This is great for you, because it means that the breakdown of what matters is simple and logical.
What makes a great novel or piece of art is really subjective. It all hinges on how someone feels. Business is a lot more black-and-white, and once you understand what matters, you can start strategically making a difference and turning yourself into a valuable asset.

Get an Edge

Starting in business is one thing. Being successful is another. If you want to be successful, you have to develop an edge over the rest of the competition. You have to not only meet expectations, but exceed them. You have to go beyond just being good.

How to learn business (and crush it): a set of rules:

  • Always show up early and leave late
  • Always do 10% more than is expected of you
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Leverage Your Learning

There’s a big difference between a job and a career. A job is a one-off — a thing you do for money. A career can span many jobs — it’s a thing you’re intentionally building.
Document the things you’re learning. Build a digital portfolio of your work — and more importantly, build a reputation and a signal.