Why Young Entrepreneurs Should Hold Down a Job After College

The following guest post is from MD. A recent college graduate that makes personal finance fun for 20-somethings at Studenomics and has recently started writing about his journey through the world of entrepreneurship at Passive Income Now.

At some point during college in between the late night keggers and the 48-hour study sessions you may have caught the entrepreneurial bug. Even though you completed your studies you just can’t see yourself working in your field for a long period of time or for any time at all. That’s cool and all, but are you sure you want to trade in a boss for something worse?
Are you sure that you’re ready to be your own boss? I personally think and want to argue the point that all young entrepreneurs need to hold down a real job at one point.

Why I do think that young entrepreneurs should hold down a job after college?

Meet people/network.

I personally always see myself holding down some sort of a part-time job because I love being around people. I love meeting new people and interacting with co-workers. Depending on where you work, you can meet some amazing people at work. Some of my closest friends and people I look up today I met at one job or another. I even dated a girl I met at a previous job for a few years.

I imagine that sitting in front of a computer or working from home can get pretty lonely real fast. Sure you could meet friends at the gym or stay in touch with your current friends, but a traditional job usually brings a diverse group of people together.

Understand how companies work.

An excellent supervisor/manager can turn into a life long mentor. An entrepreneur may not be the best employee but you can sure learn how an operation runs. This experience can be very beneficial to you down the line because you never know when you might just re-enter the work force.

Test the waters.

It’s always a good idea to test the waters. All the entrepreneurship-hype might suck you into something that’s not for you. Some of us are meant to be intrapreneurs. That is individuals that display entrepreneurial characteristics within the work place. I mean there’s so much hype about working for yourself these days that it’s ridiculous. A job description shouldn’t be a self description. If you test the waters by holding down a job you could realize that a steady paycheck is what you need in your life. Not everyone is meant to travel the world and be their own boss.

Time management improvements.

For my first few semesters of college I kept on telling myself that I would get better grades if I partied less and worked less. Then one semester I decided to work a little less and stay in more often. What happened? I just watched more tv! This is at the point where I wrote that college is the best time to start a business. The sooner you learn to manage your time the better off you will be. More time doesn’t equate to more work done. By working and trying to start your own side business you’ll be forced to enter the art of time management (or you might get hooked on Red Bull).

Make some money.

As a recent college graduate you might have student debt that you need to pay off. Along with this you also need to save up some money. A traditional job can be what you need to pay down your debt and start investing towards your entrepreneurial goals. My income has allowed me to invest money into my online business (mailing list, design work, coaching) that I normally wouldn’t have. As you start saving money you can freelance on the side to see if there’s a market out there for what you’re offering.


We need a sense of urgency sometimes. We might think that a 9-5 job is not right for us. The only way to find out is to try holding down a job first.
We also might not have the motivation to hustle 100% with our own business due to the millions of distractions out there.

Chris Guillebeau put it best in his book:

All things being equal we generally resist change until the pain of making a switch becomes less than the pain of remaining in our current situation.

This means that we need to be pushed to take bold actions. A job you hate with a boss that acts like Michael Scott and co-workers like Dwight might be all that you need to get motivated to crush it with your new business.

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts I would love to hear what moves would you recommend for college graduates that are interested in entrepreneurship?


  1. Having a job before being a business owner surely helped me a lot. I knew what my previous employers were wrong about and I knew not to repeat their mistakes. I wouldn’t advise anyone to put their dreams on hold though, when it comes to running their own gigs, so I can’t really say what’s the best approach.

    • Hey Ramona. I agree that you shouldn’t put your dreams on hold. There’s nothing wrong with a little sweat as you work hard towards your dreams.

  2. I agree that it’s a good idea for entrepreneurs to hold down a traditional job after graduation. That’s my debate right now, but I’ve pretty much decided on doing an office job for a while to pay off my student loans while I do a side-hustle.

    One big point I’d like to make though: I think it’s a good idea not to refer to a traditional job as a real job, especially when your target audience is a bunch of entrepreneurs. When you do you’ve just told me that my business that I’ve put hundreds of hours and possibly hundreds or thousands of dollars into isn’t a real job.

    Developing and running a business is incredibly hard work, something that I don’t think a lot of people that have never tried don’t realize. So, as somehow who has done it I would expect you to not degrade my business so readily. I’m sure it wasn’t meant as such, but that’s the message I caught.

    Anyone, all good points! Food for thought.

  3. I think this is a valid point, and it’s why my kids will be expected to work in high school and college rather than waiting until after they graduate. I’ve been working for myself since I was 21, but I held down a full time job from the time I was 17, so I had plenty of “traditional” work experience before I started out on my own.

  4. I think it is great experience to work for a company before starting your own. I actually have done this twice. I worked for a janitorial service and learned the ropes, after a year I jumped out and started my own service which I ran for 13 years. Later, I worked for a photography company for 6 months. I had to quit at that point for health reasons, but after a 2 year noncompete period was over, my hubby and I began our own business based upon what I learned while working for the previous company.
    I always say it is good for my kids to get a *grunt* job doing something they hate and is hard work for little pay. That way they will stay motivated to get a good education or work hard to increase their skills! When they were lazy in high school, we always teased them, with “You better learn how to say Would you like fries with that?”
    Get enough sleep

  5. This is the route that I took, but you have to be VERY careful. Paychecks are addictive. And it’s very easy to slip into the lifestyle of 9-5, where you come home exhausted from your job and just want to relax and watch TV rather than work on a side business.

    Most jobs won’t teach you any great time management skills, and even if they did – it’s a skill easily forgotten when not used consistently. I wouldn’t say that part is a valid argument.

    More money is great, but unless you are very careful – it usually means more spending too, which doesn’t help you start a business.

  6. Great post. Holding down a 9 to 5 isn’t for everyone, but its necessary for many. It can mean the difference between weak cash flow in your entrepreneurial enterprise and falling behind to the point of no return. It also teaches you such valuable lessons as how to treat your employees, how a chain of command functions, and how organizations develop and thrive. Just tough it out for a few years, it will put you on much better footing as an aspiring business owner.

  7. Even if you are a rebel, it helps to know what’s out there. You can be a better boss if you’ve had a terrible one. Start slow, start small and start part-time as an entrepreneur.

  8. I would definitely encourage young entrepreneurs to seek out leaders in the industry they want to get involved in and try and find a mentor. And get involved in that industry’s community.

  9. A few of my “mentors” have said the same thing, that you can learn more from a bad experience than a good one, in some instances. I really liked this article, although some people say it is best to dive in rather than to try and start a side business (somehow the 9-5 tends to destroy the side business with its bad mojo). The only line I didn’t like in the post was the “Not everyone is meant to travel the world and be their own boss.” Who wouldn’t want to do those things, if they had the chance. It came off a little bit too much like Judge Smails’s (sp?) line in Caddyshack: “Well, the World Needs Ditch-Diggers too).”

    • Thanks for the fair criticism. What I meant to convey is that being your own boss isn’t the greatest thing in the world. Some people that I know just treat work as a way to make money. It’s easy to judge this type of thinking but the reality is that being your own boss isn’t always the greatest thing in the world. This means that you have to deal with clients and that all of the responsibility is yours.

  10. I agree! There probably are few exceptions like Facebook, Microsoft etc. The high tech companies that grow so quickly based on their technology, probably should hire professional management. If they waited to get experience, they may miss their window of opportunity.

  11. I agree. It’s valuable experience, and as an entrepreneur, many of your customers might be corporations anyway. It’s important to know how decisions are made in corporations or other business, and overall working for a paycheck can provide a ton of valuable experience to draw on. Plus, it offers stability and a fallback.

    I say all this from the perspective of a career employee, of course. Though blogging now on the side, and in general I’m becoming a strong advocate of multiple streams of income and taking charge of one’s own cash flow.

  12. As strange of a reason as this is, I am glad to have worked for “the man” because I now will truly value working for my self, lol. I don’t think it’s 100% necessary to hold down a corportate job before striking out on your own, but it has led me to drive myself harder to make my own money rather than sitting around and helping the uber-rich grow richer. 🙂

    • I can’t explain it but there’s just something that excites me about making money on my own. Working for “the man” and then working for yourself gives you an excellent contrast and allows you to decide which option is better suited for you. One one hand, you just have to show up and perform your 8 hour duties. On the other hand, you can work longer hours and have a less stable income.

    • That’s also a great idea. Sort of what I did/am doing. A job in college can also be helpful because it will allow you to start saving/paying off debt, learn about time management, and teach you the value of a dollar earned.

      I worked full-time throughout college and as stressful as it can be, I think it’s totally worth it. I may have missed a few parties/lazy evenings just lounging around. However, I was able to travel more than most of my peers.

      I also find that working in college gives you a great sense of what’s out there. College students just assume that life is grand after graduation. Well the reality is that money doesn’t come easily and may end up wishing you were back in that boring lecture.

  13. Chris Parson – I agree w/ you. Paycheck is an addiction. It really is insecurity rather than security. I still like to consider myself as young, I’m 27, graduated college in 2006, worked in corporate america (wall street) since then, and just recently decided to start a side business to “diversify” my revenue stream. I hate the idea of putting all your eggs ( time/energy/effort ) in one basket. Financial gurus preached the importances of diversifying your investments, I don’t know why the same is not emphasized in your career/job.

    You need to work to build your network. I cannot stress the importance of the experience of being in a corporate environment.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree. I learned everything I know about business from the jobs I’ve had, not the case studies I’ve read about in business school. Why not learn about what businesses are really like and get paid for it at the same time.

    The lure of the paycheck though is definitely a risk.

  15. I think the benefits of a job are great for college grads because there hasn’t been much structure established yet in their lives. Right out of college I launched a business and although it worked my days were probably a bit more lonely than my peers since I worked from home and I didn’t have as much ability to network. Moonlighting is probably best unless you can hit the ground running with a partner or two.

  16. Jason and MD, Great post! I especially agree with your second point. Lots of recent graduates have great ideas and a lot of energy and enthusiasm to carry them out, but where they could use help is the day to day tasks of running a company. Just like entrepreneurism isn’t for everyone, neither is working in an office. Though there is probably a temptation to look at the successes of the Mark Zuckerberg’s of the world and their lack of traditional job experience, I still believe that, for the many reasons you list here, a few years in the workforce should be a requirement for any ambitious young entrepreneur. Thanks for the info!