When I look back on my time at the University of Southern California which ended only this past May, I realize that the courses I took my last semester have proved the most helpful in preparing me for my future professional trajectory. Why? Because though I graduated with my Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Communication, the courses I took my last semester were all electives focused on Business Entrepreneurship. As a result, I had access to the resources and events of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and learned that the most valuable skills you learn in college are the art of networking and the ability to find and use your resources.
Recent grads may feel that upon receiving their diploma, they lose access to the many resources they were provided with as students, but according to Young Entrepreneur, the following are 7 areas where you should be able to find help as a recent alumnus:
1. Exploring new ideas – College campuses are the perfect breeding ground for new ideas. And oftentimes, these million dollar ideas are thought of but not acted upon. Contact someone in a department of interest and see if they have curated any ideas that you can sift through to potentially pursue. Apart from that, sitting in on a lecture or two may get your wheels turning as well, so look up events on campus that are open to alumni or to the public and make it a habit to attend these every once in a while.
2. Product research and prototype development – Lab space and other campuses resources are usually available to alumni if you just ask. In addition, check in with your former professors as they may have contacts for grants to fund your R&D. Also the library is an amazing resource! I must admit, I’ve spent countless hours in those libraries performing my market research with access to thousands of dollars worth of data and it has paid off tenfold!
3. Business plan help– Check your campus for resources or evening classes tailored toward the first business stages that you can take advantage of. Also, it never hurts to contact someone if the business department to ask if they’d review your business plan over coffee or lunch. I owe a big thank you to a few of my professors for their help with this.
4. Early-stage funding – One thing many of my professors reiterated was to stay away from Venture Capitalist until they were necessary. Luckily, these same professors also provided me with information about incubators, grants, and entrepreneurship competitions for funding so that I could do just that. In addition, look into your alumni network. You never know if someone might be believe in your idea just as much as you do and be willing to invest.
5. Legal guidance – Check to see if your school offers a legal clinic through the entrepreneurship center or business school. You can also check with the law school to see if they offer any similar services or check with friendly law professors that may be willing to help address legal concerns. This usually won’t suffice if you need hardcore legal counsel, but it sure beats paying $300 an hour for answers to a few questions. Trust me on that.
6. Building a team – Many students are hungry for real life entrepreneurship experience making campuses a good place to find part-time help. If you’re looking for partners with specific skills to complement your own, professors and staff can usually refer you to promising people with the skills you need. This has proved true for me again and again. For every start-up I’ve been involved with, my partners or the person by whom I was referred has been a Trojan alumni as well!
7. Connections to a mentor – Your Alma Mater is also an excellent starting point to connect with a mentor in your industry or field of interest. You can connect with current professors and staff, other alumni, notable speakers and lecturers with whom the university has a relationship with or contacts you meet through any of the aforementioned persons. After all, as a business professor of mine once said, “It is true that we are connected to anyone in the world by an average of six degrees of separation, but for those of us in the Trojan family, it’s only four!”
So yes, you may have graduated, but that doesn’t mean your Alma Mater has nothing left to offer you. So use your resources, expand your network, and bless your hustle!