4 Ways to Build Business Skills While in College

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For the longest time, entrepreneurs have always argued about whether business school is worth the investment. And while going to business school is important, some entrepreneurs have launched startups without ever attending business school--or even college, for that matter.

There's a lot that goes into becoming a business expert: you need to learn "soft" skills like public speaking and people management and "hard" skills like financial management. So, besides studying for a formal business degree, how else can you hone your business skills?

Turns out, there are many resources online and offline that can help you learn new strategies and stay on top of the ever-changing business world. Here are 4 we highly recommend.

  1. Find a the Right Mentor 

Having a mentor with business experience can go a long way toward helping you grow professionally. They can give you support and advice when you need it and help you understand the intricacies of the business world. To find a great mentor, have clear goals for the type of experience you want. Do you want someone experienced in raising capital for new businesses? Do you want someone who is an expert in industries like finance or investment?

Once you have a goal in mind, find the right mentor. Don't just pick one of your lecturers or an alumni who now owns a successful startup, they are probably very busy. You can find a mentor on platforms like LinkedIn. Update your LinkedIn profile then start looking for prospective mentors. If you find one who isn't a direct connection, send a connection request accompanied by a personal message, or request a mutual connection for an introduction.

  1. TED Talks and Other Speeches 

To be the best, you have to learn from the best. TED Talks feature experienced business leaders who have first-hand knowledge of the business world. TED has many compelling talks about business strategy that are free to watch. We also recommend watching TED talks by Bill Gross, a serial entrepreneur who has launched many startups and incubated many others. You’ll understand why some businesses fail and others succeed--based on data collected from hundreds of companies. Or you can watch Alicia Syrett, Founder and CEO of Pantegrion Capital, talk about why Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors say no to investors

Popular graduation speeches will also teach you a lot about business. For example, Michael Lewis' speech at Princeton will help you learn a lot about the strong connection between success and luck. 

By watching TED Talks and speeches you’ll learn the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, asking the right questions, and having courage to do things that are uncomfortable. Be sure to watch these 8 inspiring graduation speeches packed with valuable business lessons.

  1. Take a Negotiation Course 

The importance of negotiation can't be overstated. Good negotiation skills help you get ahead in business and quickly resolve conflicts. You can hammer out the details of a multimillion dollar deal without breaking a sweat and easily allocate responsibilities among your project team. If you use your negotiation skills well, everyone will be happy!

When you’re a good negotiator, you can get yourself out of any problem. This is because the skill teaches you to be resourceful. For example, if your business experiences a few setbacks and you need money, you can use search terms like “how to get a quick loan” and “loans near me” to find the best loans.

You’ll probably have a class on negotiation in business school, but if you want to improve your skills, you can take Harvard’s Master Class on negotiation.

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