6 ways to keep learning (even if you don’t have an internship)

Entrepreneur = Lifelong Learner.

While it’s tempting to spend all of your time outside of class binging House of Cards and letting the world go on around you, there’s so much opportunity to REALLY push yourself forward. After all, most of the important stuff is learned outside of class anyways.

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We say it at SPUR all the time: doing is the best way to learn.

Internships are the epitome of learning by doing. They give you short-term real world experience, and long-term career connections. Unfortunately, there are only so many internships available in your field. And the search becomes harder if you are looking for those that pay (because, let’s face it, we have bills and it is hard to do things for free all the time).

So what if you didn’t get an internship this semester/summer, maybe you were late to game, maybe you didn’t get to try because you were preoccupied with your part time job, school, thinking about your next business idea? Trust me I’ve been there… The good news is, just because you don’t have internship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t and can’t keep learning!

Here are 6 other ways to learn by doing to get ahead in the game of life.

  1. Get a Mentor(s). In college, it’s ridiculously easy to find mentors. I had several teachers, older students, and even recent graduates that I turned to for help. The best thing is you can ask a mentor anything: questions on current projects, how to improve upon past ones, concerns about a new opportunity, even how to do taxes. Sometimes, it’s just nice to talk over coffee about life updates and new favorite books.
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    Speaking of books…

  2. Read a Book. Listen to the experts and READ something. And yes, we recommend physical books so you can make notes and highlight. The act of marking up and taking notes will help you retain the content. Cause let’s be honest, you only want to read a book once.
    P.S. One of my favorite books suggested to me by an entrepreneurship professor is Change by Design by Tim Brown.There is your first suggestion!
  3. Shadow Someone. This is most common in the medical field, but you can do it for every industry. Ask your mentors, family, and close friends if they know anyone you could shadow.
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    Use your student card! (There are so many advantages of this, but let’s not get into that.) When you reach out to someone, tell them you are student and would like to see what a day in the life of “you name it” looks like. Then, go learn by observing others. Come prepared with questions, and take a notepad and pen to write down what you learn.

  5. Take an online course. Strangely enough, college limits your ability to take the courses you actually want. You’re restricted to taking what’s required by your major. Thankfully, there are tons of online options where you can cherry-pick the perfect subject. Finding courses that get don’t teach you theory, but instead give you experience is key.
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    Our course, FirstGear, jumps you right into building your startup. Other courses train you specifically on a certain skill, like photoshop or coding, and usually are more affordable than tuition.

  7. Teach Someone. You slave away hours a week to learn a subject in class, and for what? To complete a multiple choice test & purge your brain of everything you learned to cram the next subject in? What a waste! The best thing that you can do is to use that knowledge as soon as possible.Teach what you learned to someone else and you’ll truly master the subject. Explaining concepts in your own way challenges your brain at a whole new level. And we all love an opportunity to inspire someone.
  8. Journal. No matter where your learning journey leads you, you should document as much of it as you can. Journaling is the great way to learn from yourself. Taking a deep look inward can lead to some of the biggest revelations.
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    If you’re telling yourself you don’t need to journal because you’ll remember it anyways, you’re lying. The brain has a way of purging info that it doesn’t deem necessary at the time. But what if it’s necessary later and you just don’t realize it?

These 6 way of learning by doing are guaranteed to put you ahead of the curve. Even if you just take up ONE of them, you’re further ahead than you were before, and typically, one merges into another. With as much as you learn in school, a lot of that info is just not applicable in the real world. It’s up to you to take matters into your own hands to pave your path forward.

An open letter to my mentor

Dear Mentor,

Thanks for saving my ass. For the late night phone calls. For the tough love, pep talks, and guidance. Although I’m naive, inexperienced, and stumble along to accomplish things you can do walking backwards with your eyes closed in high heels, you saw my potential. You taught me I can’t change the world alone. I know I can ask you for help with anything (like editing this letter before I post it online) and you won’t judge me.

I want you to know the hours on the phone, afternoon meet-ups for coffee, and the occasional wine night have brought tremendous value into my life. Your guidance goes beyond career advice. You’ve helped me navigate through the chaos of being in my twenties. I don’t know where I would be without you, but I sure as hell know I wouldn’t be running my own company.

Because of you, I’m fearless. You have given me the ability to spread my wings and unleash my soul knowing that when I crash (not if, but when)you will be there to help me get back up. Your words of wisdom help me navigate through the never-ending chaos of starting a company. I’m convinced you have the powers of a master jedi. While you’re mentoring me through the crisis of sending out the wrong email on MailChimp, you’re managing your boss lady career at the same time.

I can’t help but compare myself to all that you have been able to do. I’ve learned more by watching you than I did my entire undergrad. While you stress the value of my 4.0, you and I both know the secret to success lies in mastering uncharted territory, territory you are willing to let me explore with you. Why? Because you see parts of yourself in me. And that is the biggest compliment of all time.

Thanks for everything that you do. Together, we will change the world.

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Turning your passions into profits: How being creative landed this designer her own TV show

See how Kayln did it in this candid Q&A.

Entrepreneurship is totally a family thing, at least it is more me. From my intrapreneur sister, Lila, to my designer-turned-TV host cousin, Kalyn. Kalyn Rothaus, the host of Office Spaces, knows what it takes to work hard and break through even the hardest of industries. I can remember back to the days when she was in college bringing home her designs, my Aunt Kit looking at them and asking my 14-year-old self what I thought about it all. (Aunt Kit is the person I credit with kicking off my career- but that’s a story for another day). Kalyn has come a loooong way since college. She has her own TV show, just tied the knot, and is kicking some serious butt. I picked her brain for the quick-and-dirty about what it took to get here and how to brand yourself. Get the deets below!

 


What inspires you to work so hard?!

I am a goal setter and always have been. When I have measurable goals it is easy to work hard to get there faster and enjoy the hard work with perspective on the outcome!

 


How do you stay motivated to break through in such a difficult industry and always believe in yourself?

I truly believe I have always worked hard, but I have also had some luck! I think the combination of being at the right place at the right time in conjunction with hard work creates this magical formula in my life for opportunity.

 


You think outside of the box with your designs- how do you apply your creativity and innovation to everything in your work life?

I apply my creativity to everything in my life. I try my best to be silly, and not take myself too seriously which helps my creativity flow more freely. I find that when I was afraid of what people thought, I couldn’t be as expressive in my work and in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to trust “me” the most. Although, I do have to make clients happy too, so there is a fine line.

 


What is the number one piece of advice to you have for someone who wants to make a name for themselves and be successful?

Say yes. When I was asked to be the on camera Host for Office Spaces, I said yes, even though I was terrified (to say the least). I began to soak up everything around me and learned from everyone I could- from the camera operator to the production assistants, constantly asking what I could do better. I also watched myself on the monitor after shoots to understand how I could improve. The bottom line is, I said yes, in spite of not knowing what yes meant. The truth is, I believe I am smart enough to figure anything out AND ask for help when I need it!

 


Do you think having a personal brand is important? What advice do you have for branding yourself?

Well, before I knew I would have a TV show, I thought about this question a lot. I had no idea how to start. Then, I was thrown into an on camera role, and the most important thing I can do for my “brand” is be me. I am constantly being told what to say on camera, but I always pause and think about how to say things in my own words and express what I believe.  If you are your own brand (especially in a creative industry where we sell ideas and dreams that are not tangible at first) be your unique self and believe in what you create.

Mentor of the Week: Jeremy Vickers

Dean of the College of Professional Studies | Dallas Baptist University

Executive Director | The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UTDallas (previously)

His students are now raising money on SPURstartup to bring their dreams to life, here.

Prior to UTD, Jeremy was at the Dallas Regional Chamber from 2011 to 2015 as the Vice President of Innovation where he led strategy and program implementation to support building the North Texas innovation ecosystem.His efforts were to support university research growth, technology commercialization, startup resource support, and startup capital access. Specifically, he was involved in the launch of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center as a Co-Founder, the Texas Research Alliance, and InnovateDFW, which is now a part of LaunchDFW.com.

 


Advice for 1st time entrepreneurs:

“Execute! Don’t get caught up in the minutia and don’t day dream about what kind of CEO you’ll be once you’ve hit the $100M  mark in revenue. Build something, get it in front of customers, and then make it better. Entrepreneurship is 90% figuring it out and 10% knowledge/experience.”

 


Advice for bring a great mentee:

“Be prepared when you meet with a mentor. Remember that your objective is to leverage the mentors knowledge, skills, and network. A good mentor should be able save you 40 hours of work with 1 hour of robust dialogue. Research the mentor, understand their skills, and ask for specific advice or introductions. Don’t forget to follow up with mentors afterwards and let them know that you’ve done what they’ve asked. It will motivate them to stay engaged.”

 


Why do you like being involved with student entrepreneurship:

“I am passionate about the stage of entrepreneurship between idea and launch. There are so many opportunities to screw up. Students often don’t know what they don’t know and I love coming to support them in this phase. I believe there is no better time than to try to start a company than when you are a student. It is the perfect environment to try and fail. I firmly believe that failing as a student is far better than failing when you are in your forties and are risking a mortgage and a marriage.”

 


How has working with SPUR helped your teams:

“It is been exciting for our entrepreneurship program to pilot campaigns with SPUR. We have seven teams that are all trying to launch businesses this semester. The SPUR program enables them to engage prospective customers, users, and partners while generating small sums of capital that they can use to build prototypes and begin marketing.”

 


You can learn more about some of the initiatives that Jeremy is behind below.

Don’t for get to check out SPURstartup and the awesome campaigns coming out of his program at UTD here.