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.

3 things you should know about fear of launching a startup

Halloween is a time to enjoy being scared. From scary movie marathons, to haunted houses, we seek the feeling of suspense and surprise.

But what happens when fear isn’t just fantasy anymore? Since I launched SPURstartup, anxiety, fear of the unknown, and suspense are emotions I’ve come to accept as normal.

I used to think I was going through something that most entrepreneurs don’t. After all, startup teams are always portrayed as optimistic, fearless risk-takers. Before I launched SPUR, I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I had all of this self-doubt.

I couldn’t of been more wrong. I asked student entrepreneurs to anonymously share their startup fears (if they had them!) and was surprised how many responded. Being afraid to go down a risky path is 100% normal, it’s just not talked about very much because it doesn’t go with the gutsy & bold startup narratives of famous entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are humans, too. We have fear, hesitations, and self-doubt. But we overcome these weaknesses, and you can, too. Here are three things you should know to overcome your fear of launching your startup.

1. Don’t confuse perseverance with fearlessness.
Our culture idolizes successful entrepreneurs. We expect them to be fearless risk-takers that radiate confidence 24/7. I think our culture has confused fearlessness with relentless perseverance. Entrepreneurs have to be more resilient, but that doesn’t mean fearless. It just means they face their fears head-on and overcome them.

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Entrepreneurs use bad experiences to grow stronger each day. Perseverance through the scariest of times is what will ultimately be the difference between success and failure.

2. Know things will get less scary overtime.
Think back to your first semester in college when figured out everything the hard way- by screwing up, getting lost, or making a mistake. After one semester, you got your bearings and were able to navigate everything on a slightly smoother path. The only reason it was so hard that first semester is because it was something new.

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This is like working on your first startup. You know less than you think you do, and, most of the time, you find out you’re wrong the hard way. But as you get more experience, you get more confidence. You do start to figure things out and things take on a different perspective overtime. What seems terrifying and overwhelming to you right now will feel like a breeze a few months from now.

3. Avoiding your fears makes matters worse.
We try to push fear in the back of our minds because we think that fear is related to weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. How you deal with your fears will determine if you’re strong. If you hide from your fears and stay away from all of the things that make you uncomfortable, you’ll never reach your full potential. Fear will define you if you avoid it. The moment you admit to yourself, “I’m afraid of ‘xyz’ happening” the moment you can start liberating yourself from your fears.

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I know launching a startup can be scary, but you don’t have to do it on your own! Join our community HERE and find support, guidance, and mentorship.

How to Find and Build a Network without Selling Your Soul

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re shuffling across a gym floor with a name badge around your neck and 2 dozen copies of your resume in a manila folder, hoping to make some good connections at a job fair…but secretly dreaming of getting home to watch Netflix as soon as possible.

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Or, if you’ve been out of school for a while, maybe this scene looks more like a conference center and you’re thinking of a way to hand out your pocket full of business cards so you can head back to the hotel.

To me, these kinds of formal networking settings have always felt artificial, and often pretty uncomfortable. It’s hard to connect in an honest way when you’re worried about making a good impression and talking to the “right” people.

And at the end of the day, you want to see the time and energy you put into networking pay off. Often after talking to dozens of people and attending hour after hour of panels, you aren’t sure if you’ll see any real career benefits for attending!

All this is frustrating when you consider just how important it is to your career to build relationships. (For reference: I haven’t applied for a job since graduate school, because they have ALL come about through personal and professional connections.)

Now, a formal networking event doesn’t have to be a gauntlet of social anxiety or feel like a waste of time. In fact, shifting the way you think about and prepare for these events can make them productive…and even fun! Here are a few strategies from the guide I put together that have worked for me:

3 Tips for Making the Most of Networking Events

1. Make a personal goal before every networking event so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Fact: Networking events are intimidating for virtually everyone. There’s nothing more awkward than entering a room full of people you don’t know and being forced to talk to them (while trying to make genuine connections). When you put pressure on yourself to meet every single person in the room and get to know all of them, that only makes you less likely to actually go to the event and have a good time.

To keep from psyching yourself out, create a personal goal for each networking event. Whether that’s simply talking to at least three people or meeting at least one person at your dream company, start small and manageable, then work your way up.

2. Give yourself a deadline.

You don’t need to stay for the entire event! Start by making an appearance for 20–30 minutes, and set a goal for how many people you’d like to meet. Once you start getting to know people in the same circles and run into them when you head to events, it gets easier to stay for longer periods of time.

The bottom line: No, you don’t have to stay for an entire two-hour event!

3. Check out niche networking events.

Going to gigantic tech meetups is one of the most intimidating and overwhelming experiences for people who are new to the industry. Instead, start small with a local tech meetup, or one that is specific to a particular part of the tech industry (for example, women in tech, or product managers or programmers).

A couple of networking series to check out that are available in several cities:

Be sure to check with friends or colleagues to see if other niche networking events are offered in your city.

This approach has really taken down the stress factor for me and helped me actually get something tangible out of networking events. That said, networking is a lot more than attending formal events and trying to make a good impression.

In fact, every professional encounter (and some personal ones too!) are opportunities to build the relationships that can make a real difference in your career.

Networking is More Than Conferences and Cocktail Hours

These days, in the tech industry in particular, networking happens online too. One of my coworkers at Skillcrush was hired because she left such a good impression on Twitter, and I’ve started long-term marketing partnerships with brands and influencers based on blog comments.

So that’s great! If you don’t want to brush elbows at cocktail hour to get your tech career or business started…you don’t have to! 

I created The Ultimate Guide to Networking in Tech to walk you through exactly what it looks like to network in the tech industry.

In the guide, you’ll get:

  • Tried and true tips for overcoming paralyzing networking jitters
  • 4 foolproof networking dos and don’ts
  • A complete plan of action for conquering networking events
  • 3 done-for-you email templates for following up with new connections
  • EXACTLY how to leverage social and other online networks in your favor
  • A roadmap to one-on-one networking that makes everyone happy, plus tips for keeping communication open for the long haul
  • The definitive list of how to (and NOT to) cash in on your connections

[DOWNLOAD THE PDF GUIDE]

 

Why asking for help makes you a startup rockstar

Image: you’re on a stage, with the spotlight shining on your super suave outfit and a crowd of hungry eyes laser-focused on you. You’re getting recognized for your booming business that has the whole world buzzing. You are a startup rock star.

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Most of us have had this daydream before. Want in on a something not-so-secret? You have what it takes to get there with the help of the right people.

Okay, truth time. Have you ever discouraged help from others?  Sometimes the internal bragging rights to feel like the next Chance The Rapper makes too many entrepreneurs too proud to ask for help.

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Reality check! There is not ONE successful business person that has never openly searched for criticism. They all asked questions and utilized their networks to get as much feedback as possible. The very process of refining your idea and making progress is based solely on the input and help of others. So not only is it totally okay to ask for help, it is ESSENTIAL to do if you ever want to make progress on your business.

The badass musicians we see on our screens today have all, at some point, gotten input from friends on songs, had a team produce their music, and another team to prepare their press and concerts. So what looks like a one-man band killin’ the show, is actually more like this:

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Sometimes it’s a little intimidating, but everyone gets stage fright… Getting better takes practice, and every rocker knows that. The best way to get help is to simply speak up and ask around for what you need. Be forward and you’ll find you get put in touch with the right people. You will be surprised what resources are right under your nose if you opened up and got a little out of your comfort zone.

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Still need help with something? Join our free mentorship community HERE and tell us what you need. We’ll help you navigate the best way 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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6 Ways to be a great entrepreneur, grom a Shark Tank insider

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Business Development Manager | Mark Cuban Companies

Robyn is the Business Development Manager for Mark Cuban Companies and advises the SPUR team on all things startup. When she’s not getting me through another quarter-life crisis, she’s advising teams from Shark Tank and networking with every VC in the Dallas startup scene. Here are six ways to be a great entrepreneur, from someone who has mentored the best (and sometimes… the worst).

 

  1. Own your intensely fearless personality. “I love working with entrepreneurs because they aren’t afraid to try new things or think outside of the box. It’s invigorating to be around that energy!”
  2. Ask yourself, ‘is this the path of least resistance to something better?’ “Mark made this point to me once and it has stuck with me. What it means is ask yourself does this make someone’s life easier and when it comes to selling your product, put yourself in the shoes of your customer.”
  3. Know your customers and industry better than anyone else. “So many sales people try to push their ideas onto their customer but don’t find out what their customer needs to be successful and achieve their goals. Do this and then try to help them do it!”
  4. Teams are everything. “Persistence, time management and the ability to recognize your shortcomings” are characteristics Robyn looks for in good entrepreneurs. But no entrepreneur is good enough on their own. “Surround yourself with those who can have those skills. A leader is only as good as his team!”
  5. Don’t forget to thank those that help you along the way. “As new entrepreneurs, you’ll meet many people along the way that make introductions or mentor you if only for a short period. Keep track of these people and keep them close, nurture those relationships and don’t forget to thank them for their help.”
  6. Just ask! The best way to be a good mentee is to simply “ask for what you need!”

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.