Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Tagged: entrepreneurship

5 essential skills for starting a student business

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📥  Advice, Entrepreneurship, inspire, Tips & Hints

GUEST BLOG:  written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student. The site features everything you need to know about managing money without the migraines: student finance explained, insider info on careers, plus ways to save and scrimp without the stress.


You don’t need tons of experience to start a business: here’s why soft skills matter more.

Working for yourself at uni isn’t just for born entrepreneurs or those with a stash of funds to bankroll it. The truth is lots of the core skills of self-employment are common to campus life – whatever your subject. Student start-ups come in all flavours, from delivery services to tutoring to building the world’s biggest brands. Whether you’re after extra cash, CV sparkle or a whole empire, there’s something out there for you. Here are the skills that can help.

1. Problem-solving smarts
You’ve probably already got life hacks of your own, from smart ways to save money on student essentials to laundry cheats. The key lies in turning your quick fixes into solutions that help other people.

  • What are you good at? What do you love doing?
  • If you could solve a common problem, what would you pick?
  • What’s your dream job, and are there bits of you can do now as a freelancer?
  • Can you capitalise on your hobbies, talents or degree subject?
  • What do folk at your campus/town need? What gets them excited?

There are heaps of businesses you can start – and run – from your dorm room for next to no cost. If you’re stuck for inspiration, try these on for size.

2. Bags of initiative
Anyone can sketch out a plan for world domination on the back of a beer mat: the question is, what are you going to do about it? Here’s how to flesh out your ideas:

  •  What service your business will provide?
  • How are you going to tell people you’ve got a product or service they want, and convince them they need it?
  • Will you have to pay anything to run your business – materials or web hosting, for instance? Tip: stick to essentials to keep costs down!
  • If you need funding to cover your costs, the enterprise team can help you find any business bursaries going – or try a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter.
  • How much will you need to charge to cover costs and make a profit, while still being competitive?
  • How (and when) will you get paid? You can use bank transfers for freelancing, PayPal for web payments, or iZettle’s free card swiper (watch out for transaction fees for the last two, though).

Once you’ve got those sorted, there’s no song-and-dance to ‘being in business’. Just let HMRC know and start trading. You won’t have to pay tax if you earn less than the annual ‘personal allowance’ – and if you do, you can use your business costs to reduce what you owe. Either way, keep records of any money you spend or earn, and keep some aside in case to cover tax or other costs.

3. Persuasiveness
Pitching for work, money or resources isn’t all that different to the job applications you’re used to churning out, but with a couple more ways to go about it.

  • If presenting in front of an audience, panel or Dragon’s Den appeals, schedule your meetings face-to-face or by phone and get pitching!
  • Public speaking not your thing? Reach clients and customers with leaflets, any newspaper coverage you can nab, or online through your website or social media.
  • Really not feeling it? Find someone with the gift of the gab and trade your strong points for theirs. That could mean finding someone to go into business with, or hiring the skills you need – try

4. Being deadline-driven
One of the benefits of self-employment is setting your own schedules – perfect for fitting around your studies. Whether it’s your essays or your empire, though, you’ll still need to meet deadlines.

  • Consider your studies and other commitments before agreeing deadlines for paid work or meetings
  • Work backwards from the deadline and set milestones (much easier to stay on track)
  • Use phone alerts or Google reminders if you need to
  • Pick a business you enjoy and you’ll be less likely to skip it!

5. Perseverance
Starting a business can be as simple as outlined here. Staying in business is harder: it can take time to find customers or become profitable. It can be hard to stay motivated if you’re going it alone, but support is out there: project partners, mentors and cheerleaders can all help.

One of the best things about student start-ups is that you can make what you want of them. If something serious and award-winning is your bag – go for it. If you just want a quick gig for cash and giggles, that’s OK too, as is changing your mind, ditching your initial ideas and starting over from scratch.

However you go about it, you’ll have the chance to earn the soft skills that employers want to see on your CV, and even craft your own career. If you’ve ever wondered whether you could start your own business – you can. Give it a go!


5 ways to an effective networking email...

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📥  Advice, Networking

"Email is where keystrokes go to die"
Scott Hanselman, a Microsoft employee has made a simple but important point. If you want to get in touch with busy people, you must know how not to waste their time. Far too many of us use email to communicate, it is easy, fast and offers a veil from the embarrassment of approaching someone face-to-face. Yet, a staggering number of emails get ignored... so what can you do to make an impact?

  1. Make your subject line specific: think of the subject as a headline of an article. If it is catchy it will prompt the reader to open the message and read it. If you met a graduate recruiter at a careers fair for example, you may want to consider the following subject line, "Hi Beth, we met at the Bath Careers Fair on Thursday". It is more catchy than, "Following-up," or "Hello...".

  2. Keep it short: a long rambly email isn't likely to get read - it will either get deleted or flagged for later, once this happens the chances of getting a reply get slim. Where possible include bullet points and get to the point of why you are contacting them. According to the Huffington Post, you might want to draft your email first, then see whether you can cut it by at least 25 percent.
  3. Consider when you hit send: According to Mailchimp, more people open emails during the day than at night and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays as opposed to the rest of the week.
  4. Don't send group emails: networking is about connecting with an individual, the last thing you want to do is send an impersonal email to a group. Try and tailor the message to the individual, a little praise helps, "... your advice to look at the psychometric test samples on your website was really helpful..."
  5. Read email out loud: before you hit send, read your email to yourself out loud. This will force you to proofread it slowly and make sure there aren't any typos.

Sometimes getting started can be a real challenge, I think the advice from Wetfeet is excellent. Finally, do follow up if you haven't heard back. However don't be annoying, follow some of these tips by Lifehacker.


How would I know if I am 'an entrepreneur'?

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📥  Entrepreneurship

So, for the last few days we have focused on articles about entrepreneurship. But I'm sensing there may still be some people reading this thinking 'but how would I know if I have the potential?'

Yes, we ran an article looking at the 'entrepreneurial process', showing it's actually a simple problem identification and solving process. But not everyone who loves solving problems would like being self-employed.

So, there are two questions I'd like to pose today.

  1. do you have to be self-employed to be an entrepreneur?
  2. how do you know if self-employment is for you?

1. Do you have to be self-employed to be an entrepreneur?

Strictly speaking, yes. An entrepreneur is officially defined as

"someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity".

However, companies really, really love people who have the characteristics of entrepreneurs i.e. the entrepreneurial people.

They are the people who will spot an opportunity and make it happen, who take a company in an unexpected direction, or who enable a company to steal a march on its competitors. And because they can't call these people entrepreneurs, they have invented a new word to describe these people: intrapreneurs.

"an employee within a large company who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable new product, service, business, etc., often instead of leaving to start their own company"

So, if you are always coming up with new ideas but want the security of an organisational structure and regular salary, then maybe you should be looking for a company that actively selects for intrapreneurial spirit.

2. How do you know if self-employment is for you?

This is a tricky one. After all, you may never have worked for anyone before so how do you know if you would rather work for yourself? But hints might include the fact that you hate being tied down into a particular way of thinking. What you want is the reedom to pursue your ideas in your way at your own pace. If that sounds like you, then maybe think about the idea of freelancing, consulting independently or setting up your own business.

Maybe you are always inventing things that fill a need no-one else has seen. Yes, you could take that ability to a design company. But if your ability to spot and fill holes in the market is also coupled with a strong independent streak then maybe you should find out a little more about setting up on your own. Enterprise Bath are there exactly for students like you! And that goes for whether what you make is an app, a gadget, a plate, a bag, soup - they have supported all these ventures and more.

If this has made you think even a little bit that entrepreneurship might be for you, why not pop along to a Banter meeting and chat to some like-minded people?


Entrepreneurship and Research - Innovation and Independence

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📥  Entrepreneurship, For PhDs

While looking through the Researcher Career Stories on the Vitae website recently, I was struck by how many of the researchers had started their own business or undertaken some form of freelance or consultancy work. Some set up their own business alongside a PhD, part-time teaching or research work or other paid employment. Others became entrepreneurs during a period of unemployment, through commercialising their research and developing spin-off companies, or in response to dissatisfaction with the values or working practices of their current employer. Connections are often drawn between the skills and attributes needed to build a successful research career and those needed to be a successful entrepreneur. As highlighted in yesterday's blog post, both entrepreneurrship and research involve problem-solving. As well as this, both involve creativity, confidence in the value and originality of your own ideas, risk-taking, independance, building effective networks and collaborations and communicating the value of your ideas to others. One of the Vitae case studies, Max Robinson, talks about these connections between entrepreneurship and research: 'My background of doctoral completion provided me with skills and experience in writing technically demanding concepts clearly and succintly. This part of doctoral study is so important, because it is about selling your ideas and convincing people that there is a gap for your research.' Max goes on to highlight the importance of a mentor in setting up a business; mentoring relationships are also highly valuable in academia. In both contexts, mentors can introduce you to their contacts, be a sounding-board for ideas, read through funding applications, and provide encouragement, reality checks and the wisdom of their own experience.

Max found a mentor useful because he felt 'naive about commercial issues'. In a 2009 Vitae reort on Employer Practice on recruiting researchers, commercial awareness was ranked bottom among seven skills on which employers were asked to judge university researchers. Getting involved in entrepreuneurship activities during your PhD or postdoctoral research contract, whether of not you're intending to start your own business, is a great way to demonstrate knowledge of the issues businesses have to take account of, as well as developing contacts with industry.

So how do you get started? The Researcher Development Unit runs courses on research commercialisation and entrepreneurship.  If you have a research idea you would like to commercialise, get in touch with the Entreprise and Knoweledge Expoitation Team within the Research and Innovation Office. Something else well-worth checking out is the Researcher to Innovator Programme, which can help you think through the impact of your research and offers access to industrial mentors and advice from other researchers-turned-entrepreneurs. Our researcher web pages have other advice and useful links relating to entrepreneurship and self-employment.



Entrepreneurship - a wide open career path

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📥  Entrepreneurship

It's very easy, when hearing about something like Global Entrepreneurship Week, to think 'well that's not for me - I don't have any business ideas'. So when I read a blog post in Nature last week which had as its theme the fact that

'entrepreneurship is not an endeavour reserved for the talented, it's a set of skills anyone can learn'

I was immediately interested.

I have to admit, I am also one of those people who sees enterprise as something 'other' - almost a mysterious concept because I have never had 'the' idea or felt that burning desire to work for myself.

So I have reposted the blog article in its entirety below, hoping that any of you who are feeling similarly in awe of entrepreneurs but sure it's not for you, will have a look as common myths about entrepreneurship are busted. Additionally, a three-step process for pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity are given.


Entrepreneurship: A wide open career path
24 Oct 2014 | 06:00 GMT | Posted by Julie Gould | Category: #NJCE14, Career paths

Entrepreneurship is not an endeavour reserved for the talented, it’s a set of skills anyone can learn.
Contributor Annalise Smith

Professor Simon Mosey

Credit: Annalise Smith
Entrepreneurship is often viewed as an endeavor reserved only for the very select few who were born with a rare combination of talents. Not so, said Simon Mosey, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Nottingham University Business School, speaking at the Entrepreneurship for Scientists and Engineers Workshop at the Naturejobs Career Expo in London on September 19. “Entrepreneurship is a set of skills that anyone can learn,” he declared.

Mosey similarly punctured what he said were two other myths about entrepreneurship: that entrepreneurs can see into the future and that entrepreneurs do it all themselves. These myths suggest that stars such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have skills that others lack. Mosey called these notions “nonsense.” Success in entrepreneurship is “not an individual pursuit” he explained. Behind Job’s and Zuckerberg’s success “is a large team of clever individuals working together in a group to realize the common vision.”

Mosey outlined a series of steps for pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Stage I: Problem Definition

It all starts with a problem, but identifying a problem that needs solving. Mosey outlined how to approach this in three steps: 1) Describe the problem and recognize the opportunities. 2) Explore the dynamics of the problem and 3) Understand the root causes of the problem. This will provide a solid foundation to then move on to using science or technology to do something about it.

As an example Mosey addressed the problem of low recycling rates in the UK. Exploring the dynamics and root causes resulted in a unique approach to tackling the issue by figuring out how to produce less waste rather than more recycling efforts. This now recasts the problem in such a way that makes it easier to see ways in which “science can do quite a lot about it” Mosey explained.

Stage II: Idea Discovery

The true test is to come up with ideas to solve the problem that has been identified. He stressed the need for quantity of ideas over quality, especially at first. Even “bad” ideas, he said, can “lead somewhere that’s new, exciting and different.” Mosey cited Linus Pauling’s famous statement that the best way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas, and to throw away the bad ones. Taking time to consider and reflect upon these ideas is a critical next step. Following the example of low recycling rates in the UK, Mosey presented some modest solutions such as reduced packaging as well as more radical ones, such as sending waste into space. The main point, Mosey stressed, was “not to be afraid of coming up with bad ideas.” He did, however, say that it was important to make even the “wilder” ideas more scientific. Using scientific knowledge to find solutions to problems “could lead to numerous possibilities, one of which could result in a career opportunity,” he said.

Stage III: Solution Determination

The next step is to sort and sift and organize ideas into categories. The primary objective is to narrow all the ideas down to one, choose the best solution and begin the process of implementation — which Mosey described as the “hard work of building a system that works.” At this stage, one should also consider the business mechanisms by which the new ideas can generate income. Is it smarter to create a start-up company or to sell the idea to someone who will now have his or her name associated with it? Along these lines, the selected solution to the recycling problem in the UK was to create a more economical alternative to waste oil disposal by designing a filter to convert the waste oil into biodiesel.

Finding solutions to a problem is not the only entrepreneurial path, though. In fact, Mosey said, for life scientists the process often goes the other way around: taking technologies you may have floating around in your lab and using them to address social or medical problems. Mosey provided an example from a business plan competition, which used an existing technology called IdentiScentTM; described as “ a quick and dirty DNA type test”; like an electronic nose that creates unique signatures for every organic compound or individual. Ideas for commercializing the IdentiScentTM technology included solving medical problems such as organ matching or social problems such as bomb detection in public places.

Early career scientists face many challenges as they seek to capitalize on their many years of study. “The best way to keep your options open,” Mosley said, “is to develop your entrepreneurial skills.


So, all of you who thought entrepreneurship was for other people - why not give it a go? Get in touch with Enterprise Bath to see what they have on offer.


Entrepreneurship – the alternative career path!

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📥  Entrepreneurship



The Global Entrepreneurship Week starts from Monday 17th – 23rd November 2014, this week we wanted to focus on a career path less traveled – Entrepreneurship!  Whether you want to start your own business, work as a freelancer or on consultancy basis - having an entrepreneurial mind-set will allow you to work flexibly in a rapidly changing economy.  If you decide to pursue a career within an organisation, having a 'can-do' attitude, a creative and questioning mind, and a willingness to take risks will allow you to manage and progress your career.

So what are your options? If you want to get a job but are not excited by large corporates, you may want to consider Entrepreneurial Internships or working for a start-up. Sites such as Enternships  and WorkInStartUps advertise jobs in a wide range of industry sectors. This blog post from the guardian makes a pretty convincing case about why you should work for a start-up. If however you are set on becoming the next Richard Branson, then make the most of the opportunities available to you at University. Join relevant clubs and societies such as Enactus or Banter. You may also want to consider participating in business competitions, games and hackathons. Don’t limit yourself to just opportunities on campus, use social media sites such as Twitter to learn about opportunities nationally.

Entrepreneur First, is a government backed initiative which is the first of its kind offering a structured career path into entrepreneurship straight after graduation. You will benefit from training, mentoring and office space to get your start-up idea off the ground.

Entrepreneurship offers a wealth of opportunities but it is a tricky career path. Before you dive in, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have the discipline to be your own boss?
  • What is your tolerance for risk?
  • Are you comfortable working alone?
  • Can you test the waters without jumping straight in?
  • Is your business idea sound?
  • What are the gaps in your skills?

Below are some useful local organisations who may be able to offer further support:

  • Social Enterprise Works: expert guidance, support and training to help your social enterprise grow, develop and succeed.
  • Science City Bristol: aims to help make the Bristol and Bath region a great place to start and grow science and technology businesses.
  • Hubbub - A website to gain funding for your projects, ideas and events.
  • NESTA - National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts: Provides funding for early stage companies.


#FF (Follow Friday): Entrepreneurs!

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📥  Entrepreneurship

If you are a Twitter user, you will be familiar with Follow Friday (or #FF) – every Friday people tweet their recommendations about who to follow. I have been following Global Entrepreneurship Week which kicks off from 17-23 November 2014.  So in honour of that I have taken entrepreneurship as my first #FF theme.

If you are considering starting your own business or have a general interest in entrepreneurship then I recommend NACUE who support student led enterprise activities on campus. The Prospects website has a wealth of information including a handy start-up check-list. Of course the Global Entrepreneurship Week website is packed with information, links to events and some superb resources to get you started.


You may also want to use LinkedIn to network with individuals you know, but I’d definitely recommend joining groups like On Startups, the British Library Entrepreneur Network and Real Business. These groups provide opportunities for you to ask questions, join topical discussions, and build your network.

Back to #FF, there is a wealth of information on Twitter, you may want to consider following these accounts if you are interested in entrepreneurship.

Duncan Bannatyne
Peter Jones
Richard Branson

Jonathan Moules – Financial Times, enterprise correspondent
Bill Morrow – Founder of Angels Den
Dan Martin – BusinessZone editor

Business Link 
Flying Start
School for Startups 
Global Entrepreneurship Week UK

Remember to check out our blog next week, we will be posting about starting your own business, whether entrepreneurship is a possible career path for you, sources of funding and much more!