Before Tim Westergren created Pandora at the age of 35, he was a nanny and part-time composer. Music was what he really loved, so it was during his time composing that the idea of the customized music selection app developed.
Like many, Westergren’s story of success is one that is admired as a tale of the underdog and self-made glory. It certainly proves that having a well-established background in business is not necessary to succeed in it.
So, what did people like Westergren, Mark Cuban, and Suze Orman have to go from nannying, bartending, and waitressing, respectively, to become titans in their industries?
Experience of any kind
What was the first job you had? Many of us started working at the bottom of the food-chain, and your first job most likely left an impression on you--with some of us never wanting to step foot in that business again. Regardless of whether your first job was a good experience or not, it taught you at least one valuable lesson.
Although you may not have any recent “business” experience, you certainly have worked in a business before. Your experience as an employee has the potential to be the most revealing experience when establishing the values that guide your future in business.
What every successful professional has is experience of any kind. Whether you think your past ventures are related to your current goals, the bottom line is that experience helps foster networks that will open the door to more opportunity, mentorship, excellent people skills, perspective, an attractive resume, etc. Good and bad experiences cultivate personal and professional growth, character, and ethics which are all significant to becoming good in business.
A degree of any kind
While a degree is not a necessary step in the stories of success, it is without a doubt, a key ingredient.
Society tends to champion the rags-to-riches stories of famous entrepreneurs who dropped out of school and rose from the bottom without a degree (or anything at all) because they are both ordinary and extraordinary. These stories remind us that anyrun-of-the-mill person can get to the top with some hard work and ambition, but they are also admired because of their rareness.
Realistically, if you were to ask most of these tycoons today about education, they would tell you to go get your degree. Not because they did, but because they know how much it will advance your career. Higher education gives you a knowledge of fundamentals, networks, opportunities, confidence, and, not to mention, a higher salary.
“You have to know business and I've learned the hardway as an entrepreneur that not having a master’s education prevented me from participating in multi-million dollar deals,” CEO of Driscoll Entertainment Adrian Rashad Driscoll said. Driscoll went on to earn his MBA with the Ducere University of Wales.
Ultimately, like with experience, going for your bachelor’s or back for your master’s is helpful no matter the nature of it. If you already have your first degree, but your major was something completely unrelated to business, this does not mean it isn’t helpful! At the end of the day, the insight you formally gain from a degree no matter what kind and from where is invaluable. Noted, a business degree is certainly going to equip you with knowledge that can be directly applied to your business interests.
A passion that drives you
At the core of every business success is passion. Like Westergren’s story, many of the great ideas that made entrepreneurs who they are, grew out of something they enjoyed, believed in or felt intensely about. Westergren’s love of composing and music is what led to Pandora.
Without passion for what is driving you into the field of business, you will lack perseverance. Business is bound to present obstacles and failures. What will get you through those times depends on how you feel about yourself and your service or product.
Network, network, network!
We can’t stress enough the importance of networking. There is a certain level of success you may reach without a solid network. However, being able to receive help, mentorship, recommendations, and offers from a diverse group of professionals sets you above and beyond.
You will find that through past experiences and your degree, connecting with other professionals will happen naturally. The more opportunities you immerse yourself in, the more expansive your network becomes.