It’s difficult enough to juggle the multiple responsibilities of building and scaling a new business. But imagine doing that as an undergraduate student with a full-time course load. Yet that’s exactly what serial entrepreneur Stephen Ost has done, founding multiple companies while he was a college student at the University of Arizona, and now continuing the process into the early stages of his professional career. I was fascinated by Stephen’s story and by what advice he might have for young professionals interested in pursuing a similar path. I caught up with Stephen to chat about these topics on our From the Dorm Room to the Board Room podcast. The following short excerpt from that interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Andy Molinsky: What advice do you have for students to make the most of their college experience?
Stephen Ost: Take as many risks as possible. A balance is needed, of course. But in college, you’re pretty much in a safe zone. You can take risks. You can create a startup, and fail, and get an insanely amazing educational experience that will help you forever. It’s really important to take risks while you can. And college is definitely the safest place to take those risks.
Molinsky: What misconceptions do you think college students have transitioning into the real world?
Ost: One of the biggest misconceptions is the value of job-hopping. A lot of candidates are doing it these days. They start a job. They don’t really like it so they hop to another. And they really don’t really like that one either – so they hop again. And it can be for many reasons – a lack of interest, a salary bump. But here’s the thing: you can’t really climb up the ladder at a company if you are hopping. So at the end of the day, if your goal is to advance at that company, or even in your career, it’s not a good strategy.
Molinsky: Tell us more about climbing the ladder. How can young professionals can do that in a successful way?
Ost: It’s all about adding value. The longer you’re there, the more valuable you become and the more people come to you for questions and advice. That’s how you get more responsibility over time.
Molinsky: Can you say a bit more about how it’s done?
Ost: To create value, you need to have an impact on the organization. If you’re in sales, you have to generate sales leads. If you’re in marketing, you have to figure out how to market the product and get more clicks. It depends on your position.
Molinsky: I see. So, in order to add value you need to become indispensable, or at the very least, a critical resource. And you can’t do that by hopping around?
Ost: Exactly. It’s a lot harder to do when you hop around.
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