Everyone benefits from entrepreneurial skills, is what we always say. But what exactly are they? And more importantly, where can you learn them?
Entrepreneurial skills are not like unicorns or other fantastic beasts; they’re easy to come across once you know what you’re looking for. This guide will introduce some of the most important entrepreneurial skills and share tips on where to look for them. The skills are primarily based on the EntreComp framework by the EU.
Spotting opportunities means seeing unmet needs, treating problems as challenges to solve, and creating value where others cannot.
As an entrepreneur, spotting opportunities is crucial — how else will you find a business idea? Identifying problems or needs in a community and figuring out how to create value by solving them is one of a budding entrepreneur’s first steps. However, you don’t need to be an entrepreneur to benefit from the skill. Recognizing chances for doing things better is helpful in any context, working or volunteering.
Spotting opportunities is much about the mindset and the way of looking at the world. To get better at it, you need to do it actively. One good starting point is AVP course Startup Experience, where a big focus area is finding the right problem to solve. In the course, students use the Sustainable Development Goals by the UN to identify unmet needs and base their ideas on them. If a course is too much, spending time with people who are good at spotting opportunities can also develop your mindset. A great way to get to know entrepreneurial people is to join the Aaltoes community.
Once you’ve spotted an opportunity, it’s time to do something about it. That’s when you’ll need creativity: the skill to, well, create something new.
Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean being artistic, even though artists are generally seen as creative. Creativity simply means you can imagine things that don’t yet exist, and that’s something an entrepreneur should be able to do — you don’t want to come up with existing solutions only, do you? You can gain a competitive advantage by thinking outside the box and creating products or services others haven’t come up with. Outside of entrepreneurship, creativity can help you find new and improved ways to organize your work, develop new solutions to old problems, or use existing tools in a new way.
Some people believe creativity is innate and can’t be learned. Those people are wrong. While it’s likely true that some people are naturally more creative than others, there’s nothing that stops anyone from learning how to be more creative. One good way to go about it is taking courses that focus on developing your thinking, such as Startup Philosophy and Thinking Tools. You could also join an event where the problems are already stated, and the main task is to come up with creative solutions to given challenges, like a hackathon. Junction organizes several hackathons in the Aalto community, such as their main event in the fall and Solve the SDGs together with AVP. Dash is another great choice for boosting your creativity, as they focus even more on the design side of things.
Often as important as figuring out what to do, is figuring out why to do something. Being self-aware means understanding your passions, strengths, and weaknesses and acting upon them.
There’s no denying that entrepreneurship can be a hefty amount of work. If you’re going to dedicate much of your time to your business, you might as well make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Understanding what makes you tick can also help you find an idea for your business if you don’t have one already. Figuring out where your strengths and weaknesses lie can help you decide what to do yourself and what to hire someone else for. One important aspect of self-awareness is realizing when you’re working too much and taking care of your wellbeing. By ensuring you’re doing well, you give your company the chance to do well. Everything mentioned above is valuable outside the entrepreneurship context — knowing what you like and are good at will make you better in anything you do, and one’s wellbeing should be a top priority in any job.
Much like creativity, self-awareness isn’t a “hard” skill, and it can seem challenging to learn. Again, Startup Philosophy and Thinking Tools are excellent choices, but so is Good Life Engine. The latter focuses less on improving your thinking but more on wellbeing, life design, and self-development. Outside of AVP, check out Revive by Aaltoes and Aalto’s Starting Point of Wellbeing.
Is there really anyone who wouldn’t benefit from being more motivated and unfazed in the face of challenges?
Motivation and perseverance
Even if you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, things can go the way you didn’t expect. In those cases, you’ll need motivation and perseverance to stay focused and not give up.
Whether you’re just not moving as fast as you’d like, or if something hits the fan, you need to stay motivated and persistent and keep going. A good entrepreneur sees difficulties as challenges to overcome and is determined to do so. And is there really anyone who wouldn’t benefit from being more motivated and unfazed in the face of challenges?
To better tackle difficulties and overcome challenges, you should face them in a controlled, low-risk environment. Startup Experience is sure to work wonders. If you’re already a bit more serious about entrepreneurship, Impact Studio is a great place to get started and face your first significant challenges together with AVP staff and mentors. Volunteering and organizing events with Aaltoes or any association under AYY will also provide an excellent environment for testing your wings under pressure — but with not too much risk.
If you’re already highly motivated, this next part should come easy. Taking initiative means taking responsibility, working independently, and simply getting stuff done.
As an entrepreneur, you can’t wait for other people to do things for you. As a decent human being, you shouldn’t. Taking initiative is crucial for entrepreneurs who wish to be successful, but it’ll also make you stand out in any work or volunteering environment. Being proactive, solving problems before they become significant issues, and taking ownership of your work is what everyone is looking for in an employee — or a co-founder.
Taking initiative is something you learn by doing it, over and over. You can start by putting yourself in a position where it’s not only possible but easy and rewarding. Take the role of the team lead in any group assignment or volunteer at Slush. When you’re given responsibility and successfully take it, affecting many people’s happiness, it can make taking the initiative feel rewarding and thus more desirable.
Working with others
Getting stuff done is important, but for many entrepreneurs, it’s impossible — or at least far from optimal — to do everything alone. You need to work with other people who might even be different from you.
It’s been proven that diverse teams provide better results, which means you should be able to get along with people from various backgrounds. Emotional intelligence, active listening, and accepting different opinions will go a long way. If you’re an entrepreneur who aims to go global, getting along with people with varying world views is simply a must. Even if you’re not, working seamlessly with other people will make almost any task easier — and often more fun.
You learn to work with others by — you guessed it — working with others. And that’s what you do in all the activities we’ve already listed. So, take any AVP courses, join Aaltoes, volunteer at Slush or some AYY association, participate in a hackathon or simply talk to a new person in class. You’ll become a better entrepreneur, a better employee, a better volunteer — and might just make a new friend or two in the process.