If you have the opportunity to launch a new venture, I think it’s an easy choice for one reason: you’ll end up way ahead regardless of its fate. (Note: by “have the opportunity” I mean a clear reason, purpose, or vision — not launching a start-up for the sake of it. That’s rarely a good idea.)
Top four reasons I passionately believe this:
1) Incredible learning
Nothing is a better teacher than doing. And nothing gives you both depth and breadth as leading a new venture. In a given week (and likely a single day) you’ll work on long-term strategy, accounting, program design, vendor negotiations, fundraising, cost of printer cartridges, board development, website/social media, office space, presentations, networking, the cheapest way to take a business trip, and how to get more for free.
All of this will be an incredible reservoir of knowledge for future jobs.
2) You’ll have a great network
As a leader, you have a permission slip to talk to anyone (or to at least try). In doing so, you’ll meet a ton of people in a range of places and professions. And those people know more people in a bigger range of places and professions. Whatever you do after you’re failed start-up, this network will be a huge asset and probably how you’ll land your next job.
3) Leadership experience
All jobs have some degree of leadership. But at a young age, it’s unlikely any “regular position” compares to leading a new organization. Future employers and colleges will recognize this and you should sell it.
4) More likely to get hired
It’s often said you learn more from failure than success. If your start-up fails, wear that as a badge of courage during future interviews and don’t be sheepish about it. Proactively bring it up in job interviews — it shows leadership, courage, humility, and a range of knowledge (see #1).
If these aren’t enough benefits to mitigate your concerns, remember this: jobs and school will always be there. When choosing to launch a start-up, you’re not at a fork in the road — you’re at an escalator. If you get on, you’re going to better places regardless if it breaks down before you want it to.