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The two skills my formal education did not prepare me for life as an entrepreneur.

Have you ever thought about whether or not your formal education helped you to be a great entrepreneur? Some people think that because I have a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Marketing and a Masters Of Business Administration​ that I have an edge in business and as a business coach.

Well, interestingly enough this was the topic of conversation at the North American Centre for Collaboration Conference this year. 

--> How do we better prepare students in post secondary institutes for life as an entrepreneur? 

As a speaker at the conference, I had the delight to present my ideas on what I felt my post secondary education DID prepare me for as well as what it DID NOT prepare me for. 

While it may not surprise you the skills I learned that did help me, it may surprise you the two skills I decided to point out that I did not learn in school. I feel it's necessary for schools to figure out how to integrate these into their programs if they want to give their graduates an edge in the world of entrepreneurship. 

Note: whether you are in formal education right now or learning in the field from building your own business, you need to master these skills if you want to be successful. 


What my formal education DID help me prepare for in entrepreneurship: 

Without a doubt some of the skills I learned in school, particularly from being involved in more participatory programs and events such as work terms, student committees, international internships and group projects, were: 

  • ​the ability to work with different personalities (important for working with clients)
  • how to meet deadlines (launch time anyone?)
  • how to research (an important step to ensure you are doing the right work)
  • how to decipher through a lot of data and present things in a clear, meaningful way (funny enough I never knew how important this skill would be. It's one my clients often cite as one of my strengths... my ability to help them clear the clutter and get to the heart of something, strategic or mindset wise). 
  • how to plan (if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!)

Okay, so ​those were definitely some great skills that I learned from being in school. However, there were many skills that I didn't know I would need that I've learned along the way. 


What my formal education DID NOT help prepare me for in entrepreneurship: 

First up, some of the hard skills that I needed to learn were... 

  • ​copywriting
  • sales calls
  • storytelling
  • sales page writing
  • social media marketing
  • networking
  • PR
  • Facebook ads

There were then two skills that are soft skills that I believe are MORE important than the more concrete skills I listed above. 

I'm not negating that those skills involved in sales and marketing aren't important, they sure are! However, there are two base skills that if you don't have, the hard skills of marketing and sales will only get you so far. 

In fact, I recognized these two skills as imperative to my success (and to your success), when I reflected on a particular moment in time back from 2014. It was when I was on a beautiful mountain top in Peru overlooking the majestic lost Ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu. 

I remember sitting to the far left of Machu Picchu in a quiet spot I had found tucked away from other tourists and I sat there with grateful tears in my eyes. 

I marvelled at how I had gotten there because this was no ordinary trip. 

You see, this trip was something I had dreamed of six years earlier. Six years prior to that moment I was sitting at my desk dreaming of my future and making my list. I wanted to be a digital nomad. To have a business that enabled me to live anywhere in the world, doing work that I loved. 

And there I was, in Peru, overlooking Machu Picchu, as a digital nomad. 

Dreams really do come true, I told myself. I know it because there I was, in the middle of mine. 

Jennifer Trask At Machu Picchu

I asked myself an important question that day. How did I get here? 

How did I make this a reality? 

Obviously, the hard skills I mentioned earlier were part of it, but if I was honest with myself they weren't the real reason. 

The real reason was because I developed these two skills:

1. Belief in myself

2. The ability to be myself

Many people may argue with the fact that these are not skills. 

But the truth is, they are because they can be developed. 

I believe everyone is born with them however over time as we grow and we want to be accepted and liked and appease others such as parents, family, friends, teachers, professors, employers, etc., we lose ourselves. 

We begin to make decisions that are better for others, not necessarily ourselves. 

And when we do that consistently enough we can easily lose belief in ourselves and find it hard to even know who we are anymore. 

But here's the thing, without enough belief in yourself, you won't make it through the difficult times in your business (because believe me, winter will come in your business). 

And without the ability to truly be yourself, you can't build a brand that is authentic and that will bring you the tribe and following necessary to have the impact you could have if you were to be truly YOU.

That's why I touted these as the two fundamental skills that got me to that day on the mountain in Machu Picchu. As well, these skills are still things that I work on everyday. Why? 

Because as you grow in your business things change and you still have challenges. Therefore you always need to be working on your belief in yourself and your courage to be who you are in the marketplace. 

Now, I'd love to hear from you, what skills have you found the most useful to building your business? Where did you learn them? Leave a comment and let us know. 


To believing in yourself,

Jennifer Trask - First



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Written by Jennifer Trask at 11:11

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