There’s one beautiful thing you don’t hear about much nowadays – the self-made individual.

Just take a short trip back in time, just a few decades, and you’ll see an endless stream of success stories. And what makes them different from, say, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates? These people weren’t high-flying college graduates when they got into business; they started from nothing and made their mark through sheer gutsy determination.

Mark Zuckerberg caricature
photo credit: DonkeyHotey

Let’s take Alan Sugar as a prime example. In his rags-to-riches tale, he moved from 16-year-old school-leaver to business entrepreneur, and then to celebrity sensation with reality show The Apprentice. Over 40-odd years of toil, he’s established himself as nigh-on untouchable.

It’s not a situation many school-leavers find themselves in. But with the right application and spirit, you can become like those self-made people of the past. You just need the right business to succeed in.

Get a trade

In a recent report from a government think tank, it was found that the number of people gaining university places has outstripped the number of advanced jobs in the market.

It’s just one reason why getting a trade as an electrician, joiner, painter or countless others could give you a stable foothold in the job market – and let you work your way up the ladder. After a few years of training (including gas safe courses and health and safety legislation, to name just two), it’s not difficult to start your own business in the industry.

Provided you can build a consistent list of contacts and work, you could be striding to success in no time.

Game the net

Just a decade ago, simply creating a novel website seemed to be enough to gain you some level of notoriety. But never has a landscape changed so dramatically. Now a newly built website is like a clone in a clone factory – there’s so many of you that no one can pick out the difference.

To gain traction on the net and bring your business’s site to prominence, figure out basic search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques, know what content is right for your site and give customers the service they want to help boost your Google ranking.

In many ways, it’s no different to cornering the niche in any market. But with a million voices on a global platform, standing out takes true entrepreneurial spirit.

Make the most of a mentor

To know exactly how to make it to the top, ask someone who’s already made it. While Alex Sugar might not be available, there are plenty of success stories on social network LinkedIn to connect with and gain inspiration from.

A key part of becoming a success is understanding your failures and your successes. So ask around and avoid the pitfalls of others.