A business major, you say?
Congratulations! Welcome to the club.
You can think of us as the big tent. There’s a place for everyone. You’ve got your jocks, honors students, misfits, and revelers. There are pragmatists and dreamers, bluebloods and immigrants, techies and troubleshooters. Heck, it’s hard to slap just one label on us these days. (Just don’t come to class in pinstripes and power heels. Save that for the ’80s bash — that’s all we ask.)
What’s the best thing about being a business major? You’re never alone! There are more of us than anyone else on campus. Better yet, you come away with a skill set that you can use anywhere. You learn how to run numbers and crunch data. You’re trained to weigh strengths, weaknesses, alternatives, and tradeoffs. Your ability to effectively communicate — listening, connecting, bargaining, and persuading — gives you a leg up on your peers. Let’s face it: There’s no bigger rush than when you control the clicker during a PowerPoint. Seriously, it’s intoxicating!
Of course, a business major is only as valuable as you make it. That’s why the Best & Brightest business majors from the Class of 2017 have volunteered some advice for you. Take it or leave it, that’s your call. If you’re serious about squeezing the most out of the next few years, it pays to take the same steps as some of the most accomplished graduates in the land.
EMBRACE RISK AND BE DIFFERENT
Where do you start? For the graduating class, it begins with embracing risk. For Babson College’s Josuel Plasencia, that meant following his passions, which led him to launch his own company. Cornell University’s Kenneth Sang encourages you to join student organizations and diversify your interests. Echoing her classmate’s sentiments, Nabiha Keshwani urges you to take classes that don’t necessarily align with your current interests. “Have the courage to stray away from your path — you might surprise yourself,” she suggests.
Courage, yes … but the Class of 2017 also stresses open-mindedness in stretching boundaries. For Northeastern University’s Jeremy Goldstein, a Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar, differing internships and co-ops are a means to discover what you’re truly good at doing. Indiana University’s Alejandro Mestre regards one’s business school years as the time to experiment and learn from mistakes. Casting a wide net comes with one other benefit, adds Michigan State’s Kari Jurewicz: “You never know who you will meet along the way.”
It doesn’t stop with exploring something different or being open-minded. The Best & Brightest also preach being different. There’s a reason for that, says Boston University’s Ellie Landsman, a field hockey star who dreams of working in social impact. “In business school, students have a tendency to follow a cookie-cutter path in order to land the perfect job,” she observes. “In my experience, the most successful individuals I have met followed their passions and were not afraid to stray away from the crowd.”
Being different also brings a rare sense of purpose and peace of mind, adds the University of Illinois’ Ron Lewis. “Never believe that someone else’s path within business will make you successful,” he cautions. “Wherever you go, and whatever major you choose, there is beauty in finding out what you love to do and what you’re passionate about. Take the time to ask yourself why. Why this major? What impact do I want to make? What do I want my legacy to be? If those answers relate to business, then you’re in the right place.”
A LONG LIST OF ‘DON’Ts’ — AND ONE IMPORTANT ‘DO’
When it comes to majoring in business, the Best & Brightest” came up with a series of “Don’ts” for you to follow. The top one involved dwelling on pay and placement over purpose. “Focus on who you want to be at your peak potential,” suggests Brigham Young University’s Nick Kerr. “Then choose a major, extracurricular activities, and internships that will help you get there.”
Another big don’t, according to the University of Florida’s Jade Mulvaney, is assuming your major is your destiny. Instead, look at it as simply a starting point. “Being a finance major does not mean that investment banking is your only option, or that being an accounting major means you must pursue a career as a CPA,” Mulvaney says. “Explore, learn, keep an open mind, and pursue your passion.” That can mean integrating your formal business training with your interests outside school, adds the University of Minnesota’s Raffy Maristela. “Business is one of the most versatile and widely applicable undergrad degrees and gives a unique and accessible opportunity to combine your interests with a future job. Whether it’s music, the outdoors, or television and films, staying true to your passions will help keep you sane in your undergrad and maybe even help you find a practical job in an industry of your dreams.”
Perhaps the biggest don’t, though, is assuming business is a cakewalk compared to a STEM major. That could be a fatal mistake, shares Penn State’s Cameron Stevens, who says areas like finance and supply chain are just as technically demanding as physics and engineering. “The cutting edge of research in many of these topics relies heavily upon advanced mathematics, statistics, and programming ability,” he says.