The Best Advice for Business Majors

Georgetown McDonough’s Jerome Smalls

5) Rage Against the Machine: “My advice would be simple. Don’t believe in the status quo. The typical notions of business as the world once knew them are shifting. You no longer need the backing of large scale institutions (both corporations and universities) to validate your credentials. With the current digital age, you have the capacity to create your own signal. Use a business degree to learn the technical and the logistics, but never feel the need to conform. In today’s age, the tradeoff between work and passion does not have to be your reality.”
Jerome Smalls, Georgetown University (McDonough)

“Don’t ever let your age, or any other factor, stop you from going after your goals. Many times in business situations, especially during internships, you may be the youngest person in the room. Don’t let that factor stop you from having a voice. I have discovered that company’s value the young, innovative, and fresh perspective college students are able to give on various problems in a business, so it will work to your advantage to contribute and request a seat at the table.”
Miranda T. Scott, Miami University of Ohio (Farmer)

6) Find Balance: “Four-and-a-half years ago, I was undecided between studying business or theoretical physics. I’ve used the following framework, which I still find extremely valuable for other major life decisions: try to find the combination between what you love, something you are great at, and something others value. The intersection of this Venn diagram is the sweet spot that will make you feel truly valued.

You can test for the first variable by reading books, watching documentaries, and talking to people. For the second one, take elective classes on subjects you think you might be good at and seek multiple professional opportunities while in college to validate your hypothesis. Finally, business majors, in general, are incredibly valued in the professional world, so this shouldn’t be a concern!
Lucas Bagno, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

7) Go After What You Want: “When I was a freshman at MSU, I found the quote “some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard for it” by Wayne Huizenga. This quote has truly motivated me throughout my undergraduate career to go after every opportunity and never be afraid of rejection. Only you can make your dreams come true, so why not start now?”
Hannah Ahluwalia, Michigan State University (Broad)

8) Be Yourself: “As cliché as it sounds, I would advise students to do what makes you feel excited when you get out of bed in the morning. Be open-minded, no matter what it is when choosing business classes, internships you want to pursue or even the final job offer you decide on. Don’t conform to the idea of pursuing a business-related field that’s known to be more lucrative. Instead, do what you are passionate about. Money isn’t everything, happiness and personal growth will be more fulfilling in the long run.
Dhanushka Kadawatharatchie, Cornell University (Dyson)

9) Don’t Go It Alone: “Each semester, new students join the Goizueta business school and I am given the opportunity to speak with them. One thing I always try to convey to them is that a well-functioning group can always create a product better than each individual. I advise all business students to develop technical skills but to also learn how to communicate and delegate work in a way that fosters a productive team environment. Being able to recognize the value of each additional individual and then understand how to best work as a unit are essential skills in the business world.”
Ashley Daniels, Emory University (Goizueta)

University of Michigan’s Chelsea Racelis

10) Network Relentlessly: “The advice I would give to a student looking to major in a business-related field is to network as much as possible. There are so many different roles in business and you owe it to yourself to figure out what role is the best one for you. A great way to do that is to grab coffee and talk to as many people as you can. It could be a professor, alum, or even an upperclassman. People love talking about themselves and sharing their experiences. Through networking, you not only get a feel for what it would be like to be in their role but you also just took a step in growing your connections. As someone once told me, “Your net worth is your network.” Therefore, you should never stop looking to expand your network. After all, you never know where your next job opportunity is going to come from.”
Jenna Florendo, Fordham University (Gabelli)

“I can’t emphasize this enough – talk to people who are doing things you think are cool, who have the career you want. Even (perhaps especially) if you’re not sure exactly what energizes you, just reach out. Send cold emails, set up phone calls, chat up speakers after events on campus; the worst thing that can happen is they say no. The best thing that can happen is you find your calling!”
Chelsea Racelis, University of Michigan (Ross)

11) Ask Yourself the Tough Questions: “Invest your time thoughtfully. Being surrounded by so many talented and hard-working business students can be overwhelming at times: someone is always applying for a program or scholarship, participating in a case competition, receiving an award, going through interviews for a “dream job,” pursuing yet another extracurricular, etc. It’s easy for students to start comparing themselves to others and worrying about path dependency (e.g., “if I don’t accomplish [ABC], I won’t be able to do [XYZ]”).

Each time I found myself at this point, I had to remember to take a deep breath and ask myself some hard questions: “Why do you want to do [ABC] in the first place? What do you hope to achieve by investing your time here?” Doing so helped me filter through the myriad of opportunities Kelley offers to find what was right for me. Not what was right for “the perfect business student’s resume,” but what was right for a student with my strengths, my weaknesses, and my interests. Becoming intentional with my time is one of the most responsible things I could have done as a business student. When I stopped saying yes to everything and paying too much attention to what my peers were doing, I found that I drew energy from my involvements and could speak passionately about each one. At the end of the day, that type of empowerment is what made my time as an undergraduate meaningful, not any one position or job.”
Simona Stancov, Indiana University (Kelley)

12) Plan Ahead: “One piece of advice that I would give to a student pursuing a business degree is not to wait until you take a class in a particular subject to declare a major. Due to the time restraint, many younger college students are very unsure about what they want to major in, which could result in picking something that’s not actually meant for you. If you want to find out what fits your skills best, do some research on your own. Do not wait until you have taken a class to make this decision. Figure out what each major entails, personality needed, etc…If you can get this out of the way earlier on, then you can spend more time preparing for said career path and be most successful down the line.”
Samuel Hirsch, Syracuse University (Whitman)

Boston College’s Julianna Marandola

13) Apply What You Learn Immediately: “Two things: (1) Find a mentor and get extremely good at picking their brain. (2) Put the things you learn to the test. If you love finance, start a portfolio and actively manage it. Learn from the flops when the repercussions aren’t too severe and try to recognize what goes right when you pick a winner.”
James Griffin, Texas Christian University (Neeley)

14) Say Yes: “While gaining technical skills is critically important, fostering genuine curiosity and enriching yourself intellectually will best prepare you for the rigor and dynamism of the business world. Say yes to every opportunity offered to you. You will always be the better for it.”
Julianna Marandola, Boston College (Carroll)

15) Just Do It: “Studying business is one of the most transformative experiences you will have. Business teaches you how to think critically, comprehend complexity, and act responsibly.  You learn markets, you learn strategy, and you learn how to be a business leader. After four years, you look back and are left with a sense of awe in all that you accomplished.”
Anders Larsen, University of Wisconsin

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