In business, you never want to be called a ‘Yes Man.’ That’s the person who lacks the courage to disagree – or the conviction to propose an alternative. Loyalists and lackeys, ‘Yes Men’ do what they’re told, rarely stopping to ask why.
Many times, saying ‘Yes’ means taking being accountable and making sacrifices. ‘Yes’ pushes you into the spotlight and places you at risk. And that’s exactly the advice given by 2021 graduates. To get the most out of college, they urge future students to become ‘Yes Men’ and ‘Yes Women.’ By that, they’re not urging them to become flatterers and followers. Instead, they encouraging them to embrace what is new, different, and uncomfortable.
“TRY ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING”
“The opportunities are quite literally endless,” explains the University of Pittsburgh’s Katie Gerber, who’ll be joining Deloitte in August while pursuing a graduate degree. “Say “yes” to those that you would never see yourself saying “yes” to. Try anything and everything because no matter what, you will come out better prepared for the next opportunity.”
Gerber practiced what she preached. As an Accounting and Business Information Systems major, she founded the university’s chapter of Smart Woman Securities. The organization, she says, helps undergraduate women learn about investing and finance in a supportive community away from a male-dominated marketplace. Maddie Krueger, a Finance grad from Miami University’s Farmer School, offers up her own experience as a testament to saying “Yes” to opportunities you encounter.
“For example, I joined the Business Student Advisory Council my freshman year when I knew so little about it,” Krueger writes. “I jumped right in and did not know the impact this organization would have on me. From there, every opportunity that was presented to me I made an effort to take full advantage of it. I have had lunch with CEOs. I have met Sanjay Gupta from CNN. I have built relationships with our deans. I even took a selfie with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, all because I decided to make the most out of the short time I had in Farmer. I would tell future students to just say yes.”
PICK THE RIGHT PEOPLE
That doesn’t mean students should just jump into opportunities without first weighing their merits. That’s the advice from Elon University’s Alexandra Pirsos, who’ll be pursuing a Master’s in Analytics this fall. “A mentor of mine used to remind me that you are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with (choose wisely). I think this is very true in the business world as well. Make sure that you choose team members, join organizations, and select internships based on the people who are going to give you the greatest opportunities for growth.”
How do you know which opportunities are best? That comes with experience, adds Mary Laci Motley, a University of North Carolina graduate, who built an award-winning startup as a student. “You never know what you truly want to do until you know what you DON’T want to do. If you have the opportunity to explore a subject that might be of interest, don’t hesitate! Personally, business was a subject I knew little about. Reach out to professionals and professors in the field and listen to their journeys to see if your interests align.”
Each year, P&Q honors 100 graduates among the Best & Brightest Business Majors. As part of the nomination, these students answer the following question: What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Here is the 10 best pieces of advice from the Class of 2022.
1) Gain Hands-On Experience Early: “If you want to land your dream job after graduation, you have to work up to it. Start obtaining experience early by volunteering at a start-up, interning at a friend’s company, or working wherever you can gain valuable experience. This will open the door to many opportunities in the future.”
Ashtynne Wade, Brigham Young University (Marriott)
2) Don’t Set Hard Plans: “I would urge them not to follow other people’s timelines. In business school, some people will come in with their lives planned out by the year, and others will figure out their desired career paths quickly. Don’t measure yourself against the progress of other people. I figured out I wanted to go into marketing after sophomore year and decided what I wanted to do as a job just before senior year – about three years later than some of my friends. People change drastically during college, so why must you have your career figured out on day one? Follow things that interest you until you find your way; it’s a viable option. In fact, that’s the only thing that worked for me.”
Bethany Antuna, University of Illinois (Gies)
3) Get Comfortable With Networking: “As an introvert and first-gen student, that was super hard for me to grasp how to talk to professionals in the beginning (and still is difficult), but networking is such a powerful tool. If utilized properly, this will open up so many doors of opportunities to you. A bonus would be to have someone who is only a few years senior of you to mentor and guide you through the process. My greatest assets were upperclassmen who were willing to spend the time to share their experiences with me, both the good and bad. Lastly, always remember to pay it forward!”
Jenny Lin, Lehigh University
“Make meaningful connections through networking. Networking is an integral part of your success as a businessperson. It is always harder to get where you want to go if you keep to yourself, so get out there and get in front of other people. If you challenge yourself to do just that, a conversation you have or relationship you create may help get your foot in a door you never knew existed. In my opinion, networking has a bigger impact than education, personal branding and anything else you can do to better your professional career. Networking is not just a shortcut to success, but also the first step in building strong relationships that could last a lifetime.”
Noah Henry Skrok, Michigan State (Broad)