Innovation doesn’t happen by accident. It is sparked by convergences: greater capabilities and accessibility coming together to unleash an entirely new category. The best example is Netflix. It started out mailing movies before moving to online streaming courtesy of growing digital capacities. After upending traditional retailers like Blockbuster, Netflix began competing with chain theaters, studios, and even cable outlets by producing its own content. That’s innovation: fulfilling old needs using new means, be it delivery, pricing, or customization.
How do the best ideas – think combing cameras and phones – start? Many times, innovation is rooted in different disciplines coming together. Forget happy accidents or divine intervention. Most often, innovation is the product of intensive research followed by trial-and-error – a relentless optimism, an openness to possibilities, a tolerance for risk, and the determination to see an idea through. In many ways, the recipe for innovation mirrors the most important qualities in successful students: imagination, resourcefulness, versatility, and grit.
EMBRACE THE UNFAMILIAR
Nethra Jayaprakash personifies this spirit. A ’23 graduate of Rutgers University, Jayaprakash is an honors student, mentor, and ambassador who’ll be joining UBS Investment Bank this summer. When she started college four years ago, she wasn’t aware that a banking analyst career even existed. Instead, she was exposed to it by taking a leap of faith and joining a friend’s case competition team. The experience taught her a lesson that she would pass on to all future business students: Say ‘Yes’ to everything.
“Being open to exploring various career paths and trying new things has allowed me to assist in writing a book, start learning a new language, and find my career completely by accident, Jayaprakash writes. “No one can tell the future, but being open to trying new things can give you the self-insight to make the choices that will make you the happiest and most successful.”
What are some other nuggets to help students make the most of their time in business school? When surveying the 100 Best & Brightest Business Majors of 2023, P&Q asked respondents to share the advice they would give to business students following in their footsteps. From new technologies to imposter syndrome, here is the advice doled out by the Class of 2023.
1) You’re Just as Good: “As a first-generation student, I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, and I often dealt with imposter syndrome. One thing I would do differently in business school is go back and tell myself that I belong here. I would have had so much more confidence in myself earlier on, but nevertheless, I am grateful for the experiences I have had that have made me the woman I am today.”
Alexia Esquivel, University of Arizona (Eller)
2) Take Advantage of Every Resource at Your Disposal: “As a first-generation student, I had a very limited idea of what exactly “business” was going into college. Every class I took during my freshman year felt like I was trying to master completely unfamiliar concepts. I didn’t even understand what consultants and bankers did. However, I took advantage of office hours to make connections with my professors and catch up on material I didn’t understand. I took advantage of events held by Questrom’s career center to learn more about different career paths and meet professionals. Majoring in business requires a willingness to put yourself out there and make good use of all your time.”
Archi Das, Boston University (Questrom)
3) Ask For Help (Earlier): “My Cox professors have been invaluable not just in my own personal and career development, but in helping me with my own ventures. Closed mouths don’t get fed, and I wish I would have realized earlier in my Cox career that people want to help you and will if you just ask them with passion and respect.”
Raleigh Dewan, Southern Methodist University (Cox)
4) Expand Your Network: “Building and leveraging my network has been a major contributor to my academic and professional success; it has provided guidance on the direction in which I want to take my career. Conducting informational interviews with professionals in fields of interest is a powerful way to gain insight into industries and opportunities that are often not highlighted in classes. Further, stepping out of your comfort zone to reach out to professionals is a great way to develop your interpersonal skills while demonstrating your curiosity and ambition.”
Ben Boxell, University of Denver (Daniels)
5) Don’t Narrow Yourself to One Career Path: “In business, there is so much opportunity to fulfill your dreams and passions. However, these dreams can often be suffocated by more profitable fields, bigger names, or having to live up to what others expect of you. Do what makes you happy, what fulfills your craving for life, and see that take you to new heights.”
Ava Rosen, Elon University (Love)
6) Find Your Passions and Follow Them: “It’s easy to get lost in the formalities and hustle of business, and many students feel a pressure to get a big corporate internship as soon as possible. That’s not everyone’s path; know what you value. While I felt more than capable to get one of these flashy internships, I found my place at the Wisconsin Union (our student union on campus) working in marketing, loved it, and have been working there for the last 2.5 years. Find something that challenges you, but above all else, make sure it’s fulfilling.”
Emily Siderits, University of Wisconsin
7) Study Outside the Business School: “I would recommend taking classes that sound interesting, even outside of their primary major. I have found that business can be interdisciplinary, as many subjects seem to fit together. Throughout my college career, I have studied in both the business and engineering schools, which allowed me to combine multiple interests and learn about product management as a career path. I would tell students that they should explore different classes to learn how disciplines can be combined to fit their unique interests.”
Katie Legan, Washington University (Olin)
8) Stay Open-Minded: “Spend as much time as you need exploring all the majors and opportunities offered in business. Be patient with this process. Often you will figure out what you don’t like before you find your passion, which is completely okay! Exploration gives you the opportunity to understand how all the business functions work together to make up a business and the economy. Attend business camps, participate in case competitions, and talk to professionals in the business field early as you can. It will only aid you when you get to college.”
Shanise Buford, Purdue University (Daniels)
9) Stay Current on Technology: “New technology is a tool to help improve the efficiency of work, not automate all parts of the business. Learning about new technologies and how to use them goes a long way for future-proofing a career.”
Eli Coltin, Purdue University (Daniels)
10) Develop a Well-Rounded Skill Set: “While the world waves its hand and yells for specialists, it whispers for generalists. While you need to develop skills and expertise in your area of passion, I firmly believe that it requires a holistic understanding to not just do good but do well in business. A comprehensive understanding comes through exploring different industries, a multitude of mental models, and a variety of areas from finance and marketing to management and accounting. You do not need to be an expert in each, but if you can understand and leverage the fundamentals from each you will be able to approach any problem in business with a developed tool belt and a “full pantry” of experiences to draw upon. The modern world (and especially business) advances so fast that I would implore you not to focus on some specific answer that will be defunct in a few years but rather on your specific questions—what kinds of problems do you want to solve, what kinds of people do you want to work in the trenches with, where do you want to make your impact, what types of work ignite you? Focus on living out your questions
Raleigh Dewan, Southern Methodist University (Cox)
DON’T MISS: 100 Best & Brightest Business Majors of 2023
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.