Play it safe. Focus on grades. Keep your head down. You’re there to get a job.
That’s probably the worst advice ever given to business majors. It is grounded in fear, a caution to focus on outcomes and act like everyone else. College isn’t about hiding out. And you never learn something new without shedding something old. That’s what the Class of 2020 believes. Their advice is based on embracing the possibilities and living a profound life.
Take risks. Make mistakes. Speak up. You’re there to find a path.
IT’S OK TO FAIL HERE
That starts with stepping out of the shadows – a suggestion made by Carolyn Kirshe. A Marketing, Operations & Information Management major at Georgetown University’s McDonough School, Kirsche is one of this year’s Best & Brightest Business Majors of the Class of 2020. Over her four years in business school, she founded a case competition team, ran a consulting firm, chaired a board, and served as treasurer of a club. These experiences weren’t as glorious as they sound. Admittedly, she suffered from self-doubt – especially when she’d fall short. Still, she persevered and absorbed lessons that have positioned her to hit the ground running as a strategy consultant.
Her advice to underclassmen considering a business major? Don’t shy away from leadership roles…even if you think you’re not ready.
“College is a safe place – as safe a place as any – to fail, particularly when it comes to extracurricular activities,” she writes. “Ten years from now, no one in the Marketing Association will remember the event I tried to plan that fell apart at the last minute. I, however, will remember the invaluable lessons I’ve learned about delegation, preparation, and working with others who differ from me. Though running a club is certainly not the same as running a company, getting the chance to lead two organizations in my time here has given me invaluable insight into my strengths and capabilities as a leader.”
BE OPEN AND GET INVOLVED
Of course, there are a limited number of leadership spots. That doesn’t mean students can’t benefit from getting involved in extracurricular activities. They don’t even need to be business-related, says Tulane University’s Olivia Johnson. Not only did she serve as president of the Freeman School student government, but also thankless stints on the Late Night Dining Committee and the Undergraduate Studies Committee. And she came away better for it, she adds.
“By actively pursuing extracurriculars in the same area as your major, you are able to “double-check” that you enjoy your major while developing skills and a network of like-minded people,” Johnson observes. “Extracurriculars that aren’t directly related to business allow you to find fascinating intersections between your field of study and any other interests you may have. This will widen the perspective you have on your field of study while also growing your knowledge base outside of business. In short, learn outside of the classroom and don’t restrict yourself to only learning one subject in depth.”
The same principle applies to coursework – particularly courses that demand heavy time and could potentially deflate a GPA. That’s what Katherine Ku faced at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Her advice: follow your passions and get out of your comfort zone in business school.
“Try taking classes or getting involved in activities that [you] may not necessarily think aligns perfectly with their interests. Given the opportunity, try to engage in different subjects, whether they are different aspects of business or something completely out of left field. Though I was originally just a business major, I also began studying anthropology, which has been invaluable to enriching my business education. It has not only made me more empathetic and open-minded but has also expanded my understanding of organizational behavior, which I studied for my management concentration. In short, business students should expose themselves to as many different people and opportunities to learn as possible!”
DO MORE THAN WHAT’S EXPECTED
By doing that, adds the University of Pittsburgh’s Sarah Braza, business students will make themselves better-rounded – and more attractive to employers in the process. “I would advise students to jump in right away: join business clubs to network, make study groups to maximize learning, talk to peers about their favorite classes, become active on campus, and get to know your professors and your advisor. My education is well-rounded because of what I learned through extracurricular involvement. I also believe in learning what you don’t want to do is just as important as learning what you want to do. Don’t close the door on opportunities too quickly, as you never know which will be the one which changes your mindset. Always push yourself.”
Don’t just push yourself, adds the University of Richmond’s Hanna Lankler. As the student body representative at Robins, she always strived to exceed expectations. Going above-and-beyond is how Lankler would encourage future business majors to channel their energies.
“It is how you will get the most out of your business education, how you will stand out in your internships, and how you will find the mentors that will be so invaluable to you,” she writes. “Regardless of the class, of the assignment, of your role, do more than you are asked. It will become a habit that will always serve you, and it will extend into other parts of your life. You may not ace every exam or nail every presentation, but putting in that extra effort will make you more intelligent, more adaptable, and more confident.”