The Biggest Lessons You Learn in Business School

Lehigh University’s Brianna Riggs


At the same time, Lehigh University’s Brianna Riggs takes the long-term view to success-and-failure. “Success doesn’t come overnight. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that business is easy and has quick rewards. But a business is like a living, breathing organism and takes time to grow and mature. You have to be in it for the long run.”

To do that, says Kaelyn DiGiamarino, students must understand their value and mission. These instill something even more powerful than resilience: self-confidence. “At a conference I attended last fall, one of the speakers said, “If you are in the room, you belong in the room” recalls the College of New Jersey grad. “As a woman in business, the quote really resonated with me. It serves as a reminder to be confident in how far you have come and how far you will go. It’s a reminder to speak up, and it taught me how to trust in my own voice and my own value.”

It isn’t enough to carry confidence, adds SMU’s Silvia Cristina Rivera. In business, you must project it as well. “A big lesson I learned was the importance of learning how to “sell yourself” and communicate to others the unique value you have to offer.  There is no shame in knowing how to play to your strengths while also working to sharpen your skills in the areas where you feel weakest, and it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments.”


Sometimes, that means making a presentation – or storytelling. There, in the words of University of Michigan’s Sabiyah Turner, the secret is keeping it “short, sweet, and straight to the point.” At the University of North Carolina, Chris Johnson experienced the power of storytelling first-hand when he watched a presentation by Brad White, President of BrightHouse Consulting.

“I remember Brad talking about how you need to have recommendations grounded in data and analysis, but the emotional pull can be the difference between whether they are implemented or not. As Brad said, “You want the audience pounding on the desk at the end saying, ‘Yes! This is what we need!’”

Someday, students will need someone pounding on the desk for them too. That’s called a network – the people in their lives who’ll open doors and advocate for them when the time comes.  According to Sam Benger, a two-time academic football All-American at Carnegie Mellon, networking requires business students to adopt a major change in mentality.

“A big part of the transition process as you become an upperclassman involves networking. It can feel awkward and unnatural at first, but that first cold call can eventually turn into a meaningful mentorship and even an internship or job opportunity. From my experience, alumni are always eager to engage with undergraduates.”


A wide-and-deep network, however, probably isn’t enough, says Elon University’s Matthew Jegier. His advice? Become a lifelong learner. For him, this stems from how business is constantly evolving in profound and unexpected ways.

Southern Methodist University’s David Shirzad

“In just my first three years in college, Elon added many new majors and minors,” he points out. “This is because the world is changing. Five years ago, people were not talking about blockchain, artificial intelligence, or robotics. Today, these are all buzzwords being thrown around the business world. This goes to show that the world of business is changing, and if you don’t change with it, it will leave you behind.”

Lifelong learning involves more than just staying current, adds SMU’s David Shirzad. “Those who are excited to learn are those who will succeed. The most successful businesses I have learned about are all run by people with a passion for gaining knowledge.”


Aside from continuing to learn, the Best & Brightest also urge future business students to take risks, to stretch themselves and experiment. That’s Gyda Sumati’s philosophy. “There is no growth in comfort,” writes the Babson College grad. “We should all be registering for classes that target our weaknesses, taking a chance on an entrepreneurial venture, or going for that job or internship that is outside of our scope of expertise.”

That said, getting uncomfortable also makes great practice for when they someday assume a leadership role. “There are times in business (and life) where you simply won’t have certain pieces of information to reach a conclusion,” adds the University of Florida’s Chrisford Bélizaire. “One must learn to be comfortable making those judgment calls, despite how uncomfortable they may feel.”

While business students are challenging themselves, they are also walking a fine line to be successful. Namely they must incorporate the traits of the leaders they admire most…all while remaining true to who they truly are.

“You can still maintain individualism while learning from successful leaders,” writes Katherine Uhl, a marketing major from Santa Clara University. “It’s crucial to be authentic and self-aware in order to be a great leader! Initially I always thought you had to emulate established business leaders in order to enjoy your own professional success in business, but ultimately learned that while many leaders share inspiring qualities and attributes. True leaders emerge from authentic, self-aware individuals.”


Ultimately, the Class of 2018 absorbed the biggest lesson of all. Business isn’t just about making the most of their talents. Instead, business is impact, a means to serve and better the lives for others at a grand scale. It is a way to provide value – and not just “what” products or services you offer.

For Wake Forest’s Katie Dickens, people “are the center” of business. That means the hard skills pale in comparison to “the soft skills of interacting, influencing, and building relationships with people.” It is a mentality that will serve the Best & Brightest well in any field.

“No matter what line of business I am in, I will need to understand different perspectives and share my own ideas in a succinct and clear manner,” writes Richmond University’s Haley Preschutti. “Therefore, having both the ability to listen and the courage to sit at the table and speak up are crucially important.”

Building relationships is one thing, adds the Washington University’s Sara Miller. However, the Mount Sinai Hospital analyst believes respecting those relationships – and learning from them – is what really separates business leaders.

I learned the importance of respecting each person with whom you are working,” she says. “Whether it is a peer, client, advisor, or professor, that person has the potential to teach you something important or introduce you to an opportunity that may have never otherwise been available.”


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