Networking, resume and interview advice for landing a career in business Expert Contributor
A business degree has the potential to open career opportunities in the business world, providing students with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed. Aside from the knowledge and experience they gain by undertaking a business degree, graduates of these programs are also recognized for entering a varied job market and earning favorable potential salaries. To land their first job, however, students must know how to leverage their knowledge and experience. The following guide highlights possible career paths while also providing resources to help students learn what it takes to nail an interview and graduate with a job offer.
Five Steps to Graduate with a Job Offer
Although the responsibilities of senior year seem overwhelming at times, it’s important for students to remember why they are in school in the first place: to gain an education and be competitive in the job market. Students looking to graduate with a job offer in hand must dedicate themselves to the search and make sure they are competitive to prospective employers.
Get the grades
According to Lawrese Brown of Brown Education and Consulting, grades are a crucial metric in industries like accounting, technology, and finance. “These domains are highly competitive, and your GPA is one of the principal indicators of your competence,” she writes. Because grades reflect a student’s ability to set goals and achieve them, they are one of the most influential factors that potential employers will analyze. While all grades are important, this rule is especially true for core classes related to a student’s major.
Gain experience through internships
A survey by The Chronical of Higher Education found that internships topped the list of important attributes hiring managers consider when evaluating graduates. Not only does internship experience signal to employers that students already have some understanding of how the business world works, it also allows them to take classroom learning and apply it to real-world situations. Students accepted to well-regarded internships stand out from the crowd, and hiring managers respect students who went through a rigorous process to have that opportunity.
Build professional and academic relationships
The importance of mentoring relations cannot be emphasized enough, especially for current students and recent graduates. Academic mentors help students gain a deeper understanding of subject matter and recognize potential in a student that they may not see in themselves. Professional mentors provide students with opportunities to build real-world skills and network with other professionals already in the field. Students should build relationships with their professors as soon as they set foot on campus rather than waiting for a crisis. Professional mentors can be found through campus speakers, internship sites, or volunteer roles.
Research potential career paths
Even within specific industries, potential career paths are ever-expanding. Students need to begin focusing on options and assessing them against their needs and wants for a career early on. MyPlan offers a variety of assessments to help students and recent graduates better understand their skills and interests before making suggestions on possible career fits. Once a student has identified a few, it’s just as important to research any potential organizations before agreeing to an interview or accepting a position. Making sure a company is aligned to personal and professional needs is critical for job satisfaction.
Manage social media profiles
Although many warnings exist about the need for job seekers to clean up their social media profiles, these platforms can also be highly useful when trying to graduate with an offer. Used properly, profiles help display the personal brand of a potential employee and demonstrate digital literacy. Platforms such as LinkedIn are helpful for connecting to individuals within a company, thereby creating a personalized introduction. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are also useful, as they help hiring managers get a better sense of who a student is and the unique qualities they contribute.
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Career Paths in Business
Business degrees are perennial favorites amongst students, with bachelor’s degrees in business comprising more than 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees conferred. Master’s level business programs make up an additional 25 percent of all postgraduate studies. These majors are continually in the top choices for students, and for good reason. Graduates of business programs are competitive for careers in a wide range of industries and sectors. Some of the most popular areas of work include finance, management, human resources, accounting, and marketing, but there are countless roles available to suit individual interests and skills.
Accountants and Auditors
Individuals who enjoy working with numbers are frequently drawn to these roles, which focus on financial recording and management. Whether preparing taxes for individuals or auditing existing information for a government agency, options for accountants and auditors are extensive. Professionals who work in-house for an organization are often tasked with creating financial projections, finding ways to reduce operating costs, or suggesting methods for improving profit margins.
- Median Salary (2015): $65,940
- Job Growth (2014-24): 11 percent
Advertising and Promotions Managers
These professionals are on the frontlines of creating engaging and thoughtful campaigns – be they online, in print, or via social media channels – to drive sales and bring in more customers. This career is well-suited to individuals who enjoy diverse workdays and operating alongside people from many different departments to ensure all advertisements and promotional plans are aligned to the company’s stated mission.
- Median Salary (2015): $95,890
- Job Growth (2014-24): 5 percent
Whether working with a nonprofit, government entity, corporation, or individual, budget analysts help clients be better stewards of their finances. This may include monitoring spending, creating budgets, analyzing cash flow, or providing research on potential large investments. They are also well-versed in financial projections and may work with organizations to estimate the amount of funding needed for future endeavors. Because any operation needs a budget to function properly, these professionals have countless options in terms of their workplace environment.
- Median Salary (2015): $71,220
- Job Growth (2014-24): 3 percent
Almost every company needs a CEO, and options for individuals seeking this title are truly endless. Whether working in a small local business or a multinational corporation, CEOs are tasked with making big – and sometimes tough – decisions to move companies forward. They are responsible for the overall health of the company and use a team of qualified professionals to help them oversee various functions of the organization. They often answer to a board of trustees tasked with ensuring the top employee is running the organization responsibly.
- Median Salary (2015): $102,750
- Job Growth (2014-24): 6 percent
Financial Analysts and Advisors
Helping others make educated decisions on how to invest their money is one of the main functions of a financial advisor, and it comes with great responsibility. These professionals must have an expansive and current knowledge of the stock market, different types of bonds available, and the overall health of the investment world. Whether reading The Economist or reviewing information on Wall Street, the best financial analysts can assess finances and provide individualized guidance for clients with many different goals.
- Median Salary (2015): $78,620
- Job Growth (2014-24): 12 percent
General and Operations Managers
Working in both private and public sectors, general and operations managers are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating the operations of organizations they oversee. The role typically involves working with many different departments to ensure daily operations flow smoothly, materials and human resources are being maximized, and purchasing decisions are aligned to the overall mission of the company. These professionals may also be in charge of overseeing any outside contracts for services related to company operations.
- Median Salary (2015): $117,200
- Job Growth (2014-24): 12 percent
Also referred to as management consultants, individuals in this position work with organizations to help improve efficiency and increase profits. They are tasked with analyzing year-to-year spending and making suggestions on cost reductions. An excellent role for individuals who enjoy working with many different types of people, management analysts must often work across departments to ensure overarching managerial goals are understood and followed. They may work in-house or consult with numerous corporations, allowing flexible schedules suited to numerous working styles.
- Median Salary (2015): $80,880
- Job Growth (2014-24): 14 percent
Marketing and sales are complimentary business functions, and managers often oversee both departments to ensure any marketing or promotional activities are translated into increased sales. Marketing and sales associates are frequently under their direct supervision, but the majority of their responsibilities revolve around high-level concepts and keeping an eye toward future trends. They typically report to marketing and sale directors or sometimes to a senior leadership team if the company is small.
- Median Salary (2015): $128,750
- Job Growth (2014-24): 9 percent
Operations Research Analysts
Possessing a solid understanding of analytics and mathematical methods, operations research analysts are trained to identify and solve issues in many different types of organizations. Much of their work is focused on reviewing and analyzing company data in order to create cohesive findings that can be presented back to the organization. A strong understanding of statistics and predictive modeling is required, along with an unquenchable desire to solve problems.
- Median Salary (2015): $76,660
- Job Growth (2014-24): 30 percent
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
In order to successfully raise funds, an organization or individual must have a positive public image. Professionals in these roles oversee the lifespan of the fundraising process by working to enhance persona and create campaigns aligned to their mission. Day-to-day activities include creating press releases and media kits, communicating with news outlets, developing promotional materials, and devising fundraising plans.
- Median Salary (2015): $101,510
- Job Growth (2014-24): 7 percent
Tasked with overseeing purchasing decisions for organizations, purchasing managers maintain relationships with vendors, plan for future purchases, negotiate costs, and direct purchasing for departments within their organization. Purchasing managers often have other employees reporting to them, including buyers or purchasing agents. With options ranging from pharmacology labs to fashion houses, this dynamic career is suited to professionals with many different interests.
- Median Salary (2015): $ 106,090
- Job Growth (2014-24): 1 percent
Tax Examiners, Collectors and Preparers, and Revenue Agents
Although their work is sometimes parallel to the job descriptions of auditors, these professionals work directly with local, state, and federal governments to ensure individuals and organizations are paying their taxes properly. Some of their tasks include overseeing audits, examining past tax returns, finding lost tax money, and collecting tax payments on outstanding returns. They may work directly for a government entity or be hired as an independent consultant.
- Median Salary (2015): $51,120
- Job Growth (2014-24): -6 percent
Training and Development Managers/Specialists
Training and development managers are responsible for ensuring every employer in a company is up-to-date in knowledge related to their job title and that they have opportunities for continuing education courses. They may research training opportunities, conduct in-house training, or bring in individuals specialized in a particular skillset to provide training. These managers may also create educational materials and oversee the training budget.
- Median Salary (2015): $101,930
- Job Growth (2014-24): 7 percent
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015)
Tips for Finding the Right Company
After discovering a career path suited to individual needs and desires, the next task a student must undertake is finding the right sector. While there will be advocates and critics of each, the most important thing a student can do is take time to assess the organizational structure against their personal and professional goals. Common sectors are reviewed below.
In a LinkedIn blog post, author and businessman Lou Adler highlighted the benefits of starting out at a large company. Reasons include being able to build an influential network, having access to better resources and opportunities, and gaining more high-profile experience early on. Large organizations often allow new graduates to rotate through a series of departments and positions to help find a role suited to their strengths and goals, a feature that would be difficult to replicate at a small firm. Employees can always move to a small business if they find it suits them better, but it’s much harder to move to a large company with only small business experience.
While there are pros and cons to working at a start-up, the excitement and freewheeling nature of a new business is often appealing to graduates as it allows them to take on extra responsibility. Though individuals in this type of company often struggle to find work-life balance, they gain experience at a level and pace that isn’t accessible in a larger, more structured environment. Start-up employees frequently have the ear of top-level executives, allowing them to provide input on the direction of the company and ultimately have an excellent reference when they decide to move to their next job.
In a report by the Office of Personnel Management, the agency estimated that more than half-a-million federal employees – or 33 percent of the full-time permanent workforce – would leave jobs in the government by 2015, due to either retiring or moving to other roles. With so many jobs becoming available, it’s never been easier to find a business-oriented role in this sector. The government – be it federal, state, or local – has been recognized for providing excellent benefits packages and competitive salaries while also offering the chance to work anywhere in the country – or possibly the world.
Rasmussen College’s School of Business champions the nonprofit sector to upcoming graduates, highlighting the unique benefits provided within this field. Individuals working at a nonprofit enjoy the satisfaction that comes from contributing to a greater good and fulfilling the mission of their organization. Be it alleviating hunger, caring for domestic violence victims, or providing sanctuary for animals, business graduates play vital roles in helping nonprofits provide even more help or services to their clients. Much like start-ups, nonprofits also often allow for employees to take on more responsibility.
Defined by the Small Business Association as having fewer than 500 employees, these organizations account for more than 50 percent of the American workforce. They’re also responsible for more than 65 percent of new jobs added to the economy since 1995. Small businesses can be found in every sector, providing business students with innumerable fields to enter. While a bit more stable than a start-up venture, small businesses are typically less bureaucratic that corporate settings.
Getting Your Foot in the Door: Resume Checklist
- Contact Information. It should go without saying, but having incorrect contact details on a resume is a guaranteed way to never be contacted about a job – even if the candidate was otherwise impressive.
- Education. Hiring managers often fact check resumes of recent graduates, so students should avoid any attempts to make their academic career seem better than it was. Students should ensure that their GPA and information about their major is accurate.
- References. Before listing anyone as a reference, students need to call or email them first and ask if they have permission to do so. If a company calls asking for information about a prospective hire and the reference isn’t aware they have been listed, it could make for an awkward situation.
- Tailoring. Students applying for multiple jobs should tailor their resume to individual companies. If applying for a marketing job, for instance, they should ensure all marketing experiences are listed first under previous job descriptions.
- Formatting. Keeping in mind the one-page rule, it can be tempting to use a small font to fit as much information on the page as possible. Resist the urge. Hiring managers will quickly lose interest in a poorly formatted resume.
- Typos. Typographical errors are unfortunately all too common on resumes, yet they remain one of the strongest and most immediate signals that candidates haven’t put in the time or effort needed. Think about what goes through the mind of a hiring manager who reads that a candidate has great attention to detail yet can’t turn in a single page that is free from typos. Aside from reading it themselves, students should also ask a trusted friend, family member, or mentor to review it before submission.
Landing the Job: Advice for Nailing the Interview
Despite impressive grades, internship experience, and praise from academic and professional mentors, business school students must still go out and impress prospective employers to land their first professional job. In 2013, the average number of individuals applying for any given job totaled 118. Competition for jobs is fierce, and only those who stand out will make it through to the interview round. 1 Research.
Taking even one or two hours to research prospective employers is a crucial component of success as it shows an interest in the work a new hire would be doing. Interviewees can build on this step by crafting a few thoughtful questions tailored to the company whose answers can’t be found on the website.2 Plan for the interview questions.
While interviewers like to throw in a few questions candidates aren’t expecting, interviewees should prepare answers to the most common interview questions to help ease their anxieties and show the interviewer that they are confident communicators. This step goes a long way in creating a positive first-impression. 3 Keep the conversation relevant.
While interviewees may have an interesting personal history or anecdote, remember to only share experiences or stories that are relevant to the interview at hand. Listen closely to what the interviewer is asking and read their body language. If their eyes start to wander, they probably aren’t interested and conversation should be redirected.4 Dress appropriately.
Start-ups and nonprofits tend to embrace more casual dress, but corporate and government settings typically require business attire. Prospective employees need to research the company culture and arrive in an outfit that matches the expected dress code.
Q & A with an Entrepreneur/CEO
How has having a business degree helped you succeed?
The four years of dedication in order to earn a degree with the word “Finance” written so profoundly on it began my path to become an entrepreneur. Course after course, specified in various areas of finance (as well as general business electives in management, marketing, and accounting) has provided the ability to understand the processes of business from an academic perspective. This knowledge is extremely essential as this is the foundation for practical, hands on work. Learning the jargon affiliated with each of these courses provides that ability to “play ball” with others in the industry, allowing further credibility from those who surround the entrepreneur. Utilizing my finance degree in combination with the various business courses that I have taken opened up unimaginable doors to allow the company to begin and grow.
In your current role, what about it do you like best and how does your knowledge of the business world tie into that?
Problem solving. Every moment of every day, I carry a small leather journal around with me and write down anything that is difficult, stressful or annoying. Physically writing these problems down allows the ability to reflect on them subconsciously, ultimately leading to solutions. Companies are created in order to solve a problem, and that is exactly what I enjoy doing: solving problems. My knowledge of the business world helps with understanding these problems from different perspectives, whether it be finance to marketing.
Aside from classroom learning, what other opportunities did you take advantage of to enhance your learning?
Outside of academia, I developed my network of professionals and built relationships with individuals who are much smarter than I am. Meeting with numerous individuals on a weekly basis has developed communication skills and provided the opportunity to enhance my knowledge in all aspects of business.
What advice do you have for students considering the path of business school?
The lessons learned from business school are essential to creating and establishing a start-up or company; but just as valuable are the relationships developed with individuals who can serve as advisors and mentors, helping bring your dream to a reality. My advice would be to develop relationships with every single person possible because each provides their own skillset and expertise that could be beneficial for both parties.
Business Career Resources