CHOOSING A CAREER / NOV. 26, 2014
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How to Develop a Career in Business Administration

With jobs in business administration available in nearly every industry, there’s no one prescribed path to success. 

While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration or even a Master’s in Business Administration is certainly one way to qualify, it’s not the only route you have open to you.

Company executives want leaders who have strong communication and critical thinking skills -- something you can obtain with nearly any liberal arts degree. Majoring in something other than business also gives you in-depth knowledge about the industry the business deals in. Majoring in journalism, for example, will give you knowledge of the newspaper, periodical and publishing fields, which can lend itself well to a job in those industries.

If you decide to pursue a degree in something other than business though, you should still take at least a few classes in accounting, marketing or business, or even minor in business to give you some practical skills.

Also take some other steps: 

Seek out internships 

Even before you leave school, pursue internships in industries you’re interested in. If you aim to work as a telecommunications executive, for example, seek out communications companies near you and ask about summer internships. Also look to your university’s internship placement program for help. 

Even if you find that you’re not interested in the particular industry after all, finish out the internship and do your best to leave a good impression. Take on any tasks asked of you with enthusiasm. To make yourself really stand out as a person capable of an eventual career in management, offer to do extra tasks, stay late or take on leadership roles on internship committees. 

Hone your leadership and networking skills 

Since your future career is going to be so focused on leadership, do what you can to practice honing those leadership skills now. In school, volunteer for extra-curricular clubs and work your way into leading roles. Offer to be a team leader for volunteer projects in your community. As you develop your resume or CV, look for other times you practiced leadership. For example, you might have acted as a youth group leader in your church, or you might have been the captain of a sports team. These can all be experiences that show your character, good judgement and ability to direct others. 

Expect an entry-level job at first 

You might have your sights set on management, but don’t expect to start there. Whatever industry you find yourself in, remember that recent graduates often start out in the entry-level positions. As you did during your internships, be willing to go the extra mile and volunteer for any leadership roles on the job. For example, sign up to organize a community clean-up or lead a team doing a side project. When you get a chance to have a one-on-one meeting with your boss, explain your intentions toward leadership and ask what else you can be doing to advance. 

Find a sponsor 

During your internship or in your first years on the job, also look for guidance from other members of management or executives. It might seem intimidating, but having the courage to ask a member of upper management to be your mentor or “sponsor” can show just the kind of initiative that makes a great leader. Do good work at your job, and when the time is right, develop relationships with members of upper management. Also join industry-specific networking groups where you can meet other managers in your industry. 

When you find someone with whom you have a good rapport, ask the person to help you advance your career and act as an advocate on your behalf. This “advocate” type of relationship often helps people move up much faster and with much more success, reminds Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of the book “(Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor.” 

Navigating the wide world of business administration might seem daunting at first, but by seeking a solid education and taking every experience as a chance to hone some of the skills you need to be a leader, you’ll be well on your way to success. 

 

Image courtesy Dan Evans, Pixabay

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