After four years and a considerable chunk of tuition, you finally have your business degree. It might be in accounting, or marketing, or a number of other specialties, but whatever it is, the journey is complete – right? Not quite; while merely having the degree will certainly earn you some respect and authority, when it comes down to it your degree is only as valuable as what it does to help you get ahead. Whether you’re still working on your degree or have had it for years, it’s up to you to make sure it’s providing the most value to you that it can.
Value-Added Opportunities at School
If you’re in the process of earning your degree, you still have a number of opportunities available to seek out value potential. Make use of your university’s connections to obtain internships relevant to your career goals. Internships are constantly being posted at many universities, and the real-world experience they offer is something academic settings are rarely able to duplicate.
Your university’s business department might also offer seminars, host guest speakers from local, regional, or even national businesses, and provide job fairs and other networking events on a fairly regular basis. While it’s easy to get bogged down in the classwork and let these events go by, the chance to establish relationships and learn from experts is too valuable to miss entirely.
Talking with professors about your goals can also open new paths you might never have considered possible, as they might be willing to leverage their own connections to provide you a foot in the door. Maintaining a record as a good student and establishing positive relationships with faculty, students, and the university at large is essential to getting the most out of your college experience, so avoid situations that could put your reputation at risk.
Broadening Your Skillset Through Specializing
One of the most powerful assets of a business degree is its flexibility, but that can also be a weakness. While a degree in, say, marine biology has a pretty clear job title to look for after graduation, a degree in business isn’t so obvious. Having a plan and laying out your intentions can help make the degree the strongest it can be. Combining specialties with minors can provide you with more to offer in the workforce. For example, if you want to work in global commerce, you can specialize your business program in international business, but you might also consider other courses to complement that, such as a minor in a foreign language.
Even studying abroad could help in this instance, showing that you’re capable of functioning in a country and culture outside your own for long periods of time. On the other hand, you should be careful not to paint yourself into a corner by making your skillset too specific. Business can change quickly, be it in response to world events or new technologies. Retaining some flexibility can allow you to bounce back should the field of your specialty suddenly ceases to be viable.
Post-Graduate Connections: Alumni
If you’ve already graduated and weren’t able to do an internship or attend networking events while at school, don’t fret. Alumni are often invited to college networking events, so if you still live near your university, you may still be able to benefit from alumni mentors. If you’ve taken off across the country, your school’s alumni association is still likely to be able to introduce you to other graduates in your area who have skills or connections relevant to you.
You’ll already have something in common with these alumni, and they’ll have a good idea of the quality of education you’ve received and what skills you may have picked up along the way. Keeping connected with your former classmates can also help in this regard, since they might know who to come to when an opportunity presents itself.
The Value of Lifelong Learning
If you graduated years ago, you can help maintain the value of your degree by continuing to learn whenever possible. While it’s always an option to return to school and earn a higher degree, such as the coveted Master of Business Administration (MBA), that’s not necessarily going to be your Holy Grail. Business today is quite a bit different than a decade ago. Big data analytics, blockchains, and geolocation targeting may have been a distant dream when you attended university originally, but they are emerging practices that are relevant to today’s business landscape.
Online courses in these and other relevant areas may be available outside of degree programs, through auditing or as part of business certificates. Seasoned members of the workforce can sometimes rely on experience to put them ahead, but continued efforts to learn and keep up with changing times and technology can help demonstrate your commitment to the field. After all, what could be more appealing to an employer than someone who is well-educated, highly experienced in current business practices, and willing to improve?
In the End, It’s Up to You
Business degrees have their worth defined by the effort that you put into them. To get the most value out of your degree, you’ll need to work hard, pursue internship opportunities, attend extracurricular and networking events, and utilize the resources and relationships available while at university. Consider minors and specializations that might fit together with your plans, but don’t forget to maintain a wide pool of skills. Continue acquiring knowledge and networking as you go along, and you’ll one day find that you’re the one people are coming to for advice and connections.