By Kajsa Cirocco
At a crossroads, the decision in front of us can seem daunting, stressful and we spend far too much time wondering whether we will choose the right path instead of pushing forward. Making decisions in a climate of uncertainty (like a worldwide pandemic, for example) only amplifies this fear.
One difficult decision I’ve faced in the past was how to choose a program of study. I ended up with business and let me tell you, it was worth every late-night assignment, every meaningful connection with a classmate or professor and every ounce of precious time devoted to extracurricular opportunities. These experiences have contributed to the person I am proud to be today.
Are you someone who is considering studying business? Here is my story and five tips for prospective business students.
1. You do not need to have a business background to be successful in a business program.
2. Failure is a part of learning.
3. Business education develops you as a well-rounded individual.
4. Go. On. International. Exchange.
5. Business applies to every industry.
How an Artsy-Fartsy Liberal Arts Grad Found Her Home Within the Business World.
As a member of the working world now, I often think back to my time as a student and the opportunities I was afforded to get involved, throw myself into learning and make the most of my time at university.
In my undergraduate degree, I studied what I liked, changing my major four times prior to graduating. I ended up with a Bachelor of Arts double major in Liberal Arts and Psychology, with a minor in Italian Studies. I took courses on Neuroscience, Renaissance Art History, Physics, and Philosophy, but never Business. Although I immensely enjoyed my studies, when I graduated, I was left with an overwhelming sense of “what next?” I didn’t think I was done with school.
My undergraduate degree was a perfect mix of me as a person: A bridge between arts and sciences. I felt my undergraduate knowledge could be a great asset if only I could learn to apply it to the business world.
My five top tips for students looking to study business
Tip #1: You do not need to have a business background to be successful in a business program.
I became excited thinking of all the possibilities. Business is so versatile — I could work anywhere! In my search for business education, I came across the Master of Business Administration program within the Goodman School of Business at Brock University. It seemed like the perfect fit for me: It was a two-year graduate program focused on management, there were multiple streams of specialization, courses were taught by award-winning professors and there were so many opportunities for extracurricular involvement. There was only one problem: I was someone who had never taken a business course before. Not in high school, not in university, never. And now I was considering pursuing a rigorous graduate degree in business with no prior business background.
Let me tell you: It was the best academic decision I have ever made.
The Goodman MBA was the perfect opportunity for me to apply the critical thinking and communication skills that I developed in my undergrad to hands-on business problems I was presented with in class.
Goodman alumna, Regan Fitzgerald (BA ’13, MBA ’16), shared a similar experience coming from a non-business background: “I grew to love the campus and the community during my time at Brock, which made it easy to find new opportunities. Although I came from a different field of study prior to my MBA, the program is structured to welcome students from all backgrounds.”
Tip #2: Failure is a part of learning.
I have fond memories of the Goodman School of Business MBA program, but it was not without its challenges.
During my undergrad, I had worked two jobs, maintained my academic scholarship and achieved an A average across all four years. I assumed graduate studies at the same university would be a similar experience. I was wrong.
By midterm time in November, I sat down with one of my professors to discuss a particularly low exam score. I was failing the class. One of the struggles I faced is that in my first semester, I was tasked with four data-heavy courses that were brand new to me*. I had done well in statistics and calculus in my undergrad, but finance and accounting were an entirely different way of thinking that my brain had not yet grasped. I kept wondering if my lack of business background was the reason for my failure.
I quickly learned that from every failure comes a learning opportunity. I simply was not devoting enough time to my studies, and data-heavy courses required daily work. I buckled down in my studies, quit one job, stopped excessive social activities, dropped a class, and by December, I was passing all my courses. After failing Corporate Finance, I decided retaking it in the Spring/Summer term might be a better option to ease my workload. Sometimes the best way to learn is to fall and practice getting back up (it also makes for a great comeback story).
In the words of Goodman alumnus, Spencer Mason (BBA ’19), “Always accept the biggest opportunity you are presented with and never forget to show appreciation to those who helped you along the way.”
*The MBA program plan has since changed to better balance quantitative and qualitative classes per semester. Check out the current program plans here.
Tip #3: Business education develops you as a well-rounded individual.
Although there were opportunities for involvement in my undergrad, I had never been exposed to so many extracurriculars that would further develop me as a person than when I studied at the Goodman School of Business.
I attended events put on by the Graduate Business Council, one of the many student clubs for business students. I signed up for a seminar where I learned how to properly utilize Microsoft Excel (this Liberal Arts student previously wrote a lot of essays…), SAS, and Microsoft Access; all incredibly useful tools not only for my classes, but also for the jobs I pursued after my education.
Goodman has a real-world approach and is a leader in Experiential Education. I was able to apply what I was learning in lectures and textbooks directly to local organizations through service-learning opportunities within my classes. This meant I was able to receive academic credit by working on projects with local businesses. Almost every course had an experiential component. For example, I developed a hiring strategy for a local non-profit organization in a Human Resources Strategy class and developed a logistics model for a transportation company in an Operations class.
Anyone who has studied business also knows about case competitions**. I was selected as a delegate for two MBA-based case competitions, the DeGroote National Case Competition and the John Molson International Case Competition. The fast-paced and intense environment of case competitions taught me to think quickly, manage my time, speak with conviction and work efficiently within a team of diverse personalities; skills that are all incredibly applicable to every job I have had since graduating.
I also got an on-campus job at a student-run consulting office where I conducted needs assessments, wrote comprehensive reports, and delivered presentations to Boards of Directors. I was expected to solve problems for a variety of organizations from a variety of industries. I wrote a compensation report for a local non-profit company; I developed a business case for a health organization that specialized in transportation for vulnerable people in the region; I presented a design plan for a new facility to local town council; I re-wrote a brand standards document for an organization whose name did not represent its services; the list goes on. I was able to apply finance, marketing, human resources, analytics, and operations principles to real-world client problems while I was still a student. I was helping local businesses and I got paid for it.
You could say I was fully immersed in my business education. And I was loving it.
Goodman alumnus, Neal Sengupta (BAcc ’16), has a similar anecdote to share: “The Goodman School of Business set me up for success in my first full-time position by providing me with opportunities to hone my technical skills in the classroom and my soft skills through extracurricular activities.”
**In addition to the case competitions mentioned, there are many other competitions available to Goodman School of Business students.
Tip #4: Go on International exchange.
One of my favourite memories of my Goodman MBA was going on international exchange for the last semester of my program. Studying abroad had been a dream of mine, but it was not something I could fit within my undergraduate degree (I changed my major four times, remember). I was learning to accept that it was not going to be a part of my academic experience when I heard about an informational seminar hosted by the Goodman International Exchange Office. Who knew I could fit an international exchange into my graduate degree!? I researched Goodman’s partner schools immediately and applied to the program. I was accepted to attend a semester abroad at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in northern Italy.
An international exchange is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I couldn’t recommend this more for future students. I studied in a different country, learned a new language, made lifelong friends, travelled to over 40 cities, and developed skills that only come when you have to navigate new places by yourself. There is no better way to learn about yourself than through meeting other people and learning about other cultures. The amount of growth I experienced in a few short months is unparalleled to any other experience I have had thus far. Plus, the Goodman International Exchange Office was a huge help in holding my hand through the process of Visa applications and course selections.
Goodman alumnus, Ries Vahrmeyer (BAcc ’18, MAcc ’18), shares similar sentiments: “Take advantage of everything Goodman has to offer. Do workshops, join clubs and go on exchange. All these things will help you on your career journey — and you will have fun doing it.”
Tip #5: Business applies to every industry.
Business is such a broad term — anyone from a student entrepreneur opening their own dog-walking company to a Fortune 500 organization is a business. Business is so versatile; every organization needs business-minded people. We are surrounded by businesses and with a business education, you can work in any industry.
I have worked in hospitality, banking, consulting, operations, and most recently, alumni relations for the Goodman School of Business. As a former student, I bring an interesting perspective to my role as a staff member for the university. I work closely with Goodman graduates and I resonate with many of the experiences that our alumni share, as I too have experienced all that a Goodman degree has to offer.
It’s also eye-opening because I see that the same business degree can lead to a multitude of different jobs. We have Goodman graduates who are partners in large accounting firms, senior analysts for gaming organizations, policy advisors for the provincial government, founders of virtual and augmented reality businesses, winery and brewery owners, artists, cannabis corporations, film festival directors, professional athletes and more. A business degree is a great way of getting an accurate understanding of how the world works because every industry needs businesspeople.
When I talk to alumni, they often say that one of the most important things about business school is getting involved. Goodman alumnus, Omair Ahmed (BBA ’15), said, “Find ways to get involved in and around campus. The network you build today will stay with you for a very long time!”
I echo his thoughts, as getting involved enriched my academic experience.
Business School is worth it.
Whatever background you come from, whatever courses you have or haven’t studied, however many times you fall and get back up, business school is worth it. You will become a well-rounded individual with immeasurable theoretical and practical knowledge applicable to whatever industry attracts you.
Are you considering applying to business school? Check out Goodman School of Business undergraduate and graduate programs and hear directly from our alumni on how their Goodman degrees have impacted their academic, personal, and professional careers.