How to prepare for a career in business

Megan Foster      No comments

Good leaders weigh costs and benefits to make strategic decisions, so if you’re hoping to find success in a business career, then you’re probably the sort of person who takes the time to consider their options. Here are some of the questions that you’ll want to answer on your path to success.

Where do you start?

You may have decided that a career in business is an interesting, rewarding, challenging or otherwise promising path, but it’s also a broad and ambiguous target to hit. Business management and leadership is at the heart (and head) of every organisation and sector.

While you can certainly spend some time exploring your options, you may want to narrow your focus. Think in terms of both experiences and outcomes. Your personality, interests and personal goals can shape your path.

Think about where you want to be in five years, ten, 20, at the end of your career, etc. Is your ultimate goal to be a supervisor? Division manager? C-Suite executive? Or maybe your interests and attributes are better suited toward entrepreneurialism. Do you want to be a founder and start your own company? At the level of highest influence, you might aspire to venture capitalism and investment. Dexter Coleman-Mitchell is one such investor in start-ups, enabling greater business development than a single venture would permit. He emphasises the philanthropic potential of investing, creating a better world through the strategic distribution of funds and sponsorship of rewarding ventures. Choosing your end goal helps you make the right choices along the way.

Similarly, you may want to narrow your focus to a specific sector or interest area. Do you gravitate toward technology, or fashion, or engineering, or entertainment? While you may have no interest or ability to become a programmer or a designer, or develop buildings or make films, each of those jobs relies on skilled businesspeople to form the companies that employ those professionals. You may find your career is more rewarding if it’s related to a sector in which you have an interest.

Do you need a business education?

There are a few ways to get started once you’ve narrowed your focus. If you’re a young person just starting out on your journey, then it is possible to complete educational credentials with a business specialisation from certificate and diploma programmes on through to post-graduate business degrees. Alternately, you could get an entry-level job in the sector of your choosing and work your way up toward a management position.

Many business professionals take a blended approach to their careers. Businesses tend to prefer even junior staff members who have some related education, and studying for your MBA without any practical experience or avenue to practice what you’re learning can be less than rewarding. A common approach is to get a preliminary education with some business specialisation, work in the marketplace for several years, and then either leave work for a period to pursue further education, or pursue both career advancement and formal credentials at the same time.

There’s something to be said for actual marketplace experience. Deep understanding of a company and sector, as well has hard skills, and industry connections, give you the core skills and relationships that you need to be valuable. Working your way up through an organisation or a series of organisations can familiarise you with the practices, challenges and strengths of multiple departments or divisions, give you direct experience in working with many different kinds of people, allow you to earn trust and responsibility, and build a beneficial network of colleagues and connections.

However, further and specialised business education also has its advantages. It may be considered a prerequisite for the positions of responsibility to which you aspire. It may be the only way to gain the hard and soft skills you need if your workplace is not equipped to train you in-house. It gives you a shared experience and pool of knowledge with other business professionals and leaders, which can help you better understand colleagues, clients and competitors and be recognised, trusted and accepted by them.

Significant benefits of business education that have often been acknowledged and credited for career success stories are the projects and networking. Good business education offers the opportunity to build or expand your portfolio and gain the attention of prospective employers or clients. It also puts you in a cohort of other ambitious and conscientious business leaders and introduces you to valuable connections.

The value of a business education to your career trajectory can be significant. Identify your goals and interests, evaluate what you have to work with and where you want to go, and then pursue appropriate education and experience to get there, step by step.