By Jaimie Figueroa Kelly '09; Revised by Aaron Stewart '09
Yes, we know you’re out there, you little entrepreneur you—but if you want to get into a business career that pays better than the Ma and Pa shop down the road, then a Blackberry, fancy suits and a million-dollar smile just isn’t going to cut it. According to Edward Smith and Stephen Bernhardt, writing takes up almost 25 percent of your time in business (4). Between memos, letters, presentations (and so on and so on), English plays a huge role in the business world. Whatever you decide to do in your business career, good writing and verbal skills will quickly help you get to the top.
Business is a very broad category. The reason—almost any career could benefit from someone with a Business degree. The main type of career that specifically falls in the realm of business is Business Management. Another flourishing career option is Business Communication, especially in the world today where everyone is connected. Also, as I implied earlier, you can use the knowledge learned in higher education to start your own business and keep it from sinking, as so many of them do due to poor planning and budgeting.
It can’t be emphasized enough just how important English is in the business field. Once you obtain a starting position, get ready to write…and write… and write (or type). “Writing is an extension of yourself. A manager who writes well can do a good job more easily and will be more readily recognized by others as effective” (99). If you want to impress your bosses early, give presentations with no grammar issues to slog through—trust me, there will be others who will have those problems and you’ll have just given yourself a better chance of moving up the ladder just by knowing the difference between “then” and “than.”
Another skill that is just as important as writing (if not more so) is the ability to communicate effectively. You will be dealing with superiors who are losing money just as fast as they are gaining it, which means they have little time to listen to you beat around the bush with any proposals you may have to better the company. Learn to get your point across in a concise way and you’ll be surprised how fast you move to a leading role in a company. Once there, verbal skills become even more important as you deal with people all around the world on a nearly daily basis. Yes, English is considered a world language—it doesn’t mean that everyone you meet will be perfectly fluent in it. Learn to speak clearly, so that they can understand most of what you are telling them, because there is no room for misunderstandings in the business world.
Finally, nothing beats good people skills. If you are an introvert, you may be better off working alone behind a cubicle all day. The beauty of the business field is the amount of interaction with people coming from many different backgrounds and cultures. Getting to know the habits of people who live in different countries will help you become a more likeable person and may help others become more open to your ideas.
Qualifications and Training
What you learn in a college or a university can only take you so far. In the end, internships and on-the-job training are important to developing the skills needed to succeed in business (Deen 23). Also, since business is so general, obtaining a degree in law, a Master’s of Business Administration, and/or other majors in different areas are also helpful (Place 37). Make yourself a flexible worker—knowledge outside the business arena can help in the long run.
Business at Heidelberg
Business is a great option at Heidelberg University. As an English major, you may want to focus on English classes that help with your writing, particularly Technical Writing. We also have a course known as “Computer Mediated Communication,” which teaches you how to create advertisements and websites. Since business is also heavily people-oriented, it is important to take a number of Communications courses, as well, in order to build on your verbal skills. It also wouldn’t hurt to take a few Computer Science courses to understand what to do if a system crashes in your business.
For business in particular, Heidelberg offers a Business Administration undergraduate degree, as well as a Masters in Business Administration, or MBA. An MBA may be just what you need to set yourself apart from the main crowd and help you obtain a better starting position out of college. To learn more about Heidelberg’s MBA opportunities, visit the “Graduate” section of this website. You may also visit the university website and click under “Academic Programs.”
There are also many extracurricular activities that may be helpful. Heidelberg has a club specifically for business known as the Berg Business Club (not to be confused with the British Broadcasting Corporation), which is a great way to use your skills outside of the classroom. Getting involved with the campus radio station and/or the speech teams could be a great way to improve your verbal skills, as well. It would also be a good idea to work for higher positions for the school newspaper (The Kilikilik), yearbook (Aurora) or literary magazine (Morpheus) in order to develop leadership skills that will be a major benefit in the future.
- Deen, Robert L. Opportunities in Business Communication Careers. Chicago: VGM Career Horizons, 1987.
- Place, Irene. Opportunities in Business Management Careers. Chicago: VGM Career Horizons, 1998.
- Smith, Edward L., and Stephen A. Bernhardt. Writing at Work. Chicago: NTC Publishing Group, 1997.
Numerous books exist on the topic of business, from How to Start a Business Website to Freelance Business Writing Business. The sources mentioned under the “works cited” category are a good place to start. VGM’s Professional Careers Series are particularly helpful, because each book describes a specific type of career, how to prepare for it and how to succeed in it. Other sources of good information include The Literate Executive, Business Writing Skills, and 10 Minute Guide to Business Writing. Writing at Work is an excellent reference for anyone who has writing as a substantial part of their job requirements. On another note, if you are thinking about starting your own business, the best place to start is with the laws in your state that specify the necessary steps toward this goal; one helpful website that deals with this information is www.business.gov. You can find more information about the many business careers, as well as other career options, in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at http://www.bls.gov/OCO/.