What I Did with My Degree: Business Management

As a business management student like me, I'm sure you are used to all the questions by now: "What do you want to do after you graduate?" "What can you do with that degree?" "What kind of business are you going to manage?"

I essentially chose my major by eliminating things I hated or wasn't good at. Science, math and history – those programs were all crossed off the list instantly. I also wanted something practical, and something I could actually make a career out of relatively easily. I eventually concluded that every business needs managers, and that I could decide later which department or industry I preferred.

Enthusiastic to begin my life in the real world and also hoping to put an end to the endless questions, I graduated with my bachelors degree in business management and a minor in technical sales. In the months after graduation, I realized that my degree wasn't the ticket to success that everyone made it out to be. Reality set in even harder and I moved back in with my parents and worked my part-time job as a cashier for eight more months, in the mean time filling out applications to every job that required a business degree. What was I doing wrong? Obviously filling out applications wasn't getting me very far. So, as they drilled into our heads in school, I had to rethink my strategy – and fast!

Business Management Overview

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sales managers held about 346,900 jobs in 2008. Employment is expected to grow about as fast as average through 2018, and stiff competition is expected for jobs.

Companies Hiring Sales Managers

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The BLS reports that median annual wages for sales managers were $97,260 in May 2008. The base salaries of sales managers are often supplemented by commission-based bonuses, which usually make up a large portion of total compensation.

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I racked my brain for quite awhile before I finally remembered all the MBA advertisements and assemblies while I was an undergrad – "4 plus 1," they called it. Four years as a business undergrad and one year to complete the MBA program. I began talking to professors, business professionals and friends. The advice I received was split evenly: "Go back now before life gets in the way" and "Get a job that will pay for it and go back later in life when you have real experience." This was especially confusing to me. Here I was trying to make a rather expensive life decision, and I was being pulled in completely opposite directions. Eventually, I decided to enroll.

Nearly halfway through the program an opportunity finally knocked. A girl sitting in front of me in my class knew about an opening for a position at a large manufacturing company's headquarters in town. This is the company to work for in my particular town, and about as close to the golden ticket as I was ever going to get as a student! The position was related to sales and contracts, which weren't exactly my idea of fun, but my resume needed some serious help before graduation.

I got the job, and by working there I also had access to the same globally recognized training programs that were normally required for full-time employees, so I took advantage of the optional training certificates. Who was I becoming? Optional courses? On weekends? Looking back, my experiences working for this company were invaluable, and several colleagues turned out to be very influential in the years to come. It was definitely the turning point, where I really began to understand and apply the concepts I had learned in all those textbooks. I really started to understand what people meant by that "real experience" I needed to supplement my MBA.

Shortly after graduation, with the help of my colleagues and mentors, I was able to step into a full-time (and my first real) job in sales within another division of the same company. Eventually, through more discovery, hard work and accidental opportunities, I began to build an exciting and rewarding career in sales – a field I initially had lukewarm feelings about.

I would consider business management an open-ended major, in that it really does give a great foundation to a limitless list of careers, from working on a shop floor to a high-rise skyscraper. Let's be clear: in most cases students are not going to be senior-level managers the day they complete an undergrad program. But that degree in business management is a great start if you eventually hope manage the company of your dreams. Do you have to know precisely which one and have all the answers as soon as you graduate? Definitely not! It's just a foundation, like that of a building. You decide on the general blueprint early on, but many small details and changes happen throughout the entire process. The key to moving forward in business is patience. Take great opportunities and add them to your foundation as you go, even if you aren't exactly sure of where they fit into the whole. If you keep building in the right direction you will get there. Maybe not as fast as some of your peers, and your blueprint might change a few times, but you'll get there.

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