Succeeding in business requires a combination of education, experience and what are often called soft skills—crucial abilities like good communication, critical thinking and leadership qualities. You can acquire each of these, even soft skills, which people sometimes say cannot be taught. The blueprint below will help you chart your path to success in the business world.
Although there are stories of entrepreneurs, especially in tech, who become wildly successful without finishing or even attending college, these tend to be outliers. In most cases, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree to get your foot in the door. Paying for school is a big obstacle for many people, but there are a number of resources available to you, including loans, grants and scholarships. You can also use private student loans to finance your education and supplement any federal aid you are getting.
You can research private lenders and your eligibility online. While you are in school, start networking with classmates, your professor and any relevant organizations you can join. You may want to eventually get an MBA depending on the career path you are considering, but most MBA programs prefer candidates who have some work experience.
Building your resume should start while you are still in college. Apply for competitive internships, and if you are not accepted, you can still look for part-time or summer jobs in the field that you hope to work in someday. While you are still in school, research the companies that you want to work for and learn as much as you can about what they are looking for and how you can best position yourself for hiring.
You should also think about the specific field that you’d like to enter and how you can prepare. For example, perhaps you want to work in international business. While it’s true that many international business negotiations are conducted in English, you will still give yourself an advantage if you study the language of the country or the region that interests you most. Once you have been hired, work on continuing to learn as much as you can. It can be particularly helpful to find a mentor.
The better you are at building relationships with people, the more successful you can be in business. You should start building your soft skills while you are still in school, looking for opportunities to take a leadership role. There are organizations that can help you excel at extemporaneous and public speaking. Keep in mind that while being a leader is important, another important skill to build is being a team player.
You’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you can work well with people as part of a smoothly functioning unit instead of always putting yourself front and center. Knowing when and how it’s time to put yourself out there and when it’s time to step back and let others take some of the credit is another one of those important skills as is knowing how to give and receive feedback and critiques. Observing how others interact and what does and doesn’t work is one excellent way to develop these abilities.