Confessions of a Fourth Year Business Student
Written by: Diane Jeon
As seen in the September 2018 Lazy Faire Issue
I think that the first thing many business students identify with when someone asks, “Why did you choose to work towards a BCom?”, is the certainty of getting a professional job after graduating. Our answer to the inevitable follow-up question of, “What would that job be?”, then, is often everyone’s favourite cop-out: consulting. Consulting — reputable, sexy, and ultimately as tangible as the cliches used in the industry itself. But let’s not try to boil the ocean here.
Though I’m also guilty of wanting to pursue a consulting career without really knowing what it entails, this article isn’t meant to ridicule the consulting industry, nor shame students who want a career in consulting. It’s not even really about consulting to begin with. In truth, what I just addressed is the common journey of a business undergrad — being pulled in multiple directions without a true aim beyond glitzy titles and ambiguous aspirations. I want to highlight a personal grief and gratitude from blundering like this through the beginning of my BCom to bring reality to the idealists and idealism to the realists. Brace yourselves for this deep dive.
Grief: Not taking advantage of the building block fundamentals first-year classes provide (BUS 201 included).
Easily one of the most sleep-depriving classes you’ll take, BUS 201’s key takeaways are the planning and analysis done outside of the classroom. Being thrown into a business case dissection and new venture creation with your peers is great initial training for entrepreneurship and scaling up a company. With these two concepts rising as long-term economic drivers for Edmonton, presenting recommendations for a corporate problem or a business plan, in a relatively safe environment, is something I wish I hadn’t taken for granted.
Like many other socially-driven millenials in our society, number-heavy and dollar-oriented classes were also areas I was reluctant to put effort in. *makes face at intro level accounting and finance classes.* Although, I realized a little too late that these areas are where many nonprofits and social enterprises falter. If a local NPO dependent on charitable donations experiences an economic downturn, what will their next budgeting strategy be? If an environmental startup wants to launch a new eco-friendly product, how will they present the measurements of wealth to potential investors? Truly, I would go back in time to tell first-year me that if you’re even remotely interested in creating positive social change, understanding how much your ideas will cost and how they will affect the economy is your competitive edge in this world.
Gratitude: Being pulled in multiple directions.
The more hands I had in more cookie jars revealed the importance of interdisciplinary learning. With one hand in business and the other in political science, I realized that the latter provided training I would not have received as vigorously as I would have in the former. For one, I found that the critical thinking required for cross-analyzing three 30-page articles on postcolonialism within a week is surprisingly transferable to identifying gaps in business cases. Understanding the political climate we live in also emphasized the subtle nuances to keep in mind when navigating economic decisions. Staying informed on current events made for great conversations too, and certainly expanded my network beyond the business faculty.
Granted, my multi-faculty experience is just the tip of the iceberg. I think the business curriculum can do much more in terms of incorporating greater interdisciplinary collaboration.
My dream would be ensuring that continuous interaction between disciplines is on the faculty’s agenda — biz kids collaborating with comp sci kids and engineers, fine arts folks with graphic designers, and parties in ALES specializing in agriculture, food sciences, and renewable resources. Could you imagine the amount of tech solutions, creative campaigns, and research-supported environmental programs that could be generated?
This brief grief and gratitude piece was merely my own experiences thus far, and only represent a drop in the bucket in terms of advice within the business community. As you begin or continue your BCom journeys, I encourage you to also build upon a strong foundation, expand and diversify your networks, and think beyond these red brick walls.