After working in investment banking and wealth management for over 35 years, as well as teaching and advising college students through his work at Montclair State University School of Business, William Montgomery Cerf (Monty) has a treasure trove of advice for business majors about how to get the most out of their degrees. A business degree can open the door to many different industries. In fact, the options can seem overwhelming for students who don’t have a clear path. Monty understands how the business world works and offers insider advice on maximizing your business degree.
Explore Your Options
Whether you arrive at college with a clear-cut idea of where you will be working after graduation or you picked a business major because you couldn’t decide on anything else, it’s important to explore different industries while you’re still in college. Monty Cerf suggests doing this through internships, part-time jobs, volunteering, or through your program of study.
Use your electives to learn more about industries that interest you. If you decide you want to specialize, choose a minor that will give you a competitive edge when you graduate. Even if you don’t find an area you’d like to focus on, diversifying your interests will give you the opportunity to connect with people in many different fields, which is great for networking.
Build a Thriving Network
It’s not enough to be great at what you do. To land your dream job and advance your business career, you have to have strong connections. Monty advises treating everyone as though they are important — because they are. You never know what kind of connections someone’s aunt or childhood best friend may have.
Now is the time to start laying the groundwork for the future. By expanding your network while you’re young, you will end up with lifelong friends you can reach out to throughout your career. Take advantage of every opportunity to meet new people, even if they aren’t in your field. The girl you met at your freshman-year volleyball mixer may end up hiring for an investment company you’d love to work for in 10 years.
College offers you a unique opportunity to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time who will go on to careers in many different industries all over the world. Don’t let the chance to make these connections pass you by because it won’t come again.
Take Advantage of Resources at Your College
Most colleges have a career center that will help you when you start looking for a job. Make sure you take advantage of any on-campus career fairs and interviews that are happening as well.
However, Monty Cerf doesn’t think you should stop there. Make sure your networking includes faculty members who are often the first to find out about new opportunities. Get to know your professors and make a favorable impression on them. Professors who are impressed with your work in their class won’t hesitate to recommend you for professional positions.
Focus on Presentation
No matter where you start or end up working, your presentation makes all the difference in your chances of success. Monty Cerf believes this applies not just to presenting your product but also to presenting yourself. You need to understand your audience and how to relate to them.
Before any public-facing encounter, take some time to think about what will happen and how it will play out. For social events, this may mean learning a little about the people who will be there and their interests ahead of time. For business presentations, this will definitely mean practicing your presentation and thinking about how you will answer any questions people may have.
Good presentation skills apply to yourself as well. Make it a habit to be well-dressed and groomed whenever you go out and to treat everyone politely and professionally. This doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit to the grocery store, but Monty believes it’s worth the effort to make sure you look presentable even on quick errands. Now that everyone is carrying a camera at all times, you never know when you may end up making an appearance in someone’s livestream.
While it may be tempting to think you don’t need to worry about advancing your career until you get out of college, Monty Cerf counsels students to start thinking in terms of their professional aspirations when they start college, not when they finish it. By growing your network, exploring your options, and seeking out opportunities during college, you’ll be well-prepared to start a thriving career that will reward you for years to come.