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The Lessons I’ve Learned as a Business Student

As I’m approaching the midpoint of my Commerce Degree, I have begun to reflect on what exactly I have learned in my schooling. There’s not a single assignment or test that I 110% understood or felt was a true reflection of the “real world”, but I think that’s the whole point. Within these absurdly intricate and notably difficult assessments, there are, however, an abundance of intangible lessons that I believe every business student should learn and transfer to their life. I’ve constructed a list of the top 20 intangible lessons that I’ve learned thus far as a business student– all of which I’m sure every other business student has learned as well:

1. You can’t thrive if you confine yourself to your self-imposed limitations

A.K.A you must step outside of your comfort zone. Life is full of not-so-comfortable events that we must get through, and the heart-racing, palm sweating presentations, networking events, and grueling finance exams are a pure representation of that.

2. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you

We learn quite quickly after high school that we’re no longer the smartest person in the room. At first glance, it may be challenging to accept this notion, but surrounding yourself with smarter people ultimately makes YOU smarter.

3. You need to have confidence (but not overconfidence)

While overconfidence causes us to overlook minute details, confidence allows us to be open to others’ success. Why? Confident people are open to the possibility of error and often recognize that they may be subject to their own biases. More importantly, they express a willingness to learn from their mistakes.

4. Work-life balance is essential

You can’t do work all the time; there are so many opportunities outside of the academic/workplace setting that can make you a smarter and better person as a whole. Well-roundedness is essential for those looking to thrive (especially on a resume).

5. Unconventionality is key

Develop your own personalized brand image. This is crucial to standing out.

6. “Two heads are better than one” – C.S. Lewis

The first and foremost concept we learn is synergy: where the combined effect of the team is greater than the sum of individual efforts. It’s true.

7. Your ego will be trumped by the leaders of tomorrow

The reality is that if we get too caught up in ourselves and our ideas, we’ll miss out on many opportunities. Someone else will always produce a better and more innovative idea. Focus on tomorrow and remain humble, rather than bolstering yourself.

8. You have to develop a voice

You can have the most extraordinary ideas and perhaps even answers, yet if you don’t express them, they’re essentially meaningless. Using your voice is a difficult task and needs to be worked on constantly. This is a key day-by-day task.

9. Don’t underestimate soft skills

Anyone can solve an intense calculus or finance equation (Google works wonders) but it’s the soft skills like communication, persuasion, and authenticity that will ultimately land you the job.

10. Abide by the golden rule

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Business is all about people. Treating your peers, colleagues, customers, and basically anyone the way you hope to be treated will benefit you in the long-run– and may even contribute to your (future) income. If you treat others poorly now, it will most likely circulate back to you into the future.

11. Resilience cultivates success

Business school has this natural tendency to constantly test our resilience. From extreme deadlines to ripping apart papers to writing insane exams, and so on, these exist as our ample make-or-break moments. However, we’re all still here, so in some insane way, our schools have made us stronger– regardless of whether you know it or not.

12. Character is more important than your GPA

…and of course your salary too.

13. You need to implement your values into every facet of life

See how far you get doing otherwise.

14. You need to learn to navigate uncertainty in life

I think that’s how we’ve all made it so far.

15. Great work ethic produces great rewards

It really does.

16. Paying attention is essential

I’m not just talking about during lectures– I’m talking everything. Observe, observe, observe. The more you observe, the more opportunities you will get; I’ve missed out on many and I still kick myself because of it.

17. Failure is good

We are all inevitably going to fail at some point in our lives whether it be a test, relationship, job, etc. Business school has encouraged us to see the light in the face of failure and use it as a means of improvement. We’ll all get smarter, produce better results, and grow as people because of failure.

18. You must be adaptive

We become quick on our feet and respond faster to change as our degree prolongs. This will help us not only in the business world but throughout life as a whole.

19. Life isn’t easy

Our professors can hand us an assignment or test and, regardless of how simple it may be, we will have to put in work for a good mark. I think this goes to show that nothing in life is handed to you and you have to devote the time, effort, patience, and grit to reap the rewards.

20. We’ll all inevitably make a poor investment, but business school isn’t one of them

Hailey Rodgers is from a small town called Westport, Ontario and is in her third year of Commerce at Queen's University. She loves to travel, meet new people, and learn. Hailey's passion for adventure and sharing her experiences is illustrated in her writing. 
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