"How to Succeed in Business [School] Without Really Crying"

Welcome to the newbie business major’s guide to success (a.k.a. surviving the shark tank that is business school). A stone’s throw away from my fourth and final year at Paul College at UNH, I can honestly say I’ve been through the wringer and made it out (mostly) alive. It’s been a journey of trial and error, but my tips are tried and true. 

I’d like to kick off this shindig by clearly stating with zero ambiguity that if you do not have a LinkedIn account, you need to get on that now. ASAP. Immediately. Success in the business world is literally impossible without LinkedIn unless you have a trust fund or are planning to join a pyramid scheme, and I wouldn’t really refer to the latter as ‘success’.

Forewarning those heading into their first semester at Paul College - every single non-business student fiercely, no holds barred, hates you. And me. We’re all unfairly deemed entitled and egotistical (except for the ones who are fairly deemed entitled and egotistical, there I said it). They make fun of our heated hand railings, but really they’re just jealous of our breakout rooms (kidding, love to all majors). My recommendation for dealing with this division - join clubs that attract a wide range of majors, organizations where the interdisciplinary energy is strong. Find friends with varying interests, be your best self, and do your part in dismantling the unpleasant business school stereotypes that plague us. 

Next on the list: find a professor you vibe with, and then attach yourself to them like a sea urchin. Go to office hours even when the class is laughably easy - especially then because you will likely be the only one there and thus be more likely to get their undivided attention. You’re looking for their gold star approval. Take it from me - you want to secure the author of your award-winning recommendation letter early on in your college career so you aren’t stressed out/sobbing on a weekday when you’re in a crunch. Bonus tip - do everything you can to be a TA at some point during your undergraduate years. It’s typically easy peasy leadership experience, and the underclassmen automatically think you’re smart and cool (unless you’re a hardo, they never like hardos). 

Speaking of professors, sometimes, no matter how much of a teacher’s pet you were in high school, you’re just not going to mesh well with every single one. You're bound to come across one you don’t like or who doesn't like you, or both at once. Listen closely - the more you dislike them, the more unreasonable and condescending they are, the nicer your emails to them should be (yes, you read that correctly). This is seriously one of the most useful tips I think I could give you. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to tell a professor off through exquisitely-crafted hate mail, but I promise it will work in your favor if you knock their socks off with straight-up simp behavior. However, there is a crucial first step if you’re anything like me and lose sleep over not getting the last word; the trick is to begin an email draft and just let the passion and spite spill onto the page, every word you wish you could say. I swear it’s free therapy, but whatever you do, DO NOT accidentally press send (and if you do, leave my name out of it... I don’t want a lawsuit on my hands). A good rule of thumb, just don’t even type their email in the address box - we don’t want to tempt fate.

Controversial and unpopular opinion: I don’t think you need to run out and join every student business organization offered (unless you want to, in which case you’ll need some professional attire, a copy of Networking for Dummies, and extra motivation to live (only joking). Seriously though, I’ve found that it really stands out to employers when you carve your own path. You want to take advantage of as many professional growth opportunities as possible, but really try and diversify your arsenal of experiences. Note-worthy options include competing in the SVIC or Holloway Competition, working directly within firms or start-ups in your field, completing funded research with a professor, or supporting a proposal or initiative at the administrative level. Also, 10/10 recommend pursuing a second major or minor, or both. A well-rounded education is super attractive to employers (and bonus points if you sign up for the Sustainability Dual Major - shameless plug, great program). 

A quick note on the Paul breakout rooms - if you are one of those people who always use them but never book them, you are my personal enemy. This is a request from those of us who are organized enough to book the rooms but extremely allergic to confrontation - please don’t force us to kick you out because there is nothing we hate more than that eternally awkward moment that exists between asking you to leave and you actually leaving. So say it with me now: “Book. In. Advance.” My exception to this rule is if it’s literally the middle of the night, and if that’s the case my advice is to pick the biggest classroom and have full-on karaoke sessions during study breaks - it’s great for the soul.

Final tip of the night: find the people that will endure the ups and downs of business school by your side. The ones who won’t let the competitive nature of the beast put a strain on your friendship. The ones who will roast you hard and bring you back down to earth when your ego starts knocking at the door. The ones who will shamelessly take part in those karaoke sessions, and offer to sing the harmony so that you can belt the chorus. At the end of the day, success is relative, and you may not have your dream job right out of college, but I promise you’ll be grateful for friends that cried with you along the way.

 

*Title inspired by Carol Leifer's novel, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying"

Leifer, Carol. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying. Quirk Books, 2014.