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What we wish we would’ve known

Posted by Cerniglia, Courtney M - December 15, 2013 - Courtney C., Featured, Students


My first dorm room in Burroughs Hall as a freshman.

At the beginning of the semester, four students and myself in the business administration major capstone course (Bus 480) sat down in front of underclassmen and shared our ‘words of wisdom’ for survival of a business major. It was the first School of Business & Economics (SBE) event of the semester, and a fun one to be a part of!

SBE events are required ‘mini-seminars’ that all business students enrolled in core business courses attend throughout the semester. There are multiple diverse opportunities in all aspects of business that open up the outside world and give you a glimpse at what ‘could be’ for your business future. There are resume building workshops, job fairs, factory tours, mentorship programs, interview practice, guest speakers, and other career development events. I’ve especially enjoyed a visit to a local cranberry bog for an operations tour, an evening of networking with local business people, being a visitor at a Toastmaster’s meeting, hearing from a top female negotiator, and listening to other professionals speak on their careers and success stories.

At this event, I had the following ‘tips’ of advice for your years as an SBE student:

Study and Explore Other Topics
My college career started as a biology and art major and ended as a business administration and Spanish major. It hopped around in between multiple times as well. Study what you like! Use your GDRs as a way to dive in to concepts and subjects you’ve always been curious of. By taking a religious studies GDR, it led me to taking four courses in the department. I also took multiple music classes as I played in Concert Band. Believe it or not, the skills you learn in these courses will make you more effective in the workplace. It proves you can think differently in an environment where most people will think in one way (business focused).

Build Up Your Knowledge of the Outside
Start to listen to podcasts (Freakonomics, Wall Street Journal This Morning, All Things Considered, EntreLeadership Podcast), read magazines (The Economist, The Atlantic, Entreprenuer), read books (Good to Great, Life’s Greatest Lessons, Onward), and collect news feeds online on industries and business topics you are interested in. The more you know about the business world, the more relationships you can see between what you are learning and what is happening. You will also be able to have deeper conversations with people in the industries you are interested in, which could help you in the future.

Approach Class Like Job Training
College is basically training you how to be a business professional. If you treat it like job training, you’ll be more open to seeing how the information will benefit you in the future.

Do Things That Make You Nervous
This is the best environment to fail in. You are surrounded by people in the same boat and with captains who have the knowledge and experience to throw you a life preserver if you start to sink. Once you graduate, that safety net disappears, so why not practice now so you’re comfortable later?

Be Friendly
You’re not in high school anymore! Being friendly with classmates, professors and professionals will build your network without much work on your part. Remember once you graduate, all your classmates also will enter the professional world and have their own connections. Your professors have been in their fields for years, and also have powerful networks that can help you land jobs. Being nice can get you far!

Ask for Jobs
None of the jobs I have had (6) I have had to apply for. I got them by asking. I’ve used my network, capitalized on my skills, and simply walked in the door and asked and have been blessed with jobs I am proud to put on my resume. The postings on job sites are not the only opportunities out there!

Apply What Your Learn at Work
Don’t wait until you graduate! Now’s the time to practice what you learn in class in your job or internship. For one, it’s a safe place to try and fail (or succeed!) and second, it can set you apart from others at work.

Build Yourself Like You Build a Brand
What you do here will affect the rest of your life! If you were a company, how would you be building your brand and marketing yourself to customers? Would it be a strong brand or would it be tainted?

Have an End in Sight
Having an end-goal you can communicate to others is a great strategy for getting people on board to help you. When you can clearly define where you want to go and what you want to do, people get excited and want to help you reach those goals. This is a great thing to develop to utilize the power of your network.


The night of high school graduation, about to start on this crazy college journey!

Now I wasn’t perfect at achieving all these things continuously throughout my four years here, but I did develop these skills and start to value these concepts as I went along. You may not be able to incorporate all these things into your life right now, but by being open to some in your future can help you get the most out of your education.

This is your education that you are funding, taking four years of your life to complete, and focusing your energy on. Are you taking it seriously? School should always be primary. Believe me, there will still be time for all the other opportunities college has to offer: sports and clubs, concerts, performances, seeing friends, traveling, family, work, internships, interviews, lectures, volunteering, relationships. But for these four years, make school your priority. You’ll probably have more time if you accomplish schoolwork and classes first, then use the rest of your time fulfilling your other aspirations.

I hope you find value in my ‘keys to success’ in the SBE program. I wish you all the best in your journey to graduation!


Courtney Cerniglia is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in business administration and Spanish.

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