Core competencies are those strengths and skills that demonstrate your depth of understanding, your ability to adapt to new environments, and your willingness to be an asset to a new venture. While the core competencies required for success in different business fields may vary, the process for identifying and developing these competencies is similar, regardless of your intended future field.
Business is a dynamic environment, and there are many possible paths to your intended destination. To develop your plan of action, explore the steps below with your LSA advisor.
1. Research Industries
You should begin research on industries using resources such as Vault Career Insider (access for U-M students), Wetfeet.com (general resource website for industries and careers), and business-focused newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and/or the Financial Times.
2. Build Your Intellectual Portfolio
Challenging coursework is an important part of the exploration process. Ask yourself, what are my gaps in knowledge? And remember, you are on the right track in liberal arts if you are "learning about" rather than "learning how to".
|Think you’re interested in...||Try this!|
|Technology?||Take classes in which you learn about computer programming, technology, and data communication.|
|Finance?||Develop analytical skills through classes which explore economic and statistical methods, and build a strong quantitative base.|
|Sales/Marketing/Advertising?||Try taking classes which explore how people behave, think, and make decisions. Also explore subjects that address the visual arts, culture, and language.|
|International Business?||Study a foreign landscape and take classes that investigate cultural differences, literatures, and art to become competentin a multilingual and multicultural context.|
|Consulting?||Learn how to understand the interplay of context and environment in complex systems by taking classes requiring analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and leadership.|
|Management?||Seek out classes that focus on interpersonal dynamics, the role of individuals in organizations, and on leadership.|
|Accounting?||Beyond taking the required prerequisites for Master in Accounting programs, you can major in anything.|
Informational interviewing (interviewing people about their jobs and professional history) or job shadowing are great ways to explore different business careers and to grow your professional network. Both LinkedIn and the Alumni Association are excellent resources for connecting with U-M alumni in many business fields.
When meeting with someone, do your research about the person and the company. After finishing, thank them for their time.
Recruiters are looking for demonstrable skills, all of which you possess as an LSA student, regardless of major. Here are some of the most valued skills employers seek:
1. Write and Communicate Persuasively
Conveying your thoughts, whether in writing or orally, is one of the most enduring attributes for any career path.
- Take classes that are writing and research intensive.
- Write public relations releases, a blog, or article for your volunteer or student organization.
- Craft your Linkedin profile and include a keyword-rich summary.
- Make the most of class discussions and in-class presentations.
- Practice your elevator pitch in front of family, friends, and your mirror.
2. Analyze Quantitative Data
Regardless of your path to a career in business, fluency with numeric material is
- Take quantitative classes.
- Develop surveys for your volunteer and/or campus organizations.
- Participate in UROP.
- Explain the results of your research to various family members in a way that helps them to understand.
- Read the news and follow market trends.
- Do practice case studies.
3. Work with Diverse Populations
To be a successful leader or member of a community, you must be able to work with people who have different backgrounds, different belief structures, and different approaches to work.
4. Think Creatively
Be willing to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and think it through logically.
- Participate in a multi-disciplinary design project.
- Take a class on creativity.
- Propose a new way to address an issue or a project for your campus organization.
- Suggest a new way to approach a problem at work.
5. Develop Leadership and Teamwork Experience
It’s important to be comfortable taking a leadership role on a team, and to be a good team player regardless of your role.
- Ask for a new challenge at work or at your internship, and follow it through to the end.
- Do an independent study research project.
- Take an entrepreneurship class.
- Pitch a project through 1000 Pitches.
- Participate in the Sanger Leadership case challenge.
- Take a leadership position in your campus organization.
- Actively seek out diverse populations to work in team settings.
- Make the most of group work and/or lab classes.
Your path to a career in business requires your energy and time. Engaging with campus resources is imperative for your professional development.
1. Develop Your Résumé
By researching and understanding the skills and experiences potential employers value, you can develop a targeted résumé that highlights these areas. As you gain new experiences, adjust your résumé and seek opportunities to further enhance desired skills.
When writing your résumé, think: action, context, and result.
Have your résumé reviewed annually by the Career Center and attend professional résumé reviews to get tips from experts.
2. Enhance Your Brand
How you present yourself--digital presence, résumé, experience--are a reflection of you and will impact your employability.
If you use social media, make sure messages are appropriate for all audiences and keep it positive. Check your privacy settings, google yourself, and make sure you are comfortable with what you find.
Keep e-mails professional. Include appropriate subject lines and a professional signature to outgoing messages.
LinkedIn is an important recruiting tool and a great networking tool. You want your profile to reflect your background, who you are, and your future ambitions.
Obtain free business cards through the U-M Alumni Association.
3. Tell Your Story
Practice articulating how your experiences and skills are a good fit for your particular goal (industry/job/company).
Reflect upon your activities (study abroad, volunteer, summer job, internship) and consider the following questions:
- What did I do well? What would I have liked to do better?
- How did this project challenge me?
- How does this experience fit with my immediate and long-term intellectual and professional goals?
- If asked by a potential employer, how would you discuss this experience in terms of intellectual value and transferable skills?
Gain confidence and feedback by taking classes that require individual or group presentations, by joining public-speaking groups or improv groups, participating in mock interviews, and attending one of the many storytelling events on campus.
4. Gain Practical Experience
Apply your education to your longer-term professional goals by gaining experience outside of the classroom. Do marketing or finance for a student organization, take a leadership position, participate in trading simulations, or get an internship or a part-time job.
Identify the type of skills employers in your area of interest are looking for and ask yourself how you can build and develop those skills through classes, co-curricular experiences, work, or volunteer opportunities.
Challenge yourself and take ownership of your undergraduate experience.