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Influencers flaunting their six-digit salaries on social media and 20-year-olds on the cover of Forbes make it look like anyone can succeed in business. You just need a dream and a little ambition, right? But becoming an entrepreneur and climbing the corporate ladder is no easy feat.
Sure, you might have a great idea for a wedding planning business because you’ve got a great eye for design and styling. But how are your skills in project management, accounting and logistics? Or maybe you’re hoping to climb the ranks in a retail firm. Do you have a strong grasp on the management and finance skills you’ll need?
Dr Ahmed Ferdous, Course Director of the Bachelor of Business at Deakin University, knows what it really takes to make it in business. With a doctorate in marketing, he also has industry experience with global companies like Unilever.
How do you finance your business in the beginning? How do you attract clients? How do you manage your time? These are the kinds of questions you’ll face in the business world. Flying blind is rarely a recipe for success; a little business know-how and practical skills under your belt will give you a competitive edge.
‘It’s possible to set up a business without a degree but by learning about business you can understand where there are gaps in the market,’ Dr Ferdous says. ‘With prior knowledge, you can structure your thinking and better assemble your resources.’
You’ll need to learn about gaining social capital (networking), outsourcing and how to attract better employees. This will help you establish your business and sustain it over time. ‘Studying business gives students a holistic picture of how to run their business,’ Dr Ferdous says.
Communication is a skill you’ve already been working on at school or at your part-time job, and it’s integral to surviving in business. Right from the get-go you’ll be communicating with stakeholders on different levels, requiring all sorts of considerations in the way you interact with them.
If you’re working within a company, you must be able to communicate how you’re contributing to the organisation to your team members and clients. If you start your own business you’ll be dealing with banks for finance, new employees, and of course your customers or clients on a daily basis. Both of these career paths require constant networking to find new opportunities.
‘You need to be able to communicate your ideas and the value proposition you’re offering,’ Dr Ahmed says. In other words, you’ve got to persuade others to believe in what you’re selling.
Remember, one of the most important aspects of communicating in business is negotiation. Learn how to ask the right questions, understand the needs of others and negotiate the best possible outcome.
'You need to be able to communicate your ideas and the value proposition you’re offering.'
Dr Ahmed Ferdous,
Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University
Dr Ferdous’ research at Deakin involves talking to industry professionals about the skills they’re looking for in employees. He hears the same thing repeatedly: they want graduates who know how to think critically and solve problems.
Issues in business arise every day no matter what industry you find yourself in. ‘You need to be prompt at solving the problem at hand, which requires critical thinking and problem solving skills,’ Dr Ferdous says.
How do you learn to problem-solve, negotiate and effectively utilise your resources? Exposure. Immersing yourself in environments where you’re required to communicate, think critically and work in a team.
Business degrees give theoretical grounding in business concepts, and allow you to master soft skills – communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and innovation – increasingly needed in our ever-evolving digital world.
They also offer opportunities to take part in integrated learning programs and entrepreneurship and innovation incubators – work experience in real-life business situations. These are highly beneficial because as you’re learning business skills, you’re also networking with peers, and those already established in the industry.
‘You gain exposure by not only managing a business, but seizing opportunities,’ Dr Ferdous says. ‘You get a chance to develop a business plan with industry professionals, which you can implement later on.’
Most of all, a business degree can help you reach your potential and learn one of the most fundamental skills to succeed: resilience. ‘You’ve got to be resilient in business. Learn from your successes and failures, and interpret feedback as constructive rather than personal,’ Dr Ferdous says.
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