Six things I learned at business school
// Jeff Maertz

Almost five years ago, I stepped into the Birch building with books in my hands and a knot in my stomach. Much has happened since that first day of business school, and I have learned some, forgotten more, and almost completed my degree. As graduation draws near, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons that I’ve learned that were never tested for; the implicit learning that comes from seeing the big picture and reading between the lines. Mind you, everyone leaves school with a different interpretation of what has happened, but this is what I learnt from the time I spent in business school:

Get Good Marks To Have a Good Schedule: Let’s face it: the short term is much more motivating then the long term. That’s why, when you trying to convince yourself to study instead of going on Reddit, think of how crappy your schedule will be next term if you get straight C’s. Capilano sets your registration time by your previous semester’s GPA, and therefore, if you have a low GPA, you’ll have to scrape the bottom of the bucket to get into any classes. Unless you enjoy having an eight hour gap between your Monday classes, you need a high GPA. This is especially important these days, as enrollment is up and the number of classes offered doesn’t seem to be keeping pace.

I know students who have had their four-year program turn into a five-year program because they couldn’t get into the required classes. Most 300- and 400-level classes are offered in smaller quantities than 100- and 200-level courses, so if you come out of your second year with a 2.0 GPA, don’t expect to get into the required courses. Also, don’t assume that summer school will save you, because they offer barely any 300- and 400-level courses during this time.

Understand HR And The Selection Process To Double Your Chances of Landing A Job: For BBA students, an introductory human resources class is necessary for graduation. Even if you don’t want to specialize in HR, there’s still a lot that you can get out of this class. Human resources people are the gatekeepers to an organization – if you understand how they think, you can play the system to get your resume to the top of the pile. By understanding what recruiters are asking for, you can tailor your resume to meet those requirements - all this information can be found in the job descriptions. Even if you’re less qualified than other applicants, if you understand HR, you can make up for that inexperience.

Get Experience While You’re In School: When people graduate from school, they are generally on an equal level of employability. On a resume, a degree is a degree, and your marks matter, but not a whole lot. You need a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd, and the best way to do that is to get some kind of relevant experience outside of school. The people that I know who have had trouble finding a job immediately post-graduation are the ones with little work experience or irrelevant experience (e.g. retail experience when applying for a finance job).

In addition to being essential for resumes and interviews, working or volunteering is a great chance to network and meet people who could be your ticket to a great job. So be strategic about what you do during summer break, and if you have the energy, do some volunteering when you are taking classes. Besides, in the short-term, the volunteering experience will also help you get those sought-after scholarships!

Take Your Accounting Classes Sequentially: Accounting is one of the subjects that can build on itself. If you forget the basics, then you’re going to be completely lost when the principles get more complex. Trust me, accounting is something that can be forgotten easily, and if there is a year-long gap between Accounting I and Accounting II, you’ll probably struggle.

To get around this problem, you should take your accounting classes one after another. I would recommend dedicating your second and third year to accounting and finance, and just getting it done. You’ll find it much easier and undoubtedly get better grades.

Memorize Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development Early:
Without fail, this concept comes up in every class. Never have I left a class without at some point hearing an instructor repeat these words: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. If you learn this early, you’ll be sure to boost your GPA by at least a couple points because it is honestly tested for in so many classes. The thing is, there are better theories about small group formation out there, but this one comes up perennially because it is so memorable and simple. No matter – just learn it and get on with your life.

Grades Are More Negotiable Than You May Think: In sales classes, you are taught to always ask for the sale, because without asking, you’ll never get a yes. The same rule applies to test scores, group project marks, and deadlines. If you walk into an instructor’s office and confidently make a request backed by a solid argument, there’s a decent chance that you’ll hear a yes. The worst that can happen (assuming you ask in a respectful manner) is that you’ll hear a no. Just shrug off the no and feel good about yourself for trying.

These six things are lessons that I wish someone had told me when I first started at Capilano. I would have had better class schedules and better grades; I would have memorized Tuckman’s theory earlier, tried to get more experience, and paid more attention in my HR classes. But with that said, hindsight is 20–20, and sometimes, the only way to learn is firsthand.

They say school is like a game. If you learn the unwritten rules early and see through the bullshit, then you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary hard work. Every game has strategies that aren’t apparent when you first begin (like actually paying attention in HR class or taking your accounting classes one after another). If you follow some of these strategies that took me five years to learn, your time at Capilano may become easier and more successful. Now, if I can just find the unwritten rulebook for the next stage in my life, the working world, all would be well.

/Jeff Maertz, columnist

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: