The other day I was working with a current college freshman who is majoring in business. Our conversation rolled around to courses he should be taking in the spring semester and when I asked him how many business-related courses he had taken prior to entering college, I was both shocked and impressed by his answer: ten!
Now, most students with an interest in business should have a strong background in math – if they’ve taken calculus, that’s even better – and perhaps they’ve taken a course or two in statistics, accounting or economics. The ones who are really vested in their education at an early age and see the business world in their future will have taken all of the above. However, taking ten courses is another thing altogether. That’s building a brand.
What’s a brand you ask? Well, think about what you are interested in; how much do you really know about what it will take to do well in this program and, ultimately, in the profession? If you want to major in nursing, have you taken anatomy and physiology? For engineering, have you taken pre-calculus or calculus? Have you taken a CAD course? For business, have you taken statistics or accounting? If you’re like this student, have you immersed yourself in your interests to the extent that you’ve taken all ten of the courses related to your major at your high school?
If you’ve been taking this approach all along, if you have been preparing yourself for your major, then good for you! If you’ve taken the preparatory courses your high school offers towards your program, then you are in the process of building your brand. If they were AP or honors courses, even better – you could be in line to receive college credit from whichever college or university you attend.
The point here is that you can choose a major blindly and hope that it will be the right fit. You can operate on assumptions and hope that they will lead you to something. You can be ignorant of the course requirements for a program and assume that you will just make it work. However, you can also dedicate time to building your brand by doing several things:
1.) Take courses in your chosen field
2.) Complete a job-shadow with someone who does what you want to do
3.) Volunteer your time to a cause or organization related to your field
4.) Find a part-time job that gets you in the door somewhere where you will learn more about your major or your intended field
5.) Do some online research to see where your chosen major might lead you
If I was still reading applications for an admissions office, I can tell you that this student’s application would have been one that I got excited about because it would have been readily apparent that his interest in business was authentic and informed. I would have seen that he started taking the first relevant courses as a sophomore and that he carried this interest through to senior year – he had consistency. I would have felt really good about how much more prepared he was going to be because of his prior exposure to the coursework, terms, ideas and issues involved in what is a very chaotic and volatile business world right now.
He started as a sophomore and you might be saying to yourself, “well, I’m already in my junior or senior year and it’s too late to build a brand.”
To this I say, “nonsense.” It’s never too late to start getting invested in that which you are passionate about. It’s never too late to start building a brand towards your future. You just have to choose to start…
Have any thoughts, comments or suggestions on branding? Use the comment form below to tell me what you think!
Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.