Thinking seriously about a career in business?
Preparing yourself for a career in business is exciting - there are varied fields to explore and different pathways to take you there.
If you're thinking about a career in business you probably have an entrepreneurial streak and a desire to work with people in a profession that contributes to society's collective wealth and standard of living.
Now it's time to move forward with your career planning. Here is some useful info to help you start building your skills right now.
What skills do I need?
Whether you have chosen a specific study and career path, or want to keep your options open, it’s time to start thinking Business. It is also good to think about the business environment you are likely to work in.
A University degree can give you a great head start. Different business professional roles require a range of skills, some common to all or most roles, while others are specialised skills required for a particular role.
Business is a world of constant change and you need to be adaptable, flexible and most importantly, open to the idea of life long learning. Most business professions involve ongoing professional development, so learning does not stop when you get your degree and your first job. Professional development ensures you are up to date with current knowledge, changing practices, and any new requirements in your profession field.
Skills you need in the different areas of Business include:
- Accuracy and attention to detail
- Budgeting and business awareness
- Communication (written/ spoken)
- Computer literacy
- Mathematical and financial
- Problem solving
- Time management
- Communication (written/ spoken)
- Presenting; numeracy
- Data interpretation
- Research/ investigation/ report writing
- Strong numeracy skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to analyse/ interpret data
- Presentation skills
- Discretion dealing with confidential information
- Strategic thinking
- Networking and relationship building
- Negotiation skills
- Commercial awareness/ problem solving
- Cultural sensitivity
- Team leadership
- Understand workplace practices and organisational behaviour
- Interpersonal, communication
- Negotiation, conflict resolution
- Strategic thinking
- Activity planning/ organising
- Managing budgets
- Statistical analysis/ data mining
- Relationship management
- Communications/ social media
- Strategic analysis/ planning
Building skills to succeed
Look for every chance to build skills through your school work or hobbies, while exploring your area of interest.
Be open-minded and get involved. The more connections you make, the more you'll gain. Seek out school holiday events and work experience placements in fields involving business. Ask your Careers teacher for more information.
Skills to Build
Communication skills (written/ spoken)
Communication requirements will vary depending on the profession you go into, however, it is important across all business professions to be able to communicate with your clients, with your co-workers and with management. You'll be speaking to people on the phone and face-to-face, you may need to write reports, business documents, briefs or advertising materials for different audiences. You can develop and practice these skills in many ways, through presentations or written school assignments, volunteering activities, involvement with debating or speaking groups, drama clubs, or even setting up your own part-time small business (e.g. dog walking) and marketing your services locally.
Critical analysis and an ability to interpret information
Interpreting client needs, creating meaningful reports or proposing solutions requires you to be able to analyse information and interpret it in an accurate and understandable way. Often your role will be to take technical or professional information and make this available in a way that a broader audience will understand. Your school assignments will generally require application of critical analysis and interpretation - good practice for developing your skills in this area.
It's important in business to be able to negotiate both inside and outside your organisation. Good negotiators can persuade people and influence outcomes - they are also flexible enough to consider other options that may help to achieve a solution. You can practice your negotiating skills at school, when shopping or during other activities where choices or options have to be considered and agreement reached.
Networking and building relationship
Few businesses or business people act in isolation. Business professionals interact regularly within their profession and across professions, and will often work in multi-disciplinary teams on projects. You'll need the skills to build up a solid network of trusted business professionals you can call on. Look for opportunities at school or in your out-of-school activities to practice your networking skills.
Numbers are everywhere in business – not just accounting. Although you may not want to be a mathematician, it's important to stick with a mathematics subject throughout your VCE and research pre-requisites required for some business, commerce and IT-related courses. For any role you choose in business, good numeracy skills will help you, whether it's to deliver business outcomes, projects on budget, get the most out of marketing campaigns, or help you understand how a change in global interest rates may impact your exports.
You may need to present information to clients, potential clients, colleagues, senior management, or shareholders. You may need to represent your organisation in a variety of ways; at industry events, with potential new customers, professional associations and even the general public. Many volunteer organisations or part-time roles such as in the retail sector can provide you with valuable experience.
For university study and in your business career, you need the ability to manage yourself and your workload, so you should now be developing good time-management, prioritising and workload practices. Striking the right balance between your VCE studies, sport, part-time work, volunteering, family and social commitments is great practice in developing these skills.
At university study and in business you need the ability to work independently, often with little or no close supervision. Unlike school, university doesn't require all day attendance and the teachers don't mark a roll or chase you to make sure you hand in assignments - it's all up to you to manage your own learning. In business, you may work independently and have just a weekly meeting where you report back to your manager on the work you've completed. Try to develop independent research and learning skills - research facts and figures, or find answers to problems, rather than asking a teacher, so you're skilled at this by the time you reach uni.
Technology plays a key role across the business sector, so focus on developing broad technology skills, including basics such as word processing and email or more specialised programs relevant to your intended field of business. For example, if you are interested in finance, economics or accounting, try to develop your skills working with database applications such as Microsoft Access and Excel or financial management software such as MYOB. If you've chosen the course you want to study, explore some university course guides online, or contact a course coordinator at the university to discuss what software programs are used in their course.
What school subjects can help?
Although most business degrees don't have strict pre-requisites, studying certain VCE subjects will help you to develop the skills that universities (and employers!) are after.
These VCE subjects will help build your skills and give you an insight toward the business related career that's right for you:
- Business Management
- Mathematics (any)
- IT Applications
- Politics and Global Politics
- Small Business (VCE & VET)
And be sure to also consider subjects that will strengthen your "soft skills" as these are also essential for business professionals.
Use VCE to achieve your personal best results. While ATAR isn’t everything, you will have the widest possible choice of options if you achieve the best results you can. You will also learn about your own potential - it’s great preparation for the effort that will be expected of you at university.
Before choosing VCE subjects, do some research on your course options at different universities. Our LEAP Partner Universities websites all have a special LEAP landing page with shortcuts to their courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, student support services and more...
If you're aiming for a specialised degree, your subject choices can be even more focused. University courses may vary, so their course guides will explain the subjects you will be studying at their uni and their course outcomes.
You should also check the VTAC publications web page, go to the Publications for Year 10 and 11 students and browse to the VICTER publication for the year you'll be applying for entry. It lists all Victorian Universities' pre-requisites for entry into their courses.
Explore options and pathways
There are lots of options. Business is diverse, so you should first understand the Business specialisations - check out our business > glossary to help you decide which area sounds right for you. Also check out Business professions snapshot - facts and figures on our Getting started page to see what employment trends are predicted.
If you're unsure which direction you want to take in business or just want to keep your options open, a general degree such as Bachelor of Business or Bachelor of Management may be a good place to begin. They will give you transferable skills and you can choose specialisations as you progress through your course and get a better feel for the areas you are best at and enjoy the most.
If you already have a clear direction in mind, there are many other degrees to choose from. You can specialise in accounting, economics, finance, management, marketing or international business to suit your chosen profession. These degrees are often recognised by industry professional organisations, giving you an advantage in the job market. For example, graduates of many Business, Accounting and Commerce degree courses are eligible for membership of professional bodies like CPA Australia, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA), the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Graduates of accredited IT-related courses such as Bachelor of Business Information Systems may be eligible for professional membership of the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
Visit Open Days
It is a good idea to visit open days held on metro and regional university campuses. Download our Open Day Hints and Checklist (PDF 100Kb) for tips on what to do and ask at an Open Day.
Make the leap
Is your broad career plan mapped out? Then go to Making the leap for some final hints and tips to refine your strategy.