Most industries hire business positions to support their operational needs.  If your interest is in pursuing a career in business, the delineation between job industry and job function is an important one to consider. Perhaps you are passionate about sports but have an interest in law. Or you have an idea that will be the next Facebook. Maybe you want to work at an advertising agency, but you have a background in finance. Or possibly you aren’t sure what you want to do yet but know you want to be in an entrepreneurial, fast-paced environment. Whether you create your own opportunity like a startup or decide to work for a large organization, there are challenges and benefits to each path.  The two main issues to consider are what you want to be doing, and where you want to be doing it. In most industries, it may be possible to combine your interests and skills to find a career that fits.

If you would like to test out or build experience in a variety of areas, consider leadership development or corporate rotational programs. These programs provide you with in-depth experiences, ongoing mentorship, and targeted training across a range of business areas within a company. 

Business Overview

Below are some sample business roles that span across a variety of fields, which have been excerpted from the Industries & Professions directory on

  • Accounting: Accountants compile, analyze, verify, and prepare financial records, including profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cost studies, and tax reports. Accountants may specialize in areas such as auditing, tax work, assurance, consulting, cost accounting, budgeting and control, or information technology systems and procedures. Auditors examine and verify financial records to ensure that they are accurate, complete, and in compliance with federal laws.
  • Customer ServiceCustomer service representatives work in many different industries to provide “frontline” customer service by assisting with problems or answering questions. They provide customers with information about the company’s products and services and answer customer inquiries by telephone, e-mail, online chat, or social media channels; ask questions and assess customers’ responses to identify the problem; research customers’ account records; suggest solutions or direct customers to the correct department for solutions.
  • Finance: Risk managers help businesses control risks and losses while maintaining the highest production levels possible. By protecting a company against loss, the risk manager helps it to improve operating efficiency and meet strategic goals. Investment professionals such as financial analysts, fund managers, endowment managers, and chief investment officers are responsible for creating an investment strategy to benefit their companies. They analyze investment markets and funds, make investment decisions, monitor investment performance, and file regulatory paperwork.
  • Human Resources: Human resources (HR) employees help companies make the most of their people-related investments (salaried, temporary, and contract workers). They collaborate with management to create personnel policies; manage compensation and benefits programs; analyze staffing needs; recruit, hire, and train workers; develop leadership training programs; and provide advice on diversity issues, among other duties.
  • Legal: Corporate lawyers advise corporations concerning their legal rights, obligations, or privileges. They study constitutions, statutes, previous decisions, ordinances, and decisions of quasi-judicial bodies that are applicable to corporations. They may manage tax matters, arrange for stock to be issued, handle claims cases, or represent the firm in real estate dealings. They advise corporations on the pros and cons of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit.
  • MarketingMarketing managers help to raise awareness and drive sales of products and services by contributing to product development, pricing, social media, and brand management. They may also conduct public relations efforts such as working with news media and planning consumer events. Marketing research analysts collect, analyze, and interpret data in order to determine potential demand for a product or service. By examining the buying habits, wants, needs, and preferences of consumers, research analysts are able to recommend ways to improve products, increase sales, and expand customer bases.
  • Operations: Information officers are responsible for their company’s information technology. They use their knowledge of technology and business to determine how information technology can best be used to meet company goals—especially over the long term. This may include researching, purchasing, and overseeing set-up and use of technology systems, such as an intranet, Internet, and computer networks. Office administrators direct and coordinate the work activities of office workers within an office. They supervise office clerks and other workers in their tasks and plan department activities with other supervisory personnel. They evaluate the progress of their clerks and work with upper-management officials to ensure that the office staff meets productivity and quality goals.
  • Sales: Sales managers direct a company’s sales program by managing staff, working with dealers and distributors, setting prices for products and services, analyzing sales data, establishing sales goals, and implementing plans that improve sales performance. They may oversee an entire company, a geographical territory of a company’s operations, or a specific department within a company.

Center for Career Education Resources

  • Corporate Rotational Programs Industry Showcase: Held in the Fall semester, this event features a panel session and networking opportunities with representatives from Leadership Development programs at 4-5 organizations. Previous attendees have included Sotheby’s, NBCUniversal, Unilever and Bloomingdales.
  • Career Fairs: Explore hundreds of employer profiles from companies that attend CCE’s Fall, Engineering, Spring and Start-Up Career Fairs to recruit Columbia students and alumni.
  • CCE-Sponsored Internship Programs: CCE offers a variety of structured internship programs that provide experience in a number of business roles, in domestic, international and virtual locations.

Columbia Resources

Student Organizations

Additional Columbia Resources

  • Columbia Entrepreneurship: Mission is to help Columbia’s students, faculty and alumni launch Columbia-born ventures. Its website is a central location for entrepreneurship-centric resources at Columbia.
  • Columbia Venture Competition: An annual competition put on by the Columbia engineering school giving a total of $25,000 in prize money for startup business plans.
  • Columbia Entrepreneurship Curriculum: Curriculum provided by the Engineering school for students to get a concentration in entrepreneurship.
  • Columbia Technology Ventures: Facilitates the transfer of inventions from academic research to outside organizations for the benefit of society on a local, national and global basis.
  • Columbia Entrepreneur Alumni Network: Program designed to pair students with alumni mentors who have experience in startups and entrepreneurship.
  • Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center: A free service provided by the New York Small Business Development Center to help new businesses create business plans, marketing strategies, and comply with licensing and regulations.
  • Columbia Business School Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center: Provides a list of websites, publications, and other resources that provide helpful information and assistance to startups and small businesses in the New York area.
  • hackNY: Co-organized by faculty from NYU and Columbia, hackNY organizes the summer Fellows program and student ‘hackathons’ during the year to create a community of student-technologists.
  • Res Inc: Short for Residential Incubator, it is a living and learning opportunity open to students who are interested in living alongside like-minded entrepreneurs in a hands-on, ideas-rich environment.

External Resources 

Networking Groups

  • Ellevate: A global professional women’s network with opportunities for networking, professional development, and business partnerships
  • NetParty: Meetup group in more than 20 major metro areas hosting events that combine business and social networking
  • Out Professionals: The nation’s leading LGBT networking organization

Additional Reading

  • Crain’s New York Business: Business publication covering NYC’s major industries, including Wall Street, media, the arts, real estate, retail, restaurants and more.
  • Crain’s New York Best Places to Work: Annual list of organizations voted as the 100 top places to work
  • Create a Career: The Create a Career 100 Business Careers article provides information on profiles, educational requirements and salary information on a variety of business careers.
  • Universum’s Ideal Employer Ranking: Each year, 3000 companies are nominated in over 40 markets as ideal employers by students and professionals

Job Boards

Government Resources

Resources for Women

Resources for Minorities