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Overview of Careers in Business

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Overview of Careers in Business

When considering a career in business, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:

  • What industry do I want to work in?
  • What types of positions am I interested in pursuing?

Most industries employ workers in business positions in order to support their operational needs.  For students who are interested in pursuing a career in business, this is where the delineation between job industry and job function becomes important. Perhaps you are passionate about sports, but you are interested in law. Or you want to work at an advertising agency but you have a background in finance. Well, sports management firms have legal departments, and advertising agencies have finance and accounts divisions, so it is possible to satisfy both interests at once. When it comes down to a choice of career, 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.

What industry do I want to work in?

We invite you to explore our additional industry pages, which will help you to learn about career paths, identify resources and understand hiring practices in a variety of fields.

What types of positions am I interested in pursuing?

If you would like to test out or build experience in a variety of areas, consider leadership development or rotational programs. These programs provide you with in-depth experiences, ongoing mentorship, and targeted training across a range of business areas within a company.  Companies usually use these types of programs to hire interns or post-graduates and train them through rotational programs (i.e. rotating through different parts of a company) or specific, structured training programs. CCE provides some examples of these programs here.

Below are some sample business roles that span across a variety of fields, which have been excerpted from the Industries & Professions directory on Use resources like Vault, O*NET, and WetFeet to learn more about these careers.

  • 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.
  • Marketing: Marketing 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 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.

CCE Resources

  • LionSHARE: Search for business roles on LionSHARE, CCE’s online job database, across many fields.
  • Leadership Development 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.
  • Vault and WetFeet: Browse Vault’s “Industries and Professions” directory to learn about career options in business, and download helpful career guides such as the “Vault Guide to Top Internships,” “Vault Guide to the Top 50 Consumer Products Employers”, the “Wetfeet Survival Guide for Women in Business” and many others.
  • Leadership Development resources: A list of training/rotational programs offered by select employers.

Columbia Resources

Student Organizations

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 2014 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

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