The Lessons I've Learned as a Business Student

The Lessons I’ve Learned as a Business Student

After reaching the midpoint of my Commerce degree, I have begun to reflect on what exactly I have learned in my schooling. There have been ample assignments, tests, and projects that I have not understood nor felt was a true reflection of the “real world”.

However, within these absurdly intricate and notably difficult assessments, there are an abundance of intangible lessons that I believe every business student should learn and cultivate into their everyday life. Alongside the assessments, the changes in expectations, etiquette, norms, and requirements of a business school setting, too, have provided ample learning opportunities. Thus, I have constructed a list of the top 20 intangible lessons that I have learned thus far as a business student—all of which I am sure every other business student has learned as well.

1. You cannot thrive if you confine yourself to self-imposed limitations

You must step outside of your comfort zone. Life is full of not-so-comfortable events that we must get through, and the heart-racing, palm sweating presentations, networking events, and grueling finance exams are a pure representation of that.

2. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you

You learn quite quickly after high school that you’re no longer the smartest person in the room. At first glance, it may be challenging to accept this notion, but surrounding yourself with smarter people ultimately makes YOU smarter.

3. You need to have confidence (but not overconfidence)

Overconfident people are often prone to be closed off to others’ suggestions and can overlook mistakes in their own work. Confident people, on the other hand, are open to the possibility of error and can recognize that they may be subject to their own biases. More importantly, they express a willingness to learn from their mistakes.

4. Work-life balance is essential

You can’t do work all the time; there are so many opportunities outside of the academic/workplace setting that can make you smarter and better as a whole. Well-roundedness is essential for those looking to thrive (and is especially sought out on a resume).

5. Unconventionality is key

Develop your own personal brand image. Defy the norm. Stand out.

6. “Two heads are better than one” – C.S. Lewis

As soon as we are thrown into an abundance of teams and groups, we begin to see the power of synergy: where the combined effect of the team is greater than the sum of individual efforts. It’s true.

7. Your ego will be trumped by the leaders of tomorrow

The reality is that if we get too caught up in ourselves and our ideas, we’ll miss out on opportunities. When we become conceited in our idea, someone else in the world will be simultaneously producing a better and more innovative one. Don’t focus on today’s idea. Focus on how you can innovate for tomorrow. And ultimately, remain humble. 

8. You have to develop a voice

You can have the most extraordinary ideas and perhaps even answers, yet if you don’t express them, they’re essentially meaningless. Using your voice is a difficult task and needs to be worked on constantly. If your thoughts and ideas are discarded by others, don’t back down. Stick up for yourself. Use your voice. You are a smart human being after all. 

9. Don’t underestimate soft skills

Anyone can solve an intense calculus or finance equation (Google works wonders), but it’s the soft skills such as communication, persuasion, and authenticity that will ultimately land you the job.

10. Abide by the Golden Rule

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Business is all about people. Treating your peers, colleagues, customers, and basically anyone the way you hope to be treated will benefit you in the long-run–and may even contribute to your (future) income. If you treat others poorly now, it will most likely circulate back to you in the future.

11. Resilience cultivates success

Business school has this natural tendency to constantly test our resilience. From extreme deadlines to ripping apart papers to writing insane exams, and so on, these exist as our ample make-or-break moments. However, we’re all still here. Business school ultimately makes us stronger—regardless of whether you know it or not.

12. Character is more important than your GPA

…and of course, your salary, too.

13. You need to implement your values into every facet of life

See how far you get doing otherwise.

14. You need to learn to navigate uncertainty in life

I think that’s how we’ve all made it so far.

15. Unconditional work ethic produces great rewards

It really does.

16. Paying attention is essential

I’m not just talking about during lectures—I’m talking about everything. Observe, observe, observe. The more you observe, the more you will find opportunities will falling into your lap. 

17. Failure is good

We are all inevitably going to fail at some point in our lives whether it be a test, relationship, job, etc. Business school has encouraged us to see the light in the face of failure and use it as a means of improvement. We get smarter, produce better results, and grow as people because of failure.

18. You must be adaptive

We become quick on our feet and respond faster to change as our degree prolongs. This will help us not only in the business world but throughout life as a whole.

19. Life isn’t easy

Our professors can hand us an assignment or test and, regardless of how simple it may be, we will have to put in work for a good mark. I think this goes to show that nothing in life is handed to you, and you have to devote the time, effort, patience, and grit to reap the rewards.

20. We’ll all inevitably make a poor investment, but business school isn’t one of them



Hailey Rodgers is in her third year of Commerce at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and comes from the nearby small town of Westport, Ontario. Hailey is excited to be publishing her first-ever book, See Me, in December 2019. She has been writing for a publisher called Her Campus Media for almost two years and is currently the Co-President of her university’s chapter. She is also a founding member of Step Above Stigma, a mental health organization that promotes mental health advocacy and works to end the stigma surrounding mental health. Hailey is a passionate, dedicated go-getter. You can learn more about Hailey by visiting her website

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