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what makes a high quality business graduate
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A business degree isn’t enough: What really makes a high potential business graduate?

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Recent research found that 43% of business graduates went on to work in jobs that did not require post-secondary education. 

Business-related degrees did not fare the worst. Higher underemployment rates were found for degrees like social sciences (54%) and parks, recreation and leisure (63%).

Yet, as Forbes reports, the total number of underemployed graduates appears higher among business-related degrees because post-secondary produces over ten times more business graduates than social science graduates.

High potential business graduates

So what is to be done? A business-related degree is clearly not a free pass into a related job. 

Dr. Kyleen Myrah, at the Okanagan School of Business, provided some advice that is equally useful for business students looking to improve their graduate employability and for hiring managers looking for high potential business graduates.

1. Using knowledge to solve problems

Business graduates should be able to use their education to solve real-world problems in the world of work. It’s not just about knowing the theory, but being able to put all of that knowledge into practical use in the real world environment.

Dr Myrah says: “Business education should be less about functional knowledge (ie marketing, sales, accounting, finance) and more about holistic education – How do we recognise when a problem exists, what integrative knowledge can we use to tackle or solve the issues, who else needs to be involved.”

The importance of practical experience in making the leap from business education to the real world of business was also emphasised.

Internships, practicums and other practical experience “allows one to practice and experiment with decision making, test concepts and theories and get important guidance in a simulated environment so that the leap to employment is not so great.”

2. A broader perspective

A high potential business graduate should have a a grasp of the big picture, not just a good memory about the facts and theories they learned in business school.

To be employable, business graduates should be able to have a broad perspective and ability to use big data, complex information and demonstrate the ability to “look at gaps, see inconsistencies or be able to break it down and communicate it to others”.

Dr. Myrah also suggests that business degrees potentially have utility beyond the conventional career pathways. “Graduates of business education need to realise that their skills set has application much beyond traditional business jobs: nonprofit sector, public institutions, social enterprise, politics.

“In addition to entrepreneurship, small business and the corporate sector. Perhaps part of the problem is they don’t look far and wide enough for that career opportunity.”

3. Complementary experience

Work experience, volunteer experience and other endeavours in addition to a business degree do provide valuable experience and an opportunity to get practical experience using what they learn from their degree.

However, Dr. Myrah says to look even deeper for that in what makes a high potential business graduate: “the focus is even more on initiative, being a self-starter, mobilising others, working for a cause, engaging in passion projects which create impact for others or starting your own enterprise”.

Myrah goes on to explain, “Workplaces are way less traditional – more mobile, way less hierarchical, less about formal position power and title and more about peer and referent power. So how have you created impact, made a difference, done something different – and who have you brought along with you?

“And along that journey, what have you learned that be leveraged for the new environment you are entering.”

Ian MacRae is co-author of High Potential: How to spot, manage and develop talented people at work.

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