Would a career in business suit me?
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Business careers suit people who like to interact with others, make decisions and get things done. In order to succeed you need good people skills, pragmatism and common sense.
Your aim will be to maintain and improve profit levels, either by increasing revenue or cutting costs. In order to do so you’ll need to keep up to date with trends in the outside world – whether it’s a popular new social media platform or a change in how people buy groceries – and make sure that your company is adapting to and taking advantage of it.
The skills you need to work in HR include:
- Being able to communicate with and influence a diverse range of people.
- Being able to speak up and challenge others even when met with resistance or unfamiliar circumstances.
- Being able to stay level headed and professional, but also sensitive and empathetic, in emotional situations or when completing tasks that you don’t like. For example, if the organisation hits hard times financially you might need to make a certain number of people redundant.
- As you’ll be enforcing the company rules and policies, you need to be prepared to follow them yourself and lead by example.
Hours and travel in HR
Working hours in HR tend to be a standard nine to five, although shift or weekend work can sometimes crop up, and if deadlines are approaching then extra hours may need to be worked, sometimes at short notice. HR is office-based, but if the role involves travel this should be made clear at interview. For example, if you work in graduate recruitment you may need to travel round the country to attend events at different universities.
Would a career in HR fit with my values?
As an HR professional your aim will be to obtain and/or retain a skilled, motivated and committed workforce. Your work may also include ensuring equal opportunities, fairness and transparency. However, your loyalty needs to be to the business and its profitability – for example if you have to tackle the poor performance of a fellow employee. You might also find that not everyone in the business has the same views on fairness and transparency as you do – for example when hiring new staff or offering work experience – and you might get overruled on occasion.
Being a good salesperson is all about having confidence, charisma and strong selling skills. You will need to develop an in-depth knowledge of the product or service you are selling, and feel comfortable using this to challenge any objections with a view to getting the customer to buy.
Maintaining and developing relationships with existing customers is the main component of a role in sales, and you will need to listen to and predict customer needs, before presenting appropriately to make a sale.
Hours and travel in sales
There is often a lot of travel involved, throughout the UK or even abroad depending on the company, as much of your time will be spent meeting with clients. This is why employers frequently specify that applicants need to have a full UK driving licence. Depending on where the clients are based, this could mean overnight or longer trips away from home.
People working in sales need to be flexible as meetings can be arranged last minute, and you may have to make presentations to prospective clients with minimal notice. You will often be in charge of managing your own timetable, so it will be up to you to balance this and make up for hours worked on overtime elsewhere; for instance, many employers may allow you to make up for meetings that run late by an hour by leaving work an hour early the following day. This requires a degree of flexibility, and excellent planning and organisational skills.
Would a career in sales fit with my values?
Many sales roles are heavily focused on meeting high targets, which can often mean working in a high-pressured and competitive environment. Would you feel comfortable with the constant need to meet financial goals, or would you worry that you were pushing people to spend money?
To work in marketing you need good communication skills, as you’ll need to persuade others that your suggested strategy is the right one to pursue. You’ll have to be able to plan ahead, for example to decide what activities to include in your campaign for the coming year and how you will spend your budget, but be flexible for if things change (eg prices). And you’ll need to deal politely but firmly with suppliers’ salespeople, when you get in touch to buy one product and they want to sell you lots of others.
For specialist digital roles, eg pay per click (PPC) marketing, you need to be good with data and spotting patterns in numbers. The same applies if you want to work in market research.
For more general roles you’ll need some ability to analyse data, an element of creativity and to be reasonably confident with other people. You’re likely to liaise with lots of different colleagues at all levels of the company and also to have lots of contact with suppliers and with members of your target market. It’s also important to be resilient, in case your great new idea for a campaign has cold water poured all over it by your boss or the CEO.
If you work in business to business marketing (B2B), you’ll need to feel comfortable producing work that has a slick, business-like feel, and to portray this image yourself in your interactions with others. You might also need to be prepared to wait around while your ideas are escalated up the company hierarchy for approval or modification before you can put them into practice.
In contrast, business to consumer marketing (B2C) might suit you if you want a career that’s a bit more creative, fast paced and able to react to current trends. For example, you might set up a competition to win the latest must-have item or book a stall at Glastonbury to promote your charity.
Hours and travel in marketing
Many marketing roles, particularly the more generalist ones, involve representing the company to the outside world. You may well need to meet suppliers or clients, and attend events that are popular with your target market. It’s unlikely that these will all be near your office, and not all events will take place during normal working hours.
As such, you’ll need to be prepared to work some evenings or weekends when necessary, and to travel to different parts of the country (or abroad) and stay away from home from time to time. However, you will generally know well in advance when this will be.
Would this be a good thing or a bad thing for you? You might enjoy getting out of the office but find you can’t always attend evening or weekend commitments outside of work (eg sport or volunteering).
Would a marketing career fit with my values?
If you work in marketing you’ll be promoting a product, service or organisation to encourage people to use it or buy it (or give it money, if you work for a charity). So there might be organisations that you are more keen or less keen to work for, depending on your personal values. Consider this before you apply!
PR is all about managing the reputation of individuals, companies and organisations and getting your message across to different target audiences. This means strong communications skills – both verbal and written – are vital for success in the sector. You’ll need to speak to clients, senior professionals, journalists and the public regularly as well as write emails, articles and press releases.
Whether you work in-house or for a consultancy, organisation and time management are important so you don’t miss deadlines. PR consultancies deal with many different clients and projects at once, so you’ll need to be able to multitask and prioritise too.
An interest in current affairs and trends is key to a successful PR career. You will need to identify issues, such as negative news stories in the media, so you can make decisions on how to manage the profile and reputation of clients and organisations and solve problems. You will need to promote a range of products and services and some may not seem very interesting; your job is to find angles for stories that will engage and inform the public. This is where creativity comes in, especially when you are starting your PR career, as a typical task is to draft press releases.
Hours and travel in PR
PR offices’ core hours are generally 9.00 am to 5.30 pm, but many positions involve early starts and late finishes, especially if campaign deadlines are approaching. If a crisis hits (eg a news story that could potentially damage the reputation of your client) then you will probably need to work overtime to manage the situation. However, many PR teams offer flexible working and may allow you to work from home.
You will often need to meet clients and the amount of travel you do in your job will depend on the size of the PR consultancy or in-house team. Smaller PR organisations often have local clients, but larger consultancies tend to have clients across the UK or overseas. However, you will generally know about meetings well in advance.
Networking and attending events is a big part of PR, especially when you are starting your career, as you will need to build up your list of contacts. This means that making weeknight commitments outside work may be difficult (eg tennis practice every Wednesday and Friday), as events are usually in the evening. Although networking usually happens after work, many PR professionals look at the events as a chance to socialise. As you progress through your career and build up contacts, you may attend fewer events.
Would a PR career fit with my values?
If you work in PR you’ll be managing the spreading of information between an individual or an organisation (eg the government, businesses or charities) and the public, so you will need to build relationships with your clients. There may be organisations that you favour more than others, depending on your personal values. If you are applying to work in PR, research who the teams’ clients are before you apply.
You’re well suited to management consulting if you:
- enjoy working as part of a team
- are interested in the business world (and keen to learn more about it)
- have an affinity for problem-solving.
The latter is probably the most important characteristic for would-be consultants. It’s a consultant’s job to break down a client’s problems and come up with well reasoned, sensible answers. A client (usually an organisation) will have called in a consulting firm to find ways to generate a competitive advantage, maximise growth or improve its business performance. So if using your intellect to work out how to make something better appeals, consulting could suit you.
Wallflowers need not apply, however. Convincing clients of the need for change can be a challenge, requiring excellent communication skills and large helpings of diplomacy.
Hours and travel in management consulting
The workload of a consultant can be very heavy, with working nights and weekends a possibility when required. Frequent travel and weeknights away from home are common. However, a consultant’s time is usually spent in the company of like-minded colleagues – it is a very sociable profession with plenty of networking opportunities, as well as more casual social occasions.
Would a career in management consulting fit with my values?
If you enjoy bringing about improvements, management consulting could be a good career for you. However, making a process more efficient might mean that it requires fewer staff members to carry it out, resulting in job losses or in there being fewer new roles at that employer in future.