How to enter the business world without a business degree?

Though a graduate student in Communication, I’m always curious and never stop exploring different industries and figure out what they do for a living. And the best way to do it? Talk to people who work there! So, I went to Morgan Stanley’s Information Session at Villanova University where I’m doing my Master’s Degree. The panelists, mostly composed of Villanova alumni, are either currently working in Morgan Stanley (both New York and Baltimore office) or has just finished their internships there. This time, they were looking to recruit people for the Operations Analysts positions.

If you were thinking, as I did before, that only students with a business degree could land a job with investment banks like Morgan Stanley. Then you are probably wrong. Most of the panel speakers did not hold a bachelor’s degree in business. Instead, their majors vary from political science to psychology to history. About two thirds of the students attending the panel, as well, were not from business school.

If majors do not matter significantly in operations, then what do? Here are some takeaways from the panel.

problem-solving skills

One reason why Morgan Stanley put human resources into operations is that it requires people to make judgments, and most importantly, good ones. When an emergency surfaces, one should be equipped with the ability to analyze the source of the problems and come up with the best solutions in the limited time. This set of skills, more often than not, cannot possibly be grasped inside classrooms. Rather, these are life skills that one are more likely to pick up in extra curricular activities, projects management, internships, etc. To explain it more vividly, people who work in operations are like firemen, who are needed to respond professionally and swiftly once an emergency pop up.

This also accounts for why majors do not matter so much in operations. Knowledge of finance and business could be acquired and learned through self-learning and training (Morgan Stanley offers amazing training opportunities for incoming analysts without a business background). Morgan Stanley greatly appreciate and embrace the diversity introduced by a diverse staff body. Fresh perspectives in problem solving is exactly what they are looking for.

Of course, the ability to think quantitatively and being comfortably dealing with figures, interested in business will be a plus. As one panelist suggested, take advantage of the resources on campus and read the front page of Wall Street Journal on a daily basis.

Sell yourself during the interview

Starting by explaining why you want to work on Wall Street and how you can approach a problem differently might be a good introduction during an interview, notably for students who need to justify and clarify why they want to enter the business world without a relevant degree. Concise arguments supported by concrete examples should be put forward. Communication skill, 90% of the time appearing in the requirements of a job posting nowadays, work here as well! “One cannot not communicate.” right? A plethora of interview advice are available online, so be sure to check them out before you go in for an interview. And remember practice makes perfect!

All in all, for those who are not so passionate about your own major, do not be restricted by it. Go outside and explore all kinds of career opportunities available. Talk to professionals who are working there and ask them how they get to where they are. Try out different internship experience, and let your guts tell you whether you are a fit or not. In business world, it all boils down to networking and experience.


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