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I did a business degree, but don’t know what I can actually DO

People go into business degrees for different reasons, but the underlying rationale for most of them seems to be this: you will never regret getting a business degree.

Business degrees open so many doors that it can sometimes be overwhelming to figure out what jobs to look for afterwards. Here’s a few to consider: 


The definition: Consulting firms get hired by businesses to provide recommendations and help solve a particular problem.

The companies: There are the top tier consulting groups called MBB (or the “big three” consulting firms) which are McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group or Bain & Company. The other main stream is Big 4 management consulting, which are Deloitte, PWC, KPMG and EY. There are also many other mid-tier firms.


Graduate job: Junior consultant

What they do: Help clients improve their performance and manage risks

Average salary: $55,000-$65,000 depending on firm

Senior job: Manager at Big Four Firm

What they do: Network and build relationships with existing and prospective clients

Average salary: $100,000-$170,000 including bonuses depending on firm


What the job is like:

Laura: There’s a lot of contract work which I didn’t expect. I work for a Big 4 firm but I’m currently working at my client’s office (which is a large bank).


While I get paid a decent salary, I’m now working in a strange office with a bunch of middle-aged men – I’d much rather be working at my firm with my work friends.


My firm also asked me to work 4 days in Canberra for a 3-month contract, I’m in Sydney and they only gave me a month’s notice. I also work every night until at least 7 and I work most weekends. It’s all good experience and I enjoy the work, but I wish I’d known this stuff before going into consulting.

Your step one:

Tom: First step is getting a good average at uni. Most firms have a minimum WAM cut off of 65%. If you want to work for an MBB the cut off is usually around 80.


To be competitive in consulting you would usually need above a 75% average and extra-curricular activities.

Laura: Doing an internship, traineeship or vacation program with the company is a great way to get a foot in the door and is probably the safest way

So once a year, these firms release their grad jobs online. You send in your CV, then the next stage is to undergo psychometric testing, which is very important for the firms. Once you get through that stage you do video interviews online, then an assessment centre where they assess you on how you work in teams, then you do final round interviews when you meet a manager or senior manager. Obviously only successful applicants will progress through each stage.


Tom: Everyone gets nervous about the psychometric testing, but the mathematics skills required are actually very basic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). It’s just testing how easily you can extrapolate data and how well you perform under pressure. There is also plenty of practice material out there for free which is pretty comparable to what you’d expect to get from most firms.

Laura: I wholeheartedly disagree.


PWC gives you 36 minutes to answer 30 questions, some questions taking up to 45 seconds to read, let alone digest and make an informed decision. I worked as fast as I possibly could and could still only answer about half the questions and guessed the rest before the timer ran out. If you left a question blank, you would lose marks.


I wish the questions were basic mathematics, but they weren’t. I was told the same thing going into it and got a rude shock.

Tom: More generally, I think applying to a few different firms across the tiers is a good idea. You never know whether you’re going to get into one of the bigger firms – and if you do, you might not even like it when you get to the interview stage – so I’d always recommend having a few smaller firm backups as well.


Non for profit work

The definition: Not-for-profits need to make money like any other company. Business degrees are highly sought after at these companies, as they need employees who are good at making the most of limited resources.

The companies: World Vision, Cancer Council, Salvation Army, RSPCA, Red Cross and St Vincent de Paul.



Graduate job: Community service project coordinator

What they do: Coordinate community outreach events

Average salary: $53,000

Senior job: Fundraising manager

What they do: Raise money for not-for-profits. Some may also organise events

Average salary: $75,000

What the job is like:

Javier: I currently work in marketing in the non-profit sector. I love the people, I have great work-life balance (not too many crazy hours), I like that I’m helping the community, I get salary packaging and I’m never bored as the work is always interesting.


However, the pay is low compared to equivalent corporate and government roles, there are little resources so you constantly have to take on more than you can chew, there’s hardly any budget for training and staff development, it’s hard to progress your career after a few years as they don’t have the budget for new roles, very high turnover (mostly because of low pay and career progression) and on top of all that, it’s surprisingly hard to get a job in the NFP sector.


Brendan: You’ll find the job massively varies depending on whether you’re working for one of the big guys (Red Cross, UNICEF) or a smaller charity. In general, working for a bigger organisation means more room for job progression, higher salary and salary packaging options, and more funding.

I currently work in accounting for a large NFP organisation and I am really enjoying it. The people are great and are passionate about what they do. Job satisfaction and morale around the workplace is pretty high, and I love what the organisation is doing in helping the community and the less fortunate out there. The NFP industry is heavily reliant on donations and government funding, but many have the benefit of income tax exemption status. If it wasn’t for this, my salary would be much lower, and I might be working for some corporate sellout instead.

Your step one:

Brendan: Like other companies, jobs are usually advertised online for NFPs. You can apply online, but they will look for previous volunteer and charity work in your resume. If you want a foot in the door, it would be a good idea to volunteer for the company you hope to work for. A lot of companies prefer to hire internally and reward their volunteers.


But, at the end of the day, efficiency and making the most of their limited resources is key for them, so they will always hire the best person for the job.

Javier: One of my colleagues recently had to sit through five panel interviews before he was given the job. I went through a similar experience as well. They don’t just look for good skills and experience – a lot of the interviews are to gage how well you’ll fit into the non-profit sector. I guess it’s because they don’t want the wrong person to come in and upset the delicate balance of people in the organisation. That’s why the screening process is longer.



Brendan: There are various personality traits they look for in an employee: empathy, friendliness, patience, ability to get along well with people, but the main attribute would be passion for the cause. If you’re applying for a religious-based charity, such as Wesley Mission or Salvos, for example, you’ll most likely need to demonstrate that you share their religious ethos. Or if you’re wanting to work for a children’s charity, then you’ll need to be passionate about children and wanting to make a difference in their lives. The same can be applied to any NFP, whether it’s an environmental group, medical research, homeless services or community groups.

Javier: Obviously you need to have the skills and training required for your specific job, but I think they will always hire people who are passionate about the work and the cause. It will also help you in your work as well;


when times are tough and you lose motivation in your work, it helps keep your spirits up if you remember the cause you’re working for and your passion for it.



This industry needs both creative minds and employees that are more business-savvy. A business degree is a huge asset in this industry, as students have been taught how to be strategic, analytical and budget-focused.

Jobs: Note, these are both client side.

Graduate job: Marketing assistant

What they do: Provide support to the marketing team, ensuring the brand is represented consistently and deadlines are met

Average salary: $46,000

Senior job: Senior marketing manager

What they do: Setting and overseeing the execution of the marketing strategy for key clients

Average salary: $119,000


What the job is like:

Liv: I head up the Marketing Department at an e-commerce store, which includes PR, communications, content and digital so it’s always busy but never boring. My end goal is to sell product so this might mean working across a new social media campaign, a brand collaboration, business profiling, new homepage tiles or blog content, SEO or SEM campaigns, overseeing digital advertising, managing an event or activation or analysing customer behaviour and trends.

Gemma: I’m an advertising account executive, which is a grad position, and I studied a Bachelor of Business. A few of the many things I do on a daily basis is manage and advise clients on our campaigns, present proposals to clients, manage budgets, approve ads and artwork, and occasionally copywriting. 


Your step one:

Gemma: It’s essential to have a degree for my role, so step one is go to university! I would recommend applying to all the grad programs available to you, start early and persist. Also, talk to somebody already working in advertising as few jobs in advertising are advertised!

Liv: Intern! It will help you figure out what areas you’re interested in and also help you get a foot in the door. And network with everyone.


Gemma: Research an agency’s client list before interview. Be prepared to talk about your favourite campaign and why.

Liv: Be prepared to go above and beyond what is expected of you. There are thousands of people just like you, but what can you offer that they can’t? The industry requires long hours and plenty of resilience. I can’t stress enough what a difference a positive mind can bring to your career and your life – positive thinking breeds positive results.



The definition: Some of the most lucrative jobs in fashion are the ones where a business degree is needed.


Graduate job: Junior fashion buyer

What they do: Select which items are stocked in a retail store

Average salary: $65,000

Senior job: Senior product manager

What they do: Watch and review commercial trends to determine the best ways to make the product profitable and oversee the entire development and production process of these products

Average salary: $100,000

What the job is like:

Lauren: I’m a fashion buyer at an online store.


A lot of people have the perception that buying is all glamorous, playing with clothes and going to showings, which part of it is but most of it is more numbers and analytics.


When I leave the office, I’m still thinking about what the customer wants, researching new brands and trends. We actually have a group thread where our buying teams share ideas 24/7.

Gabrielle: I am a digital marketing manager for a well-known high-end fashion brand. I’m across two areas: digital marketing and overseeing the online store and customer service team. I am looking at our analytics to see how many customers are online, what they are looking at, at which points they are leaving the site. It is important to know if you make their experience to check out easier. Then I could be doing anything from collaborating with our digital marketing agencies to ensure that projects (SEO, SEM, acquisition) are on-track and brainstorming new strategies or working with the retail team. 

Your step one:

Lauren: For buying, learn excel inside and out and intern as much as you can even if it’s not in the exact area you want to gain experience in – skills are always transferrable. I interned at an ecommerce fashion retailer two days a week while studying a Bachelor of Business at Uni and also volunteered at Fashion Week to gain more industry experience.

Gabrielle: Interning! My first internship to full time job was at American Eagle Outfitter. My main responsibility was managing the press closet as the PR and marketing intern. After a few months of interning I got offered a full-time job. This doesn’t just ‘happen,’ and I put it down to the fact that I networked the entire time and carved out my value in the company. 


Lauren: Buying involves a lot of analysing and number crunching. Having a great sense of personal style is only one part of the equation; you need to be a good negotiator, a logical thinker, a gun at excel and have confidence in what you’re doing.

Gabrielle: Working in an agency, you’ll get shorter and shorter deadlines, but in-house and client side you have demanding bosses and customers, so it depends what you prefer to handle. I believe you can control more on the client side, but perhaps work across more exciting and versatile projects agency side. It’s such a huge industry so it’s just about finding where you fit, and then fighting for it.

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