In 2020, there were a record 6 million businesses registered in the UK, with 99% of them classed as ‘small’ or ‘medium’ sized. The business and management sector is constantly growing so it's an exciting one to join, but you need the right skills and experiences to get your foot in the door. In this guide, we give you top tips to build up your bank of experience.
Who works in the business and management sector?
Business and management is a broad sector and covers everything from overseeing operations, to running a company, to supporting employees in reaching their full potential. People who work in this sector can be employed by one organisation, or they can work as consultants where they provide support to lots of companies to help them grow.
Who works in business management?
Business managers can work in general management (overseeing the work of other employees) or hold specific responsibilities for a particular area of an organisation. For example:
Who works in business consultancy?
Consultants offer advice to organisations to help them solve problems and enhance performance. Some consultants work as part of a large organisation, but most work for a consultancy firm or as freelance consultants. For example:
Remember that you don’t have to work in the business sector to be a manager or consultant; most organisations have a management structure, and lots of industries - like education, health, creative media, etc. - use consultants to improve their services. Providing you build your skills and get lots of experience, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to choose from!
What skills will you need to demonstrate?
- Problem solving - being in the world of business or management comes with its fair share of problems to iron out. Being able to overcome issues creatively, in good time, and under pressure will set you up as a great candidate for any role.
- Analysis - analysing data and being able to objectively assess where your organisation is now and where it could be in the future, is a vital part of working in this industry. Don’t worry if you’re not a mathematician! Analysing a company’s data isn’t always about figures - you might be looking at quantitative customer feedback, for example, or a department’s workflow.
- Communication - strong verbal and written communication skills are key in any role related to business and management. You need to negotiate with suppliers and customers, effectively handle queries and complaints, manage employers, and persuade investors. Communication skills will help you understand other people’s priorities and build good working relationships.
How can you get experience?
Through school, college, or university
- If you’re based in the UK, get your school involved with Young Enterprise and Young Money. Since 1962, Young Enterprise has helped students at school build their employability and enterprise skills. They’re a recognised charity and you can use their training on your CV or in applications.
- Explore more deeply. If you’re taking an EPQ, use this as an opportunity to research a hot topic in the world of business - you can use the Subjects library for inspiration here. This will show future employers or admissions tutors that you’re invested enough to use your own time to explore the industry.
- Join a club or society. Your school, college, or university might have an enterprise or business society or club that you can join to build your experience. At university, you might even have the choice of lots of specialist societies where you can explore management, entrepreneurial projects, international business, and finance. Not only will you learn loads from joining these types of clubs, but you’ll meet like-minded people, gain valuable careers advice, and enter competitions. All great stuff to put on your CV or application!
- Consider vocational courses. You can take BTECs, Cambridge Technicals, and other vocational qualifications at Post 14 and Post 16 level, meaning you can get hands-on experience through your course. You can also take business qualifications through an apprenticeship, or if you’re thinking about going to university, you can take courses that include a year in industry or internship. Talk to your Careers adviser and teachers about your Post 14 and 16 options, and use Unifrog’s College or Apprenticeships shortlisting tools to find live Post 18 opportunities.
- Start a business. You can start a business at any age and it will help you understand key concepts like profit, loss, and turnover. It will also give you the opportunity to plan a budget, create branding, advertise, and brainstorm ideas for business growth. You could offer to walk neighbours' dogs, sell things you make, provide social media advice for businesses owned by family and friends, babysit - the possibilities are endless!
- Build a network of contacts. Find out if there are any networking events in your area for teenagers and young people. If you’re over 16, you can also build contacts on LinkedIn. Have a bank of questions to ask, and take business cards and contact details for the future. If you choose to go to an event or meeting, make sure you let a family member know where you’re going and never agree to meet anyone on your own in an isolated place.
- Take a MOOC. Use Unifrog’s MOOC tool to search for ‘Business and development’ or ‘Management and leadership’ courses. You can take courses on everything from marketing management, to global business strategy, to leadership theory.
- Build your knowledge. It’s not all about contacts and skills! Use the Subjects library and the Read, Watch, Listen tool to explore the industry. Having this knowledge will help you in applications and interviews, and showing that you have an interest in the subject outside of school will show off your dedication.
Workplace experience and routes into the industry
Use Unifrog’s Special Opportunities tool to explore virtual work experience opportunities, or speak to the Careers department at your school to find something in person and local you can get involved in. If you can’t find anything suitable, ask your school office or finance team if you can shadow them. Once you complete work experience with an organisation, you have some contacts to help you get into the industry, and - providing you do a good job - you might even be invited back for an internship or part time job! Make sure you ask if there are any vacancies just in case.
If you live in the UK, you can take an apprenticeship or a degree apprenticeship in business after school or college. If you choose a degree apprenticeship, your degree will be paid for while you work. A level 2 or 3 apprenticeship will arm you with the skills, experience, and qualifications you need to take your next step into the world of work. Use Unifrog’s Apprenticeships tool to start your search.
After university, you can take part in a graduate scheme. This is like a fast track into the industry where you’ll get to experience lots of different areas and roles to give you a well rounded understanding of the company. You might end up trying out sales, marketing, finance, HR, and so on. You’ll normally be able to specialise after a certain point, and most graduate schemes end in a full time job if you are successful across the training.
Good stuff from elsewhere
Young Enterprise and Young Money
Support and guidance for young people looking to get into the industry.
Forbes' page for all things entrepreneurs.