In Pursuit of Passion: Choosing a Non-Traditional Business Concentration
Written by Tia Chen-Wong.
“Wow, so you’re in Haas? Do you want to go into accounting?” No.
“So…what do you want to do with a business degree?”
I’ve had this conversation several times, and every time it ends the same way. I explain how I am interested in marketing, specifically for film and entertainment, and whoever I’m talking to raises their eyebrows in mild shock. Don’t get me wrong, I love Haas and the opportunities it has given me, but its reputation is often synonymous with the traditional ABC’s of business. In what seems like a sea of finance and consulting die-hards, marketing enthusiasts like myself often have to fight against the current. I’ve definitely had my moments of doubt about why I chose a non-traditional concentration, but ultimately I’ve realized that fighting for your dream career is totally worth the extra effort. So if you want to explore an unconventional career path in business, don’t despair! Here are some ways you can “make it work,” as they say on Project Runway:
Do Your Research
So you want to run your own fashion company, or manage the Golden State Warriors, or do PR for your favorite music record label. That’s amazing, and you should follow your dreams! But just like any career path, you are going to have to back up your ambition with some serious research, hard work and experience. Especially when you take the road less traveled, earning some street cred is essential, and that comes with learning deep industry knowledge. As a marketer, I make sure to pay attention to the latest trends in social media and read up on publications like AdWeek and HubSpot blog. Whenever Ogilvy unveils a new advertising campaign, it’s a big deal. In regard to film and entertainment, there’s a whole separate world of industry-specific news and insider know-how. When I started interning for Allied Integrated Marketing this past summer, I got looped into the cycle of early movie buzz and learned the tricks of the film trade. I also got to visit some of my dream companies such as Pixar for our publicity events! Now I research all that I can about the industry, and I closely follow my favorite entertainment brands like Disney so I can stay well-versed in their recent corporate developments. I highly recommend Seeking Alpha as a news source, because you can sign up to receive email updates whenever someone writes an article about your favorite company’s financial standing or recent activity. These gems of wisdom can come in handy if you land an interview with one of these firms, and you want to demonstrate your passion and dedication!
Leverage Your Network
It may seem like you are the only one pursuing a certain career path, but trust me, chances are there are others who are currently working in the same sector or position you want to work in. The Cal Alumni page is a great starting point, and LinkedIn is a wonderful treasure trove of glittering professionals and potential connections—use it to your advantage! If you know you want to work in a certain industry, start sending invites to those people rather than blindly connecting with anyone and everyone. Whenever I see someone’s profile that matches exactly what I want to do, I send them an invitation along with a note along the lines of, “Hi, I’m a current Cal student (go bears) who is pursuing a career in marketing in the entertainment industry. I really admire your professional experience and would love to connect with you—thanks!” I have found that the vast majority of people are extremely nice and willing to connect, and many of them take the time to read my notes and accept my invitations. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself! Moreover, craft your own profile to reflect your personal interests and career aspirations so people in your dream industry can identify you as one of their own. I recently reached the holy grail of 500+ connections, and while they may not all be film and marketing professionals, a substantial portion of them are. Build your network with intention and purpose!
Find Fellow Friends—trust me, they do exist!
You also don’t have to depend solely on LinkedIn in order to find people with similar interests; instead, you can find a lot of them right here, right now on the Berkeley campus. Coming to the Bay Area, I knew Cal was not going to be the same as USC or UCLA in terms of the film scene, but I had no trouble finding friends and student organizations that loved movies and wanted to make a career out of it. Joining BCEC and the Disney Club gave me a whole new support system of like-minded colleagues who have genuine passion for marketing, entertainment, and the creative side of business. Not all of them are business majors, but they are more than qualified in terms of knowledge and experience—many of them have interned for companies like Paramount, Dreamworks, and Warner Bros. These same friends have taught me skills like Photoshop, graphic design, and video production, and I feel like I can always learn something new from them. The best part is when we get to collaborate on projects together, such as shooting promotional commercials for a local food brand’s Instagram page or producing an original short film together as part of the Campus Movie Fest competition. Not only do we have fun together, I also know that there is a high chance we will work together in the industry for many years to come.
If Berkeley teaches you one lesson, it’s how to hustle. I think everyone can agree that this school pushes you to take initiative when it comes to accomplishing your goals, which includes recruiting for jobs and internships. If you are going for a non-traditional position, there are opportunities for you, but you must reach out and take hold of them. Just this past week, I signed up for a Marketing and Media Career Connections event hosted by the Career Center and a Spotify on-campus info session and networking mixer. In addition to Spotify, I have also started applying to internships with the United Talent Agency, NBC, Disney, and many more. Your dream role is out there; the question is whether you will actually take action and apply for the chance to live it.
Pursuing your passion is anything but easy. When your career aspirations don’t fit nicely into one of the “traditional” business career paths, it can seem even more daunting. But I have realized that when I do the research and put in the effort, there are plenty of resources that support my interests, organizations that share my aspirations, and opportunities that offer experiences of a lifetime. So if you know in your gut that you want to choose an unconventional business concentration, forget what everyone else thinks and just go for it. It might lead you to the happiest job on earth.