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Advice to Start a Successful Career with an Economics Major

Here is a longer and more detailed list of tips to help you start a successful career with an economics major. This list is not only important when you are closer to graduation, but for all years throughout your bachelor degree to make the most out of your education and make you marketable after graduation. It will give you some guidance about the things you should be thinking, doing and improving. Please do not wait until your last year or two of college to reflect on these points as you will have less time to plan and adjust, making it more difficult to improve; although not impossible. Here are 15 tips to help you start a successful career with an economics major. Again, this is general advice to keep in perspective every semester.

  1. Work on your math skills. The best paying job positions involve data analysis and knowing your way through numbers is an important skill to dominate. Many positions also require the ability to frame problems and find solutions quantitatively so paying attention to the mathematical exercises studied in economics and how to solve problems is an important part of your training. Take remedial courses if necessary. Take as many math courses as you can if you have strong economic ambitions, are thinking about an MBA or a Masters or Ph.D. in Economics.
  2. Learn software and/or programming language. Excel, Word and PowerPoint are musts. But do not overestimate your knowledge on Excel. Knowing how to manage and analyze data is a very valuable skill for an economics major and it will make you a better job candidate if you master using spreadsheets and other statistical software. Consider enrolling in MIS-3300 where you dedicate a full semester learning important functions in these software.
  3. Other profession-relevant software includes Access, Tableu, Stata and Eviews. Excel is very useful and common but it has its limitations.
  4. Get experience. A paid internship is of course your number one choice. It is the best way to gain hands-on work experience in a professional setting. It can also lead to a job offer or just serve as a way to explore possible careers with little commitment. Internships are hard to find and very competitive (every student wants one). So look hard and apply as many as you can to increase your chances. Also consider unpaid internships which also provide experience and look just as good in a resume.
  5. Be engaged.  Participate in student organizations, industry meetings, civic events, community service, study abroad programs or other non-profit organizations. They all provide different forms of experience and all experiences count. You will learn about working with people, work in groups, be part of an organization and have the opportunity to practice leadership which are all important skills and experiences to have.
  6. Network. With everyone. Talk to professors, professionals, alumni, friends, classmates and family. Send an email to a person in a position, industry or specific company that you might be interested in learning more about. Find them through the company website, Facebook or LinkedIn and ask about their jobs or their company. (Worst case scenario you do not get a response). Be bold, but be professional and polite. These are good ways of learning more about your career options, meet people and make you visible in the job market.
  7. Grades matter!!! It is easy to get distracted with other things going on with your life. Keep in mind that grades are the easiest single way to tell apart job candidates and it signals employers something about how smart and /or hard working you are. Whatever your grades where in high school, nobody will look at those, you get a clean fresh start in college; so look forward not back. Good time management will always be your best ally. Procrastination your worst enemy.
  8. Work on building your resume early. This may well be the #1 career advice. Build experiences and skills that are marketable. Consider the Quantitative Certificate, getting Internship Credit or a Scholarship. They all look great on a resume for a reason. Get advice and use resources from the University Career Services.
  9. Look for jobs even before you are really looking for one. Read carefully the job descriptions, qualifications and requirements This will help you learn about the tasks and responsibilities of various positions and industries. Keep in mind that you are not expected to know how to do all of the tasks listed; there will be in the job training too.
  10. Read. Be up-to-date. Read news articles: The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Houston Chronicle, BBC News, etc. Be curious: do your own mini research on topics that interest you like current policy issues. Read your textbooks too.
  11. Write something. Writing well is an important skill so you need to develop it. There is one way and only one way to master it: practice. Write, write, write... Go to the University of Houston Writing Center for resources to improve.