Maybe you’ve been working in academia or another field and want to move into the private sector, or perhaps you’ve been raising kids and are ready to reenter the workforce. You might be a young person thinking about the career you want for the future. In any of these situations, you may be wondering how to best position yourself for success in business. Although your own path will vary depending on your background and goals, there are a few steps that can help most people prepare.

Going (Back) To School

Whether you’re about to start an undergraduate degree for the first time, considering an MBA or just looking to take a few classes, more education might be your first step. Starting with a class or two can give you a chance to get your feet wet without making a big commitment, and you may learn a lot by talking to your fellow students and professors. If you want to get a degree, you may have concerns about how to pay. Many people are able to fund your entire education through student loans, often a mix of federal and private loans. The former is need-based, but you may be able to get private loans even if you don’t qualify for federal ones. If you’re considering an MBA, do your research and shop around. Many people say the greatest value of MBA programs comes from the connections you are able to make.

Do Your Research

If you’re pursuing more education, you’ll have lots of reading ahead of you, but whether you take that route or not, you should also try to do some independent reading. What you choose may vary depending on what particular area of business you plan to pursue, but consider reading a few well-reviewed books on business and even subscribing to a magazine or two. Wherever you get your news from, online or off, starting reading the business section, and look up any terms or concepts you don’t understand.

Identify Your Goals

Whether you want to be a millionaire before you are 30, hope to run your own business or want to be the CEO of a top corporation, success will be more likely if you are working toward specific goals. After naming the big one, think about what smaller goals will get you there. At every step of the way, you should be thinking about whether the steps you’re taking are moving you closer to your ultimate aim.


Networking is everything in the business world, but contrary to what some people may imagine, this doesn’t mean trying to sell people on a false idea of who you are or what you are capable of. At its most fundamental level, networking is all about building relationships. This is the underpinning of a successful business career in general as well. Opportunities to network are all around you, from the workplace to conferences in your field to local chamber of commerce events and more. The more connections you make, the wider you’ll be able to cast your net later whether you’re looking for a job, funding for a startup or a mentor.