Are you interested in growing your career, but don't know where to start? No matter which field you choose to pursue, there are certain fundamental skills that can help you find success.

According to a survey by the National Association for Colleges and Employers, hiring managers want candidates with strong communication, problem-solving, and quantitative skills, who also excel in leadership and strategic planning. So if you didn’t study business in college, you should consider filling that gap.

Here are three ways business skills can help you chart your path and grow professionally.

Ways to Grow Professionally with Business Skills

1. Round Out a Liberal Arts Education


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 12 percent of college graduates majored in business. If you’re one of the other 88 percent, and you’re preparing to launch or advance your career, you may want to consider learning the language of business.

Understanding vital business concepts can make you feel more confident when applying and interviewing for jobs. It enables you to ask informed questions about the structure and performance of an organization.

Brett Jackson, an associate at the law firm WilmerHale in Boston, found himself working as an attorney straight out of school and felt unprepared to work with business clients.

“I was a liberal arts major in college with no business experience, so I needed to fill business gaps and learn the terminology of business quickly,” he says.

To round out his education and better understand his clients, Jackson chose to take Harvard Business School Online’s CORe program, which features courses in Financial Accounting, Economics for Managers, and Business Analytics.

“CORe was very helpful in understanding clients’ business decisions,” Jackson adds. “I think many new attorneys could benefit from this course.”

A variety of online courses are available to provide a bridge from a liberal arts education to a business-oriented field.

Credential of Readiness (CORe) - Master the fundamentals of business. Learn more.

2. Transition from a Technical Role


According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 6.9 million scientists and engineers in the U.S. workforce. And, according to Pew Research, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs grew 79 percent since 1990, far outpacing other fields.

Many people with technical roles start their career as individual contributors. As they advance, many seek management roles but often don’t know how to transition. The technical personnel who rise in the ranks often have a solid grasp of the business and how to help it succeed. By understanding the business model, organizational operations, and financial levers to pull, technologists will be better prepared to lead a team.

Kyle Rosenmeyer, an engineer who worked for the City of Boise before transitioning into a role at technical professional services firm Jacobs, took CORe to round out his skills and advance his career.

“Once I was working for a few years, I realized that many careers end up requiring a business skill set,” Rosenmeyer says. “If an engineer graduating from college ascends from an entry-level position to CEO, with each promotion, they use less engineering skills and more business skills.”

After completing CORe, Rosenmeyer felt more confident communicating with the City of Boise’s financial team and setting the budgets for his construction management projects. He says his ability to understand and problem-solve with his accounting colleagues improved, as well.

The best engineering leaders are those who can look at the big picture and understand how to turn good ideas into business wins. Since most engineering schools don’t teach business fundamentals, technical professionals who aspire to become leaders should seek out helpful primers in the fundamentals of business.

Related: 5 Ways to Develop Business Skills for Any Profession

3. Learn How to Lead


Unless you work for an organization that prioritizes professional development, you’re likely to feel unprepared to take on a leadership role. According to a study by learning platform Grovo, 87 percent of new managers feel ill-equipped to lead.

Observing good (and bad) leaders in your organization is a common way to learn. But there are more efficient ways to acquire leadership skills. Some formal leadership training programs can be expensive and time-consuming, which are important factors to consider. Many free or low-cost online courses may work better for your budget and schedule.

HBS Online offers Management Essentials, Leadership Principles, and Developing Yourself as a Leader, but a quick Google search will surface a multitude of other options.

Related: Why You Should Study Business

Advancing Your Career with Business Skills

There are many ways business skills can help you grow professionally. In addition to helping advance your career, acquiring business skills can help you figure out if you want to continue your education and pursue an MBA. Even if it’s to sharpen your Excel skills, business fundamentals are valuable no matter your profession.

Are you interested in mastering business essentials? Explore our online CORe program, which will prepare you to contribute to business discussions and decision-making.

Michele Reynolds

About the Author

Michele Reynolds handles brand marketing and PR for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to HBS Online, she led communications for TripAdvisor and Gazelle and has been widely quoted in national media outlets, including CBS News, Reuters, and The New York Times. Michele earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. Outside work, she spends time with her teenage daughter, plays tennis, and visits her enormous extended family.