Courtesy of Cornell University

A lecture held in Rawlings Auditorium in Klarman Hall.

August 7, 2020

Building Your Professional Skill Sets Through Cornell Courses

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Cornell offers a plethora of courses from the senior favorite HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines to the business minor requirement AEM 2210: Financial Accounting. On Friday, the University released a revised course list for the fall semester. Although most courses are now offered online, students can still choose from many options.

For students from non-traditional majors looking to build transferable skills for the professional workplace, choosing classes can be overwhelming. Two Cornell undergraduates and two recent graduates offered tips for ways to gain transferable skills for the workplace through Cornell’s many courses.

Rishab Bhandari ’21 is an investment banking intern at Goldman Sachs, Amaya Neely ’21 is a real estate private equity intern at the Blackstone Group, Isabel Povey ’20 will be working full-time as an analyst at Deloitte Consulting and Matthew Barnello ’20 is currently an investment analyst at SteepRock Capital.

Below are excerpts from the interviews, lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

What course(s) did you take at Cornell that you believe best prepared you for your current role? 

Bhandari: I took AEM 2700: Management Communication. I thought that class was useful to better prepare myself to send professional emails and communicate effectively in the workplace. In terms of professional development, the class I’ve been recommended to take the most is HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines. It seems the ability to speak intelligently on a topic as niche as wines is a great skill to impress your peers and managers, especially in the business world. You can always learn Excel and Powerpoint once you start the job and later in life, but there will be very limited opportunities for you to dive into a topic like wines for a few months outside of your four years on the Hill.

Neely: AEM 4670: Investments, AEM 3520: Financial Statements Analysis, AEM 2015: The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion and AEM 2550: Corporate Sustainability. In terms of forming robust technical skills, both Financial Statements Analysis and Investments provided me with great depth in understanding financial markets and reporting. The ability to understand the value of assets is the hallmark of my line of work, and these two courses and the amazing professors of each really allowed me to grow my skill set in this area. In addition to these, The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion and Corporate Sustainability were dually important in having a holistic investing mindset and managing the ever-changing landscape of business worldwide.

Povey: One course that unexpectedly sparked my interest in the professional path I have chosen was PSYCH 1101: Introduction to Psychology. I have always been interested in human interaction and the way that people think. My interest in both psychology and business led me to human capital consulting, which is what I will be doing full-time now that I have graduated.

Barnello: As a student in the Hotel School, our core curriculum sets us up for success in the real world, starting from classes we took freshman year such as HADM 1210: Financial Accounting, HADM 1740: Business Computing — Excel, Word, PowerPoint basics — and HADM 1410: Microeconomics for the Service Industry. For my current role, HADM 4200: Principles of Real Estate, NBA 5110: Financial Modeling, HADM 1650: Business Writing for Hospitality Professionals and HADM 3650: Persuasive Business Communication for Hospitality Leaders — a presenting-oriented class to be taken as an upperclassman — prepared me for my current full-time position.

What course(s) would you recommend any student from any major take before entering their first full-time job? 

Bhandari: I would recommend everyone take one computer science or broader engineering related-oriented course while at Cornell. I think computer science or engineering courses will help you develop your problem solving skill sets in a way that finance or liberal arts classes fail to do. These skills will help you become someone who can work on complex problems effectively and efficiently.

In the same vein, I would recommend everyone take a liberal arts class. The ability to construct an argument is a super important skill in the workplace, where you will face a lot of arguments and disagreements. Being someone who can handle that and get your point across effectively will be critical for your success.

Neely: Two classes that prepared me well for the professional world overall were NBA 5690: Management Consulting Essentials and AEM 3200: Business Law. Management Consulting Essentials introduces students to relevant skills in problem structuring and analysis, which is incredibly helpful and important to any line of work someone pursues. Business Law was incredibly helpful in understanding the legal landscape of business and continues to be pertinent as students enter fields of entrepreneurship or when joining any mid to large scale company.

Povey: I think every student can benefit from having a baseline understanding of Economics, even if they are going into something different as their career. I took ECON 1110: Introduction to Microeconomics, which I found very helpful as an introductory course prior to a full-time job.

Barnello: Every student should enroll in the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series in the fall in the hotel school. The course is dedicated to CEO’s and hospitality industry leaders sharing their path to success to students. In each class, a new industry executive speaks and shares how they got where they were, what they learned along the way and tips they would give their past self if they were in your shoes.

Is there any other advice you have for students looking to build their professional careers?

Neely: My advice, in the end, is to make use of your resources! Cornell University has many resources within its student body, faculty, courses, organizations, and funding to enable you to have ample opportunity — make good use of it. Everyone is capable of having a career in business or finance if they so choose, so just be willing to put in the hard work and your goals will materialize.