Case Study on the Media’s Framing of Michael Jackson

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*The following essay was written in November/December of 2016 for a Writing 1000 class at the University of Lethbridge. In light of the recent events surrounding a documentary on Michael Jackson’s sexual abuse allegations, I figured now would be a good time to release it. No changes have been made to the original. For more information on the current documentary/allegations, I suggest reading this.

The Price of Fame: The Media’s Framing of Celebrities

In a culture consumed by celebrity gossip, at what point do we stop to consider the truthfulness of the facts being delivered to us by multiple media outlets and especially tabloids? Whether it be a life-altering trial, a death or a scandal, the media is there to report up to the minute details on the current events in our favourite celebrities’ lives. However, I am calling into question the rhetoric of the media’s representation of celebrities, sometimes during a turbulent time within their lives or simply a slow news day story. The examination process will consist of observing a tabloid cover of Michael Jackson in the heart of his 2005 child-molestation trial (Appendix 1.0). The common consensus when a trial is taking place is usually that of “innocent until proven guilty”, however, the tabloids had a different message in their reporting of Jackson’s trial.

The word “SICKO!” plastered diagonally in large white letters across a picture of a stunned-looking Michael Jackson. To the right margin the sentence, “Report Jacko Molested Cancer Kid,” all in large capital letters. Through this rhetorical artifact, one might question if the media had a verdict they already wanted in their minds for Michael Jackson. To what extent does the consumer stop and evaluate the rhetoric that is being produced from the media? Furthermore, what do tabloids like the rhetorical artifact listed above gain by reporting negative news before the facts have been reported by, either the celebrity in question or the court of law?

Though there has been research into the kind of rhetorical language the media is using when “framing celebrities”, we do not fully know why they go through these practices and how exactly they do it. With the help of my five secondary sources, we can uncover specific examples of the media either bending the truth, not waiting for the truth to be revealed or outright lying in their rhetoric of celebrities. With the main example being one of the more pulverizing figures in modern history, Michael Jackson. This paper will examine the rhetorical language by the media that has had an effort in tarnishing reputations and legacies of celebrities; whether this is through tabloid covers as presented in my rhetorical artifact, television coverage, or sound bites, it will be uncovered in this paper.

BETTING ON A VERDICT

Before going into why tabloids have predominately negative rhetoric towards celebrities, the research first needs to begin with how exactly the media uses negative rhetorical language in their portrayal of celebrities. Building on the rhetorical artifact presented in the introduction, Gary Whannel in his journal article, NEWS, CELEBRITY, AND VORTEXTUALITY: A STUDY OF THE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE MICHAEL JACKSON VERDICT examines the English tabloids around the time Michael Jackson received his non-guilty verdict. At the start of June 2005, 12 days before the not-guilty verdict, the London Evening Standard headlined with the possibility of prison for Jackson (Whannel 77). However, the prison time would never arrive but the London Evening Standard used very decisive language to predict the outcome of the trial. The not-guilty verdict placed a considerable limitation on the running story (Whannel 80).

As noted above, it appears the media was rooting for a guilty verdict. Whannel notes that by Monday, June 20, 2005, the story had lost its legs and had largely disappeared from the English press seven days after the verdict and the “Trial of the Century” never had the outcome the tabloids wanted (80). Some media outlets went as far as to not place the not-guilty verdict as front page news, Whannel notes from his case study that there were variations in the degree of emphasis and not all newspapers regarded it as major news (78). In relation to the rhetorical artifact (Appendix 1.0), before a trial had even begun they used rhetorical language to label Jackson as a pedophile, a “sicko” and demented. Compound this with Whannel’s study of English tabloids running the story out of circulation within 10 days of the verdict and we get the picture of the kind of stories the media were hoping to run after the verdict on June 13th, 2005.

In contrast, some believe that this unfair media treatment balances itself out for celebrities after death. Michelle Wood in her article Media’s Positive and Negative Frames in Reporting Celebrity Deaths from Illegal Drug Overdoses Versus Prescription Medication Overdoses believes that after death celebrities are often over glorified and their personal, legal and career short-comings are brushed over. Wood notes that Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy are prominent figures of this rhetoric.

Despite Jackson’s legal troubles and Kennedy’s involvement in a death of a young woman in the 1960’s, both the public and the media did not focus in on these controversial periods of their lives (4). However, one would question the morality of making a celebrity wait for their death before the last negative story about them is run through the press. Though it would be an interesting study to compare the rhetorical language used on celebrities before and after death and examine whether the media uses more positive language after death.

THIS MONTH’S TRIAL OF THE CENTURY

Though it may seem that we have been exposed to scandalous news, headlines and gossip since we have been old enough to read, Richard L. Fox, Robert W. Van Sickel, and Thomas L. Steige in their book Tabloid Justice: Criminal Justice in an Age of Media Frenzy reason that this is a relatively new concept for the media. Fox et al. state that starting around 1990, Americans began to repeatedly focus on lengthy, high-profile, often celebrity-centred criminal and civil trials and investigations. Many of these cases at times resembled something like national obsessions and were associated with extraordinary levels of mass media coverage, a large part in thanks to the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial (Fox et al. 1).

Although such “media trials” have occurred periodically at least since the 1920s, recent years have seen an enormous increase in their number (Fox et al. 1). This spike in “media trials” has a correlation with how legal and sometimes political trials are presented to the public. Fox et al. argue that legal news today is dominated by a rhetorical style that focuses on status, personality, score-keeping, and sex/violence rhetoric, rather than on legal rules, institutions, processes, and context.

Joined with the rhetorical artifact (Appendix 1.0) presented on the first page of this essay, it is easy to understand what Fox et al. are discussing within their book. Rather than display fair and balanced rhetoric in their coverage of the Jackson trial, the media chose to sensationalize the legal proceedings as the new “Trial of the Century” to have a better opportunity to draw viewers, readers and listeners alike. Fox et al. go further in depth and explain how there has been an entirely new subgenre of news coverage and talk shows emerge, programs that constantly seem to search for the next “trial of the century,” or at bare minimum, the trial of the year, or even the trial of the month. These new shows include The Abrams Report (on MSNBC), On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (on Fox), Nancy Grace (on CNN Headline News and Court TV), and the short-lived Celebrity Justice (on the E! channel) (Fox et al. 4).

Additional cable news programs that regularly devote significant attention to trials and legal investigations include Scarborough Country, Countdown with Keith Olberman, The Situation with Tucker Carlson (later called Tucker), Paula Zahn NOW, Larry King Live, O’Reilly Factor, and Hannity and Colmes (Fox et al. 4). Through the advancements of media coverage since the 1990’s it is easy to see where the money lies as it pertains to coverage of celebrities. Nearly three decades of sensationalist, gossip-filled press has sparked the birth of television programs, numerous tabloids, websites and blogs.

FRAMING THEORY

Michelle Wood in her article Media’s Positive and Negative Frames in Reporting Celebrity Deaths from Illegal Drug Overdoses Versus Prescription Medication Overdoses also introduces the definition known as framing theory (56). She goes on to suggest that framing theory is not concerned with what information is circulated, but how the information that is circulated is framed (Wood 56). Media can shape audiences’ thinking and understanding about a subject and in this research, how the media portrays celebrities (Wood 56). The Face of Ruin: Evidentiary Spectacle and the Trial of Michael Jackson by Debbie Epstein and Deborah Lynn Steinberg expands on this concept as well as Fox et al theory of tabloid justice. Epstein and Steinberg note that as with the 1995 OJ Simpson case, Jackson’s trial operated both as a “circus” and as an “iconic” event. Both cases were embedded in and emerged from similar collisions of the complex machinery of international celebrity and scandal with institutions of policing, legal and court practices (443).

Furthermore, in both cases, these were explicitly played out in the context of already fraught racial and sexual politics, not limited to the USA (Epstein and Steinberg 443). It is easy to examine the “circus” in which the trial took place simply by examining my rhetorical artifact (Appendix 1.0). Through this sensationalized rhetoric, we understand the “how” of how the media produces these stories. It is not that they are making up these stories although that sometimes is the case, it is that through their rhetoric they are choosing the lens in how we view, understand and relate to celebrities that are in the limelight.

TABLOID JUSTICE

Expanding on Fox et al. points from the previous paragraph, they employ the definition “Tabloid Justice” within their book. Tabloid justice refers to the way the media focuses on the sensationalistic and gaudy details of high-profile trials and investigations (Fox et al. 6). This definition will be cross-examined with Maria Arango-Kure, Marcel Garz, and Armin Rott’s Bad News Sells: The Demand for News Magazines and the Tone of Their Covers. A study that examines the negativity bias within the media and the correlation of sales. Fox et al. point out that the media passes up opportunities for civic education in exchange for a more “entertainment” based rhetorical Language (6). It is noted by Fox et al. that during the 2005 Michael Jackson molestation trial, the Los Angeles Times ran approximately 317 stories on the case but printed only two pieces focusing on the crucial new California statute that allowed prosecutor Tom Sneddon to introduce evidence of past allegations against Jackson (6).

Much of the Times coverage offered almost daily trial updates, which consisted primarily of rhetoric based on descriptions of the personal behaviour and appearance of the various witnesses and courtroom actors in the case (Fox et al. 6). Furthermore, Fox et al. note that while not normally known as a news outlet at all, throughout most of 2005 E! Entertainment Television offered daily, extended coverage of the Michael Jackson molestation trial (11). Obviously, this channel was motivated by the idea that this programming would appeal to Jackson’s fan base and to those who would normally follow celebrity gossip (12).  Arango-Kure et al. study concluded that explicitly negative covers are associated with an increase of about 5% to 12% of the average sales (211). Arango-Kure et al. note that even though the evidence only relates to a small context, it supports the theory that media bias toward negativity is a matter of media being profit oriented and slanting their contents toward the type of news that will bring in more revenues through sales and advertisement (211).

Through this study combined with Fox et al. theory of tabloid justice, it is not hard to see why the media generally spins negative rhetoric about celebrities. It is important not to forget the rhetorical artifact introduced at the beginning of this paper as it pertains to tabloid justice and the study was done by Arango-Kure et al. The New York Daily News (Appendix 1.0) ignored every instinct to wait for Michael Jackson’s trial to be completed before using negative rhetorical language to label him a pedophile. In the framework of tabloid justice, they released the issue because Jackson was the biggest star on the planet at that time and it was a chance for them to be a part of the next “Trial of the Century”.

CONCLUSION

In this research essay, an examination of the who, why and how were discussed in the analysis of the media and their rhetoric towards celebrities. Using Michael Jackson as a case study I attempted to uncover the rhetoric that is behind the framing of celebrities. However, this issue goes much deeper than Michael Jackson. A simple google search of “celebrity tabloids” will prove that it is not too difficult to read the language in that the media outlets use to describe the most personal, scrutinized or troubling part of a celebrity’s life.  In examining my secondary sources, I came to understand that the media and, more specifically, tabloids use this language because it simply sells better. Why negative headlines sell more is beyond the scope of this paper, however, it is my reasoning that as individuals we learn the tactics the media uses and leverage that knowledge into doing our own research whenever we see a gaudy headline about any celebrity.

I believe that more research is needed in this field to uncover what kind of celebrities the media is targeting with negative rhetorical language on tabloid covers, news stations or on the airwaves. It will also be important to reveal why celebrities are built up only to be broken down, why Michael Jackson went from the King of Pop to a pedophile, or why Britney Spears went from popstar sweetheart to a mentally broken wash-up in the eyes of the media. Unfortunately, this media perception becomes public perception and this is where reputations are ruined, while many have the understanding to do further research upon seeing or hearing the questionable rhetorical language, for many the cover is enough for them to draw a conclusion about someone’s life.

The examples are endless for any celebrity, while some consider it simply as the price of fame, money and fortune for some bad publicity, it goes beyond a bad PR week. Reputations, careers and legacies are on the line every time a news outlet or tabloid determines the rhetoric in which they will portray a celebrity that day. They decide the lens in which we see superstars around the globe, and it is vital that we understand this. The more research that is done into the rhetorical language that the media uses when describing a celebrity, then the more adequately informed the public can be as it pertains to the latest on their favourite celebrity. Furthermore, this can create an opportunity for the media to leverage their advantages on celebrity trials to inform the public on civic education rather than using it as an opportunity to promote lurid details of a celebrity’s private life.

Appendix 1.0

Guilty Tabloid

Works Cited

Arango-Kure, Maria, Marcel Garz, and Armin Rott. “Bad News Sells: The Demand for News Magazines and the Tone of Their Covers.” Journal of Media Economics 27.4 (2014): 199-214. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.

Epstein, Debbie, and Deborah Lynn Steinberg. “The Face of Ruin: Evidentiary Spectacle and the Trial of Michael Jackson.” Social Semiotics 17.4 (2007): 441-58. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Fox, Richard Logan., Sickel Van Robert W., and Thomas L. Steiger. Tabloid Justice: Criminal Justice in an Age of Media Frenzy. Boulder, CO: L. Rienner, 2001. Web. 2 Nov. 2016

Whannel, Garry. “News, Celebrity, and Vortextuality: A Study of the Media Coverage of the Michael Jackson Verdict.” Cultural Politics: An International Journal 6.1 (2010): 65-84. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.

Wood, Michelle. “Media’s Positive and Negative Frames in Reporting Celebrity Deaths from Illegal Drug Overdoses Versus Prescription Medication Overdoses.” William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Graduate Faculty of the University of Kansas (2011): 1-82. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.

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New Years Resolutions/Goal Setting

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A common theme that’s drilled into many people’s heads around this time of year is the process of creating New Year’s Resolutions. What seemingly started as a harmless way to set yourself up for success in the new year has become universally mocked due to the inability for many to stick to the goals they set out prior to their “fresh start”.

Goal setting, in general, is a harder task than it comes across as. In my personal experience, being out of school for 8 months now, I find it’s more difficult to determine if you’re actually achieving your goals or not.

In school, it’s typically black and white. For example, if you aim to achieve higher than a 75% average in a class or on a test, then that’s your aim and the corresponding result is quite clear afterwards. (Note: if you aim any higher than that you’re a NERD). If you received an 80% you exceeded your goal, or if you received a 60%, you fell short of your goal.

But what happens when the environment changes and now those black & white goals become more complex? Personally, I’ve found this to be a lot more difficult since leaving a structured eco-system like school. Obviously, many people set goals outside of their schoolwork but it’s different when that’s no longer a variable. I can’t speak for others but I’ve found my goals have become a lot more arbitrary and broad now that I’m working a 9-5.

That’s why I’m glad I stumbled upon David Meltzer. In consuming his content on LinkedIn and Instagram, he’s preached more about enjoying the consistent, persistent, pursuit of your potential than being destination driven. Meltzer mentions the concept of lowering the bar in one of his videos.

Meltzer mentions in another video that when you think of your goals as mile markers and not the destination you are detaching your happiness from the outcome and shifting it to the enjoyment of the journey. By doing this, you are removing the limitations that are set when you make your goal an end-point. This is something I’m going to try doing going into 2019 and I’m looking forward to what the results will be in a year from now.

The following are some of the goals I set at the end of 2017 going into 2018 and how well I did achieving them:

  • Read a chapter of a book every day: LOL.
  • Make everyone I meet in any situation feel welcome: Hopefully.
  • Stop being so negative: Actually kind of did this!
  • Approach a healthier lifestyle: Dill Pickle chips.
  • Be more straightforward with people: No idea, honestly.
  • Move to Calgary: Check.

These aren’t all of them, but the ones I felt were worth sharing. As you can see, some were specific whereas others were very broad and hard to quantify. Knowing what I know now about setting goals and benchmarks for myself, I’m really looking forward to setting them up in 2019. While New Year’s resolutions get a bad reputation, I feel as though it’s a good exercise to evaluate where you are in life and where you want to go.

The best part is, this doesn’t have to be a New Year’s thing, do it once a month, on your birthday, at the change of a season. Whatever works for you, but I think it’s important that you do it because when you’re outside the confines of school or your work, life can feel quite lonely, empty and sometimes scary. And if setting up certain benchmarks, even as simple as meditating one minute every day helps, then it’s more than worth it in the long-run.

What are some of your goals for 2019? No matter how big or small, they are worth pursuing because why the hell wouldn’t you? Thanks for tuning into my random ramblings this past year, more to come in 2019!

A Breakdown of Pete Carroll’s Philosophy

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A few months ago I wrote an article detailing the decline of the Seattle Seahawks.

I, among many others, was dead wrong.

That being said, much of what I laid out in that last article was true. The Seahawks drafting has not been as strong in recent history as it was at the beginning of this regime’s tenure. There have been major misses in free agency and in trades. Coaching decisions and hires have not been perfect (they employed Tom Cable for about six years too long). However, one thing I did not take into account was the power and resolve of a strong philosophy. Whether it’s in sports, business or a family, a core set of values and a healthy culture is the foundation for anything successful. It gives everyone involved a sense of purpose, direction and something to fall back on in times of turbulence.

And that’s exactly where Seattle found themselves going into Week 3 at 0-2.

Before delving further into the season, I am going to break down some of what Carroll’s philosophy entails, a majority of it coming from his 2010 New York Times Bestseller book “Win Forever”. A personal favourite of mine that gives a lot of transferable advice to multiple facets of one’s life.

Pete Carroll Philosphy

Belief System

From the time Carroll was hired, he established the “Win Forever” matrix into the fabric of the Seahawks, from the staff he surrounded himself with to the players they drafted. The core (bottom of the pyramid) has stayed intact throughout Carroll’s tenure. “Do things better than they have ever been done before.” 

Of the three rules, rules one & two have come under siege multiple times throughout Carroll’s career in Seattle, most notably since Super Bowl 49 when the Seahawks notoriously threw the ball on the one-yard line, resulting in an interception and a heartbreaking loss. Since then, players have been very outspoken, this has resulted in Rule One, being broken.

“Always protect the team”.

After the devastating Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in 2015, many players have spoken out against Carroll, the coaching staff and the team. Most notably, Richard Sherman in 2016 when he openly criticized the offensive coaching staff for calling a pass on the one-yard line in a Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Rams. More recently, it was reported that star defensive end Michael Bennett would read books during coaching meetings. Bennett was traded to the Philidelphia Eagles this past off-season.

To Pete Caroll’s credit, he never once made excuses for the devastating Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, at the foundation of his philosophy Carroll has stayed true to his core. He protected the team and didn’t throw then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell or Russell Wilson under the bus. He didn’t make any excuses, complain or whine at the result.

“There’s really nobody to blame but me.”

Central Theme

This is what Pete Carroll is known for, every training camp, practice, pre-season game etc. It’s all about competition. It’s how former CFL All-Star cornerback Brandon Browner became a starting corner in 2011, how fifth round-pick and former college wide-receiver Richard Sherman became an All-Pro cornerback, how a third-round quarterback, many touted to be “too short” managed to find himself as a Week 1 starter in his rookie season in 2012.

Competition.

It doesn’t matter what round a player is drafted in or how much he’s being paid, how hard they compete and what’s best for the team determines how much of a contributor they will be for the Seahawks.

“However successful you may be, there is always some element you can improve on, some achievement to exceed.”

What’s great about this portion of the hierarchy is that it’s the most relatable and applicable to everyday life. No matter what you’re competing at, whether it be sports, filmmaking, writing, working out, school or work is that by having the mindset of doing things better than they’ve ever been done before, you can maximize your potential. Carroll also mentions in his book that he does not see his opponents as the “enemy” but as people who offer him the opportunity to succeed. This is a massive perspective change compared to what we regularly perceive as our competition.

Environment

Pete Carroll cites his final year in New England when asked to evaluate a pair of youth football practices as a moment of enlightenment for him in regards to practice. He witnessed a team in the Bronx practicing but it was unlike what he had seen before, the energy was different, there was more if it and it started with the coaches. From that moment, Carroll promised any team under his watch would practice with more energy than anyone in football.

“But Winning Forever is not about the final score; it’s about competing and starving to be the best. If you are in this pursuit then you’re already winning.”

I'm in

How Carroll runs his practices has had a direct impact on the culture of this team. Music blares at practice, drills are run at high paces and things are generally kept “loose” as per NFL standards. There are different themes for each day of the week leading up to the game. There’s Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Tuesday, Turnover Wednesday, No Repeat Thursday and Review Friday. For the sake of the length of this article, each day focuses on a key component within Pete’s philosophy, that’s what gives structure to his entire program.

Pete Carroll acknowledges that he’s been known as a “player’s coach” which he notes is a label that carries negative connotations such as being “too nice”. However, Carroll puts this to rest with a brilliant quote that all leaders in any position can take a page from.

“If you really care about helping people maximize their potential, then you must try to uncover who they are and what they are all about.”

Performance

Pete Carroll near the end of his book looks at how any person can apply the Win Forever philosophy to their own lives. In short, Carroll believes that by setting up a vision for yourself, staying disciplined and true to your strengths and keeping in touch with said vision, you can maximize the best version of yourself.

“When you truly know yourself, you have the best chance of using your strengths to your best advantage. And when things aren’t going so well, it is so much easier to get back on track when you have a plan for where you want to go.”

This quote is the reason why the Seahawks “rebuild” has taken all of 12 weeks as opposed to the two years or more many thought it would take. From the ground up, Pete Carroll has not only developed a philosophy he believes in, but he was able to get everyone else to buy in. The entire Seahawks program revolves around competition and maximizing potential.

Seattle may not have a hall of fame secondary as they had in 2013 or a running back of the calibre of Beastmode (Marshawn Lynch). Pete Carroll simply gets the most out of his players and this wouldn’t be possible without his philosophy. The fact that the Seahawks have an identity is what is keeping them in the playoff race. Something they sorely lacked in the first two weeks of the season.

Win Forever

Beyond football, it is this book and the joy of watching Carroll coach every Sunday as to why he’s such a big inspiration to me. I would encourage anyone of any profession or walk of life to check out this book or other online resources on Carroll’s philosophy.

It is because of leaders like Pete Carroll as to why I wholeheartedly believe that sports mean so much more than wins, losses and championships. Philosophies like Pete’s and others out there from esteemed players and coaches across many leagues transcends the sport itself. The ability to inspire everyday people like you and me can make a far deeper impact than a Seahawks victory (but you’ll still find me screaming at my TV every Sunday).  I leave you with a poem found in Pete Carroll’s book and I hope you find as much value in Pete Carroll’s teachings as I have.

Always Compete

Always Compete…

As you progress through your sporting life…

Always Compete.

If you want to go for it…

Always Compete.

You’re gonna have to make choices in life and those choices need to be conscious decisions. There’s only one person in control here, and that person is you…

You hold all the cards. You are the master of you. It’s time to admit it…

You have always known this. So if you’re ready, act on it…

Always Compete.

Don’t you dare try to be too cool, don’t you dare be afraid of life,

Just “dare to be great,” and let it rip.

Always be humble, always be kind, always be respectful…

Always Compete.

Everything you do counts and screams who you are. There is no hiding from you.

Act as if the whole world will know who you are…

Always Compete.

Be true to yourself and let nothing hold you back.

Compete to be the greatest you, and that will always be enough and that will be a lifetime!

Always Compete.

Any thoughts on this post, Pete’s philosophy, the Seahawks or just want to chat? Find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!

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Advice if You’re Taking Business

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“What do you plan on doing with that degree?”

“People take business because it’s easy!”

“Only people who don’t know what they want to do with their life take business!”

I could go on with the one-liners I have heard over the years in regards to people’s views on business degrees. To their point, I am sure they have met people in a business program where they feel that view is justified. However, I would rather talk about the potential upside of pursuing a business degree based on my time taking business and I’d like to offer up my thoughts if it’s able to help anyone on edge about kicking off their journey in the business program.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a post-grad who’s got his entire life figured out, this is just some advice based on a quick reflection of my time in school, others may have different advice, but they can talk about it on their own goddamn blog.)

Passion

In my four-years taking business I met a lot of people who were born to be in business. They know from as early as middle-school that that’s where they wanted to be after graduation. Whether their passion was rooted in finance/accounting, entrepreneurship, management, or perhaps the creative side in design and marketing. You could see their eyes light up when you asked them about their plans post-college graduation about all the things they planned on accomplishing, what their goals were and how they planned on reaching them.

However, there were also people I met who were walking representations of the quotes at the top of this post. Their parents pushed for them to take business because at least it was “something”, they really didn’t have any goals laid out in terms of what they aimed to accomplish post-grad and they appeared very lost. And that’s okay. Because not everyone needs to have it figured out at 18, 19 or even 22 years-old. However, this shouldn’t be an indictment on the value of a business degree or any degree for that matter. If you’re not certain what you want to do after college graduation, help yourself out by getting active outside the classroom.

Get Involved!

A business degree can still be of value in learning the multiple facets of business. But the big catch is you get out what you put in. It seems cliché however, being that business is not a Point A to Point B degree, you have to get involved. While classes are beginning to catch up with the times in offering more creative experiences for students, the onus is still on the student to supplement their classroom time with extra-curricular activities.

Whether it’s getting involved with a business club, a fraternity/sorority, case competitions, sports teams, a job relevant to business (co-op program) or even building something on the side (like a super COOL blog). It’s important to put yourself in positions where you will be actively testing the knowledge you learn in the classroom. This goes beyond “beefing” up your resume (but it certainly doesn’t hurt), this is testing your critical thinking, time management, organization, leadership etc. And that does not even take into account the networking that can be done through any one of these activities, you never know who you’ll meet that can steer you on a totally different path than you originally anticipated! (But that’s another post in itself).

Don’t Stress

At the end of the day, there are plenty of people just like you across all majors that are uncertain about their futures post-graduation. Just because you’re majoring in something that’s more broad than others, doesn’t mean you aren’t working towards something of value for your future. As a recent graduate there’s a lot I look back on and wish I got involved in even more despite being relatively active outside the classroom. However, I do not regret taking business as the content I learned, the connections I made and the great minds I got to learn from and interact with I know will pay off in the long-term. Because with any degree or education, it’s an investment into yourself and future.

As I continue navigating life post-university I will hopefully have more detailed thoughts that can be of value for anyone in or thinking of taking business. If you have any further questions or have any differing thoughts don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Stephen Bolen