In June this year, three years has passed since I stepped out from the beautiful building Universitetshuset with the sun streaming down my face as a freshly graduated Civilekonom. It is hard not to feel nostalgic when I think back on my four great years in Lund and at LUSEM, a great place to live, study and make connections that will last a lifetime. At the same time, I realize that the life after Lund actually have not been the way I imagined it to be when I graduated, and yes a life after Lund actually exists even though I understand that many of you cannot think of that right now, when you are in the middle of everything. I am very glad to get the opportunity to write this article and hopefully I can amuse and maybe inspire those of you reading this in between your classes, exams, projects and parties. My name is Max Nilsson, and as I stated in the beginning, I graduated from four years of studies in June 2013. At first I got accepted to the three-year bachelor’s program but during my first of many activities with LundaEkonomerna, the introduction week, I got the call from the department of business and economics, saying that I had been accepted to the four-year program called “Civilekonomprogrammet” instead. Nowadays I think the program has been replaced and I guess the best way to describe it is as a bachelor program plus a one-year master program. In the end I ended up with a MSc in Business with a focus on Organization and Change Management, after also completing an exchange semester in Ottawa. I am very satisfied with my education, where my focus when it came to picking which master’s program to study solely was to study subjects that seemed fun and interesting. I would also recommend everyone to apply for an exchange semester, truly a developing and fun experience which enlightened my time at the University. I could spend several pages talking about what you should think about during your studies and that it is important to be present and active in school together with getting good grades. But, I will not do that. In the end it all comes down to a few things for me. Studying in Lund gives you a great opportunity to develop as a person and professional. Few places give you the natural possibility to combine studies at a highly ranked University with work-life experience, extracurricular involvements such as LundaEkonomerna and having fun at the same time. Pushing your limits together with having fun and feeling good are things that should not be underestimated when it comes to development and the ability to learn, as long as you are honest towards yourself when it comes to how you feel. I do not suggest that you should take on too much responsibility and tasks since work overload only will result in stressful feelings and worse results, but when you manage to test your limits by combining the studies with involvements within LundaEkonomerna, the different Student Nations or a part-time job, I believe you will see yourself developing and achieving better results.
During my first years in Lund I was not the most active student, I participated in some activities with LundaEkonomerna and Lunds Nation but did not really bother to apply for any role. Living a bit outside of Lund did not make this part easier, but still, if I could do it all over again I would definitely get involved a lot earlier since I have gained so much from the experiences with especially LundaEkonomerna. My involvements with LundaEkonomerna started with helping the Novice Committee with the introduction week in 2010, and being a Staffer during the eee-days both 2011 and 2012. After a while I became a part of the Corporate Challenge Committee in 2012, combined with being elected as Head of Social Affairs within the Board for 2012/2013. These last two years were amazing to me, I got to know so many talented and great people, had the opportunity to really push my limits and use the theoretical knowledge I had started to build up from the business studies. For me, the studies did not get really fun and interesting until I started to get involved with projects outside of the school, since you then can apply your theoretical knowledge into practice. This is by far the part that has been most useful to me in the life after Lund, because working is not like studying theoretical assumptions. By learning how to work in teams, how to interact socially with a lot of people and starting to become a bit more professional in your approach towards work. LundaEkonomerna gives you a great leap in to the work life that lies ahead of you. If there are other involvements that feel more tempting, such as the Student Nations or just working for some local company, I believe that is great experience as well. As long as you try to step a bit outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself a bit, I think you have achieved a lot already. When you start to work for a company or organization in the future, I strongly believe that you will be thankful that you tested yourself during your studies because that is what you will be facing all the time at your workplace and in life, professional and social tests and challenges. If you never try and never push your limits, you will not grow and develop skills as a person and professional.
After graduating I have lived in both Stockholm and Gothenburg and I have covered four different positions and also a two-month period as unemployed. I first got the job as a Business Controller for H&M in Stockholm, one of the two jobs I applied for. A great possibility in a huge company and a position that many of you probably will apply for. The job was great, it was challenging, fun and social with a lot of interaction with different specialists and talented people in different departments. I performed well and within our Business Controller group of around 60 people I felt really appreciated with my social skills and during group discussions and educations I could really contribute with different perspectives on business and much energy. But then, all of a sudden, my boss was not pleased anymore and wanted more structure in my work. After only a few weeks of really trying to improve that part she told me I was not being given an extension and I had to leave a job and a workplace I really liked and enjoyed. I was in shock and everyone I talked to felt the same way. I am confident I really performed well but my boss and I were simply very different people and our way of thinking did not seem to match. I immediately started to apply for similar jobs and aimed high for roles as a Business Controller or a consultant, but my luck and success seemed to have ran out. I got stuck in a negative circle where I passed through to the later stages of the applications, but had too little experience to get the job, and I of course needed the job to get the experience. I had to lower my expectations and in the end got the job as a consultant for Adecco, working for a company called Ramirent as a financial assistant in Gothenburg. After a successful run in that company, I now work as a Sales Controller for a company called BIC Nordic, a role where I am very involved in the business and get to drive projects myself and develop my analytical skills together with being responsible for our Sales part of the P&L (Profit and Loss). What I want to show with this story is that everything does not end up the way you imagine and there is a lot of things affecting you in the workplace that you cannot really do anything about. You have political hierarchies, personal relationships where you will not get along with everyone and so forth. I think the most important part is to be honest to yourself, never give up or stop believing in yourself and try to have fun and feel good at your workplace. Then I think you will find your way to an organization and a role you find fulfilling and meaningful.
Many companies today seem to search for the same type of people and they all want high-performing students with great ambitions, socials skills, prepared to work hard, able to learn quickly, being analytical, structured and flexible, everything at the same time. To me, I think a lot of companies has got stuck in a glorified idea of some kind of super person which is not what they really want and most of them use recruiting firms that seems to use the same template for their application and job descriptions. If I were you, I would not pay too much attention to the glorious texts some roles seem to refer to. I you want the job, apply for it and in the end you will have a good chance at being successful if you have a personality that suits with the company and if your grades are good enough for the role you are applying for. If you do not get it, apply for something else, try out some smaller companies or more general roles in the beginning to get out and start learning about business and the work life. If you really want something, you can achieve it. You just have to try, have fun and never give up. When you have fun, it is amazing how much you can achieve and how much you can push yourself. But of course, sometimes you just have to dig in and do stuff that is not fun as well, but in the long term, not having fun and not feeling good will not work. One way to ensure that you always work with something you enjoy is of course starting your own company, something some of my old classmates has done. I know some guys that started a recruiting firm with focus on being odd and doing things your own way, really great idea and probably very fun, they call themselves Oddwork. I know some guys that converted their interest in extreme sports to a startup creating an innovative electric surfboard, that company is called Radinn, an impressive innovation and probably really fun to work with. I also know a girl that started her own fashion company and brand because of her great interest in business, fashion and inspiring women to be strong and powerful. Her name is Victoria Chan, and she is a great entrepreneur and designer and really shows that everything is possible as long as you never give up, believe in yourself and strive to have fun when you are working. To me, these are all great examples of innovation in different categories and segments and I hope they all approve me mentioning them in this article!
I hope you everyone who is reading this will have a great time in Lund, with involvements in the activities that you find encouraging, fun and a bit challenging. Take the opportunity to learn, develop and connect with people that will continue to be your network for a long time. Way too many people around the business world get stuck in positions, roles and companies with negative traits and boring tasks, if we together can strive to turn that around, the future looks promising. If the company you want to work in does not exist yet, create it yourself and dare to follow your dreams and ambitions. If your workplace is filled with people that are feeling good and having fun, I believe you will achieve great development, good results and a positive company culture that will attract even more talent and skilled people.
Name: Max Nilsson
Degree: MSc in Business with a focus on Organization and Change Management
Involvement in LundaEkonomerna: Novice Cmomittee, eee-days and the corporate challange comittee
Works at: BIC Nordic as a sales controller