When Biron Clark began his studies at UMassD as a finance major, little did he know how his courses, faculty mentorship, interactions with his peers, and early-career work experience would converge.
Within a few years of graduating and navigating the job market, Clark found Career Sidekick -- a virtual business that allows him to travel around the world to pursue his passion, which involves helping others find their way in the complex world of business.
Choosing to pursue a business degree
"I had always been interested in investing and personal finance and knew I wanted some type of business degree because of the job opportunities it can lead to. I majored in finance. Working with and learning from faculty in the finance department and throughout the Charlton College of Business was a great experience. They were knowledgeable and passionate about what they taught. I could tell that the professors enjoyed teaching, which motivated me as a student.
Benefiting from academic rigor
Studying at UMassD gave me an introduction to business and helped me find what I was passionate about (business, negotiation, marketing, and more).
As part of my coursework, I had the chance to work as part of a team and give presentations at UMassD. This helped me become confident, develop better communication skills, learn a little bit about delegating and managing tasks and projects, too. These are all valuable skills if you plan to work in the business world. I ended up managing projects, training and leading people, and doing a lot of related work later in my career.
Finding my way in the real world
I knew I was learning valuable skills from great professors, so I felt confident in my first few jobs – when negotiating my salary, starting out, and later on when I asked for promotions/raises.
So while I didn’t go down the path of entrepreneurship until 5+ years after graduating, my degree allowed me to join great companies and build valuable skills that eventually led to me becoming an entrepreneur.
Good communication skills, project management, timeline management, delegation, and goal-setting are all important to my success as an entrepreneur now, and are all things I got started with at UMassD.
Inventing my future
While working as a recruiter, I realized that most people weren’t sure how to get noticed by top companies and get the jobs they really wanted (even if they had the skills needed to do the job).
So I started the job search advice website Career Sidekick as a side project to share what I was learning as a recruiter, including a lot of “insider” info that job seekers don’t typically see in the hiring process. A couple of years later, I resigned from my job as a recruiter to turn the website into a full-time business.
Career Sidekick is now visited by more than one million people per month and has been mentioned in Forbes, INC, Business Insider, The Muse, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and more. It also earned me a spot among LinkedIn’s list of Top Voices for career advice in 2019. The business is a content/information website that earns revenue primarily from advertising and digital product sales (e-books and courses).
Gaining an ROI from attending UMassD
Earning my degree allowed me to get my foot in the door with great employers (like e-commerce giant Wayfair, Berklee College of Music, and a staffing agency that recruited for multiple Fortune 500 firms). I gained confidence, and I ended up using the knowledge I learned in that staffing agency to start my own business a few years later.
I think the contacts and friends I made, and the information I learned from my professors, had the biggest impact on my life. Many of my professors had real-world experience working in for-profit companies, so they were able to share insights into different career paths, which was very useful.
This helped me hone in on areas I thought I’d enjoy (sales and marketing, for example), and also identify careers that probably weren’t a good fit for me (accounting, etc.). My professors also seemed to have great connections. For example, I remember one professor had connections to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and encouraged students to pursue jobs there.
In terms of specific activities, I’m thankful that a close friend and fellow finance student encouraged me to join the UMassD Investment Club. I learned “hard” skills like financial analysis, but also how to present ideas, how to ask good questions and have professional discussions around a topic, etc. These are all vital business skills.
I also made friends during my time at UMassD whom I stayed in touch with and was able to share information and ideas with as we advanced our careers. So the connections I made were another difference-maker for me."