6 Tips for Economics Majors at BYU

With graduation on the horizon, it’s natural to wax reflective. I’ve spent some time compiling some unsolicited advice for new Economics majors at Brigham Young University. These are tidbits of knowledge and insight I’ve gained slowly by trial-and-error and experience over the past four years, compactly compiled for your educational enhancement. Here we go:

1. Develop an idea early on of what you plan to do with your economics degree. You don’t need to have every detail mapped out, but ask yourself: Do I want to pursue a Ph.D. in economics? If the answer is yes, you should consider a double major or minor in math, taking the 500-level economics courses, and building relationships with professors early on that could develop into research assistant positions. If the answer is no, your strategy should change completely.

So how do you figure out what you want to do? Enroll in the Career Seminar (ECON 213) to hear from BYU Economics Alumni who now work in a variety of fields (law, consulting, marketing, academia, etc.). Also, check out this page developed by the economics department about careers related to economics or this magazine article called “Careers in Economics” published in the BYU Economics magazine

Since I’m following the “business” path and not going the economics Ph.D. route, the rest of my advice will be most relevant to those interested in business-related fields, not academia or research.

2. Regardless of which path you chose, complement your economics major with a strong minor. The major is very short (36 credits) compared to others (Mechanical Engineering is 100+ credits) so take advantage of that time! From my own experience and the experience of my peers, I’d recommend a minor in math, statistics, computer science, management, or any combination of these.

3. That being said, seriously consider a management minor from the Marriott School. You knock out 2 of the 8 classes (ECON 110, MATH 112) simply by virtue of completing the Economics major, and the remaining classes provide a decent business foundation with introductions to accounting, finance, and marketing.

But the classes themselves aren’t even the reason you should do a management minor. No one knows how to recruit for jobs and internships like the Marriott School. By connecting yourself to the business school, you’re much more likely to be aware of important events like information sessions, job and internship opportunities, and networking events. The minor is available to “all interested BYU students”, meaning you don’t have to apply and be accepted.

Even if you don’t do a management minor, schedule study time in the Tanner Building to get gain exposure recruiting events, club meetings, and networking opportunities.

4. Take a class from Dr. Lars Lefgren or Dr. Jocelyn Wikle. Economics 488 (Intermediate Econometrics), originally developed and taught by Dr. Lefgren, is arguably the most ‘useful’ course in the major. Dr. Lefgren will learn your name and takes groups of students to the Cannon Center for lunch at his own expense several times a semester. Dr. Wikle, who teaches introductory econometrics and macroeconomic courses, is equally engaged and goes to great lengths to facilitate student success.

5. Buckle down and learn to code. You’ll learn STATA in the major, but you’ll want to be more familiar with Python or R and their core packages. There are many ways to do this. Consider completing an online course like Code Academy, enrolling in a course from the Computer Science department (CS 142), or reviewing these lecture notes from Tyler Folkman, who taught a machine learning course this past semester.

6. Participate in the Alumni Mentoring Program. You’ll be matched with an economics alumnus based on shared interests and develop a relationship through a series of “experiences” of the course of a semester. These experiences are phone calls, meetings, or lunches where you ask the alumnus questions about their education, career, or industry. More details here. The program is valuable alone for the sake of that single relationship, but more importantly, the program will carefully teach you the steps of networking, which you should then apply dozens of more times before graduating.

5 Essential iPhone Apps

I’m always looking for apps that enhance my life and productivity. A family member recently purchased a new iPhone and asked for my top app recommendations. Here are five, in no particular order:

1. LastPass [Link]

One master password (or touch ID) unlocks all other passwords, eliminating the need for frequent password resetting. Available both as a mobile app or Chrome extension, LastPass seamlessly and securely syncs across devices. My LastPass ‘vault’ contains overs 125 of my passwords, and with features like autofill and auto-login, my work is never slowed by manual password entry.

2. Pocket [Link]

Everyday I see dozens of things online I don’t have time to read or view in the moment. With Pocket I can save those news articles, blog posts, talks, or tutorials for later viewing, even if offline. Pocket allows me to organize things I’ve saved with tags and eliminates the need for me to send links to myself via email or bookmark web pages. Pocket’s recommendation algorithm (optimized based on the content saved) is spot-on and delivers interesting and relevant articles for me to consume on demand.

3. Moment [Link]

As useful as having a computer in your pocket can be, it’s important to be aware of your device usage and ‘screen time.’ Moment allows me to track how much I use my phone or tablet each day automatically. The ‘insight’ tab provides useful metrics like minutes of screen time, percent of waking life on phone, and the number of pickups by day and week. Moment helps ensure my device usage remains within a healthful limit.

4. Mint [Link]

The king of the personal finance apps, Mint aggregates all of your financial accounts and allows you to manage your money from one place. Rather than check my bank, credit card, and investment accounts separately, Mint displays my nine account balances in near real-time. I’m also able to view my credit score, receive bill reminders, create budgets by category, and set financial goals. Mint is an essential for the financially-savvy.

5. Google Keep [Link]

Google Keep is hand’s down my go-to productivity and note-keeping app, allowing me to capture and record any thought or plan tasks. It’s really an extension of my brain. With features like check-markable boxes for to-do lists and searchable note archives, Keep is an app I interact with dozens of times a day across my devices.

What apps do you love?

Basic Interview Tips

There are few things more nerve-racking than an interview. Here are a few tips:

(1) Come prepared. Before the interview, spend an hour or two making a list of all the questions you anticipate they may ask. This will help you feel more confident going into the interview and helps avoid blanking out in the moment. Here are some ideas of questions you could think about and draft answers to beforehand:

Why do you want to work here?
Why are you interested in this position?
Why are you qualified for this position?
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about a time you faced a challenge and overcame it.
Tell me about a time you failed.
Tell me about a time you work in a team or showed leadership.
(2) Tell stories. The best way to answer any question you’re asked is to tell a story. It doesn’t have to be long but I think it’s the best way to leave a memorable impression. It’s best to think of five or six stories beforehand and practice them beforehand so the delivery comes across well during the interview.

(3) Ask insightful questions. Almost 100% of the time, you’ll be asked at the end of the interview if you have any questions. You want to have two or three good questions prepared ahead of time. This shows your genuine interest in the company (or department in this case) and the position. You might think about asking a question like, “How will my performance be measured?” or “How will I know if I’m successful in this role?”. Asking insightful questions will help set you apart from other candidates.

What have you done to set yourself apart in interviews? How do you prepare?