Dena Cox (Sociology), Jennifer Sturman (Sociology) and Christina Vergara (Criminal Justice) won the Outstanding Student Research Award in the Social Sciences, Business, and Law category of RISE: 2012. For more information http://www.northeastern.edu/rise/winners/rise2012-award-winners/.
Sociology Majors Embark on Business Careers
Recently, a freshman sociology major asked some seniors about the role of sociology in business, and specifically wondered about whether sociologists might be involved in marketing and product design. This prompted a lively discussion. What follows is an adapted version of the exchange that ensued.
Alex Taylor, Class of 2013
I did my first co-op with the global advertising team at Reebok‘s world headquarters. Within our department was the rest of the global marketing staff which included digital, retail and public relations (believe it or not, most of the employees did not major in business as an undergrad). There was also the consumer insights team, composed of 2 psych majors and 1 sociology major. The designers and artists that design the next season’s products are given creative brief constructed partly from the findings that the consumer insights team gathers.
After co-opping I realized that Reebok wasn’t necessarily for me. The work environment sort of stiff and everyone had this sort of, ultra type-A competitive business personality which isn’t me at all. But nonetheless, it was a wonderful opportunity and gave me an invaluable overview of the advertising and marketing industry. I even lined up my next co-op thanks to some colleagues at Reebok and I’ll be headed to Berlin Germany in January to work with Volkswagen‘s ad agency!
My personal advice to sociology majors interested in business careers would be not to get caught up in what your major is. I heard some state that college students change their majors at least 3 times on average, or something like that? I started off as marketing, then communications for a moment, and then finally settled on sociology when I realized that I’d get far more utility studying cultures and how organizations work rather than business or communications studies.
At a school like NU, you can pursue whatever you want. Once you get that first co-op under your belt, you can essentially have a running chance at any other co-op regardless of major. I suggest you speak to our Co-op advisor Lisa Worsh on opportunities available, or maybe sit in on some Co-op informational sessions next semester and get a feel for what some of these jobs are like.
Emily McCue, class of 2012
I haven’t worked specifically in product design, but through my time with the Dannon Company I was exposed to a lot of different areas within the business. I was able to learn a lot about why certain products have particular packaging, who those products are marketed to and about all of the intricacies that make a certain product successful. If you are interested in doing a business co-op I would tell you not to get discouraged by your initial co-op. And the business college sometimes wants to take care of their students first, so you have to be patient with them and make them work for you. But because of that, I ended up basically creating my second and third co-ops on my own. So my advice would be to figure out what you want to study, or where exactly you’d like to work and start talking to them early and get them enrolled in the co-op program (if they aren’t already). This worked well for me. Now, I will be considering a full time position at Dannon after graduation.
Andrew Berlanstein, class of 2010
I chose sociology because I was catching myself already thinking in sociological ways and the prospect of diving into different social phenomena and issues in detail really peaked my interest. To put it simply I decided to major in something that I enjoyed learning about rather than something to help set me up with any specific career– it was one of the best decisions I can remember making.
Like so many others I chose NU for co-op.
My first co-op was as an Admissions Assistant at the NU Admissions Visitor Center. I acted as a pseudo-admissions counselor, as well as tour guide manager. My second co-op was in business –I worked as a Marketing and Operations assistant at Ciclismo Classico, an Arlington-based European bike tour operator. There I did a lot of administrative stuff like maintaining a database and fielding customer service calls, but I also got to attend some really cool events where we would promote cycling advocacy and spread the good word about our tours. I enjoyed both my co-ops but the most valuable thing I learned after completing them was what I WASN’T interested in doing and that was sitting at a desk! I knew that I needed to work in an active, young, exciting industry that was different from day to day. Towards the end of my second co-op I had started home brewing my own beer, a hobby which became an obsession and lead me to a part-time job during my junior and senior years at the Sam Adams brewery in Jamaica Plain. From there I was able to make the leap to more affluent positions with other craft breweries.
I am currently the Chicago Market Manager for Duvel Moortgat USA/Brewery Ommegang, Belgium’s second largest brewery and owner of America’s premier Belgian style brewery in Cooperstown, NY. Our portfolio of premium Belgian style ales includes the finest Belgian beers from 6 of the most well-regarded breweries in the world. I am responsible for brand management and distribution expansion in the greater Chicago land area. I can’t say my co-ops directly related to my work today, but my co-ops did give me direction and allow me to find the craft brewing industry and a job therein before I even left Northeastern. That is way more than my friends from other schools can say about their career paths. Co-op also gave me the professional experience necessary to apply for more advanced jobs, as well as the interview and resume crafting skills needed to land those positions with ease. At 24 I have worked for 3 major craft breweries and rubbed elbows with many of the most important players in the global beer industry. Pretty cool.
Northeastern was invaluable in helping me figure out what it was that I wanted to do with my life. College students around the country are constantly facing themselves with the ultimate question of “what do I want to do?” Northeastern provides the tools that can help students answer that question. At the very least it provides the skills to allow its graduates to try new things and find out for themselves what it is they want out of their careers. For me it was beer, but for others it’s law, business, public policy, non-profit, education… you name it! Northeastern gave me the competitive edge to achieve my goals and leave me with one of the coolest careers imaginable
As for sociology and business there is one area where I really do draw a connection and that is market analysis. In jobs like mine it’s crucial to know what trends are making waves in the business and where the market is headed overall. A lot of that involves thinking sociologically. For instance at a certain account I will have to know the general demographic of that account and its neighborhood, and work with that knowledge to best operate within the account. The sociology of craft beer has most directly to do with socioeconomic status, income, and food and consumer-based values. In the past gender too, but not as much these days. Demand for craft beer is greatest among those who are young, usually male, modern, liberal, interested in culinary arts, and likely to shop in local businesses to support his community. Thinking about markets sociologically gives me an advantage over people who aren’t sensitive to or aware of these cultural differences. The way I think about selling makes it so that I spend my time more effectively in accounts that can succeed with a specialty product and that method of thought is 100% rooted in sociology.
There are other areas too where sociological thinking and training pays off. Businesses are always striving to better and more accurately reach their customer bases. If you ask me sociological methods can be a real advantage in achieving that.