When you begin to think like an economist the way you look at life changes. Meri Ingebrigtsen explains
“On a rainy February afternoon, I was studying away in the library, when I decided to go and get a cup of coffee from the library café. As usual, I noticed the person serving my cappuccino seemed fed up and unfriendly. I shrugged it off and thought, well, at least the coffee is cheap! Afterwards I started thinking further about my initial thought. Am I only accepting bad customer service, because the coffee is cheap? Then I thought, would I be willing to pay more for coffee, if I also got friendly service on top of my coffee? Immersed in my thought, I continued to think about the situation. The café worker is probably on minimum wage, and doesn’t think he needs to put in the effort of smiling or being polite. If he was paid more, would he be willing to serve customers in a friendlier manner? If so, how much more would he need to be paid extra to do this? Would a more friendly service, then, bring in more custom? Would this lead to an increase in the profits of the café, and would such an increase be enough to cover and exceed the costs of a pay increase of the employees that work there?
I noticed I’d already finished my coffee and smiled at myself; this is how my economics degree has prepared me for life. It has given me the analytical tools to criticise things that happen around me, now matter how small. Four years ago I wouldn’t have stopped at the vegetable and fruit section at my local Sainsbury’s to wonder why the own-brand organic beetroots were actually cheaper than regular beetroots, when organic production costs are usually higher. Even if my examples may seem trivial, I think they illustrate exactly what studying economics is about: changing your persona and the way you think about any issues in the world. This can therefore contribute to any kind of career path that I decide to choose, whether I decide to become and investment banker or work for a non-governmental organisation on a charitable mission. The fundamental purpose of an economics degree is to instil and foster an individual’s ability to think outside the box, inside the box and around the box to find the right solution, the relevant question, and sometimes even the right answer. And that is why today, when I am back at the library with my piles of books and journals, sipping my coffee, I know that whatever life throws at me, my economics degree has ensured I can make the best out of any situation.”
Meri Ingebrigtsen studied for an MA (Hons) in Economics at Heriot-Watt University and now works for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.