On Wednesday, January 8, the Rye Youth Council held a Career GPS where young adults got the chance to hear firsthand from professionals in the finance industry about their careers and how they got to where they are now. The panelists included Jeff Woods (CEO), Christine Sasse (Managing Director, Consulting Relations), Matt Wittheiler (Managing Director, Private Equity), Tess Munsie (Associate, Private Equity), and Megan Burke (Managing Director, Equity Trading), with moderator Sharon Camisa. If you are interested in a career in finance but couldn’t make it to this event, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the key insights I took away from the panelists.
1. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do in high school
Although it may seem surprising, none of the panelists knew exactly what they wanted to do in high school. However, they each stressed that while you don’t need to know your exact career direction, you should take the time you have now to explore your interests and start making connections.
2. Get involved
Perhaps there’s a club or class at school that you’re interested in, or one that you’re unsure about, but you’d like to give it a try. For the panelists, following what interested them or stepping out of their comfort zone helped them get to where they are now. Tess Munsie knew she was interested in finance, but wasn’t sure of what she wanted to do until she joined a business fraternity at Cornell. Here, she was exposed to different careers, including investment banking. Megan Burke was both intimidated and fascinated by the trading desk, so she took a leap of faith and tried it herself. She ended up liking it so much that she has stayed with it since then.
3. Be strategic
Think about what society values in today’s world, and ways you can make yourself a more attractive candidate when applying for competitive jobs. Christine Sasse emphasized the importance of technology in her field and others, and how being able to code and use Excel can differentiate one applicant from the rest. “Take courses [on these skills] in school, it’s definitely something we look for on resumes,” she said.
Also consider your resume as a whole and what it says about you. Balancing extracurriculars, internships, and jobs on top of school may be a lot to manage, but it shows that you can multi-task. This doesn’t mean you need to have the best internship out there: a waitress job may show that you can deal with people, whereas an internship where you didn’t do much may not say as much about you to a potential employer, remarked Megan Burke.
People reading job applications also look for what qualities you would bring to the workplace. “Curiosity and passion” are traits that Matt Wittheiler looks for. Let your resume speak for itself. If you want to be a doctor, for example, then what you put on your resume should show that you are curious and passionate about being a doctor.
4. Network, network, network
Networking is so important. The connections you build now can help you get your dream job later, so put your best foot forward and be presentable. If you’re spending time with your parents friends, for example, they’ll remember if you were on your phone the whole time or if you chose to engage in the conversation.
Interviews are another way to impress a potential employer. Do your research about the job or company you’re applying to before the interview, so you can show the interviewer that you actually want the job. The interview is also a time for you to ask questions, but make sure that they’re good questions. “Ask insightful questions about the person’s experiences,” advised Jeff Woods. What you do after the interview is also really important. “Write a thoughtful note [to your interviewer], and bring something up from the conversation,” said Christine Sasse.
Getting on LinkedIn is also a great way to start networking. Just make sure to keep your profile professional—your employers may see it, and it’s not meant for funny posts with your friends like Instagram or Snapchat.