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What to Expect When You’re Graduating: Finance Students Get Advice in New York

By Laura Herring

Gary Cohn

COO of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn, BSBA '82, speaks with two Kogod students during the New York City Finance Alumni Reception.

What really makes a candidate stand out during an interview? Do all new hires really sleep under desks during reporting season? What happens if I decide I don't like the sector I start in?

These are the questions most young jobseekers are too afraid to ask, especially of experienced professionals in their chosen field. But a group of Kogod students recently got all these answers (and others) during the annual New York City Finance trip put on by the Kogod Center for Career Development.

The Trip

For three days in early October, students and career advisors trekked around Manhattan, visiting some of the biggest financial institutions in the country. They went on site tours, met with alumni, and got some sage advice.

"It's incredible the insight we were given," said Mark France, BSF '14. "I've learned so much about the real financial world and have been pleasantly surprised by their candidness."

Students met with alumni at Bloomberg Communications, BNY Mellon, Brody/Amirian, Brookfield Properties, GoldenTree Asset Management, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan. They also attended an alumni reception featuring Jeffrey Sine, SIS/BS '76, chairman of the Board of Trustees at American University .

Hearing advice from so many alumni helped distill the trip into useful habits to take forward, according to Kaitlin Fanning, BSBA '14.

"On paper the trip seemed a little overwhelming," she said. "But meeting [the alumni] and hearing them talk about their real experiences was so helpful. It really made entering the real world seem less frightening."

The Advice

Each site visit varied in the details: a tour of the trading floor at Goldman Sachs; previewing a development pitch at Brookfield Properties; a panel discussion at JPMorgan. The one constant was the steady stream of advice from alumni.

Far and away the most prevalent suggestion was to find something to be professionally passionate about.

"You're going to spend the rest of your life in your career," said David Dubner, BSA '97, and a managing director at Goldman Sachs. "Be sure to take the time now to really explore all your options and really discover what it is that you love to do."

Sine echoed these sentiments during his talk at the reception, linking job fulfillment and career success.

"The fact of the matter is that it's hard to be a success at anything, but it's a whole lot easier when you're excited to go to work every day."

Not all advice was directed at long-term career goals, however. Plenty of suggestions for getting a foot in the door and keeping it there were handed out as well.

Gary Cohn, BSBA '82, Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs, believes candidates have as much responsibility going into an interview as the person doing the hiring.

"Come through the door with some knowledge of what we do and with an idea of what's going on in the world," he said. "Have an opinion on things and show that you're relevant."

Cohn also stressed embracing failure as an opportunity to learn and move forward.

"Good failures make great success stories. Not everything you attempt in life is going to go perfectly, so it's important to be able to adapt and move on," he said. "If you can remain calm and rational in a crisis then you'll be in good shape to succeed."

Lasting Impressions

The students weren't the only ones to walk away from the trip with something to remember. Their visits left a positive impression on Wall Street as well.

"I'm amazed every year at how each class is more polished than the last," said Nicole Loftus, BSBA '06, a vice president at JPMorgan. "Every one of them is a well-rounded young candidate, from the questions they asked to how they carried themselves."

Meeting the students also provided a moment of reflection for the alumni.

"The whole experience put me back in their shoes," said Robert Crouther, BSBA '07, now an associate at JPMorgan. "I remembered being their age and about to enter the workforce and tried to share with them what I wish I'd known then."

It was a gesture that didn't go unappreciated among the students.

"I think we've all learned so much on this trip," said Alex Adamczyk, BSBA '14. "It really shows how great of a network Kogod has built, that all these alumni were willing to take the time out of their days to meet us and answer our questions."

Oh, and the answers to those questions?

What really makes a candidate stand out during an interview? Do all new hires really sleep under desks during reporting season? What happens if I decide I don’t like the sector I start in?

"The ability to backup your resume skills, if you say you can pick a stock, be able to pitch one on the fly," said Cohn.

"No, but some do and those are the ones we remember," according to Couther.

"Give every position at least 18 months, then there's always room for internal mobility," said Dubner.