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Career/Major Advice for an Undergrad Junior

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
What's up, SF? I've always received helpful advice regarding my career/major from others on here (most notably, Matt and Joffrey: thank you), and I was hoping I could get some more insight from others here.

Sparknotes for easier read:

- Senior at non-target
- Finance major
- Only field-related experience was a summer bank internship during high school; absolutely despised it save for the pay (shallow, yeah, I know, but the pay was good for a hs student)
- Resume consists of mostly volunteer experience and working with/teaching kids (which I enjoy, but don't know if I can turn that into teaching)
- Contacted alumni (via alumni directory) and got some replies back; most suggested I study abroad and some general advice like "Find your passion and go for it"
- Good grades all around; solid GPA with some EC's

I've consulted with all of my professors from freshman year to now. Classes started 2 days ago and I've already set up meetings with advisors and professors. I talked to my advisor yesterday and told him about my parents pushing Finance as my major and how I was unsure about what I wanted to do. I mentioned working a 9-to-5 job and he responded by asking me to imagine my life in 3 years, working a job that didn't interest me. He gave an example of the typical person working a 9-to-5, accepting what life has turned into, and always hoping for more but never pursuing his/her interests/passions.

While he had a point, I tried to rationalize that people have bills to pay and I, too, will need $. I want to be as realistic as possible, but I have no clue where to start. I told him I like working with people, getting down deep into how others think, analyzing problems, and trying to figure out solutions. He saw my grade sheet and noticed that I was getting good grades in almost all of my classes (nothing less than a B+). He replied that I'm a front-office guy, so he suggested I research:

- Wealth management
- Consultant (research McKinsey & Co.)
- Project Management / Info. Systems (the tech side in me)
-=-=-=-=-

I know this is vague, but I'd appreciate it if I could get some input. I can also e-mail my resume to those who can take a spare minute or two of their time to check it out for me.

Thanks a lot. I really do appreciate it (both lulz and serious posts that will surely follow).


PS - I figured I didn't need to go over the whole Asian parents thing. To put it simply, they're fronting my tuition (I commute) and as such, believe they have overall say regarding my major/career path.
Edited by pseudonym - 7/2/12 at 8:19pm
post #2 of 62
Yo, so what's your question? Your prof had good ideas about careers to look into. If you like interacting with people and want to make good money, I think consulting is definitely a good career to look into. You could certainly get a desk job and still work with children on a volunteer basis. A 9 to 5 job doesn't necessarily mean you are in some windowless room staring at an excel spreadsheet for the next 40 years of your life. You definitely should apply for internships for next summer in a field you are considering that seems to meet your criteria (work with people a lot, lucrative - for your parents and maybe yourself if you end up liking it). Go to Vault.com and look up their career guides (they are available at major bookstores too: http://www.vault.com/wps/portal/usa/store).

Anyway, apart from the hs job at a bank (which doesn't count unless you want to be a teller), are you genuinely interested in the finance coursework (even by their descriptions in the course catalog)? Once you read up on the careers, do they sound exciting or intriguing? IF you pursued working with children, would you change your major? If so, to what? Why not double major? It could extend your studies by a semester but at worst either way you are straight if you go for the money or your passion. But I'll put it to you this way, I've always loved history and geography but I didn't make it a career. I get my kicks reading 700 page books about the 30 years war and trends in Anglo-French relations since the 100years war on my free time.

Anyway, why is Finance your only option? What about economics? Accounting? Management Info Systems and the many other majors that could be lucrative? I'm not going to look up our PMs but you may want to set up a little better what exactly your options are. Also note that as discussed at length in another thread don't bother pursuing lib arts (english, history, psych, african american studies, women studies, etc.) unless you want to work in a windowless cubicle 9 to 5 or you get a PhD

Btw, definitely do a study abroad. Fuck go abroad for a summer or semester and teach kids, that'll look good on your resume if you end up going for the money.
post #3 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joffrey View Post

Yo, so what's your question? Your prof had good ideas about careers to look into. If you like interacting with people and want to make good money, I think consulting is definitely a good career to look into. You could certainly get a desk job and still work with children on a volunteer basis. A 9 to 5 job doesn't necessarily mean you are in some windowless room staring at an excel spreadsheet for the next 40 years of your life. You definitely should apply for internships for next summer in a field you are considering that seems to meet your criteria (work with people a lot, lucrative - for your parents and maybe yourself if you end up liking it). Go to Vault.com and look up their career guides (they are available at major bookstores too: http://www.vault.com/wps/portal/usa/store).

Joffrey, first off, thanks so much for the reply.

I guess what I was trying to say is that I experienced that 9-to-5 desk job in a tight cubicle at my bank internship. To be fair, I didn't have a clue what was going on during that internship; I was really bored by the work, which, I totally understood, was just mostly gopher work. I knew what I was getting into (somewhat), but I came in with some interest and just found that the experience was nothing like what I expected.

I'm currently looking around job sites and the link you provided. Thanks for that.
Quote:
Anyway, apart from the hs job at a bank (which doesn't count unless you want to be a teller), are you genuinely interested in the finance coursework (even by their descriptions in the course catalog)? Once you read up on the careers, do they sound exciting or intriguing? IF you pursued working with children, would you change your major? If so, to what? Why not double major? It could extend your studies by a semester but at worst either way you are straight if you go for the money or your passion. But I'll put it to you this way, I've always loved history and geography but I didn't make it a career. I get my kicks reading 700 page books about the 30 years war and trends in Anglo-French relations since the 100years war on my free time.

To be honest, none of my classes so far have interested me. When I signed up for my current classes (finally entering the Finance major classes), I didn't really care so much for them; it was mostly a process of finding classes that could fit into a decent time schedule. In my previous classes, I do well and I don't have much trouble. In a way, I have to test the waters with that 1 Finance-related class I'm taking now, Financial Management.

My advisor suggested an Education major and looking into the NYC Teaching Fellows Program, which he mentioned was prestigious etc. etc. I don't see myself going the Education route. Like you mentioned before, I'm okay with a 9-to-5, so long as I don't despise it, and doing volunteer work on the side. Am I right for being this picky regarding my 9-to-5? As many others do, I find that I excel in things I genuinely enjoy (e.g. my only 2 English Literature classes in freshman/sophomore years).
Quote:
Anyway, why is Finance your only option? What about economics? Accounting? Management Info Systems and the many other majors that could be lucrative? I'm not going to look up our PMs but you may want to set up a little better what exactly your options are. Also note that as discussed at length in another thread don't bother pursuing lib arts (english, history, psych, african american studies, women studies, etc.) unless you want to work in a windowless cubicle 9 to 5 or you get a PhD.

Finance is mostly what my parents have pushed on me ever since high school. I figured it was the "safe route," but considering the economy etc., is it really? I understand that if you have a good resume/transcript, you can get offers. As of right now, I'm maintaining a solid GPA with dedicated volunteer work. I'm just upset that I haven't at least landed an internship yet after 2 years.

My Accounting classes were a bit tough for me. I scored a A- in Financial Accounting and a sore B in Managerial Accounting. The latter grade was really a red flag for me in regards to pursuing an Accounting major. I'm also looking into MIS (I do well with computers, sort of) as a minor. I feel that Finance right now is something safe unless/until I find something else. I'll update this topic, for sure.
post #4 of 62
Thread Starter 
Just to update this, in the past week, I've contacted some more alumni. I had an hour-long conversation a few days ago with an alum who graduated a few years back and told me she understood my whole parental situation. She offered to get me some connects in fashion, IT, finance, etc. Other alumni have e-mailed me back and told me that they, for the most part, are in their current jobs for the financial security. I can totally understand that, but it seems that they're subtly warning me to not get into a field just for the money (most say "Do what you love and do it well"). At this point, that's really the only thing I'm concerned about. I just want to have at least some interest in that field.

In other news, my school's hosting a career fair tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get some more advice one-on-one. Is it proper career fair "etiquette" for me to address my confusion regarding major/career? I don't plan to kiss ass; I'm just honestly in dire need of advice and suggestions.

A few more events are coming up this week, specifically regarding IT/IS. I don't think I've mentioned it, but I got into (apparently) a prestigious Finance program for juniors. Really happy about that, considering I wasn't too confident in me getting in (30 picked out of 200+). I hope to learn some more from guest speakers, most of whom are in IB/PE.
post #5 of 62
Has there ever been a course or a teacher who inspired you?

Another way to think of the problem is to forget the industry for a moment-- using your volunteer experience, figure out what role in a company you might like and be good at. Sales? Strategy? IT? Customer service? Making the gardens look nice? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you want to be a collaborator, a subordinate, or the man with his name on the front door?
post #6 of 62
Thread Starter 
^ Thanks for the reply, Concordia.

A teacher in particular? Not really, though most are very helpful as I've reached out to professors in different subjects (e.g. Finance, Accounting, English).

I recently took a Myers-Briggs test for my Management class, and the results I got were INFJ. The results, for example, were career counselor, psychologist, and (starving) artist. Although I'm not putting much weight on the test's results, I thought it was interesting since I'm usually very forward and love to engage in conversation. We discussed in class how the test could be inaccurate and totally circumstantial.

To answer your question, I like working with people. I like teamwork and actually prefer it over working alone. I feed off of getting to know people, what interests them, what their passions are, etc. So you can say I fit into the collaborator category. I'm okay with working alone; I just don't enjoy it much. The only times I prospered at said bank internship during high school was when I was working with the other interns on a project/assignment.

I've given some thought to IT/IS. I'll have to hold off until this Friday, when my school is hosting an IT audit session.
post #7 of 62
Sounds like HUman Resources is a good step for you. Don't think of those mindless HR drones I'm talking people who help companies manage their employees career development, executive search, succession planning.

HEre are some possible jobs within the field : http://careers.boozallen.com/job/Washington-Strategic-Human-Capital-Management-Consultant-Job-DC-20001/1393990/?utm_source=Indeed&src=JB-14400

http://jobs.saic.com/job/McLean-Human-Capital-Consultant-Job-VA-22101/1390049/?feedId=4&utm_source=Indeed

http://www2.goldmansachs.com/careers/choose-your-path/our-divisions/human-capital-management/index.html

Don't worry about the required experience in the first two links just use them to get an idea of what the gigs are like (the second link is more senior than the first). The third link is info about the division in a company.

I have a good friend in graduate school for this field.

I forget what year you're in but for the career fair, don't waste the reps time exploring your career angst (that's what mentors, enlightened friends/family, career services and this thread are for). Go there with prepared questions. When you go there (after examining the list of attending companies) tour the hall/room and see who is there and maybe what positions they're filling. Then, go to those that intrigue you and ask them questions about it. They will also ask you questions about yourself. After you tell them your major try to articulate your interests and see how they fit with the positions they are looking to fill. Maybe you will be surprised and be intrigued by positions you never thought of. After, go home and research the fields. You will probably get business cards from the people you talk to. Email them with more questions about day to day what these positions are like. Now, you have to be careful. They won't respond if you come off as if you are simply fishing for information. Phrase your questions as if you are interested in the position but are trying to get a clearer picture about day to day life in the company and position, and firm culture.

Since you like helping people, the results of your test, and you want to make money, I think human capital management/HR is something to look into seriously.

HEre is a paper on succession planning a former contact gave me. Who knew it'd come in handy twice (one for my grad school friend and one for you) years later: http://www.halogensoftware.com/files/PDF/whitepapers/Ten_KeySteps_in_SuccessionPlanning.pdf?source=Halogen_EmailBlast&c=JUN2707&kw=wp_succ_wp

If it doesn't work let me know and I'll attach it.
post #8 of 62
Thread Starter 
^ Joffrey, you've been such a major help. I took a good look over that Succession Planning PDF and it's really something I want to do in the long-term.

Just an update: I now intern at a fashion/menswear company that many of you may already know/shop at. It's going great; I came in knowing that it wasn't going to be glamorous at all. I'm doing mostly grunt work, and that's absolutely fine with me. In a way, I want to earn it and work from the bottom up. The people I work with are all great. Nothing bad at all to say about it.

However, as I step back and look at it from an outside perspective, I'm not entirely sure if I'm being honest with myself. For the majority of my life, I've been warned and told that money is necessary. So my mentality is working towards making money. I won't lie; I'm a materialistic SOB. I'm on SF; that must account for something, lol.

Am I being delusional with this fashion thing? There is some money to be made in the industry (e.g. not creative/design work), but the way I see it, not as much as if I were to do something like Accounting or Finance. To describe my personality, I'm not much of the aggressive type that apparently seems to be the prominent trait in trader/sales jobs. I'm a bit more laidback and enjoy working with people (e.g. team, etc.). I've made some connections with people who work at Big 4's and I've been getting some great advice.

As of right now, I've been in touch with an upperclassman senior who interned over the summer and described to me his experience. Tough, hard, but rewarding. The most common thing I've noticed from talking to upperclassmen who've held summer internships at IB's, banks, etc., is that they all seem to enjoy finance, talking about markets, etc. That personally isn't me. I do well in my 1 Finance class now, but to say that I enjoy it is a massive overstatement.

I think that as this semester winds down to December (when I have to declare my major), I will be faced with an entirely new situation. Do I declare a Finance major? My experience so far with Financial Management class is telling me to jump ship, but my desire to make my parents' paying worth it is deterring me from branching off into something else. Accounting? Didn't enjoy Managerial Accting at all.

For now, I'm sticking with this fashion internship, which is a major jump from all the other work experiences I've had on my resume. I'd be more than happy to shoot out my updated resume to those who are willing to take a minute or two to check it out for me. Thanks a ton!
post #9 of 62
you should work towards monetizing your passion for being a male fashion blogger
post #10 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joffrey View Post

I forget what year you're in but for the career fair, don't waste the reps time exploring your career angst (that's what mentors, enlightened friends/family, career services and this thread are for). Go there with prepared questions. When you go there (after examining the list of attending companies) tour the hall/room and see who is there and maybe what positions they're filling. Then, go to those that intrigue you and ask them questions about it. They will also ask you questions about yourself. After you tell them your major try to articulate your interests and see how they fit with the positions they are looking to fill. Maybe you will be surprised and be intrigued by positions you never thought of. After, go home and research the fields. You will probably get business cards from the people you talk to. Email them with more questions about day to day what these positions are like. Now, you have to be careful. They won't respond if you come off as if you are simply fishing for information.

Disagreed, slightly.

While our company go to career fairs to recruit and pre-screen candidates, there is also a big component of promoting our brand and answering questions. We want good candidates who are genuinely interested in the positions to advance in the hiring process. We do not want wasted time on cherry pickers or those who wont last long (theres high turnover rate in this industry).

Thusly, I love and welcome people with questions. The actual interviews will serve as screening. The (audience-specific) information sessions are there for targeted questions. The career fair -- wide open. The worst types of students are those who walk up to our booth, hand us a resume, and stare at us blankly.



College isn't - or SHOULDNT - be a trade school. And degrees many times do not translate directly into positions. I saw once a stat: something like half of professionals by mid-career are doing work not related to their degree. In the working world, you define your own path and growth, eventually (and hopefully) settling into a position you enjoy. There are no shortcuts to this process. Nobody grows their closet overnight by throwing cash at a tailor - its an organic process of experimentation of styles, cuts, and fits. This is no different.

As a kid I wanted to be a wall street trader. I went into college studying computers. I left with an applied science degree. And some years later, I'm in business development. With no regrets at all
post #11 of 62

I get that the parents are paying for school and thus want a say in what you study, but it is your life not theirs.  Find what you want.  If that means they won't pay anymore, so be it.  You have good grades, research scholarships.  Worst case, you can take some student loans, or finish school part-time and get a full-time job with tuition reimbursement.  I know what that means, I'm not making that suggestion lightly, I paid for school myself and I'm still paying off the loans (and will be into my 50's).  Keep in mind that you spend at least half your waking hours at your job during the work-week (at least half, how many of us actually work only an 8 hour day), you have to be happy with it (it doesn't mean you have to love it, but you shouldn't dislike it).  I do understand the family mindset, a cousin married into a Vietnamese family (it seems he married the whole family, not just his wife), and I am Jewish (my uncle had a fit when I left a good executive training position a decade back because I found it wasn't what I wanted, luckily my parents were more understanding). However, you have to be clear (respectfully) in getting them to understand that it is your life, they have to live theirs and you have to live yours.

 

From your initial post, it sounds like you didn't like your banking internship, but see finance as the way you are "supposed" to go, and you like working with kids and sound like you think teaching would be your ideal job if it paid well enough.  As someone with two cousins in the finance field (one of whom has a Columbia University MBA and lives in a house worth well north of a million bucks), who is a former banker myself, and who is a teacher, I say follow your heart, not the paycheck.  First, if you like finance, that would be different, but if you go into something you don't really like, it will show, it will probably hold you back anyway, and you will likely not be as good as you can be.  Second, there are ways to make education worth some money.  You can get your doctorate after a few years teaching (and preferably after some time in either admin or as a professor) and then go into educational consulting.  You can get a law degree after a few years teaching (preferably special education) and become a student advocate representing families in the IEP process.  Or, you can move into administration where, while you won't ever get rich, you can do pretty well.  Also, there are some options other than teaching where you could work with kids and still do alright financially, though all require 3-6 years of education beyond your bachelors degree (just a few examples: school psychology, child clinical psychology, medicine/child psychiatry, medicine/pediatrics).

 

That said, I wouldn't change my major to education at this point if I were you.  They tend to be pretty demanding majors as far as requirements and you pretty much have to start taking the "right" courses your freshman or sophomore year if you want to finish in a reasonable time.  Further, there are 1 year MAT programs that prepare you at the masters level and might be quicker than changing to an ed major now, and with the masters you will be paid a little more to start. 

 

As for the medical school or psychology options, if you decide to go that direction, you can take the med school science pre-reqs either now while majoring in something else or for a year after you graduate.  Psychology doctorate programs do generally require a psychology major (can you double major in psych and something else), though you can always take a second degree if you really want to go that way (a second BA/BS tends to be a lot quicker than the first) and sometimes a minor is enough (especially for a masters, though clinical psych Ph.D. programs actually prefer that you don't have a masters before applying).

 

In the meantime, take the next two years to job shadow people in different industries and do informational interviews to get an idea what the jobs are like and if you would like them. If you find something else you like, there is no shame in going for the money (just make sure you won't dislike your job).  Additionally, you are young.  You can always go for finance or another well-paid profession for now, get a good job after college, live a lifestyle about $20K under your income and put that extra away.  Then, in a few years, if education or something else that isn't a high dollar profession is calling to you, you can go get your masters and do it in a few years but with tens of thousands of dollars in savings to put you in a better situation than most people entering those professions.

post #12 of 62
Thread Starter 
^ Jeff, thanks so much for the (awesome) reply.

I agree with you that it's a bit too late to change my major. In hindsight, I knew that I was eventually going to ride this Finance major out because I had no other major I actually wanted to pursue. As of right now, I'm enjoying this fashion internship, but I'm also keeping my options open in Finance, as I don't want to give up on it entirely.

I've mentioned this bank internship to a few people I've met in the industry and they immediately asked me: "Did you have to file/scan/copy papers?" After a resounding yes, they assured me that Finance (or more specifically, their jobs/work) wasn't like that at all. Same goes for Accounting and having to do T-accounts in college classes etc. Their overall response was that most of what you learn in college classrooms is not going to be a major player in the real life work environment. As such, I'm keeping an open mind about it and I can only hope that there's something in Finance that'll interest me (currently, research into various Finance fields has made me more intrigued in M&A (lol) and Operations). In regards to Operations, I keep hearing negative things about it, such as "don't stay long in the back office or you won't ever get out."

On the topic of education/working with children, I've kind of let that slide off to the back burner for now. I do hope to volunteer on the side if I ever go through with this Finance career, barring the time schedule/hours. At this point, I think that volunteering is just something on the side.
post #13 of 62

Thanks for the compliment. 

 

Keep in mind that you are young.  At 19 and a junior you'll graduate at 20 or a young 21 depending upon when your birthday is.  It may not seem like it now, but that is very young.  You have plenty of time to spend a few  years in finance to see if you like it and if not, make a change in a couple years.  From my years in business, I'd say that a finance major is one of the most versatile (along with accounting): any job that requires just a generic "business" degree will like it, with some strategically chosen additional coursework you may be able to get entry level accounting positions (or finance jobs for the accounting major), and of course you can get the jobs in your major.  So, if you love business but not your subfield, you have lots of options in the next few years.  It is also terrific background for an MBA or law degree.  Being young, you can get 3-5 years work experience and still be quite young which gives options.  Options is a wonderful word.  If you work in finance for 3-5 years and intentionally keep your standard of living lower, you can save a lot of money.  With that, should you decide you want to work with kids, or go back to school for something else altogether, you'll have the time to do it and start your second career before you even hit 30 (which is still pretty young), and with the savings you'll be able to do it quickly (full-time, no need for a job) or with little to no student loans.  If you stay in business, the years of related experience plus a masters (instead of changing your undergrad major) to get a new credential could look very good to potential employers and can be terrific for the future income.  In fact, even if you decide you love finance, or whatever area in which you get a job after college, I'd strongly consider a masters degree a few years into your career (in this economy, and probably well into the future with how common a degree is getting, graduate school is a terrific option most of us need to consider).

 

One thing I'd consider if you can fit it into your schedule, look into options for a minor or two.  If you think HR may be an option for the future, minor in HR or even psychology.  If you think working with kids in the future may be an option, you may not be able to major in education, but psychology is a great minor, and sociology or social work may be possible options as well (with a major in finance, a minor in psychology, plus a MAT for certification, schools would be falling over themselves to get you as a math teache; the math in finance would also be useful for all your stats coursework and data analysis if you wanted more money than teaching and decided upon grad school in psychology).  With the interest in the business side of the fashion industry a marketing minor may be a good idea. There are probably dozens of obvious and not so obvious choices in minors which can compliment your finance major.

 

If you stay in business and want to volunteer with kids, there are the obvious options (schools, tutoring, Sunday School, etc.).  Also, take a look at becoming a senior member of the Civil Air Patrol.  They have dozens of jobs you can use to utilize your skills and interests, they have several missions so you will actually be doing something at times (search and rescue, aiding law enforcement in anti-drug activities, and other civil defense duties), but of course, the cadet program is a big part of what they do and there will be plenty of opportunities to work with, teach, and mentor kids (12-18).


Edited by Jeff10236 - 10/23/11 at 6:53am
post #14 of 62

Consulting (or at least consulting at McKinsey) is absolutely NOT a 9-5 job. You will work 80 hour weeks and likely be at the client's office (which could be in another city) Monday to Thursday.

post #15 of 62
Thread Starter 
^ I have a close friend/mentor who just graduated from Harvard and now works at McKinsey. He said the same thing, but I'm assuming he loves the work.

Just an update: I'm enjoying the fashion internship, but I also just got an e-mail saying I got an interview for a summer internship at a NYC bank. I haven't had an interview at all for a Finance-related position. Anything I should learn up on before going into the interview? Out of 50 who applied at their presentation, the e-mail only had 10 or so. There will only be 4 picked, btw.

Thanks a lot. I can take this to PM if you guys want to know which bank it is.
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