The Real World after Liberal Arts in Finance

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Getting a job after college is something most competent seniors can manage. Getting a good job after college, however, can prove far more challenging.

I will begin with my sophomore year experience of interviewing. I knew very little of the job world but, as a young economics major, I knew I wanted to enter the finance world. Learning that a sophomore year internship is hard to come by, I decided the best route was to email everyone my parents knew in the finance world. I ended up using a personal connection through my brother’s ex-girlfriend’s dad. And yes, I know, it was a convoluted way to find a job. But he worked for UBS Financial Services in a Wealth Management office. Fancy words for managing wealthy people’s money and making money on fees. You might think, “great — a foot in the door at UBS, you will now have a long career there.” False.

My junior year, I decided that I wanted to do investment banking (IB). I taught myself finance and networked all summer. I interviewed at UBS IB, Barclays IB, and a few smaller shops. I was asked bizarre questions, none having to do with finance. I will list a few to give you a taste of what you can be prepared to answer if you decide to interview for an investment banking position: “How many lawn mowers are sold in the U.S. each year?” (Fidelity AM), “You are walking in the woods, and see two paths, one paved, one not. Which do you choose and why?” (UBS IB), “Square root of 456.” (Citi S&T), “If I gave you the dollar amount for each numerical value on a die. And I rolled it once. How much would you pay me to play that game and why?” (Goldman IB).

But each time I received the “I regret to inform you,” call. I decided that maybe my liberal arts degree and UBS internship was not enough for the big jobs. Or, maybe my personality sucked. But, either way, I moved on, looking for the next thing. I found a connection at Fidelity in an Audit department. And yes, I know what you are thinking — Audit sounds boring. But Fidelity sounds exciting. I accepted, and all summer I worked on trying to figure out where I can work senior year. I have since interviewed at Citi for Sales and Trading, denied, and most recently Goldman Sachs investment banking.

All boiled down, stepping away from these large names. Each firm wants you to have your life story in line with working at their firm. They want a pledge of loyalty. Each subsequent interview I improved, but never understood how I could tell them 100 percent this is the role I want. Liberal arts schools place you in a bubble of the world. But, if someone hasn’t, I will be the first in telling you that the world is not accommodative of your needs. It is about everyone else’s needs. My advice to anyone beginning college: start earlier than you think is reasonable, and don’t take anything personally. Even getting a final round of Goldman means you are in the four percent of applications they receive each year. And, most importantly, when you get your rejection letter, put it up on the wall, and move on to the next one. I urge you to beat the number I currently have. And, my advice to employers: don’t ask questions like, “write me a sentence with every letter in the alphabet,” (UBS IB). Instead, get to know the next generation of your firm. After receiving an offer from Goldman, I have learned that every rejection makes you better.

 

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