Wagner College invited Gregg Gavioli, Managing Director of the Accounting & Finance division at Solomon Page, to speak to their top 5% of business students, known as “Selects,” at a round table event. The discussion covered the job market, networking, and the finance industry and provided upcoming graduates with an intimate opportunity to ask questions and learn about working as a professional in the accounting and financial industries.
Below is a Q&A excerpt from this meeting.
1. What types of jobs within the industry are threatened the most by the rise of financial technology?
Operations roles. Clearing, customer service, trade execution. Anything that can be automated, off shored, or moved to a lower cost center. If you are open to relocation, many major banks have large service centers in places like Salt Lake, Baltimore, Tampa, Jacksonville, Dallas, and Tennessee. If you are flexible, there can be opportunity there for you.
2. Is our generation really worse off than our parents in terms of earning potential?
I don’t think so. Wages are rising. The main point of difference may be if you are carrying student debt. My advice is live frugally for your first 5 years. Don’t eat out often. Make coffee at home. Live with many roommates or parents where possible. Start a 401k as soon as you can.
3. The finance industry is overwhelming. I have 2 months until graduation and still have no idea what I want to do. What is my best strategy from this point forward?
You may not know what you want to do any time soon. That’s OK. Field as many interviews and get as many job offers as you can. Take the one that has the most opportunity to learn many things closely aligned with your interest. Learn what you like and what you don’t like in that first job and use it to find your next. You will likely need to do this a few times before you know what “your field” is. Find something your passionate about, and it will not feel like a job. You don’t want to be watching the clock waiting for the end of the day to run out the door. If it feels that way all the time, change fields.
4. What is the single most important quality that you are looking for in an applicant? Particularly a Wagner student going up against the Ivy League?
Ability to communicate effectively. Make eye contact. Is there a fire in your belly? Do I want you on my team? Do you know excel at a high level?
5. What do you believe is the best way to write a cover letter to get yourself noticed and receive a response? What should be included? Length?
One page, always customize it, mention why you are the perfect candidate for the role.
6. What entry level positions should we be looking for to put ourselves in the best position for a greater opportunity down the road?
Any one that puts you in a positon to learn. Be open to figuring things out on your own. Ask for more work when you need it. Compliance and analytics roles offer long term opportunity as well as anything that can make you a subject matter expert where you can transition to a Project manager or a Business Analyst at some point.
7. What areas of the finance industry are up and coming and what areas of the industry do you see dying out within the next 10 years?
Compliance. Big Data, Projects Management, Business Analytics, Analytics, Ad-tech. Analytics related to Advertising, Social Media, and Search engines is an exciting field to explore for finance majors.
8. What career paths would you recommend for a finance major, aside from the traditional banking route?
Compliance, analytics, quant, advertising data analysis, FPA, Budget.
9. How did you go about expanding your network
Use LinkedIn. Did you create a profile? Have you joined the Wagner Alumni group I created on LinkedIn? Send a customized email to any Wagner Alumni who may be working at your target company who may be open to meeting you for coffee for advice or helping you with applications. Professional and social groups. HS Groups. Skills Group like compliance, advertising, accounting clubs (IMA, AICPA) etc.
10. Did you get a master’s Degree and if so when did you get it.
No. If you are not getting it right away, see if you can get tuition reimbursement from a big employer. It’s most important when advancing up the ladder into management roles and has the biggest payoff there.
11. What are your recommendations on preparing for a meeting with a mentor?
Research the mentor. Come prepared with questions based on their background. Use their time wisely.
12. What is the most effective way of preparing for an interview?
Research the Company, research interviewer’s profiles, have multiple different questions prepared for different people. Up to 10 questions is not too many. Never say I have no questions at all.
13. How can I ensure follow up after an application?
You can’t really but send a customized thank you note, if no response one more check in email is OK and that is the max. Have a thank you note ready to go after the interview in a stamped envelope and drop in the post office box near the company.