Here is some advice for prospective and incoming M.S. in Commerce (MSC) students: it’s never too early to plan ahead with Commerce Career Services (CCS). This past April, CCS held an information session on recruiting at McIntire and hosted a panel of current MSC students who shared their personal career-search experiences. If you didn’t attend the event, below is the transcript of the student panel Q&A.
The student panel was made up of:
- Michael Miller – Engineering Major, Finance Track
- Graham Kirby – German & History Major, Marketing & Management Track
- Alexandra Lopez – Economics Major, Finance Track
- Andie McPartland – Biomedical Engineering Major, Marketing & Management Track
- Quinn Simpson – Politics & International Affairs Major, Business Analytics Track
- Manqiao Liu (Mandy) – Economics Major, Business Analytics Track
What were your best practices?
Alex: Interviewing over and over again was the best practice. I was applying to a lot of jobs, even some who weren’t my dream jobs. But I interviewed to get them under my belt. I also found the mock interviews helpful too.
Was it a struggle to juggle everything?
Alex: The fall is very busy. You’re juggling a lot. It’s definitely doable and everyone is in the same boat.
Andie: It was helpful to have a lot of people look at my resume. Something that I had at the very bottom of my resume, I thought didn’t matter much, but someone told me to highlight it instead.
Quinn: I actually met with CCS the summer before the program started. That was really helpful to have met everyone early and be familiar with the CCS office.
What was the finance recruiting cycle like? Were you prepared considering you hadn’t taken your finance classes?
Michael: Get started before you think you should. There are so many resources online. For investment banking, there’s information you need to know and interviews don’t really deviate. So you can do all of your research online ahead of time. It will put you at a much greater advantage by the time you start to interview.
What were your go-to sites?
Michael: The Vault has a lot of great info, maybe too much. Wallstreetoasis.com. You can’t underestimate how important it is to know what is going on in the news. You need to know current events and the latest business news.
How do you manage the schedule?
Graham: Know your calendar inside and out. You need to schedule your time, maybe down to the minute. And there’s a lot of group work so you have other people depending on you.
Andie: I found every single job that looked remotely interesting and put it on my calendar, so that kept me on track and on time to apply to those jobs that I actually was interested in.
Mandy: It’s not easy to balance everything so start this summer. We receive emails before class starts. Get those books and read them ahead of time.
Alex: The calendar in the fall is very different day-to-day. Use your breaks between classes to catch up on work.
Andie: If you are interested in consulting, start looking at case interviews. Start practicing now. It’s not about knowing formula but understanding a framework. Get a practice partner.
What’s are some examples of case interview?
Quinn: I remember one that was about a city planning problem and revamping a transportation system. You had to determine how much money you wanted to spend and then allot it as you deemed appropriate. It’s not about getting the fastest or the “right” answer, but about how you get to your answer, the process.
Alex: For Capital One, I had a case interview about a ski lodge and whether they should acquire the property next door. I had to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Would you recommend applying to a ton of companies or a few?
Graham: I would pick a few to prepare really well for. Maybe 6-8 instead of 30.
Mandy: My situation is different because I’m an international student. So I applied to about 30-40 jobs and got about 12 interviews. That was my strategy. I only applied to analytics jobs and I had two tiers.
CCS: We can help you too, counsel you on your specific situation.
Was anyone not sure what they wanted to do and then applied to a lot of jobs?
Michael: I came in preparing for 80% finance and then 20% consulting. That was dumb and a waste of time because I wasn’t interested in consulting. If you don’t’ want to do it, they can tell. If you look at 20 different banks and five are in locations you’re not excited about, then don’t apply to them.
CCS: I want to remind everyone that there are a lot of students in the program still seeking. Some haven’t found the right fit or haven’t gotten that offer.
Alex: I came into this program not knowing what I wanted to do, so I was all over the board. Consulting, private equity and wealth management. I interviewed and them learned about the day to day with the firms. That’s when I figured out those wasn’t for me.
How does your track play into your career destination?
Graham: I came into the Marketing and Management track which is the more general of the three tracks. It doesn’t limit you—I have two classmates who are interviewing with wealth management. Reading job descriptions online I figured out I wanted to do a rotation program and get my hands on a lot of different areas. The second thing for me I didn’t want a desk job. I want to move around a lot and that’s the job that I got.
Quinn: The Business Analytics track is unique because it was the first year. We didn’t have a good idea of what to expect. We only had one track-specific class in the fall. I knew what that I liked working with data, but when interviewing couldn’t’ really talk about data analytics. I recommend going to the professors ahead of time and learning more about the technical side and language.
Mandy: I really enjoyed the first semester learning the business concepts and the spring semester learning the technical tools. At the end, I can say this program really taught me both the hard and soft skills.
CCS: Networking is so important and start now. Keep a track of it in a google doc or spreadsheet.
Are there any other useful tools, platforms or resources?
Andie: One thing I found challenging is keeping track of conversations I had with alumni during networking sessions or coffee chats. My trick was to get their business card and take a moment after the conversation jotting down notes on the back to remind me. I then elaborated further in my spreadsheet at home.
Graham: There’s a career fair in the fall and that’s where I met the recruiter at Aldi and how I got my foot in the door for an interview. That resource is huge. Talking to recruiters is so helpful to learn more about the company. Take notes.
Alex: It’s helpful to add names of people in the company you met at a career fair or event, especially a UVA alum. Include their name in the cover letter.
Mandy: The BA symposium, guest speakers and faculty are also great resources. I met someone at the symposium, followed up with him, and he ended up being my interviewer. One day, a guest speaker from Coca-Cola came and spoke to the class, said they were hiring someone who could speak Japanese for their Tokyo office. One of our classmates spoke Japanese and she interviewed, and got the job two weeks later.
Graham: Professors are huge throughout the process. They offer great advice along the way, even after receiving a job offer.
Are there any teaching assistantships available?
Alex: Michael and I are both TAs for COMM 2010 and work 15-20 hours per week and on your own time, mostly on your computer. Before you arrive in July, job positions are posted through CavLink. It’s a decision you need to make because it is a time commitment, especially in the fall.
Networking can be done really well and really poorly. What are best practices or what to avoid?
Michael: I’m a huge proponent of informational interviews. I think they are the most useful networking strategy. I would go on LinkedIn and find these people. Quick message “Hello, my name is Michael and I’m a UVA student studying finance. I was wondering if you could talk with me for a few minutes about your firm.” Make sure to ask them if they can connect you to someone else in the firm. They will and it keeps the dialogue going.
Graham: Get them to connect you with other people – always end with, “Is there anyone else I should talk to?”
Alex: Send a follow-up email thanking them for their time.
Mandy: I remember who I talked to at the company. Then when I go to the company in person, I mention that I talked to Mary or John beforehand. It shows motivation.
Quinn: Reach out to your friends who went out to work. They’ll give you an unbiased report of what they’re doing. Alumni one or two years out too are so helpful.
Michael: Remember the recruiters are people too! Be yourself. Be natural and comfortable. Don’t be awkward.
Andie: Give them a time when asking for an informational interview. “Can we talk for 15 minutes?” They’re more likely to accept. Is this still a good time to talk? And then keep to the 15 minutes.
Thank you to CCS and to the students who participated in the panel! If you are a prospective or incoming student and have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to Kelsey Stone, Assistant Director of Graduate Marketing and Recruiting.