So You're Thinking of Going into Finance. . .

Matt Keep '20 Career Ambassador. So you are thinking of going into finance...

So you’re thinking of going into finance–an oft-heard response for Duke undergraduates to the perennial question of one’s career ambitions or summer internship plans. But what exactly does that entail?

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For starters, it’s worth mentioning that finance encompasses a very wide range of fields and roles–everything from quantitative analysis at a proprietary trading firm to relationship management as a wealth manager. It’s worth exploring the breadth of the industry here–a range of paths exist that may be right for you. For this post, we’ll focus on two routes explored by many Duke undergraduate students: investment banking (IB) and sales and trading (S&T).

My sophomore spring was the first time the banks came to campus on the hyper-accelerated schedule they follow today, recruiting 12-18 months in advance. The goal of this post is to share some tips for managing this process, from connecting with alums early and often, to keeping track of networking progress, to availing yourself of all of the resources Duke has to offer.

Pause and Reflect:

  • How are you thinking about your career goals and expectations amidst the background noise of your busy Duke experience?
  • What draws you to finance specifically? What parts of the work resonate with you?

Connecting with alums and professionals in the real world can be tremendously helpful. Students I talk to often undervalue the help these folks can provide and/or overestimate the difficulty of starting these dialogues. These conversations provide a valuable chance to hear firsthand about a particular bank or group and give you time to reflect on your desire to work in a certain environment with a particular group of people. Sometimes they may lead to opportunities, though that shouldn’t be your goal of starting the conversation. You might find these people at information sessions you attend, on LinkedIn, or in the Alumni Directory, where you can link with them or send a quick email asking to chat. You may not always get a response the first time and need to do a follow-up, but it has been my experience that the vast majority of the Duke network is willing to help out young, curious, polite students who reach out. If you’re looking for tips to get started, take a look at the Networking and Informational Interview guides.

Pause and Reflect:

  • Who is in your network now and how are you connecting with advisers and others on and off campus? Who do you want in your network?
  • How are you using information learned from your network to inform your next steps?
  • How will you decide who to maintain relationships with? How do you intend to maintain those relationships?

Progress – As you attend information sessions, meet professionals, and make connections, it’s crucially important to keep track of your interactions and impressions. I used an ongoing section of my Notes app, some employ full-blown spreadsheets, others have physical notebooks, but the point is all the same–organizing your experiences lets you begin to build a library of your views on each firm (noting differences), letting you develop opinions over a longer period of time (as you may not have much time between offer and decision), and give you a sense of the advocates you want to reengage as each process begins. Don’t forget to save these notes for future position searches. You’re putting in a lot of work, don’t start over each year, build from here.

Pause and Reflect:

  • Have you begun thinking about crafting your story for different formats and audiences? Does it feel natural?
  • How do you check in with yourself to decide to keep moving or change paths?
  • Does the information you’ve learned align with your values?

Resources – it’s critical to remember that as daunting and confusing as the whole process can be, the people, programs, and mechanisms in place to support you are manifold.

  • The Duke Career Center: Home to a team of friendly, helpful advisers, events designed to help you polish your resume and interview skills, a wealth of information online, and CareerConnections, where all Career Center and most company events are posted along with internships and jobs. Don’t forget to talk things through with one of the career advisers in the Career Center. You can schedule an appointment in CareerConnections or stop by for Drop-In Career Advising.
  • Duke Financial Economics Center: The DFE’s various bootcamps and mentorship programs are some of the best finance and banking specific resources campus has to offer. The faculty directors, Emma Rasiel and John Caccavale, are both industry veterans and helpful advisers. Econ 256: Practical Financial Markets class (open to sophomores in the fall and co-taught between the professors) is a good class to engage with for a strong foundation in investment banking and sales and trading.
  • Student Organizations: Many business-oriented groups have built mechanisms for experienced students to help their peers. Training programs through the Duke Investment Club, Duke Impact Investing Club, and Duke Private Equity Club are a terrific way to learn, stay current, and make friendships with upperclass students and peers now that could also pay dividends in the industry down the line. Many other business-oriented student groups provide support and mentorship for students interested in finance as well.