Networking During the Winter Break

By: Gloria Liu, Staff Writer

It’s always good to see so many familiar faces on campus, especially after a long and aloof winter. Well, I did not participate in this year’s Winterim programs where most T-Birds could be found. But I did not squander my time doing nothing, either. As a matter of fact, my first winter break in the U.S. was quite fruitful thanks to helpful Thunderbird alumni from Phoenix , San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia. Engaging in conversations with people who are working or have worked in my targeted companies of the finance industry really updated me on what’s going on in the job market.

First of all, a finance degree from Thunderbird does not necessarily put us at advantage. This is a harsh reality. As David Wang from Intel suggested, it just puts us at the shoes of a recruiter. When faced with two resumes, one from say, UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and probably some years of work experience in Morgan Stanley, and another resume of inexperienced masters like me, the choice is not too hard. But this is not to suggest that T-Birds are absent in top financial firms – every now and then some T-Birds make it to Wall Street. This is to suggest that when applying for jobs, we better be realistic about the competition pool.

Secondly, some companies have stopped hiring T-Birds, which may have something to do with the fact that the brand of Thunderbird may be in question. I talked to Kaoru MBA 13’ from Deloitte, Jack MBA 05’ from KPMG, and David from Intel, and they all implicitly or explicitly said that those companies have stopped placing Thunderbird at their “core school” list. But on the bright side, many T-Birds already in those companies would like to help competent candidates. Jack Beldon, a financial advisor now working with Goldman Sachs, said that in the Big Four, the consulting department is still hungry for talent, and he sees T-Birds having potential for those openings.

Last but not least, it all boils down to what you know AND who you know. All these alumni that I have spoken to agreed that hard skills are necessary for a job in finance. The industry wants sharp minds with sound knowledge in finance, accounting and Microsoft Excel. Yet connecting with the people in those companies plays a robust role in landing a job. They’ve been there at the interviews, and would like to share their experience with career starters.

Reflecting on conversations with alumni, I just feel that despite all the downsides they mentioned, hope for a decent job in the U.S. still exists because they all gave me advice as to my specific job searching needs, which I find of great help.

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