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Guest Comment: Varied Experience Can Propel a Career

MBA graduates starting off in banking would do well to try out a number of different business lines, says Karen Kirchner of Bank of America campus recruiting.

The best advice I can give today's MBAs is to pursue a position that offers opportunities to work in a variety of business lines as your career progresses. Banking leaders tend to have experience in a variety of areas.

As you do your research on potential employers, think about how many business lines will be open to you at each firm. Does the organization have a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk-management products and service units to offer customers? How often do associates move from sector to sector?

It's great to be focused and say, "I'm just going to do investment banking," but it may be beneficial to consider other career paths within banking, including asset management, finance, human resources, corporate affairs, technology and sales and operations.

We encourage associates to move and experience roles in different areas of the company. For example, an MBA could begin their career in Global Corporate & Investment Banking, then move into a new role in our Global Wealth and Investment Management division or our Global Consumer and Small Business Banking group. Rotating through several units helps you develop a full and diverse skill set, and become a better business leader.

Another issue you'll want to consider is how much first-hand, on-the-ground experience you can get early in your career. You don't want to be running out for coffee or sending faxes. The minute you start working, you want to be doing real work.

On Applying

During the application process, be sure to take advantage of any interactive features on employers' Web sites. For example, we have CareerProfile, a program that helps us understand who you are and what you have to offer. After answering questions about your GPA, leadership position, interests and goals, it will match you up with positions that would be a good fit.

This year, we're increasing our hiring among new MBA graduates and participating in college recruiting events as well as trade association conferences throughout our footprint. We're looking to hire more bilingual college graduates. Our customers speak multiple languages, so banks are seeking MBAs who speak a variety of languages to meet our diverse customers' needs.

Since every line of business has a different approach to selecting candidates, there are a lot of different paths to choose from in investment banking. In general, we look for a well-rounded person with a solid GPA and proven leadership in university, social or affinity groups. There are places for both MBAs with prior banking experience and those new to financial markets. It's all about the individual shining through in the interview process.

AUTHORKaren Kirchner Insider Comment
  • Do
    24 October 2007

    This article provides your standard marketing spiel that recruiters spit out at universities & career fairs. As my fellow EFC members have pointed out, some parts are simply not based in reality. With the exception of a Management Rotational Program, I would approach the whole concept of moving around with extreme caution. The last thing you want in banking is to be labelled a jack-of-all-trades-some-back-some-mid-office type person, who's unfocused, and neither here nor there. This discussion has underscored the importance of DOING YOUR RESEARCH and knowing what you want, and what you are getting into, especially in banking. This is a tough industry -- you don't have time to screw around while claiming you are "expanding your horizons". I completely disagree with Karen that "Rotating through several units helps you develop a full and diverse skill set, and become a better business leader." Why? Because skills and leadership can be acquired with or without rotation! Bottom line: stay focused, and don't be afraid to jump ship if the right opportunity comes along. Remember that "Internal Mobility" is also a euphemism for "Employee Retention".

  • Sa
    Sam Carpenter
    22 October 2007

    This is a difficult process and one which inevitably sells most people short.

  • Wi
    16 October 2007

    The aformentioned article has some salient points and several unrealistic observations. My personal experience bears out what is possible. I started my career in Internal Audit, moved to Performance Monitoring, and then made a stop in Structured Finance. All of those positions provided me with the varied experiences to become a Risk Manager for a regional brokerage firm. Most of my peers are somewhat envious of what I have achieved in a short time.

    There is a flipside to the story though. I would trade it all in a heartbeat to be in our Research Department. However, I do not have the right pedigree and got a 4.0 from an MBA program that was not top 10. Therefore, I get passed over for consideration.

    Those are the harsh realities for younger folks entering the industry. If you do not have the proper connections or go to the elite MBA programs, there are certain departments that will offer only an infintesimal chance of entry. It really does not matter what route you take internally or how hard you work. That is the way it works on Wall Street.

    In my case, I have accepted the status quo. Since my background is light, I have the ability to easily beat expectations.

  • An
    15 October 2007

    Karen, not to be nitpicky, but I'm guessing you're either new to BofA or work out of North Carolina and don't really know any of the people who actually run the GCIB out of NY. I find your paragraph 5 particlularly laughable. Textbook use of the buzzwords, though.

  • GP
    11 October 2007

    I think it depends on the Bank, division & timing about inner mobility. I've an MBA with 2+ yrs of experience in IT & been appreciated for my work. I took the job 'Just to get in the Door' but now find it very tough to move around. AS DBA said, it's not that easy & people think you're overqualified. My earnest opinion is 'Lack of Connections' & 'Bad Timing'

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