Guest Comment: Varied Experience Can Propel a Career

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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.

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