Defining your personal brand for the future

By Robert Smith, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

As you evolve in your career development and job search, you often hear that you need to “brand yourself.” This term might sound bizarre, as we normally associate branding with the products and services we use.

But just like our favorite candy bar or cellphone, we can differentiate ourselves from the competition as a strong, unique brand of our own.

A brand is a set of key characteristics that represents, identifies, and differentiates you from others.

For example, Pepsi and Coke are similar looking and tasting sodas, yet they embody different qualities.

Coke is associated with its iconic red can and the idea of happiness and tradition, while Pepsi is linked with its blue can and celebrity endorsements. Likewise, we can brand ourselves to stand out from the pack.

Personal branding is a life-long construction process that will be part of your legacy. Maybe you will be remembered for your poised work ethic or be associated with a unique ability to reason with people.

Take the rapper Drake for example. His infamous motto, “YOLO” (you only live once), has become part of his brand. Whether it’s hash-tagging YOLO in your Twitter status or referencing to YOLO when you are debating a risky decision, Drake has made an impression on your opinion of him.

Beyoncé is another good example of personal branding.

Whether it is her message of “Who run the world? Girls.” or even her choice to lead a private celebrity lifestyle, each individual controls the information sent out to the world about them.

Since we are all Baruch College students and have a lot in common, our resumes and cover letters tend to look strikingly similar. Thus, we need to embrace and exhibit our personal brand to employers, to make a lasting impression.

By developing your own brand, you’ll not only stand out, but you’ll have control over the employer’s initial perception of you. Instead of letting them form their own impressions of you, you ensure that they grasp who you really are and what you can offer.

To develop your personal brand, start by reflecting on your strengths, personality, interests, hobbies and life experiences. Understand who you are, what you stand for, and how you want others to view you.

If you get stumped, ask your good friends. Those that know you well can pinpoint your defining aspects. Once you narrow down your key components, you can even formulate a personal branding statement. Just a few words can truly embrace your essence.

Here’s how I developed my own personal brand. I asked myself where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there. In the beginning, I wanted to be someone who made a difference in other people’s lives on campus.

Thus, I became a “yes” man, the person who said yes to all opportunities to expand myself. I joined T.E.A.M. Baruch and Golden Key in my first year in school. Through that experience, I became more confident.

This newfound confidence pushed me into the second stage of my personal branding experience. I wanted to be the person who consistently grows and expands their knowledge.

Eventually, I was known as the person who asked everyone questions, and no matter how “dumb” they were, I needed and wanted to know.

Those two traits are the foundation of my brand—I’m able to effectively help others because of my experiences, and I’ve been there and am willing and able to connect and communicate.

While developing a brand may sound a bit like pie in the sky, there are many ways to apply this idea to your job and internship search. Outlets such as LinkedIn, cover letters, and personal pitches embody your personal brand.

A cover letter is more than just a writing sample, it is a reflection of who you are in paper form. LinkedIn demonstrates your level of professionalism, which should be heavily weighed when determining how to brand yourself. A personal brand is channeled through virtually any and every experience you have or step that you take.

It is a small world. What you say or do goes a long way. Therefore, to be a successful brand, you must always be conscious of your image and consistent in your message.

The process of applying to graduate schools

By: By Farzana Ghanie, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

Senior year is a crucial time for undergraduate students as they are faced with the challenge of making post-graduation decisions and plans. Many seniors choose to seek full-time jobs whereas others decide to apply to graduate school in pursuit of a higher degree.

Although both paths undoubtedly require a great deal of time and preparation, the steps taken to gain admission into graduate school are quite different from those necessary to land a full-time position.

Applying to graduate schools is rigorous and can even seem intimidating. Here are some tips to guarantee a smoother process for students:

Students intending on going graduate school immediately after earning their undergrad degree should begin their application process the summer before senior year.

Think about your reasons for wanting to pursue a graduate degree and decide on what type of degree you’d like to obtain. The entire application process can take months to complete, so the earlier you start, the better.

Graduate school is a commitment, so it is important to acquire as much valuable information as possible in order to make an informed decision. After deciding on a degree and your area of interest, research the various program offerings to ensure the best fit.

Make a list of these schools, attend their information sessions, meet the faculty and speak to current students to gain a deeper insight into the programs. School websites are also a valuable resource.

Some schools even have admissions blogs where a student representative from the admissions office describes his graduate school experience and provides tips on how to be a more attractive applicant. The more familiar you are with the program, the more likely you can target exactly what the school is looking for in your application.

In addition to knowing why you are pursuing a particular program, you also want to understand the requirements of your targeted program. Some programs require a standardized test (GRE, MAT, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT) as well as a personal statement, general application, recommendation letters and additional essays.

Once you’ve completed your research, create a timeline for yourself setting realistic goals and deadlines for each goal. Note that application deadlines are different for each program and school.

Deadlines for Ph.D. programs are generally much earlier than those for master’s programs. It is crucial to plan ahead in order to allow yourself enough time to complete each application thoroughly.

For example, if you need three letters of recommendation, be sure to reach out to your professors or supervisors well in advance and follow up with them continuously to avoid any lapse in communication.

You can help your recommenders write a stellar letter by sharing your resume and personal statement with them. Also, set aside some time to answer any questions they may have about your professional goals and expectations of graduate school.

As a result, your recommenders will be better able to give specific information in their letters. Inform your recommenders of each program’s deadline so they can plan accordingly. You should choose recommenders who know you well enough to speak highly of your work ethic, intellectual abilities and personal qualities.

There are numerous resources on and off campus that may come in handy during your application process. If you are considering applying to graduate school but are not sure if it is the right next step for you, make an appointment with a career counselor at the Starr Career Development Center. Students who are interested in attending law school should make an appointment with Baruch’s pre-law advisor, Tina Coco.

When completing writing samples, such as the personal statement or supplemental essays, consider having it reviewed at Baruch’s Writing Center. Furthermore, reach out to individuals currently enrolled in graduate programs that interest you as well as professionals from the field in which you aspire to be.

Given the many steps involved in this process, it is crucial to make sure you are interested in attending graduate school for the right reasons. Applying to graduate school can be a long and tedious process, but the benefits are priceless.

Opportunities in finance besides investment banking

By Sam Wong, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

Investment banking is challenging, dynamic, fast paced and most importantly, competitive. As a result, investment banking may not be the right fit for everyone.

The hours are long, the work may seem menial, and you may lack control over your time as you get staffed on various deals andprojects. However, there are other options if you are majoring in finance.

Asset management is investing other people’s money and obtaining a fee for the service. There are active (fund managers who try to beat the market) and passive investors (fund managers who track indexes or effectively match market returns).

Being a research analyst out of school includes reading 10-Ks to find company information, updating and maintaining financial models, synthesizing and analyzing external company and industry data, proofreading presentations and research reports, conducting primary research and writing minor research reports.

A research analyst may be promoted to a portfolio managers, whose job is to pick a portfolio of stocks, bonds, or combination of the two, to make the highest returns for investors.

Operational roles within banks or any financial institution involves ensuring that all the divisions function efficiently.

The role is important and needed for a financial institution to function. Primary roles of operations are clearing and settling trades.

Clearing trades involves making sure that the records one bank has kept of the sale of a financial security match those of the bank or organization it sold the security to.

Settlements cover everything from preparing the documentation required for a sale to making sure the bank has been paid for all the shares it has sold and bought.

Senior roles within the operation field include Chief Operating Officer, which is responsible for ensuring that the back and front end of a bank are running efficiently.

Compliance and risk management deal with regulators and risk that a bank exposes itself to. This includes credit risk (the risk of default from a client), market risk (risk of traded financial products changing in value due to market fluctuations) and operational risk (risk of bank losses due to internal factors such as human errors and system breakdowns).

Compliance ensures that the bank is working in line with regulations imposed. Internal audit is the division which undertakes review of all of a bank’s processes from financial audit to technical audit.

Technology plays a differentiating factor in finance.  Investment banks, retail banks, investment firms and insurance firms all spend heavily on technology.

Development roles in IT create software in-house for bank use. If software is purchased from outside sources, technology analysts will tailor them for the bank.

Business analysts within the IT role act as the liaison between the IT department and the rest of the company.

Commercial banking involves various banking services offered to large institutions ($25 million and above) and governments. Services offered include loans, cash management, and project financing.

Generally, junior employees wishing to pursue a career in commercial banking start off as credit analysts which review financial statements to decide whether or not to issue loans. Senior roles are more client-focused and revenue generating.

The insurance industry is comprised of four areas: insurers (assess risk and develop products for sale to individuals and corporations), re-insurers (insure insurers against risk of significant losses), insurance brokers (intermediaries who sell insurance) and Lloyds global market (about 80 corporations, individuals, underwriters and financial backers or syndicate who come together to spread risk).

Roles within the insurance include underwriters (involves extensive risk analysis, sifting stats on industries, demographics and clients to prepare a quote), actuaries (produce financial models based on statistical risk which are used by underwriters), agents (salespeople of insurance, who try to find the right product for a client) and claims (where most insurance people work.

Investment banking isn’t the only option for students who want to pursue a career in finance. There are plenty of other financial careers that can be just as fulfilling.

Building your professional network


By Paul Rosario, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

In the world of business, you’ll often hear the old adage: “It’s not what you know, but rather who you know.” However, with the slump in the current job market and general economic malaise, the saying should now be: “It’s not what you know, but who knows you.”

Having a network is immensely important to your career success.  It can help you learn about opportunities, find a job or make a career change.

Before we delve into the topic of networking, we first need to establish its enormous value. A remarkable 65 to 85 percent of jobs are found through networking, according to the Harvard Business Review. This suggests the reality behind the “hidden job market.”

Many jobs are filled through insider referrals, unanticipated hiring, and often, these jobs are not advertised to the public. For the jobs that are publicized on websites such as Monster or Indeed, you can expect 300 other candidates, some more qualified than you, aiming for the same exact position. This demonstrates that you are much more likely to acquire a job through networking than applying online.

Networking is the act of interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career. You may have a family network, a friend network, a colleague network or a sports team network.

People in these networks are often those with whom you have something in common, whether you’re in the same family, share a passion for basketball or attend the same college.

The aim of networking is to establish relationships with people who will aid you in achieving your short-term or long-term goals and fostering those relationships. You want to stay in touch whether through shooting monthly emails, grabbing a cup of coffee or even sending a holiday card.

It is important to understand how to leverage your connections and connect them to the career realm. As an underclassman, you can simply reach out to juniors and seniors to learn about their career goals and internship experiences.

As an upperclassman, you can do the same by speaking to recent graduates to get advice on acquiring that full-time offer. If you want deeper insight from an industry professional, you can go on informational interviews.

You can get introduced through someone in your own network or even use LinkedIn to reach out and obtain informational interviews. In the case of informational interviews, it is important to remember that you are not there to ask about a job but to learn from the professional.

Another way to connect your network with the career world is to obtain referrals from those in your existing networks. Those that you already know—a supervisor, coworker, friend or classmate—can refer you to someone else.

Baruch College creates many opportunities for you to network with professionals in your career of interest. I suggest joining a few clubs, maybe one for recreational purpose and another pertaining to your major.

There are several business fraternities and sororities, as well as professional student-club organizations in Baruch, which you have, access to. These clubs and organizations often host events where they invite professionals to lead or participate.

The Starr Career Development Center (SCDC) also invites companies to lead corporate presentations in which you can learn about the company and network with professionals. There are also career fairs in which over 40 companies are invited to meet with students and recruit them.

The SCDC also partners with Baruch’s on-campus mentoring program, Executives on Campus, for their mentoring events.

These opportunities include “Mentor for a Morning” and “Mentor for an Evening,” which are mini-mentoring sessions to speak to seasoned industry professionals in your field of interest, and the Executive Student Partnership program, which is their year-long mentoring opportunity.

If the idea of networking sounds a bit daunting to you, SCDC offers workshops to calm anxieties and provide you with the tools to network successfully.

Baruch creates many opportunities for students to network. Now all you have to do is go out there and do it. It’s the same principle you’ve been applying to your entire life: finding a relationship that works and working on it.