February 26, 2009

Students Say Opportunities Still Exist for I-Banking

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With Wall Street in peril, seniors seeking investment banking positions are facing a tightening job market. Yet experts maintain that starting a banking career is not impossible.
“The job market is certainly tougher this year,” said Omar Qureishi ’09, vice president of Delta Sigma Pi Professional Business Fraternity. “But as far as I know, all the top-notch kids are still being placed at top firms. Having a Cornell degree is more advantageous than ever.”
The finance industry has been severely injured by the declining and increasingly unpredictable economy, and finding a job in finance is harder than ever.
“It seems that a lot of firms canceled their on-campus interviews and claimed they would do phone interviews instead … It seems like [the investment bank I applied to] just wasn’t hiring this year but they listed the job on [Cornell Career] Net to keep up appearances with the University.” Brian Clapp grad stated in an e-mail.
Due to the sharp decrease in the number of recruiters and jobs available, applicants are now having to explore more options than ever before. Companies that typically hire second or third tier applicants are now in the position to choose among the best applicants.
“Recruiters are telling me that they are getting the best pool of applicants since [they started in the industry],” said Prof. Charles Chang, finance.
However, jobs in the finance industry are not impossible to obtain for Cornell students.
“If you are willing to work hard, you will find a job,” Chang assured.
“There are six million employers out there,” said Bill Alberta of Cornell Career Services Center. “Look beyond the Fortune 500 companies and the top five banks. There are smaller ‘boutique banks’ that are still hiring, and some people are better suited to work at that type of work environment anyways.”
“You should set up a list of priorities, then cast a wide, wide net, like Texas wide — no offense to Texans, this is an actual term in finance,” Chang said.
Experts say that students who were previously contemplating a career in investment banking should also consider other banking-related opportunities like sales and trading, private wealth management, commercial banking, or public finance at the Federal Reserve.
“Just because you can’t find a job at Goldman Sachs doesn’t mean you have to go wonder the earth. Find a job at a local bank. It’s not a sexy job, but you will learn something, and grow in maturity,” Chang said.
“And of course, study hard and know your craft. Just because a book wasn’t assigned for class doesn’t mean you can’t read it,” Chang added.
According to the Cornell Career Center website, 80 percent of jobs are never advertised. Networking opportunities, therefore, are now — more than ever — key to securing a job.
Business organizations on campus, Career Services, faculty members, as well as alumni connections can all provide valuable guidance and resources for job seekers, according to Chang. Looking for jobs abroad is also a smart option since the financial crisis has not damaged every country equally, he said.
“Diversification is key to hedging against risk,” in both the stock and job markets, Stefan Andreev ’09 stated in an e-mail.
Chang also warned students to think carefully about plans to attend graduate programs.
“Staying an extra year won’t change your life,” he said. “Go [to graduate school] because you want to learn the material, not because you want an escape patch.”
“Have a positive attitude, be genuine and know yourself,” Matt Davis ’09 stated in an e-mail.
Despite the current pessimism about investment banking, Chang said the industry is still viable in the long-run.
“The American dream exists because of the existence of capital markets,” Chang said. Banks give entrepreneurs the tools to build an empire from scratch and turn ideas into prosperity.
“If your true passion is finance, finance will find you.” added Qureishi. “You will be working for 40 years after graduation, one or two bad years in the beginning will mean nothing in the grand scale.”