Good grades, impressive internships and a solid interview: The qualities employers look for in prospective job candidates are fairly obvious.
But when it comes to getting employers to give you that first look – especially on Wall Street – who you know often trumps what you know.
"There is this mythic Wall Street, but how do I crack it?" says Scott Borden, a former operations manager for Lehman Brothers who is now a longtime career development specialist for University Career Services at Rutgers, New Brunswick.
Paving the Path
Enter Road to Wall Street, a Rutgers program developed to boost students' knowledge of and exposure to professional contacts within this employment sector – and by extension, their future career opportunities on Wall Street.
The program takes a page from the Ivy League playbook, by gaining access to the industry and cultivating a network of well-placed professional alumni to mentor students interested in pursuing careers in finance. The goal is twofold: provide students with a powerful career-building tool and increase Rutgers’ visibility on Wall Street.
"We know the program is already connecting our students to firms in ways that previously wasn’t easy or didn’t exist," says Borden, Career Services' adviser to the Road to Wall Street program. "The more Rutgers people you get on Wall Street to establish a meaningful presence, the more employers there will look toward high quality Rutgers students."
Now entering its third year, Road to Wall Street is powered by a wealth of university resources. Partnering with Career Services are the Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, Rutgers University Foundation and a network of industry employers and successful alumni.
The program is open to all Rutgers students with a 3.2 GPA and an interest in Wall Street careers – from banking, sales, trading and asset management to information technology, research, operations and compliance. Road to Wall Street received about 200 applicants last year and accepted 50 students fromNew Brunswick and Newark, including Rutgers-New Brunswick student, Eric Lang.
Lang, a 21-year-old finance major, credits Road to Wall Street with helping him land a coveted summer internship at Citigroup. Through the program he was given the opportunity to dine with the CFO of Goldman Sachs and rub elbows with traders on the floors of the Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
Lang was well paid for his efforts at Citigroup, where he logged 70- to 80-hour weeks modeling financial statements for corporate clients in the technology industry. But his real reward can be summed up in the two words he heard at the end of his internship: You’re hired.
"Getting a job offer at the beginning of senior year is perfect," said the Sewell resident, who will start as a corporate banking analyst at Citigroup after graduation. "The program basically gave me the tools to make that happen."
This year’s Road to Wall Street program kicked off on Oct.2 with an employer-sponsored Fall Networking Event and will continue throughout the semester, with education initiatives, including a company site visit to JP Morgan on Nov. 1.The idea is to provide any curious student with a clear picture of what a career in the financial sector entails before narrowing the field through the application process. That process starts in December and January – dates to be announced – and culminates on Feb. 21 with final employer interviews for admission to the program and its competitive mentor component.
The program kicks into high gear in March and April with industry-facilitated student "boot camps," which groom participants for the mentorships and potential summer internships by giving them the scoop on resume writing, Wall Street culture, proper interview etiquette and attire.
"Junior year internship is probably the most important thing you’re going to do because it usually leads to a full time position, or at least looks great on your resume," Lang says. "It’s like a summer-long interview for the banking firms to see if they like you and want to take you on full time."
Student-alumni mentorship is a key component of Road to Wall Street. Lang was officially matched with an alumnus from Deutsche Bank, but through the program’s networking opportunities he became the unofficial mentee of James McGrath because McGrath had inroads to Citigroup, where Lang was hoping to hang his hat.
McGrath, a former investment banking analyst for Citigroup, now works as a research analyst for Cadian Capital Management. While he was paired with another student interning at JP Morgan, McGrath, who graduated from Rutgers Business School in 2008, says he is happy to be a sounding board for Lang and any Rutgers student serious about breaking into Wall Street.
"You see that there are quality students at Rutgers," McGrath says. "It doesn’t take that much effort to try to help out, and it goes a long way in giving these students a better shot. He enjoys the relationships he’s developed with students and believes it won’t be long before Road to Wall Street’s momentum builds. "Everyone can see that Rutgers delivers," McGrath says. "Years down the road, more students will get promotions and theoretically they will then make the decision to bring in more Rutgers students."
Last year 25 to 30 percent of Road to Wall Street’s students reported receiving internships on Wall Street, with another 20 to 25 percent earning other internships in business.
For mentors, Road to Wall Street presents a way to remain connected with the university, says Borden. By giving back, they can give the next generation more information, valuable guidance and an advantage in their career development."They’ve gone through the gauntlet," Borden says. "They’ve learned the ropes and made it, and in turn they want to partner in helping build a more effective pipeline for bringing more Rutgers students to Wall Street."
NOTE: For updates on additional Road to Wall Street programs planned for this fall, check with program coordinator Toi Tyson at University Career Services – firstname.lastname@example.org