Linda Huber ’80, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the global bond-rating firm Moody’s, didn’t sugarcoat it when she offered networking and career advice to current students who want to work in the financial services industry.
“You’re all going to have to be tough. It is a difficult economy, but I have great faith in all of you,” Huber said during her keynote speech at the fifth annual Wall Street Council Financial Services Forum over the weekend.
Dozens of alumni returned to campus for the event held in Rauch Business Center, sharing their knowledge, experiences and advice with current students. It was a classic good news/bad news scenario: The bad news is that it’s much tougher to land a job in the financial services industry than it was when many of the alumni graduated in the 1980s and 1990s.
The good news, however, is that Lehigh alumni on Wall Street are willing to help.
“What I’m hoping students will get out of it is more confidence in how to go about a job search, an understanding of how competitive it is, and what you have to do to get a leg up—how much energy and focus has to be dedicated to a job search,” said Andrew Fife '85 of Susquehanna Financial Group in New York, and president of the Lehigh Wall Street Council.
“And most of all, I hope they’ll get out of it that there are people who care about them. We have a network of people who are happy to help, if they want to take advantage of it.”
Huber joined Moody’s in 2005 after 19 years in the financial services industry during which she rose from an associate with First Boston Corporation to chief financial officer with US Trust Company.
She shared tips with students for breaking into the financial services industry, starting with: “Go to the best school that admits you.”
“So all of you made a good decision to come here,” Huber, who earned her B.S. degree in business and economics from Lehigh, told them. “The grounding and training you get at this school prepares you very well for what comes next, so you should feel good about that.”
When the time comes to get that first job, Huber advised students to think big.
“Get your first job with the largest, best-known company you can find,” she said. “Go to a big financial services firm. Go to one of the Big Four accounting firms. Go to a firm that is well known, that future employers are not wondering what it was that you did. You can always go from big to small. Small to big is much harder.”
Her other tips included earning an advanced degree (“When times get tough and people get let go, generally people with the better educational credentials will be the ones who will survive those kinds of cuts”), dressing professionally and being prepared and showing respect.
She advised students not to fear failure (even Apple founder Steve Jobs was fired from a previous job, she noted) and to have a long-range career plan (just don’t plan obsessively and be sure to take time to have a personal life).
Citing her own four-year stint in the U.S. Army before she got her MBA from Stanford University, Huber stressed that “a detour isn’t necessarily the end of the road. There’s nothing wrong with doing something a little different.”
And as difficult as the job market is today, things don’t get easier once you land a job, Huber said. “In the beginning of your career, you’re going to have to work really, really hard,” she said.
‘It’s all about connections’
Paul Richard Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics, called the annual forum “a signature event for the university” and “a fantastic testimony to our alumni.”
Anne Anderson, associate professor of finance and a Joseph R. Perella and Amy M. Perella chair, called it “a win-win for the university” because it brings alumni back to campus and engages them, while helping students better understand how to find a job in a tough economy.
“It’s all about connections,” Anderson says.
Zachary Casler ’12 left the forum with a couple of business cards from alumni he had met.
“It gave me a reality check about what I need to do in the future to get into the finance world,” the accounting and supply chain management major said.
“I hope I can come back next year as a recently hired alum.”
Photos by Ryan Hulvat