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Guided by alumni mentors, students on the Paladin Career Trek to New York explored careers in finance, arts, media and communications.

Wall Street may not visit the Upstate in search of employees. So Furman made a way for those potential employees to drop in on Wall Street.

The university’s new Paladin Career Treks Program gives students opportunities to take career exploration directly into the meeting rooms of major corporations, thanks to the assistance of alumni within those companies. The treks, funded by The Furman Advantage, are designed to help students explore potential career paths and understand how they can apply what they are learning at Furman to their future jobs.

“Meeting with them in person makes a huge difference instead of just cold-emailing or cold-calling,” said Betsy Rice ’20, an urban studies major who was part of the second Paladin Career Treks to New York City in October.

Furman students listen to Bob Young, Director of ISG Equity Trading, speak.
Students interested in the arts, media and communications visited EP+Co agency, Penguin Random House publishing and Hill Holliday advertising agency. 

The first trek, to Atlanta in spring 2018, included tours and panel discussions at Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A and The Home Depot headquarters.

“Really, the way that we were able to get in was through alumni connections,” said Lauren Payne, director of Furman’s Malone Center for Career Engagement.

From that first effort, Payne received feedback that field-specific experiences would be even more helpful. So, for the second trek to New York, 33 students broke into two groups to focus on finance or arts, media and communications.

Peter Griffin ’11, a vice president in institutional equity sales for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, organized the visit to his office this fall. One of his objectives was to provide clarity to students exploring the overwhelming list of jobs that fall under the heading “finance.”

“We were able to narrow down the universe,” Griffin said.

While Furman produces the quality of candidates big firms are looking for, its size and location can keep those firms from recruiting on campus. Going directly to the big cities with the students opens doors.

“These treks have been a way to get students into companies that wouldn’t be able to come to campus,” Payne said.

The program also offers a dose of reality as students plan for the future. While visiting Wells Fargo in New York, students learned from a recent graduate that working as an investment banker often means staying at the office until 1 a.m. Payne wants students to have this kind of information – and be sure they know what they’re committing to – before they make significant career decisions.

The experience also introduces them to a way of life that may be unfamiliar. For example, Payne opted not to charter a bus for the group.

Paladin Career Treks participants listen to Kat Shafer, SVP managing director, speak at EP+Co.
The finance trek students met with alumni and recruiters at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and Gladstone Place Partners. Speaking is Bob Young, director of ISG Equity Trading.

“You are going to walk, and you are going to take the subway, just like the people in New York do,” she said. “Let’s see how you like it.”

Rice, who’s from Nashville, said the vibe was energizing.

“It made me realize how competitive I get in New York City,” she said.

Students also had the opportunity to meet with alumni from a wide range of fields at an alumni networking reception. The Atlanta Paladin Career Treks, too, was tied to an alumni breakfast. Payne wants to connect undergraduates to a diverse community of mentors in each city they visit.

While information is a key element of the trek experience, eventually Payne hopes the visits may result in internships or interviews. Her office is looking at Charlotte and Nashville as possibilities for spring 2019 treks.

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