Bridging the gap between college and your career

I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me. There I was, a college senior, in the midst of the “Decade of Decision” and I had been stumped. Less than one year from that moment, I would graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and begin a new stage of life. Yet the number of forks in the road ahead was truly dizzying! Should I go straight into a graduate program? What about work experience? Should I pay my dues at a Big 4 accounting firm? Did I even want to work in accounting? In short, I wondered how to bridge the gap between being a recent college graduate and becoming a successful professional.

With so many options to choose from, I was grateful for the recommendations of wise mentors who had successfully sailed the seas ahead that I too would soon face. As I was looking into graduate programs, one mentor explained that graduate school could be much more meaningful after a few years of work experience at an industry leading company that shared my personal values. He also encouraged me to show some initiative and attend a career fair at a larger university nearby. His counsel was full of good intentions, so a classmate and I packed our bags. (Who doesn’t love a good road trip?) That career fair helped me connect with my current employer: Vanguard.

Meaningful Work

From the moment I shook hands with my recruiter, I felt a sense of meaning behind Vanguard’s mission—to take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success. Finding a company with a strong purpose was important to me. Before Vanguard, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a service missionary for two years in Chile, where because of our strong core purpose and values, we were able to truly make a difference. At Vanguard, my position in our Retail Investor Group provides an opportunity where I see that purpose come to life in my daily interactions with clients. I find it very satisfying to apply the skills from my college days and accounting background as I explain complex topics related to investing. Helping clients in situations where they need guidance has proved to be my career sweet spot. I also developed a passion for teamwork during my college basketball career. My time at Vanguard has taught me that the only thing better than helping people reach their financial goals is to do it alongside peers and leaders that you really admire.

Balance

Gaining work experience is a top priority during this stage of my life, but it certainly isn’t the only focus! I enjoy spending time with my family, seeing new parts of the world, and volunteering in my community. Finding a balance between these different priorities wasn’t a new task, but I wondered what the balance would feel like once I graduated from college. Some career alternatives required a commitment to long hours at work, but Vanguard seemed to mirror my values with a focus on work-life balance. The time I spend at work is extremely engaging, but it’s my work at home that demands the best of me. Pair that work week with a generous paid-time-off package and finding that elusive balance becomes reality. I was also fortunate to qualify for paternity leave in June of 2018 after the birth of my daughter. That time helped me support my wife as we welcomed our little girl to the world.

Opportunities to Advance My Career

One thing I love about Vanguard is the variety of career paths available for crew (nautical theme intended) including Financial Advisor, Team Leader, and more. Networking is strongly encouraged, and time is provided for attending a variety of career-focused events like department overviews. A recent example was put on by our Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA) group and focused on the skills required to become a successful specialist. Every month, I take time to sit down with my leader who takes an active interest in helping me prepare for my next career move. I’ve discovered that my favorite moments include time to cultivate meaningful relationships with Vanguard’s clients, so I plan to expand on that in the years ahead. I’m also excited to pursue the Certified Financial Planner ™ (CFP ®) designation as I serve clients in more substantial ways.

Working at Vanguard has been essential to my professional growth in these years following my graduation. The purpose behind my work, balance between my other interests, and opportunities for additional development have made this a rewarding decision. If you find yourself in a similar situation like me in your final years in college, know that you’re not alone! In the information age, “analysis paralysis” can be a real obstacle. The encouraging thing is that you can make a great decision even if your information is incomplete. As you evaluate the different paths ahead, be sure to lean on the advice of mentors. Do your best to research options that are most important to you, like matching your personal values and doing work that you find meaningful. Once you have that figured out, trust that with some hard work and the right opportunities, you can turn any path into a rewarding career. The most important part of this stage of life is to keep moving forward. As you do, you’ll be amazed at how naturally you progress from recent graduate to successful professional.

-Josh F.

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