Recently, I took the time to sit back and reflect on my experiences in the workforce as a whole and realized I’ve been pretty fortunate. I have worked in various fields – while not necessarily ideal since I’ve always wanted to work in finance, I still never worked in a role or for a company I didn’t enjoy. However, last year while working in the telecommunications field and with six years of military experience under my belt, I decided that I would finally do all I could to get into the financial industry. I joined Vanguard in September of 2017, and not only has it been a refreshing change of scenery in a new field, it’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more.
An excellent support system
As a Client Relationship Associate, there were a few daunting things I had to face to jump start my career – taking the Series 7 and Series 63 exams, and refreshing my finance knowledge from my accounting studies in college. I was fully prepared to go home each day and study like my career depended on it – because frankly, it did. This is when I first noticed the depth of Vanguard’s support. My fellow new hires and I were provided study materials free of cost and given a plethora of time to be able to study, ask questions, take classes, review scenarios, and everything else we needed. I passed both exams on the first try – despite not having a finance degree!
Now, as I approach a year as a successful Client Relationship Associate at one of the largest firms in the world, I’ve started to pursue growth opportunities both professionally and personally—some of which include helping our local communities. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the holiday giving season through Vanguard, and we’re also provided a volunteer time off day in which we get to help our communities while being paid! Professionally, I’ve been able to meet with fellow crew members in different departments and see a day in their lives, pick their brains about what’s needed to succeed in their role, and view them in action. My team leader Jake has been essential in not only lending his network to get me in contact with different departments, but also in getting me the free time to explore other roles at Vanguard. These sessions have been very important and have helped me identify next steps and roles I’d like to pursue at Vanguard.
With the free time to observe other departments combined with seeing how my team leader has helped me on my journey, I’ve figured out that I want to pursue either a financial advisor or leadership role. I’ve enjoyed seeing the way our leaders develop crew members through coaching and mentoring, and watching how our advisors add value to our clients’ lives by helping them accomplish their goals. It is my hope to continue to build even deeper and more meaningful relationships with my colleagues and our clients, as well as to further develop my skills in my career. Whether it be in leadership or as an advisor, I will continue to be a steward of Vanguard’s mission to take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success, all while fostering this same passion with the crew and clients I work with.
With Vanguard’s flexibility and support, I have full faith that I’ll be able to succeed and in a timely manner. As my journey continues, I’m excited to know I have Vanguard’s support and would encourage others to be unafraid of using all of the wonderful resources available to you. I know that I will be able to attain the career I want at Vanguard.
Why I Got Rid Of My Five Year Plan
Vanguard crew member Lauren reflects on why she tossed out her five year plan and instead focused on building a career within a company and industry she grew to love.
Inclusion – It’s More Than a Policy Hear from crew about their thoughts on LGBTQ+ inclusion at Vanguard, and learn about the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index—and how we stacked up.
My Story: Vanguard’s Chief Investment Officer Greg Davis
In his last careers blog,Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer Greg Davis uncovered key moments from his time at Vanguard. In this blog, Greg looks back at his upbringing, his early job history, and why he ultimately came to–and stayed at–Vanguard.
I was born in Germany and raised in a U.S. military family. We were a multicultural, multilingual family; I spoke German with my mom and English with my dad. Of course both parents understood the other language, so there was no pulling one over on either of them. Both of my parents worked, and I was co-raised by my maternal grandmother who spoke primarily German. My grandmother was an instrumental part of my childhood and spent a lot of time with me at home. The summer before second grade, we moved to the U.S. and settled in South Jersey.
Throughout my childhood and young adult years, I looked up to my older brother a lot. He achieved a great deal of success in the field of computer science, and he did it without a college degree. In fact, I’m the first person in my family to attend a four-year college. But because I so admired my older brother, I first decided to follow in his footsteps and start my high school education at a vocational-technical high school, where I could spend half my day working on computers. As I was thinking about college, initially my plan was to study computer science or engineering. Once I arrived at Penn State, I loved the math side of my education but found myself less interested in chemistry and mechanical drawing. As a result, I decided to change direction and focus on studying business. Post-graduation, I went into the insurance industry as an underwriter, followed by a stint as a premium auditor. While both roles were great experiences, I still felt as though there was something else that would be a better long-term fit for me.
During these years, I would periodically drive by Vanguard’s campus. Although I never thought of pursuing Vanguard as an employer, I was curious about their trading floor and Vanguard’s approach to investment management. I started researching the markets and the investment side of the insurance industry. I had no idea I was planning my future career.
In order to break into the investment side of the business, I realized I had to pursue an advanced degree, so I went back to school to pursue my MBA at Wharton. This afforded me an opportunity for a Wall Street internship in Fixed Income Sales & Trading. Fortunately the internship was successful, and I was able to leverage that experience into a full-time opportunity at a large NYC Investment bank in a Fixed-Income Trading rotational program. My timing wasn’t great, as shortly after starting the program the Asia Financial Crisis swept around the globe, leaving a very significant mark on many of the Wall Street Banks. Our rotational program was abruptly ended and I was placed into a non-trading role and I was extremely unhappy. The truth is, I felt as though I was settling. I decided to start looking at opportunities at other firms. Then a childhood friend, who happened to be a Vanguard recruiter, asked for my resume. I was hesitant at first, but she finally convinced me to meet with a man named Ken Volpert, who at the time ran Vanguard’s bond index team. During the interview, Ken talked about career options, Vanguard’s investment philosophy, and company growth, but it was something else that piqued my curiosity. Ken spoke about how dedicated he is to developing people and how he makes sure his crew get opportunities to learn and grow. At that moment, I knew I wanted to work for him and Vanguard.
I started as a trader and quickly saw how my values aligned to Vanguard’s investment principles. Not only had I found a firm whose mission I connected with, but I also discovered how many people advocated for me to get exposure to projects, resources, tools, and new experiences. I loved being part of the trading world–getting involved in the markets, owning something right away and seeing it through to success. As I grew and moved into bigger roles, I was able to then provide personal and professional development skills—those that I learned and admired from Ken—to other crew that I’ve led and mentored. It’s refreshing to see the focus on development come full circle.
Because I believe so fervently in developing others–including leaders of leaders–often someone will ask me, “What do you do when someone isn’t performing well?” I advise leaders to start by having an honest discussion with their team member about that person’s performance–what’s not going well, what they need to do to improve, and how you as a leader can support them. There seems to be a misconception that nice cultures don’t give strong feedback, but that’s actually a rather unkind approach. No one should ever have to guess why their career isn’t moving forward.
Of course, there were setbacks along the way. I recall a time when our bond index funds experienced a period of substantial underperformance, bonds that we owned were being downgraded to junk (below investment grade credit rating). It’s quite distressing to see something you’re responsible for underperform. Luckily, the team rallied and reengineered our approach to bond indexing. As painful as that experience was, it allowed the team to learn and improve our process, which helped us be well-prepared for the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. That team-focused mentality is why I’ve stayed at Vanguard for over 15 years. In addition to hurdles, there are also moments of pride: watching my team rise through the ranks to become officers and senior leaders. I’ve also loved watching Vanguard grow–adding a personal advisor business and expanding outside the U.S. This means better outcomes for our clients.
Moving to the U.S. from Germany–and having to quickly improve my ability to read, write, and speak English–taught me a lesson I’ve carried with me from childhood until now: If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.
You never know, your future just might be in that building you drive by every day.
Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If the answer is no, what’s holding you back? In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz around the misconceptions of engaging on this social network. In this blog, we set the record straight and debunk five common myths about LinkedIn. Following this read, we hope that you too will see the benefits that LinkedIn has to offer.
1. I already have a resume prepared for potential employers, so there is no need for me to create a profile.
Truth: Most recruiters leverage LinkedIn as a primary tool to source and research talent. While a resume is necessary when applying to jobs, it’s not something employers can easily find before you apply. By joining the LinkedIn community, you have an opportunity to amplify your personal brand in a unique way.
1) Post a flattering and professional photo of yourself and add a background image.
2) Include a summary that highlights your background and areas of professional focus.
3) Outline your educational and work-related experiences and skills. Include descriptions where applicable and frame them like you would an elevator pitch.
4) Consider adding media work samples that you’re proud of. This will catch a viewer’s eye.
2. LinkedIn is only used to search for new career opportunities and I’m happy in my job!
Truth: While LinkedIn aims to help people find jobs, that is not its sole purpose. LinkedIn should be used to establish a professional brand (as mentioned above) and network. It also serves as an educational resource. Not only will LinkedIn feed you content that is tailored to your skills and areas of professional interest, your network will also share content that will aid in your personal development.
Tip:Consider folks who are in and outside of your immediate circle that would make strong professional connections. These should include but are not limited to:
1) Colleagues within and outside of your department
2) People within volunteer groups you’re a part of
3) Friends and family outside of work
4) Alumni of schools or organization you’ve belonged to
3. If I sign up for LinkedIn, recruiters will be knocking down my door.
Truth: It is likely recruiters will request to connect with you and share opportunities that are currently available at their firm. That being said, this doesn’t happen every hour on the hour and in most cases, it won’t even be a daily occurrence. Regardless, you can pick and choose who to respond to based on your comfort level.
Tip: Take ownership of your professional network. If someone requests to connect with you and you’re not interested, hit the ignore button. They will not be notified of your decision and shouldn’t take it personally.
4. I should not connect with anyone I have not met in person.
Truth: Just because you have not met with an individual in person does not mean you cannot establish a connection. It’s possible you have mutual connections and that can serve as a conversation starter. Plus, if they’re in a similar industry, they’re probably sharing thought leadership and intriguing industry updates.
Tip: Connecting gets easier the more you do it. While you can simply hit the connect button without an additional note, the chances of someone accepting your invitation increases if you reach out in a more personal way. Here is an example you can use to break the ice:
5. What if my boss sees that I am on LinkedIn? I’m totally being disloyal.
Truth:Totally not. It is becoming more common among employers to encourage their employees to join LinkedIn. Chances are, your manager is on the social network for reasons similar to your own.
Tip: If you feel conflicted, connect with your boss on LinkedIn or mention the subject in a 1:1 setting. In doing so, this shows that you have nothing to hide. Plus, if you’re using LinkedIn as a developmental tool and a means to get external perspective, your manager will be pleased when you take the initiative to share relevant articles or key learnings with colleagues on the team.
Solving problems and innovating through data science
I graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2002 with a Computer Engineering degree. The Institute was very close to Wall Street, and upon graduation, many of my classmates received offers from top Wall Street firms and investment banks. I too fell into the allure of working on Wall Street. I received a few offers from some of the top firms in New York—and I also received one from Vanguard, who was making it a priority to recruit from my school at the time. However, this was when the dot-com bubble burst and most of the Wall Street firms rescinded their offers for all of my classmates including me. Vanguard was the only firm that honored their commitment and did not rescind their offer. I am thankful to this day.
At Vanguard, I have the opportunity to do what I always dreamt of doing and much, much more at a firm where doing right by clients and crew is the guiding principle. I joined Vanguard as a software engineer and never looked back. At the time, all I wanted to do was to apply what I had learned in school to real life problems, but didn’t have much thought about where I applied them. As time went on, I realized how fortunate I was to be at Vanguard, whose main mission was to help people all over the world reach their financial dreams. Knowing you’re doing well for others is incredibly rewarding. I got the best of both worlds: I could apply my passion in technology and apply it at a company whose mission is to lift people up. I also got to work on our trading systems, sales systems, mobility (iOS) systems, customer relationship management systems and so on, all while learning about and applying analytics to everything we did.
From a career perspective, Vanguard invested in my professional development. Today, I’m a Senior Manager focused on artificial intelligence and data science. About four years ago, with the advent of big data technology and infrastructure, I started to focus on advanced analytics and data science exclusively. I saw an opportunity to use data science and artificial intelligence to provide better, more personalized, and smarter services to our investors.
Vanguard now wants to do for financial advice what we did for Exchange Traded Funds and mutual funds: make top notch, holistic advice accessible to anyone who needs it at an incredibly low price. That’s where my team comes in. I now help lead our advanced analytics and artificial intelligence team for Vanguard’s advice program. My team is comprised of data engineers, data scientists and artificial intelligence engineers in collaboration with investment experts and economists. And they come from diverse educational backgrounds—some have computer science or engineering backgrounds, while others studied physics or statistics.
In order to create highly personalized advice experiences, we seek to incorporate behavioral economics to better personalize the advice needed. To that end we are utilizing artificial intelligence and other data science techniques on a variety of financial advice projects. Our goal is to create experiences and services that will help more people than ever before reach their financial goals. My team is directly empowering Vanguard’s mission and I personally feel inspired every day to come to work. Being able to learn about cutting edge technology in artificial intelligence and data science and use it to help as many people as possible is extremely rewarding.
Investing is complex, and sometimes, it’s a challenge for people to know how to make wise investment and financial decisions. Vanguard is committed to giving investors all over the world a fair shake, and is investing in services—such as advice—to do so. I am passionate about trail blazing artificial intelligence and machine learning at Vanguard, which is enabling us to fulfill our mission and help millions of people all over the world reach financial independence.
Have an upcoming interview with us? You’ll need to know more about the STAR format – also known as behavior based interviewing – and how to prepare for these types of questions.
What are STARs?
In interviews, Vanguard hiring teams often use the STAR format, which focuses on Situation/Task, Action, and Results. This method helps us to better understand your skills, experience and working styles and how they relate to the role you’re applying for. To effectively answer these types of questions, describe the Situation or Task, the Action you took, and the Results of your specific actions. Here’s an example:
Interviewer: Tell me about a time when you had a tough client. How did you improve the relationship?
Candidate: When I worked at a retail store, we had a regular customer who wanted to use expired coupons. We can’t take expired coupons and the customer wasn’t happy about it. (Situation) I showed him how to get coupons on his phone (Action), so he would have access to our most current deals anytime he came in. We found a discount that he could apply that day(Action) and by the time he left the store, the customer was pleased and stated he would be back. (Result) I learned from that experience that you can always find a solution, even if you can’t give the customer exactly what they want.
The right details
Another trick to answering STAR questions effectively is to avoid generalities. Consider the difference in these two answers:
Before: “I had a rough project. I spoke with the person who wasn’t doing their work and it got better.”
Better: “I had a team project in my marketing class where one person wasn’t completing their tasks and was holding everyone up. I approached my classmate privately and asked if he needed help. He admitted that he didn’t understand the project and wasn’t sure where to start. I offered to show my teammate an easy way to complete his research and gave him a few simple resources that could bring him up to speed. After our conversation, my classmate made a complete shift. He finished all his work, before the deadline, and we got an A on our project.”
Notice in the above examples that the interviewee gave just the right amount of detail to make the story clear, without rambling. And consider how many skills this candidate just succinctly demonstrated – team player, problem solver, strong communicator, among others.
Listen for the details
When answering STAR based questions, listen carefully to what your interviewer is asking. For example, if you are asked for one example, don’t give two. If the interviewer asks a question you dislike, don’t jump in with unrelated information or a question you prefer to answer. Taking either of these avenues shows that you can’t follow directions. You may also run out of time to answer other questions that will demonstrate your skills and applicable experiences.
Identify your STARs
You don’t have to have lots of job experience to share something relevant. Some good places to uncover STAR examples include: classwork, interactions with professors, clubs, sports, part time jobs, or volunteering.
Interviews are professional interactions, so avoid inappropriate stories. And it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Slang or fillers (such as like, um, uh) can reduce the power of your words and lessen their meaning.
The key to answering STAR questions is to call out past successes that apply to the role you’re interviewing for. Make sure the end result of your example is a win for all parties involved.
Also, the experiences you choose for STARs don’t have to be awe-inspiring. Leadership during team sports, problem-solving with a professor, or clear communication while volunteering can all demonstrate that you have the skills and experiences to flourish in your future role.
As a newly minted college graduate, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to be successful, and that meant I needed to build experience at a reputable and well-known company.
I had grown up reading The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing, so when I received an offer to join Vanguard in Scottsdale, I enthusiastically accepted the opportunity. I had enough of the frigid Michigan winters.
I started my Vanguard career as a Client Relationship Associate in 2014, answering inbound phone calls and assisting clients with placing trades, resetting passwords, and educating them on Vanguard products. To be honest, I saw my first role at Vanguard as a stepping stone to somewhere else. I never thought I would stay.
Like many ambitious and naive college graduates, I defined success as making a six figure income in a stereotypically cool job like investment banking or tech. If I achieved that, I would know that I “made it”.
And yet, here I am, four years later. Why did I stay? What changed?
In my first year, I discovered that I loved educating clients on Vanguard mutual funds. There is a special fuzzy feeling that comes from using my skills to educate and help others, and I wanted to chase that feeling. I thought to myself, “Where can I do more of that?”
As I gained experience at Vanguard, I began to plot my next career move. I knew that financial advisors typically make a good living doing meaningful work, so I decided to pursue the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation.
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services was still in its infancy at the time, so I explored opportunities outside of Vanguard, but was disappointed to learn that a vast majority of advisory positions were sales driven. I was attracted to Vanguard Personal Advisor Services compared to other advisory firms because, as a salaried advisor, I didn’t have to worry about prospecting or earning commission-based compensation. The only thing I would need to focus on is making the best investment decisions for my clients. For many outside advisors looking in, this is the dream (trust me). And after about two years working hard in inbound phone roles and passing the CFP® exam, I joined Personal Advisor Services.
Vanguard has a noble mission: “To take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success.” As an advisor, I get to live that mission, and this is truly rewarding in the sense that I find purpose doing something meaningful and worthwhile. You know that special fuzzy feeling I was chasing? I found it in Vanguard Advice! I know it’s a cliché, but I love what I do here. You can’t put a price on that.
Furthermore, freedom to travel, especially in my 20s, has been an invaluable benefit of working for Vanguard. In the last two years alone, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, France, Spain, Canada, and Japan. Vanguard provides a generous amount of flexible, guilt-free paid-time-off (PTO). With our collaborative culture, my supportive team allows me to treat PTO as a time to completely forget about work. If I worked for a different company that based my income on sales performance, I wouldn’t have been able to take the amazing trips that I have.
As I approach my four year anniversary in August, I can’t yet say that “I made it”, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am. I have redefined success as maximizing my fulfillment. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past four years, it’s that success is not all about the paycheck. Rather, it is mostly about finding rewarding work towards a worthwhile cause. Needless to say, I’ve found that at Vanguard.
I recently celebrated my three year anniversary with Vanguard and what a journey it has been! In order to understand how I got here, I think it is best to start at the beginning.
I attended Arizona State University and, like most students, held a variety of jobs and internships to help me figure out what kind of career I wanted. I was getting a degree in Business but wasn’t sure where my skills would fit or what I would be happiest doing. During this time, I had three experiences that helped shape my career path and ultimately led me to Vanguard.
My first opportunity was a leadership internship with a large retail chain that was based in the Phoenix area. I got to spend three months in a retail store shadowing the Store Manager, getting to know the daily operations, and running the store on my own by the end of my time there. This experience opened my eyes to the potential of a career in leadership because I loved working with the team every day and I enjoyed overcoming diverse and frequent challenges. However, I came to the realization that standing on my feet for 9+ hours a day was physically taxing and the long-term career growth in a retail store is limited.
My second adventure was in a commission-based sales position where I sold bridal gowns. I know what you’re thinking: “Wasn’t that job fun and glamorous? Was it just like the shows on television?” After the initial excitement of working in the bridal industry wore off, I was left with the pressure and anxiety of going to work every day knowing that if I didn’t close a sale, I wasn’t going to get paid. There were weeks where I made great money and weeks where I couldn’t pay my bills. I came to the realization that I cared about my clients far too much and I struggled to morally “close the deal” when I sensed hesitation on their end.
My final opportunity before arriving at Vanguard was an internship with another financial services firm. I worked in a branch office helping a few advisors run their books of business. I loved learning about finance and working with clients but I realized that a career as a commission-based advisor wasn’t for me. I saw first-hand the same pressure and anxiety that I had experienced in bridal gown sales and knew my time with this firm had to come to an end.
After graduation, I embarked on my journey to find a career I’d enjoy long-term. Thanks to my internship with financial advisors, I knew finance was something I was passionate about, and began my search for financial services firms in the Phoenix area. When I found a job posting for Vanguard, I did some research on the company and the role since I didn’t know anyone there to reach out to. I read great things about the company culture, benefits package, and unifying mission but was hesitant that it would be a good fit for me. Setting aside my fear, I interviewed in March of 2015 for a front line position serving clients by phone and was extended an offer!
My first day at Vanguard was May 11, 2015 and I vividly remember the fear and uncertainty I felt walking onto campus that day. But, I took a deep breath and stepped into a room full of friendly faces for my Corporate Orientation. I knew there was no turning back now!
One year down at Vanguard, I realized that I connected with the mission, loved the people I worked with, and appreciated the client-focused mentality. Not only that, but I became significantly better at managing my own finances because of the extensive training and guidance that Vanguard provided.
I started exploring career development opportunities and the wide variety of career paths that Vanguard offered. I knew I loved working with clients but couldn’t get the pull to leadership off my mind from my internship a few years prior. Like many people, I had to apply for and be declined from a few jobs to eventually land in the exact opportunity I was meant to be in. I went on to spend a year as an Assigned Representative serving high-net-worth clients and getting to run my own book of business. Getting to know my clients, their families, and their goals brought me joy that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I laughed, cried, and celebrated with them through all of the major milestones they experienced. However, it was during this time I realized my heart was set on leadership. I was lucky enough to have a great leader who supported me, challenged me, and helped me prepare for my first leadership role at Vanguard.
After a stressful few weeks of networking, applying, and interviewing, I became a Team Leader on November 20, 2017. I walked in on that first day with similar feelings to my first day at Vanguard. I hardly knew anyone in this new department and I was worried about gaining my teams’ trust. To my relief, I was welcomed with open arms by a supportive peer group and wonderful team of crew.
One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had as a new leader at Vanguard was attending Leading Crew to Success. This week long training is held in the Pennsylvania office and Vanguard flies leaders from all over the world in to network and learn together. During this week, I spent countless hours getting to know and learning from other leaders from all levels, departments, and countries. We had fireside chats with Senior Staff, engaging discussions on leadership development topics, we competed in fun teambuilding activities, and capped the week off with a “graduation ceremony” with CEO Tim Buckley. This experience opened my eyes to the diverse group of inclusive, engaging, and talented leaders at Vanguard. It was amazing to see that regardless of what department we are in or where we live, we are all working towards the same goal of seeing our crew, clients, and organization succeed.
I have now been in my new role for ten months and, without a doubt, can say that it is my favorite job I have ever had. I face exciting challenges, learn something new every day, and get to work with the most amazing people. I am so grateful for the investment Vanguard has made in my personal and professional development over the last few years and continues to make every day. Currently, with the help of Vanguard’s tuition assistance, I am pursing an MBA in Organizational Leadership to support my long term leadership aspirations. I can honestly say that three years ago I had no idea that I would have ended up here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Everyday innovation from client-facing crew at Vanguard
If you were to ask most people to think of an innovative company, they would probably picture a tech start-up in Silicon Valley. That’s certainly what I used to imagine. But when I joined Vanguard, I learned that it doesn’t get much more innovative than our founder, Jack Bogle, creating the index mutual fund, resulting in the disruption of the financial services industry. A disruption that has continued over the last forty years.
Vanguard has continued to invest heavily in innovation through investments in technology, a relentless search for process improvement methodologies, and the opening of the Innovation Studio in Philadelphia.
But I would say the biggest commitment Vanguard has made towards innovation has been through its crew. One of the things I love most about working at Vanguard is that it recognizes the skills and abilities of its employees and empowers them to help promote meaningful change within their departments. Vanguard offers its crew multiple channels to brainstorm, share ideas, and innovate. For example, it sponsors hackathon events, which give crew a setting in which to present creative well-planned ideas to some of our most influential leaders. Vanguard has even created innovation teams to pilot new ideas and technology throughout various levels and departments.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to lead one of those innovation teams. I lead a team of engaged client-facing sales crew who also specialize in driving change and innovation within their organization. Members of my team utilize their client interactions and work to create new processes to help improve the experience for clients and crew.
When a member of my team comes up with an idea or proposal, we work together to determine if it is something we can implement immediately, or if there is an opportunity to pilot the idea to see if the process or technology would benefit everyone at a broader level.
Crew that are a part of the innovation team have the opportunity to learn and develop unique skills that aren’t always as prevalent in other roles. These include conceptual thinking, project management, and presentation skills.
Culture of Innovation
I believe the key to fostering a culture of innovation relies heavily on mindset. The concept of innovation can seem ambiguous, scary, and out of reach. As a leader, I turn innovation into something that is a part of my team’s everyday norms and expectations.
Here are three main ways my crew are afforded the ability to be more innovative:
Crew on the innovation team are provided an hour of “innovation time” each week to focus on brainstorming and developing their ideas.
Crew are encouraged to utilize our newly established “Ideation Room”, a space constructed to maximize creative thinking and collaboration.
Our leadership team sponsors quarterly “Pitch Day” competitions that empower our crew to team up and present their ideas. The winning team gets to see their idea come to life as it is piloted and potentially implemented across the organization.
While each member of my team takes advantage of the opportunities listed above, it is important to note that this mindset of being a positive change advocate isn’t unusual for Vanguard crew. I would argue it is an instinct most crew have. Then again, why wouldn’t it be? We work at a company founded on innovation.
Not sure what to expect for your first interview at Vanguard? Whether it’s a phone screen, or an in-person interview on one of our campuses, the below tips will give you a behind-the-scenes look at questions to prepare for, how to stand out, and general best practices for our entry level interviews.
Practice, practice, practice
A best practice is to prepare for your interview the same way you would for a presentation – make sure you have thoroughly gathered the right information to share and rehearse your “speech.” Here are some ways to practice answering questions:
Ask a friend, mentor, parent, or professor to host a mock interview.
Stop by your campus’ career services office for advice and practice opportunities.
Answer common interview questions in the mirror.
Record your interview skills using a webcam.
The key is to practice repeatedly – don’t get discouraged if you struggle your first few times. Remember that interviewing is a skill, and like any skill, it takes time to develop and become proficient at it.
Make sure you are familiar with Vanguard
You don’t have to have deep knowledge of our strategy, but be familiar with our mission and the general purpose of our business. Candidates that know the basics about what we do will better demonstrate that they are interested in the role and company. Job descriptions are a great place to start, but we also have videos, crew profiles, a LinkedIn page and other career search related websites.
Know why you want this role
You will most likely be asked why you’re interested in the role you’re applying for. Tailor your answer to what specifically led you here – the role had growth opportunities, the culture was appealing, or you have a passion for doing the right thing for clients. And it’s best to not simply read from the website – make your answer personal. Consider what made you click the “Apply” button – do you have a friend who works at Vanguard and their experience sounded attractive? Do our values match with yours? Take your answer beyond, “I need a job” by telling a story.
Present your best self
We all know that interviewing is difficult and it’s completely natural to have some nerves. Despite this, it’s better to not state how uncomfortable you are. Part of the interview assessment includes measuring your ability to handle challenging situations, so statements like, “I’m so nervous!” can come across that you’re unprepared for the discussion. Go in with the mindset that recruiters and hiring managers want you to do well – your interview performance doesn’t have to be perfect. Interviewers will appreciate confidence and professionalism, but be careful about coming across as overly confident. For example, use phrases such as, “If I were to move on in the role,” not when I’m hired.
Answering the uncomfortable questions
Some interview questions are uncomfortable because they suggest that you’re unreliable or a poor performer. For example, questions related to mistakes you’ve made or challenges you’ve experienced can seem like a trick. But answering these types of questions with responses such as, “I’ve never made a mistake,” isn’t going to reflect as well as it may seem. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. If you are asked to describe an error of some kind, know that it doesn’t have to be a major mistake. You can describe a miscommunication, a time you forgot to return an email, or when you misread a school assignment. Humility and the ability to correct your actions are good qualities to demonstrate. Plus, we want to hire people who are coachable and open to feedback.
Also, be careful not to inadvertently insult your interviewers when discussing schools, companies, or colleagues. A recruiter recalls the time a candidate described how they were offered a scholarship, but choose not to attend because the college was, “beneath them.” What they didn’t realize was that they were trashing the interviewer’s alma mater. Ouch!
“An interview is a great opportunity for you to present your best self and share the impactful experiences that demonstrate your skills.”
-Sarah H., recruiter
Asking questions will demonstrate your interest in the role, so always have a few in mind. Our recruiters love these questions:
What’s a typical day like in this role?
What’s the career trajectory?
How does Vanguard measure success in this role?
Which strengths are needed for the role?
Why do you choose to stay at Vanguard?
After the interview
Even if you decide you are no longer interested in the role, don’t “ghost” your recruiter. You never know when you may encounter them again, or find yourself interested in another role at Vanguard. As soon as you can, let the recruiter know that you’d like to withdraw. It can be a simple note, such as:
“I appreciate you meeting with me for the client services position. After some reflection, I don’t think I’m the right person for the role and would like to withdraw. Best of luck!”
If you’re comparing offers, feel free to call or email with questions. Recruiters can help you understand the job offer and our total rewards package. And it’s recommended that you avoid asking for immediate feedback regarding how you did in the interview – recruiters and hiring managers will need to reflect and collaborate on your interview before making any decisions.
You can use notes during a phone interview, but don’t sound like you’re reading from them.
Limit jokes, and keep conversation to neutral topics such as weather.
Make sure to eat before any in-person interviews as the process may take a few hours.
Bring your resume, a notepad, and a few pens.
Print directions to our office. You never know when technology may let you down.
If you enjoyed this post, check out more from our #LifeatVanguard Blog. And if you’re ready for a more rewarding, engaging, meaningful career, search our Client Services opportunities at www.vanguardjobs.com.
Going on my 19th year at Vanguard, I have had some time to reflect on all of the wonderful challenges and opportunities Vanguard has provided for me since I started in 1999. When I tell others how long I have worked at Vanguard, many are surprised that I have stayed in one place for my entire career. What they don’t understand is that I have changed careers multiple times without having to leave a company whose mission continues to motivate me each and every day.
Vanguard is different than many other companies as we harness a rotational culture, where you continue to build on skills and stretch yourself to learn new areas of the business. In addition to business rotations, Vanguard also offers many opportunities to earn advanced degrees and credentials, building deeper expertise along the way.
The first ten years of my career were spent in our Institutional business, where we serve retirement plan sponsors. While learning about the world of 401(k)s and 403(b)s, I was able to gain so much experience. I’ve worked on projects with IT, building new technology for our plan sponsors and participants, I’ve developed an expertise in fund accounting, I’ve learned to interpret stable value contracts (not the most exciting reading material if you were wondering!), and lastly—I’ve dug into how mutual fund distribution takes place across the industry each day. But there’s more. Over that time, I also had the opportunity to further my personal development by taking my education a step further. I completed my MBA and earned a retirement industry credential.
At that point in my career, I was ready for a change and decided to post for a role in our Financial Advisor Services division, a completely new business area for me. I was offered a role as Chief of Staff to the Managing Director of the division, which enabled me to see how strategic decisions are made by leaders every day at Vanguard. I was exposed to new investment products, and was responsible for investment, technology and talent development projects. It was an incredible learning opportunity, which came with a lot of risk but also so much reward. I went on to a Quality Champion role for the same division, where I learned more about process improvement techniques. It was in this role that my career path would change unexpectedly again.
One of the senior leaders I met through the Quality Champion role approached me with a unique opportunity to lead a transformation of a large operation in a group that is now known as Personal Advisor Services (PAS). I had never run a business transformation before, let alone a large business unit. But I knew I could do it. A year and a half later, PAS was up and running, and everyone was in the right seats and with a defined role in the department! What an awesome and challenging experience. Did I mention that I also had to take four licensing exams?
Since I was back in “study mode,” and surrounded by other financial planners, I decided to pursue yet another learning opportunity, and enrolled in a program to obtain the Certified Financial Planner® designation. I was studying so much in those couple of years that my daughter wrote about it in my Mother’s Day card! It had not dawned on me that she saw me working hard and studying, and that even though I had graduated a while ago, I was never done learning. In fact, I am now back in a client facing role, leading one of our Personal Advisor teams in PA, and proud to be part of the 23% of Certified Financial Planner®s who are women.
One of my favorite quotes is from the hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Some of the moves I have made in my career scared the heck out of me, but were also some of the best experiences I have had, and came with opportunities to grow and enhance my skills and expertise. I’ve never regretted taking the initial leap to join Vanguard or any of the steps on my career journey that followed, and can’t wait to see how the rest of my path unfolds.
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, check out our career opportunities at www.vanguardjobs.com.