Considering a career in finance? Don’t limit yourself to a couple of areas of work, but rather explore everything the field has to offer.
A career in finance is not for everyone. Some find the work hours to be endless, dislike the pressure of managing other people’s money, or think it is unfulfilling. Not Paul Bommarito. Growing up outside of Detroit, Bommarito saw how much of a negative impact making poor financial decisions had on people’s lives. Since then, he has seen finance as a way to help people and has found great meaning in it.
Transferring from the sunny campus of Pepperdine University after his sophomore year, Bommarito didn’t let Chicago’s cold, windy weather prevent him from falling in love with Northwestern. Coming in, he knew a bit about finance but wasn’t completely sure about what sort of careers existed in the field. Having heard about investment banking he decided to enroll in a business institutions course on the subject.
“It was really interesting. But it was also scary because you hear the stories about the 100-hour workweeks and about a lot of people who didn’t feel there was a lot of meaning and purpose behind it. At the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with finance.”
Still wanting to know about other careers in finance, Bommarito applied to the Chicago Field Studies program. In the program, students spend one quarter at an internship in Chicago, in a field of their choosing. Students can apply to the program with an internship already secured, or once admitted, receive guidance on finding an internship which suits their professional aspirations. According to the program’s website, 95 to 100 percent of the students admitted into the program are able to secure such an internship.
“It’s really just a phenomenal program. If you have an interest in an industry, they more than likely have a company who is in that space,” says Bommarito.
This past winter quarter, Bommarito worked in Goldman Sachs’ private wealth management division. It gave him an opportunity to collaborate with brilliant people and learn more about the financial industry. He hopes to use this experience to achieve his dream of going back to a city like Detroit and advising people with little money saved on how to invest it wisely.
“I was able to jump into that internship and just soak in a lot about how financial advisors think about investments and how they help their clients. It was a crucial learning experience for me,” Bommarito said.
Students in the Chicago Field Studies program also participate in a class in which they talk about their internship experiences, learn about their particular industries, and discuss topics such as business ethics. In Bommarito’s class, discussion topics ranged from the biggest accounting scandals in American history to underrepresentation of minority groups in the workspace. For Bommarito, this all made the Chicago Field Studies experience more than just an internship.
“The CFS class is by far the most important part of the entire experience. It really helps you think about what you’re learning and what really matters to you. Guest speakers get brought in and share their stories. You hear a mindset about thinking creatively, and that was crucial to my learning experience,” Bommarito said.
Looking back, Bommarito says being informed is the best thing students interested in finance can do. He has noticed that students often choose careers because of their reputation or their glamour, without knowing much about them. He recommends that students do research before deciding on a career path.
“Get involved with groups on campus that are educating you on what’s out there. Talk to juniors and seniors. But go beyond that. There are so many alumni that are involved in every financial sector out there, whether that is commercial banking, investment banking, hedge funds, or private equity. Talk to them,” Bommarito said.
He also recommends reflecting on your passions and dreams.
“Think about what matters to you. If it’s getting a really strong foundation in financial valuations, by all means go into investment banking. If you want a really good skill set about evaluating business strategies, consulting is a great space to do that. But if you want to get involved in a startup, do it. There are many careers out there, so be open minded and hopefully you’ll find something you’ll find really interesting.”