Market woes concern student job seekers



Lee Betancourt

For weeks, the Wall Street Journals available around campus have detailed the tumultuous financial situation on Wall Street, and the stock ticker in the Exchange has broadcast the real-time diminishing numbers. As the crisis has intensified in the past few days, however, so have the effects for the nation – and for students at Villanova.

Seniors in the Villanova School of Business who thought they had secured jobs for after graduation are now unsure of whether they are still employed. Students seeking internships and career advice in financial fields are now met with a harsh reality. Many affected companies pulled out of Tuesday’s Career Fair and forced the postponement of a Wall Street networking event that was to happen today.

“A lot of these firms are still hiring,” said Jennifer Mullen, Career Services’ assistant director of Student Services. “[They] just aren’t hiring as many.”

Mullen suggested that several Wall Street firms opted to not attend the Career Fair because they are hiring from their already established internship pools.

Senior Christa Roundhouse entered the school year with a job at Lehman Brothers after completing a summer internship there.

“When I left in August, things kind of seemed to be on the upswing,” she said. “It’s really been a downturn in the past two weeks only. No one believes me when I say that the morale was really high there.”

Although Roundhouse does not know what will become of her job offer, she said that she thinks it is safe to assume that she should look elsewhere due to Lehman Brother’s declaration of bankruptcy on Monday.

“It’s really unfortunate, but I guess it’s best that it happened at the beginning of my career,” she said.

While she pursued finance, Roundhouse also majored in international business and accounting, and she says she plans to apply to jobs and companies in these sectors.

Non-seniors have a bit more time to insulate themselves from the financial crisis by picking up specializations other than finance, just as Roundhouse did with international business and accounting.

Junior Kathleen Nihill is a finance and international business major who has been considering a minor in another business discipline like economics or accounting to better round out her resumé.

“There’s a little more stability in accounting [as opposed to finance],” she said. “I’m reluctant to take more courses in accounting, but I think I will have to.”

Nihill had planned to attend an “Interviewing on Wall Street” panel and networking reception scheduled tonight by the Equity and Fixed Income Societies.

Due to the market turmoil, however, the event was postponed, and the Clay Center is looking to reschedule it near the end of October.

“The alumni and employee representatives were unable to leave the offices due to the market conditions,” said Brenda Stover, director of Professional Development and Business Institutes at the Clay Center. “Several of the speakers were managing director-level employees who were needed to supervise. The decision to postpone was based on input from alumni.”

Aside from affecting on-campus events, the news from Wall Street caused concerns from students looking for careers in finance.

Seniors Erica Britton and Joe Russell also went into their senior year with jobs – this time with Merrill Lynch. Bank of America acquired the company on Monday, leaving both Britton and Russell in somewhat of a state of limbo.

“My [job] offer still stands as of now,” Britton said, although she had only heard this through other people in the same situation after missing a phone call and having her e-mail bounce back due to a full Merrill Lynch e-mail server.

Even so, she is playing it safe. After hearing about the takeover on Sunday night from the Wall Street Journal, Britton decided to look at other career options. She is looking at her other major, accounting, as another more “secure” option.

“I even had to go home and get a suit for the career fair,” she said, demonstrating that she was caught by surprise at the financial meltdown and not expecting to have to look for a job anytime soon.

Russell echoed the fears of many Villanova seniors.

“You don’t know if you’re going to have that job come graduation,” he said. “Bank of America could still honor it, but if they do, will it be in the same capacity?”

For students in situations similar to Russell and Britton, Stover recommends retooling to adapt to the changing job market.

“Students should prepare to job search as if they didn’t have an offer,” Stover said. “Obviously, they should still honor their acceptances [when applicable]. In the meantime, students should revise their resumé and update their GoNOVA account profile.”

Another option for students who may have trouble finding their ideal job is to continue education, as Taylor LaBarr, a 2008 VSB graduate who is now earning his Masters of Science in finance at Villanova, did.

After being offered a job at Merrill Lynch that he did not consider the perfect offer, LaBarr decided to earn his MSF.

“It’s opening doors for me and will give me an edge up to be considered for jobs,” he said. “And in retrospect, I’m now especially glad I’m not at Merrill Lynch.”

Students who are still looking for new jobs and internships in the financial services industry will likely have a difficult time finding a job.

“For the financial services field, there is clearly limited and declining recruitment on the part of Investment Banks, but that’s been the case even before the weekend,” Stover said.

However, on a larger scale, the job market for students looking to break into the field of finance may not be as bleak as it appears at first glance. Stover noted that other sectors within finance continue to boast a strong job market and that the strain in the financial services job market may force some students to reconsider other opportunities which may be better suited to their skill sets.

“It can have a positive effect on those who were blindly following the Wall Street and investment bank path,” Stover said. “It will likely force students who may be better suited for corporate finance, marketing and management to now seriously look at those opportunities.”

Some of these opportunities may manifest themselves in the coming weeks. For example, on Sept. 24, GE will host an information session about its world-renowned Financial Management Program, which has hitherto received little attention from Villanova students.

Stover said that students need to stay optimistic, saying, “Look at the other opportunities out there and be open-minded about opportunities you’d consider.”

Stephen Buszka and Laura Welch contributed additional reporting to this article.