At UVA, John majored in economics with a minor in environmental science, spending his summers between school years working as a door-to-door book seller. Unsure about what he wanted to do, he interviewed for a wide range of positions, including those in sales and finance. He started his corporate finance career at (P&G) in Cincinnati, working in “starting assignment” roles such as internal audit and forecasting analysis. During this time he worked on projects that would later become the Swiffer and Febreze brands. After 5 years, he switched his focus to operations and supply chain management, which he still works in. He also participates in On-Grounds recruiting on behalf of P&G.
Can you speak to how majoring in the College of Arts and Sciences helped you?
“If you’re a student in the CLAS, your writing and communication skills will be at an advantage over students in more technical majors. Schools such as Engineering and Commerce tend to have a limit on what courses you can take, which narrows focus to the analytical side versus the more well-rounded approach an economics major will take you on.”
What do you love about your role?
“I like the purpose and values that P&G espouses, and I love working with my coworkers. It’s important when looking for a job that you find a company whose mission and people you like. My reason for gravitating to supply chain and operations is because it’s even more about the people that something like corporate strategy. For example, in operations, there’s over a thousand people that work together, which translates to lots of opportunities to be a leader, to communicate, and to improve performance among your peers.”
What skillsets outside of coursework would be relevant to corporate finance?
“You should be able to demonstrate some skill that lies outside the focus on your major. This skill can be on the softer side, like general knowledge of statistics, or on the harder side, such as fluency in data visualization tools like Power BI and Tableau. On the more basic end, knowing to check your emails and messages regularly is important, as is knowing how to communicate succinctly. In terms of on-grounds activities, try to show interest in business and finance by either joining some business-related club or taking a position like treasurer.”
Recruitment is a stressful time for students; do you have any strategies for virtual recruiting?
“Focus on online applications and assessments; assessments help filter out applicants who don’t pay attention to the process, so you should be careful when taking them if they’re part of an application. Having connections at a company is a good way to follow up on applications, and they can speed up the overall process since there’s so many applicants to get through.”
“As for interview strategies, make sure you have your best several stories lined up. Stories are very important during interviews because they can usually fit a wide range of questions. These stories are best spread between school experiences, work experiences, and extracurriculars. The first couple of minutes of an interview are also important, and you should build rapport and show that you’re comfortable in the environment.”
Many students did not have the opportunity to participate in internships this summer. What is your advice to those people?
“I never had an internship as an undergrad; they’re not necessary for a meaningful summer experience. Right now is a good time to pause and reassess what it is you want to do. Ideally, you should be able to demonstrate that you’re trying to improve yourself. Things like reading more, doing online coursework, teaching yourself something, are all good ways to show that. This is also a good time to network over the internet. Think about ways to give back to your community in a time like this; it’s a great demonstration and could be an opportunity for a great story!”
How would you define corporate finance, and why did you decide to do it?
“Working in corporate finance means you work for and represent the shareholder; your decisions will be focused on growing market value in balance with other concerns. An advantage to starting your career in corporate finance is that it tends to have more job openings than investment banking and financial services.”
“I like the analytical and strategic aspects of finance. I interviewed for corporate finance as well as sales positions; P&G happened to choose me for finance. It’s not as cutthroat as stereotypes suggest and after a while you will realize that it’s normal to learn on the job. Finance for large corporations is largely a collaborative environment.”
Anything else you’d like to share?
- “As you go through the process, comfort yourself; you go to a good school, you’re listening to (or reading) this, so you’re already on the right path.”
- “During the interview, make sure to interview the employer as well; ask them tough questions and make sure you really do want to work for the company.”
- “Emphasizing the employer over the field when looking can help you later down the path if you want to change positions, since a company you work well with will want to keep you and accommodate your change in interests.”