A Few Tips for Future MFINs

As the year draws to a close and I wrap up this chapter of my life, I will always look fondly upon my Master of Finance experience. The year moved too quickly, but I am grateful for the friends and mentors that have been a part of this whirlwind of an academic experience. Thanks to all the people that have read this blog. If I have been able to help anyone in their academic or professional pursuits, then I have achieved my goal. If any of you have decided to take a step toward completing a Master of Finance degree at Tulane, even better (And congratulations on an awesome decision!). I would like to give future MFIN students a few words of advice about my experience that I hope can help make your journey even more fruitful than mine. I have already covered a lot of these topics in prior blog posts, but I truly believe these are very important topics to keep in mind while going through the Master of Finance program.
Top 5 Tips for Future MFINs:
  1. Network early and often
Employers like that you are getting a master’s degree. It shows that you have taken a keen interest in something and that you are taking a shot at mastering the subject matter. That being said, if you don’t take every possible step you can to get in front of an employer, nobody will ever see any of your hard work. When I say “employer”, I don’t mean “fill out online applications”. Get a manager’s contact information and arrange a meeting. Travel to a different city or a different part of town and sit down for coffee, lunch, or a beer. Most importantly, don’t wait until the program is over. Start networking the moment you finish reading this blog post.
  1. Keep your professors in the loop with your job search
One of my biggest regrets was not keeping my teachers in the loop with my job search during the summer and fall semesters. One particular story comes to mind because it had such a significant impact on my GPA in the fall semester. I had a midterm on a Monday morning in October. I flew out of town that same afternoon for an interview. I interviewed all day on Tuesday and flew back to New Orleans on Tuesday Evening. Then I tried to study all night Tuesday and I took another midterm on Wednesday. The good news: I got the job. The bad news: I bombed both of the midterms. If I had kept my professors in the loop, I could have easily taken the midterms early or I could have pushed the midterms to later in the week. MFIN professors understand that one of the primary goals of students is finding a job and they are willing to work with you if you have interviews. I had to learn that lesson the hard way. Beyond the willingness to work with your schedule, our professors have connections in every corner of the finance industry and they are willing to put you in contact with professionals that can give you insight, career advice, and perhaps even a job.
  1. Optional Homework Isn’t Optional
I learned early in the program that the optional homework exercises are not optional. I can’t say that I went through every exercise step-by-step, but it is important to try and work through a majority of the problems. Understand the processes and concepts behind the questions.   These questions are your glimpse into how a test or quiz might be structured. It is important to be familiar with the homework questions if you really want to succeed on the tests. Whether the teacher looks at the homework or not, these assigned problems will affect your grade one way or another.
  1. Look beyond the numbers
By definition, finance is all about the numbers. Be the person that is willing to go beyond calculating a right or wrong answer. Be the person that the numbers speak to. Every ratio and every metric tells a story and you want to be able to interpret that. Throughout life you will encounter people with all different levels of financial literacy, and you should be able to translate the numbers into a story that even the financial novice can understand.
  1. Speak the language of Finance
While on the subject of telling a story, you should also be able to speak the language in which the story is told. Every subject has its own jargon, most of all finance. If you find yourself putting “thingy” or “whatchama’callit” at the end of a term, then you probably don’t understand what that term means and you sure don’t understand how to properly communicate it. Instead of saying “This stock has a P/E ratio of 5.2345,” try saying, “This stock trades at around five times earnings”. In an interview, a professional will understand the latter a whole lot better. The best way to learn the language is to immerse yourself in it. My favorite ways to immerse myself is watching CNBC or Bloomberg Television for at least an hour every day around the open or close of the markets, or I read the Wall Street Journal.
Tommy Milburn