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A career in finance on Wall Street is not on the radar for some undergraduates, especially young women. But Beth Chartoff Spector ’91 is changing that by taking time to mentor Cornell students.
A Cornell graduate in economics with an MBA from Wharton, Chartoff is a Senior Managing Director at GSO Capital Partners, the credit investment arm of the Blackstone Group, a Wall Street investment firm.
For several years, Chartoff has hosted regular breakfasts at Blackstone and also visited the Ithaca campus to meet with groups of Cornell women, about 15 at a time. She talks with them about career possibilities in her industry and fields their questions while also helping them learn how to position their resumes, get interviews, and land jobs. It's a role she enjoys and hopes to expand over time.
"Working in finance is not an area that a lot of women focus on early in college," says Chartoff. "They may not have been exposed to it, and it may not be on their radar. But Wall Street is a tremendous place for a woman to start her career. All Wall Street firms are focused on increasing diversity to reflect the diversity of their client bases. There are few places where a young graduate can gain as much experience and exposure at a young age than on Wall Street."
Chartoff, who heads Blackstone's initiatives to attract and retain women, says that she helps students better understand the kinds of careers that are possible in finance and why Wall Street is a great place to launch their careers while also giving concrete advice. Students have represented many majors, not just economics and finance, and she encourages them to pursue diverse interests and take advantage of all that Cornell offers, whether in the liberal arts or in other areas.
"Finance is not rocket science," she explains. "If you are a quick learner you can pick that up pretty quickly. At the same time it's helpful for students to pursue a class or two in financial accounting to become familiar with the vocabulary so you don't show up completely green and so that the recruiting firms know you are interested in it.
"Today Wall Street employers are looking for students who have a lot to bring to the table," she says. "Cornell students are well-rounded. They are terrific writers, have critical reasoning skills, communicate succinctly and are generally more well-rounded than students we hire from undergraduate business programs. "
After small group meetings, a number of students contact Chartoff later for advice, specific information about particular jobs, or a confidence boost. Chartoff says that's when she feels most helpful.
"It's those follow-up conversations that can lead to good one-on-one mentoring relationships", she says. "That's when I feel instrumental as they get started in their first jobs."
Her advice for other alumni who would like to mentor Cornell students: "To the extent that you can make yourself available to a select number of students who reach out to you and develop an ongoing dialogue informally – I think that's when the high impact is really felt."
Rebecca Sparrow, who directs Cornell Career Services and helps to foster alumni-student connections, says that volunteers like Chartoff make a powerful difference to students as they plan for careers and professions. Alumni interested in talking with Cornell students may contact Sparrow at 607-255-2723 or firstname.lastname@example.org.