The short answer is not really. Student Engagement and Career Development surveyed three UA alumni who work for Vanguard, none of whom majored in finance or a major related to finance. So how did they find themselves so far afield of their major, working at one of the world's largest investment companies? This is the first in a series of three.
Thomas Johnson, Supervisor, Personal Advisor Services, grew up wanting to work in sports, and entertained the idea of becoming a professional athlete.
“I abandoned the idea of being a professional athlete pretty quickly in high school,” remembers Johnson. “I was just not athletically gifted enough to realize that dream.” As a sports fan, though, he still wanted to be involved with sports.
“I thought it would be really interesting to either be a sports broadcaster or a sports writer, which led me to becoming a Communication major and a Journalism minor at UA.”
His experiences in and out of the college classroom enabled Johnson to have a successful, decade-long career in sports broadcasting right out of college, but eventually he was ready to make a change.
“I’m the type of person that’s always looking to challenge myself and to continue learning and growing, so I was looking to make a drastic change for my second career,” explains Johnson.
Still, Johnson found himself relying on some old skills to open new doors.
“When I decided to switch gears and change careers, I truly saw the value of my Communication degree as numerous different industries listed it as a desirable major for jobs in their companies,” says Johnson.
And it was certainly a skill-set that helped him start a new career in finance at Vanguard, as well as having a growth-mindset.
“While I had no real business or finance background to speak of, I knew how to talk to people, which Vanguard also recognized. I still had the drive and desire to learn about finances, but no matter what change I have made in my career, I have always been able to fall back on my superior communication skills to get me through until I was able to fully educate myself on the nuances of the new role.”
In the end, it was the skills Johnson developed as a communications major that allowed him to forge different careers in very different industries.
“When I was in school, I did not even have a fleeting thought about the financial industry, and yet here I am a supervisor of financial advisors,” says Johnson. “It was a winding path, to end up in a role like this. But it was the best path for me, so it’s important for students to have an open enough mind to realize that not all paths are a straight line and to have the willingness and courage to take a different path when they feel it is time.”
“In the end, no matter what major you are, the more you learn and grow in this world, the better the person you will be in the end.”