It Pays to Be Curious and Build Connections
Here’s a lesson from a young alumnus: If you want to get signed, go beyond what’s assigned. Steven Gundersen '20, M.S. Finance '21, sought opportunities to learn, and those extra efforts catapulted him to his current position as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley.
Students in the School of Business develop their skills outside the classroom through experiences like independent research, networking with alumni, and specialized courses like Stevens' Student-Managed Investment Fund (SMIF).
Steven Gundersen did it all, and now he’s starting his career exactly where he wants to be.
A Curiosity for Finance
During his second undergraduate year, Steven conducted an independent research project, sponsored by professors George Calhoun and Jon Kaufman. “To distinguish myself from my peers, I decided to do a research project to determine a technical stock trading pattern,” he said.
What Steven couldn’t have predicted is how much that one project would affect his career. As a student interested in trading, Steven wanted to see if he could create a profitable strategy. Although he broke even with the strategy, the project did more for Steven than a profit would have. Steven’s independent research helped him land positions in the Stevens Student-Managed Investment Fund, at his first internship and even at his current employer, Morgan Stanley.
That project came up in every interview, and it is what caught professionals’ attention — because Steven took the special initiative to follow his curiosity. “I was not expecting it to help me so far out in my career,” he said.
Steven impressed interviewers with his experience and knowledge, but it was his networking efforts that provided those opportunities. During the year he spent earning a master’s in finance through the Accelerated Master’s Program, Steven committed to networking and outreach, specifically with Stevens alumni.
“I sent out 100 LinkedIn messages in one day. Then, within two days, I had 30 or 40 people respond for meetings.”
While balancing coursework and an internship, Steven met with those 30 to 40 professionals to learn more about the finance industry and what role would be the best fit for him. “I was surprised how many people were willing to give me their time and advice,” Steven said.
Professor Emmanuel Hatzakis, director of the finance master’s program, who is passionate about helping students launch their careers. Hatzakis connected Steven with a retired financial services executive who helped him land his first job.Among those generous people was
“This demonstrates the power of networking,” said Hatzakis, “which cannot be stressed enough when mentoring students.”
Steven has transitioned from full-time student to full-time employee, but he will continue to learn: “Even though I have my master’s and I’ve been in this role for a year, there’s still so much I don’t know.”
He has earned a host of financial certifications and is currently working toward his Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification. Steven is motivated to learn more about finance to help clients and become a more credible professional.
Working in financial advisory is rewarding, Steven said. “I can help individuals save and feel more comfortable with [their futures].”
From an engaged alumni network and specialized courses like the SMIF to its proximity to New York City, the School of Business offers many ways for students to develop skills outside the classroom and create opportunities. Extra effort can lead to extraordinary outcomes.