Alumni, faculty support help student land job a semester early

To have a job lined up in his chosen field a full semester before graduation took a lot of hard work on Shawn Peterson's part. But he's also quick to acknowledge he could not have done it without the support of UW-Eau Claire alumni and faculty.

In December, Peterson, a finance and economics double major from Chippewa Falls, accepted a job as an investment banker with Royal Bank of Scotland in Stamford, Connecticut. He'll start his new position in July, following his UW-Eau Claire graduation in May.

"After going out there, it felt like a great fit and the job seemed incredibly interesting," Peterson says. "Banking is also a great introduction to the world of finance and prepares you for countless future opportunities, which was another huge factor in me accepting the position."

UW-Eau Claire alumni connections were key to his success in the RBS hiring process, Peterson says.

His first alumni connection at RBS was with Tom Holtan, a 2009 business administration and history graduate who worked for the firm. (Holtan has since returned to his home town of Milwaukee, where he now works for Northwestern Mutual.) Peterson had reached out to Holtan via Blugold CareerLink, a service offered through UW-Eau Claire's Career Services office.

"Tom was a huge help in many aspects," Peterson says. "The main ones were helping me tweak my résumé and just being a source of information and answers."

In the fall, Holtan let Peterson know about job openings at RBS, provided him with an internal reference at the company and connected him with Will Blake, a spring 2014 UW-Eau Claire accounting and business finance graduate who now is employed at RBS as a corporate advisory analyst. Blake also completed an internship at RBS as an undergraduate.

"Will played a huge role in preparing me for the whole RBS job search experience," Peterson says. His fellow Blugold offered advice on preparing for the phone interview, what to bring to the in-person interviews, what to talk about at dinner and the types of questions to ask his interviewers.

"To sum it up, had it not been for Tom I would have never had a chance to interview," Peterson says. "But without Will, my chances at the interview would have been slim."

A career in finance is not what Peterson had in mind when he first enrolled at UW-Eau Claire. Initially he declared a major in kinesiology and intended to become a physical therapist. But after a period of questioning whether his initial choice was the right one, he sought advice from family (two uncles with careers in finance), College of Business faculty and, via LinkedIn, UW-Eau Claire alumni who "were more than willing to talk, and very encouraging," Peterson says. "They provided me with lots of good information and great advice."

Peterson has had three internships, at Northwestern Mutual, MMX Management and Orgel Wealth Management, since deciding to pursue finance and economics. Peterson credits Dr. Rajarshi Aroskar, professor and chair of UW-Eau Claire's department of accounting and finance, with helping him land both the Orgel Wealth Management and MMX Management internships.

"Dr. A was the first person I talked to when I thought about switching to finance and economics and has been a huge help ever since," Peterson says. "Anytime I had questions or just wanted someone to bounce ideas off of he was always willing to help."

Peterson, whose favorite classes so far have been in money and banking, investments and portfolio management, says UW-Eau Claire has prepared him for success —and he plans to give back when he can.

"I've had lots of awesome professors in many different subjects who have been very important in shaping my education and helping me get to where I am today. I look forward to keeping in touch after graduating and helping out future students in any way possible."