Charlie is a senior Business and Environmental Studies double-major. This summer, he will be entering into General Electric’s Financial Management Program (GEFMP). He will be taking classes and working in various roles for companies across the US and internationally.
Q: Describe a typical day at your job.
A: “We rotate through different roles: a treasury role, where you’re looking at accounting aspects and the ins and outs of cash flow for the companies. An analyst role, or a project development role, where you’re looking at the finances of a project and whether its going to be a good project to invest in. So you see different companies, you learn different skills. And there’s also an element of ongoing education. There are classes that you take, and get grades for. Then the grades you get in your classes paired with the analysis of how you perform in your job by your manager ranks you amongst your peers. Then the top performing people will have the best opportunity for the coolest locations. ”
Q: What past work experience do you have in clean-tech?
A: “I’m a board member for a non-profit called the United Solar Initiative. We’re actually going to be starting as an official organization here on campus next year. We work to provide underserved communities with either clean water or electricity via solar energy. We’ll provide expertise and equipment in solar energy to our partners in Nicaragua, and also World Vision–which is the largest supplier of clean water in the world. We work with them to equip solar panels with clean water pumps that would help to mechanize the traditionally hand cranked system and provide for 10 times the amount of clean water as the traditional hand cranked pump.
This past summer of my Junior year, I was in a financial role, but I was working with energy services. So I was performing financial responsibilities, but it was on projects like wind turbines, solar projects, things like that.
The summer of my Sophomore year, I worked for the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. There, I did some basic internship duties and helped to put together one of the classes that they teach.”
Q: What skills did you need to learn that other job-hunters should cultivate?
A: “I think it’s a combination of what you learn here in school and then actually putting things into practice. One thing that I think that I’ve benefited from personally would be that I have the business and the environmental studies. I’ve learned concrete business skills in business school and been able to apply those; whereas in other tracks of education, you learn more conceptually, and then when you go to apply it, you’re learning more on the job.
You want to have a skill–something you’re good at–that makes you attractive to companies. If you’re really good at GIS, that’s an attractive skill. Quantitative skills, that’s very attractive. Communication skills are also very attractive. ”
Q: Describe a time you messed up at work or were uncertain of what to do. What happened? How did you handle it? What did you learn?
A: “My summer project was comparing pro forma to actual data, to see how we were comparing to what we thought we were going to be doing. I started with linking models in Excel to consolidate data.
My manager was pretty busy, so we didn’t have a ton of time for her to check up on me. But once we started to actually walk through it and look at some of the things I was doing, there were a couple of areas that I was linking incorrectly. That was just me not understanding the original models. The way it was handled: she told me what I had to do and I owned up to it. Then I just learned from it going forward.
As long as you can show that you’re not going to make the mistake again, that you learned from it, then that’s something that’s very attractive from an employer’s perspective. People don’t care if you make a mistake–you’re new. Just don’t make it twice. ”
Q: What is the #1 thing you wish you’d known earlier during job-hunting?
A: “The Clean Tech Summit. Honestly, that’s been the coolest thing that I’ve been a part of at UNC. Just because of all of the different people they bring in–high profile employers. It’s an awesome way to get internships. I had multiple opportunities where, if I didn’t already have a position, I could have pursued things to get a position.
Going to career fairs, those opportunities to interact with employers, that’s a crucial part of the job hunt. Info sessions that Careerolina puts on for companies–go to those and network! Meet somebody on a personal level, get their card, follow up with them the next day saying, ‘It was so great to meet you, I would love to hear more about your role in the company’.
Always remember specifically one thing that they said. If you can have that one personal connection, that’s going to set you apart from other people. It’s a very good way to start a conversation with someone–without outright saying, ‘I want a job.’”