Wall Street

Career journeys: From the military to investment banking

Earning an advanced degree from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School helped Croft Young (MBA ’09) successfully transition from the U.S. Marine Corps to an investment banking career at Morgan Stanley. We asked Young to share his insights and advice on navigating a career change.

What advice would you give others contemplating or navigating a career change?
Do your research and have a clear path to where you want to be once you’ve “transitioned.” Make sure that others have gone before you and found success. Even though the path may be challenging, you want to know it can lead to your desired outcome.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced in navigating your career transition?
Access. In the current hiring environment, everyone is looking for a very specific set of skills and experience – whether or not they are necessary to succeed in the position. It is very challenging to win a position in many competitive industries (finance, consulting, consumer brand marketing, etc.) and Fortune 500 companies without either already being in the industry or coming through a recruiting pipeline (usually undergrad or graduate education programs). I found an MBA program to be my best opportunity to break in, and UNC Kenan-Flagler had the recruiting relationships with the types of companies I wanted to work for. I also graduated in a tough economic environment where coming from a top-rated MBA program was a huge benefit in the job search.

What is the most important lesson you learned from navigating your career change?
Changing careers is not as daunting as it may seem at first. Access is one of the most difficult things to gain – but once in, people are people. Your new career will still be a job filled with colleagues like yourself, most of whom went through a similar transition at some point in the past.

Carry yourself with the confidence that you deserve to be there but the humility of a novice and you’ll be fine. Own what you don’t know. You’ll be new, and no one should expect you to know everything right away – so don’t pretend that you do. You’ll bring enough value from your past experiences to get by until you do know the new job.

This article was first published in The Career Issue of UNC Business magazine, available via our iPad and Android apps and to view on desktop.