“Look in the mirror tonight and ask yourself what you want to do and what you want to get out of your Fletcher experience. Ask the hard questions and be honest with yourself,” Rachel Gottesfeld (F05) recommended, giving Fletcher students a unique homework assignment. “Even if you’re not really sure of what you want, choose something and stick with it.”
The Vice President in the Renewable Energy Finance Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch returned to The Fletcher School on Thursday, Oct. 26 to take part in the Geoffrey and Cyrena Fink Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series. Geoffrey Fink (F94) and Cyrena Fink (F95) established the speaker series as a way to introduce students to Fletcher alumni in order to gain valuable career insights and receive mentoring opportunities.
An intimate group of students along with administrators from the Office of Career Services and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations gathered for the lunchtime talk to discuss life during and after Fletcher. Professor of Practice Barbara Kates-Garnick introduced Gottesfeld, saying the speaker series creates a “holistic opportunity to talk about careers, development and more.”
Discussing her career path, Gottesfeld stressed the power of lifelong networking. “The best advice I can give to all of you is to ferment your existing network and build it,” she said, driving home the point that networking is, in fact, equally as important as academics, and something Fletcher students shouldn’t neglect while focusing on their studies.
While at Fletcher, Gottesfeld sought to cultivate new quantitative skills and honed her networking skills enough to score a valuable summer internship. “Things don’t happen if you’re not assertive,” she explained. However, she also advised students that the first couple of jobs taken right out of school aren’t always going to be glamorous. “Be realistic with what’s available,” she recommended.
Building a career, Gottesfeld said, is similar to building a savings account, and one must possess a long-term perspective in order to do so. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she explained. “It takes a long time to build a career, and it’s not going to happen overnight.” Kates-Garnick echoed these sentiments, telling students it’s useful to gain “exposure to different lines of business within a company.”
According to Gottesfeld, students should take advantage of local opportunities while studying in Boston, but should also consider taking their career search abroad in order to double the number of options available to them: “Fletcher is a great place, and you can do whatever you want to after graduating," she said, "You just have to be clear about what you want to get out of your career path and stick to it.”
Gottesfeld suggested Fletcher students seek out an internship between their first and second years, and said they shouldn’t view the art of networking as something that’s transactional, but "to think of it as relationship-building instead.”
The Fletcher alumni network is full of professionals willing to lend a hand, but Gottesfeld said students should still do their research before reaching out to alumni, and come to informational interviews prepared to ask the right questions.
In an increasingly digital world, Gottesfeld said the power of face-to-face contact and old-fashioned communication is still valued, and she cautioned students from over-using LinkedIn to connect. “LinkedIn has made networking easier, but it’s also made things more informal,” she explained. “In some cases, informality is almost a bit disrespectful.”
Reflecting on the road to success and the bumps she experienced along the way, Gottesfeld told students to stay loyal to their goals, and said they shouldn’t let setbacks deter them. When all else fails, she said, you can always “fake it ‘til you make it.”