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Six Figure Jobs for MPA Graduates: “Insider” Tips

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Chelsea Binns
August 18,2015

Last month, my column discussed lucrative opportunities for recent MPA graduates in the financial industry. By popular demand, this article will expand on that piece by offering key “insider” tips for job seeking MPA graduates looking for positions in the financial industry.

Use Job Advertisements to Inform Your Resume

As discussed previously, the creative use of keywords (i.e., compliance, cyber, fraud, investigations, intelligence, policy, risk, security) and search operators will help applicants discover available positions on job boards.

Job advertisements are important for job seekers for several reasons. Primarily, they serve as invitations for potential applicants to join their organization.

Additionally, they provide savvy job seekers with key intelligence concerning the skills, abilities and qualifications sought in applicants. Wise applicants can tailor their resume to highlight those attributes and develop any desired skill set, in advance of applying for the job.

Use Coursework to Satisfy Experience Requirements

One key tip for recent MPA graduates is to use their coursework to satisfy experience requirements. MPA coursework provides a student with valuable experience, yet many job seekers overlook it on their resumes. Such coursework, including research projects and reports, evince valuable skills that should be promoted.

Many of my former MPA students have had great success using this technique. One student in particular added a section to her resume titled “academic projects/relevant coursework” where she listed each course particularly relevant to the position qualifications.

For instance, she added “Research Methods in Public Administration” and described her ability to compose a research paper, use SPSS for statistical analysis, create questionnaires and analyze survey data. Needless to say, she got the job.

My former MPA students have used this technique to land great positions in the financial industry. Students who took a course in investigative techniques added their investigative report-writing skills to add relevant experience to their resume.

MPA graduates who didn’t take a course with an investigative title recalled the “investigative” skills utilized in their other courses, such as conducting research projects and interviews and cleverly listed this as key experience on their resumes.

Tell Organizations How You Can Help Them

While it is critical to state your experience on your resume, it is just as important to convey said experience in the interview process. Job seekers should spend just as much time on their interview preparations as they do preparing their resume. A primary focus of those preparations should center on your ability to help the organization.

Applicants who cannot clearly express how they are a benefit to an organization will not be hired in a competitive market. For example, one applicant who interviewed with me for a key investigative position in the financial industry had a terrific resume and cover letter. She promoted her keen research ability through several projects in her MPA program.

Yet during the interview, she was unable to articulate this experience. When asked, she said she had “forgotten” what she put on her resume. While I was initially impressed with her application materials, her inability to discuss her work did not leave a strong impression.

Another applicant for the same position, also an MPA graduate, had a much stronger interview. Not only did she know her resume thoroughly, but also described the current challenges the hiring organization was facing. During the interview, she impressed the hiring managers by articulating those challenges and the ways that she could help tackle them. She, too, received a job offer.

Networking Happens Every Day

Students often tell me they have difficulty networking, because they do not “know the right people.” Thus, they are often surprised to learn “the right person” can be someone they already know or someone they meet in a chance encounter.

For instance, fellow MPA students and professors are excellent people with whom to network. Master’s students are often already employed (or they will be in the future) in key organizations, including those in the financial industry. MPA professors often know professionals in many industries and are informed about positions.

Enterprising job seekers will network with MPA students and professors, by striking up career conversations and informing them of his/her desired positions. People will remember these conversations and think of you when opportunities arise.

“Networking” also takes place during routine encounters. For instance, I once referred a candidate, who I originally knew as a real estate salesperson, for a key investigative position. My business interaction with her was very positive. When she told me about her interest in the field, I reached out to her when I knew of an available position.

Look at the Potential in Every Offer

Open-minded MPA graduates will see the potential in any position offered to them in the financial industry. While the six-figure job is the ultimate goal, recent grads may not receive that salary in their first offer. However, great workers can move up quickly in this industry. Recent MPA grads should keep this in mind when considering job offers.

Author: Chelsea Binns is an assistant professor at St. John’s University. She is also the second vice president and training director of the New York Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (NYCFE). Binns previously worked at Citibank and Morgan Stanley in New York, New York. She can be reached at [email protected].


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