Advice for Graduates - 4 experts perspectives

“I am a student at college / university / graduate school and interested in learning more about ethics and compliance. What advice do you have for me as a student on how to learn more about this area?  Do you have any career advice for someone about to graduate and whether I would be best suited trying to get a job for a company, government, a law firm or another type of employer (perhaps a non-profit)?”

Adam Balfour’s Advice:

The type of employer you work for is important, but I think more important is who will be your manager (and what can they teach you) and what type of work will you get to do.  If you go to a big and well-known employer, you will likely enhance your professional brand; however, a smaller organization might provide you with more hands-on experience and a broader range of matters that you might get to work on.  The first few years of your career are important for what you will learn and who you will meet – this is an important time to invest for your professional future and not simply to pick the highest paying job or job that looks best on paper.  

Joe Murphy’s Advice:

For those who are still in school, I have some definite advice.  While people generally think only of “corporate” compliance, there is another huge area of compliance:  colleges and universities.  Whatever college or university you are at, it will almost certainly have a compliance program; the range of compliance risks they have is extraordinary. Take some time and find out about that office and what it does. Talk with people in that program.  Then see if you can volunteer to help them. What better way to learn about compliance than by actually doing it? Plus you could add a resume item that shows you are truly interested in this field.    

I also recommend active research.  Do some reading of the compliance literature, including both print and online.  When you find an interesting piece, engage with the author.  Ask questions and let the author know where you think their piece hits the mark. This is a way to network with others in the field.  As an author I certainly appreciate knowing that someone read my work and was interested in the topic.  If any of your own faculty have written in the field you can do the same thing at that level.  Just make sure your comments reflect serious thinking and genuine interest.

Rebecca Walker’s Advice:

One of the great things about working in the compliance field is that people come from so many different backgrounds. You will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience whether you work with the government, a law firm, a company or a non-profit.  I would suggest seeking out a position that will afford you the greatest breadth of experiences. Compliance has a number of different facets and involves a large range of activities, from writing, to training, to interviewing, investigating, project management, legal analysis, and more. Try to find a position where you will have the chance to try your hand at as many compliance activities as possible. You may ultimately decide to specialize in a particular sub-area or to be a generalist, but it’s good to try your hand at all aspects of the field before you make that decision.

You can begin these explorations while you’re still in school.  Consider connecting with compliance professionals on LinkedIn, and asking professors and mentors for introductions. If feasible, it may be helpful to attend compliance conferences in order to meet people and get a better sense for the different types of jobs available.  One of my favorite things about the field of compliance is the willingness of compliance professionals to share their knowledge and expertise.  People will be happy to talk with you about their experiences and offer advice.

Jeff Kaplan’s Advice:

Finally, those considering C&E as a career need to be aware of the field’s ”dark side.” That is, while nearly all business and professional fields presumably carry some risk of suffering based on doing the wrong thing, such risk for doing the right thing is to some extent a particular feature of C&E.
This is not, to my mind, a reason to avoid working in C&E but it is something to be aware of in considering where specifically to work.

For example, it is possible for a Compliance Counsel to be pushed out of the company for challenging the sales practices of a “big producer.’ if the culture of that company is to put profitability over compliance.

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