Experiential / Reality-based Learning / May 2, 2016

Smith Hosts “Real Life, Real Talk” Conference for Juniors and Seniors

Smith Hosts “Real Life, Real Talk” Conference for Juniors and Seniors

Smith student Philip Peker ’18 writes about the “Real Life, Real Talk ” second annual conference on April 14, 2016, sponsored by the Undergraduate Program and the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The countdown has begun. You are nearing the finish line in your major coursework. You’ve just locked down a junior summer internship. You are staring into the face of senior year with a bittersweet taste in your mouth. So what happens next? Life is about to come pick you up and hurl you into the real world, where safety nets are few and far between. Are you ready?

For many juniors at Smith, these questions weigh heavy. Luckily, the Smith Undergraduate Program and Office of Career Services have partnered with SECU to bring to the school “Real Life, Real Talk,” an annual conference that provides support through answers regarding the real world, careers, personal finance, and more. This year’s conference occurred on the evening of Thursday, April 14, 2016. 

SECU, Maryland’s leading credit union and a longtime ally of Smith, curated the evening. “We want to give you the necessary financial literacy and tools early on, so that as you grow through your education and then graduate, you are ready to make the smart financial decisions that will put you on the right path,” said Sarah Ryan, one of the representatives from SECU.

The evening was broken down into three parts. The first part was an introduction to FICO. The second section was learning how to smartly negotiate and navigate a job offer. And finally, the evening concluded with a panel of recent Smith alumni who had a thing or two to say about financial literacy and the importance of knowing the ins and outs of personal finance in the real world. The entire event was a fantastic chance to network and gain new perspectives on a topic that is rarely discussed within the classroom, but arguably more important than any single class at Smith.

James “Toby” Smith of SECU led the “Who is FICO” master class. He discussed what a FICO score is, how it is computed, and an overview of credit, including the “4 Cs of borrowing” and the difference between a credit report and a credit score. He also talked about how college students can get ahead in learning about credit, and why this is imperative to a successful and stable post-graduate life. “Your credit rating is one of the very few things that will impact everything you look to do; from the big things like buying your first home or even car, to applying for your first job or switching cell phone plans. It touches every aspect of your life, and so one must start thinking about credit early on,” he said. He also suggested educating oneself further on credit, whether its through Google searches or annualcreditreport.com, and of course, stopping into any SECU location and talking to a representative. “That’s what we’re here for, to educate.”

The second “master class” was given by Dr. Joyce E. A. Russell, senior associate dean at Smith. In her detailed presentation, Dr. Russell shared her top tips for negotiating, especially when it comes to compensation, monetary or non-monetary. Some major takeaway tips were to first and foremost, have a formal, written offer from an employer, make sure to not start talking about money immediately, and establishing your BATNA, best alternative to a negotiated agreement. She stressed the importance of being persistent, but also knowing when to walk away. Being prepared for a conversation with an employer on this subject requires research and knowing the worth of your skillsets. She rounded off the information session by answering some questions and providing additional resources and readings.

Finally, four Smith alumni had endless information and experiences to share regarding financial literacy, credit and winning in the real world. Nuggets of advice like finding out what style of work-life balance you want, getting a credit card early on to start developing a credit score history, and knowing exactly what you prioritize in a job (creative freedom, autonomy, free time, pay, benefits, etc.) were just a few of the major takeaways.

The evening concluded with some light snacks and further opportunities to network. The magic of the event was seen in its full glory as students left smiling and walking lighter, now knowing that the real life is not that frightening after all; it’s all about taking the first step and having the “real talk.”

For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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