Sheryl Sandberg once said, “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” The concept behind this quote is that if your career is like a ladder, it could place you in a position of limitation – you only can move up, down, or off the ladder. However, if your career is like a jungle gym, there is more creative freedom to move around, explore, and get to the top of the structure in different ways. Your career jungle gym may include re-entering the workforce, overcoming external barriers, or switching careers, leading you down a path of detours, dead-ends, or forks in the road.
Rhiannon’s Route to TD Ameritrade
For Rhiannon C., a Financial Services Representative at TD Ameritrade, her jungle gym included switching to a career in finance after graduating with a double degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in political science and international relations. Rhiannon’s previous work experience includes many internships in the Washington D.C. Metro Area including working as a Congressional Intern for Congressman Brad Ashford, working for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) as a Foreign Agricultural Service Intern, and helping the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights create a strategic plan for diversity.
With such an emphasis on politics, I was interested to know how Rhiannon ended up working for a finance firm. Rhiannon stated, “I never wanted to go into the financial industry. The most financial experience I had was either writing reports for USDA or taking money at Starbucks. When the pandemic happened and I graduated in May of 2020, I accepted an opportunity to be a translator for Disney’s new Star Wars theme park because I speak French and was very excited.”
Rhiannon’s excitement soon turned into despair as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the theme park was forced to shut down their doors: “They canceled all of their programming, so I was just out of a job.” Thankfully, Rhiannon explained that she was also offered another opportunity to teach English in France and had previously lived there for a year. “I wanted to go back and I got offered my dream position in France in my favorite part of the country, so it was where I wanted to be. Then the pandemic happened, and they said they’d keep the opportunity open and make it work.”
Unfortunately, Rhiannon’s opportunity also came to an end as France closed their borders to visitors soon after the pandemic started. Rhiannon mentioned how she ended up just declining the offer and this closed-door led her to her next opportunity: a job at TD Ameritrade.
“I graduated, had no job lined up, so I went and lived back home in Omaha where I grew up. I saw the TD Ameritrade headquarters building being built and I saw that they were hiring.” By this time, Rhiannon had been out of a job for half a year and decided to apply. Rhiannon mentioned how she was going through some medical issues at the time she applied and with no hesitation TD Ameritrade welcomed her with open arms: “With the medical things that happened, they still kept me on and just delayed my start by a month to allow me to recover and I knew from the second I met with a rep to talk about this opportunity that TD Ameritrade was going to be awesome. I’m grateful I took this job and the reason I love this is the opportunity to move out of the customer service support area and into different career fields that match what I want to do with my career.”
Transitioning from Service to Cybersecurity
From helping clients place trades to solving a problem over the phone, working with people is one of Rhiannon’s favorite things and what brought her to TD Ameritrade to begin with. In Rhiannon’s current role as a Financial Services Representative, her day-to-day can vary depending on what her client needs help with. As Rhiannon got acquainted full time with her other team members, she fell in love with her position: “The most rewarding thing is getting to help people. That could be helping them get situated with a financial consultant or make a process simpler for them to help take some stress away, especially since a lot of people were heavily affected when the pandemic happened. It’s really rewarding to see someone get excited about the financial industry and I think that’s something that everyone should have access to, so it’s really nice to provide those resources for people.”
One of the many benefits to starting your career in Service is that you are able to speak with a variety of clients, which can help narrow down what department interests you most. In Rhiannon’s case, she expressed her interest in working in the Financial Intelligence Unit, which deals with fraud investigation: “I decided to go back to school and get a second degree in Cybersecurity, so I can get a Masters in Counterterrorism. Right now, I’m trying to network with all the people who work for fraud investigation for TD Ameritrade to start getting into an analyst position. A lot of what they do is money laundering reports and similar stuff, but you still have to analyze a lot of information and that’s what I want to do.” Rhiannon also elaborates how a career in Service has provided the necessary education for her to be successful in her current role: “I can genuinely say I have learned more from phone calls than I have through a textbook about the financial industry. They put you through six months of training and you get paid to learn about the financial industry.”
Words of Advice
For anyone considering a financial services role within TD Ameritrade, Rhiannon offers her words of advice: “I think the biggest piece of advice for anyone in the field is that if there is a company that has an area you’d like to work in and you’re interested in applying, apply for a ground-level position and work your way through because with most companies, the easiest way to move into the role you want to is not by directly applying for that role, but working through the company to get to that role. You also make a lot more connections this way and gain the experience that the company wants. Especially getting started in the financial industry, come open-minded – you don’t need to have a finance or math background. You can come from art and still learn finance. It’s okay to put yourself out there and try something new. There are so many supportive individuals who will help make it happen and make the career that you want to have.”
Lastly, Rhiannon touched on how to navigate transitioning from college to a corporate setting: “When you're coming from college and you’re going straight into corporate America, it is a big shift. Always talk to everyone you meet - even if you're in training, you do not know if the person next to you is eventually going to become like the Vice President of finance for a company. It's very, very possible. Additionally, I think it's so important for people who recently graduated or are looking at going into a new career field to keep the doors behind you at least cracked open – just because you go through a door doesn't mean you can't come back through a door. They work both ways. I didn’t know what would happen after applying to TD Ameritrade and now I’ve had so many coaching and new life experiences. It doesn't hurt to try new things, especially for people recently graduating college. I think there is a stigma that you have to go into the field that you just got your degree in, but don't shoot down a shot just because it's not the career that you were thinking you wanted to have. It's okay to take a very elaborate path to get to where you want to end up.”
If you’re ready to see where a career in Financial Services can take you, check out a list of our open roles in Financial Services at Schwab.