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Rising Stars: Balancing Passion and Pragmatism
Like many an ambitious college graduate, Jeff's first after-college destination was the world of finance. He liked it, but he eventually decided to use his business skills to help a social cause.
Name: Jeff Davidson
Major: History and Environmental Studies
Years Out of College: 5-10
Jeff's first post-college job, located through his college's corporate-recruiting program, was in financial services. Working for a small firm that provided market research and advisory services on private-equity transactions helped Jeff acquire business research skills. Gradually, though, he decided to broaden the scope of his career.
Says Jeff, "Over time, I realized that I liked working in finance--but I sought an opportunity to leverage my business foundation to serve a different industry. I learned that I'd be happiest if I could find a way to do similar work that benefited a social cause, and that I'd be at my best if my head and heart were on the same page."
From Then to
"I majored in History and Environmental Studies, but I
minored in Education. My 'big break' was coming across a
small, growing firm that served the education sector and
needed analytically-minded business people. At the time, I
was in between full-time jobs and doing some contract work
for my current employer, Eduventures. I actually met my
future boss playing on the company soccer team. We got along
well on the field, which got us to talking in the office--and
I soon learned his group was looking for someone like me at
the same time that I was looking for someone like
"I am primarily charged with developing new research products
to serve the higher education industry. I spend a lot of time
on the phone with deans and other senior administrators at
colleges and universities, trying to understand their
business research needs. I also spend a lot of time reading
education-market research to stay abreast of trends and
happenings. I hypothesize on potential research offerings,
collect relevant research, analyze it, and then make
recommendations on the market opportunity."
Did I Ever Think I'd End
"I went to a liberal arts institution with an
interdisciplinary curriculum that fostered creative and
critical thinking. I thought that I ultimately wanted to work
in business, and I was hopeful that my lack of formal
training wouldn't prohibit a career in the field. By design,
the school didn't offer a lot of vocationally-relevant
courses. I particularly enjoyed the thematic courses located
at the intersection of various disciplines like history and
medicine, environmental studies and economics, etc. As such,
my professional location at the junction of education and
business is largely consistent with where my academic
"There are two pieces of advice that I've found particularly useful: (1) Don't burn bridges, particularly when you're interested in niche industries or when you want to work in a small town, and (2) The better prepared that you are, the better off you'll be, but serendipity plays a role too."
"If I could do things differently, I would have studied engineering in college and tried to work for an investment bank upon graduation. My peers that have these backgrounds are constantly presented with fascinating and lucrative professional opportunities. There's a dearth of twenty-something's with strong quantitative skills, an understanding of business processes, experience working with C-level executives, and a mind full of innovative thoughts. This bundle of skills is immensely valued by employers in every field--education, business, etc."
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