UMSL students compete in Career Exploration Competition hosted by Finseca and Chapters of the Society of Financial Service Professionals

by | Mar 7, 2024

Finance majors Courtney Taylor and Carter Wiegman made up the 10th UMSL team in the past 11 years to advance to the finals of the competition.
Courtney Taylor, Gary Flotron and Carter Wiegman

UMSL business students Courtney Taylor (at left) and Carter Wiegman (at right) recently competed in the annual Career Exploration Competition hosted by Finseca and Chapters of The Society of Financial Service Professionals as part of the Financial ConNEXTion Educational Cruise. They were coached by Gary Flotron, the associate director of UMSL Financial Planning Programs. (Photo by Jeff Copeland)

Some students arrive at the University of Missouri–St. Louis knowing what profession they would like to pursue after they graduate, and they work toward that goal throughout their time in college.

Many others do not, but some students like finance majors Courtney Taylor and Carter Wiegman are lucky enough to make a study of a possible career – and they can even earn the opportunity to attend a conference on a cruise ship.

Taylor and Wiegman recently took part in the Career Exploration Competition sponsored by Finseca and Chapters of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. The competition gives teams of college students from around the country the opportunity to explore potential financial service careers by interviewing practitioners, learning from those professionals’ experiences and gaining insider career advice to determine whether or not a specific career in financial service is for them.

A select few teams of students, including Taylor and Wiegman, are chosen to compete in the finals while attending the Financial ConNEXTion Cruise Conference, which this year departed San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 24 and spent a week traveling throughout the Caribbean.

As part of the competition, Taylor chose to investigate the job of a trust officer while Wiegman chose a life insurance professional.

“I saw this competition as a great opportunity,” Taylor said, “and the networking opportunities were a big incentive to participate. I chose to investigate becoming a trust officer because I had never heard of this type of position before, and thought it sounded interesting just because it contained the word trust in its name.”

Wiegman wanted to learn more about becoming a life insurance agent after ruling many careers out. “I’m looking for a career where I can not only be successful, but one that I can be proud of, one that makes me happy to go in to work every day while also helping people meet their needs,” he said.

Taylor and Wiegman are just the latest team of UMSL College of Business students to qualify for the finals. In fact, UMSL teams have done so in 10 of the last 11 of these annual events.

All of the UMSL teams have been coached and prepared by adjunct faculty member Gary Flotron, associate director of UMSL Financial Planning Programs.

“This competition is a great way for students to learn about potential careers,” Flotron said. “Because they interview practitioners, it’s almost like reversing roles, letting them be the ‘boss’ in the interviewing process and ask all the questions.”

The Career Exploration Competition has two rounds, the first of which consists of preparing a paper researching and analyzing two financial service careers. Students are required to interview at least eight practitioners – UMSL’s team interviewed 40 – to develop an understanding of what their jobs entail and also learn about the traits these professionals feel are important for an individual to have in order to be successful in their professions.

The papers are submitted to the competition judges, who then review them blindly and choose finalists to submit an oral presentation. Taylor and Wiegman passed the first round of judging in November to advance to the presentation stage in late February.

The UMSL team’s preparations for the final round – an oral presentation they titled “The Music of Navigating a Career as a Trust Officer and Life Insurance Professional” – were just as rigorous as those for their paper.

Taylor and Wiegman took Kolbe A Index and Myers-Briggs personality tests to determine their individual traits and strengths to see if they felt those might be a good match for the careers they chose to investigate. They outlined and explained the characteristics, education requirements and professional certifications necessary for each of the professions. They shared highlights from the 40 interviews they conducted. They summarized their findings and shared whether they felt these jobs might ultimately be a good fit for them.

With a creative flourish to make them stand out, they put it all to music, using American standards like “I Believe in You,” “I Gotta Be Me,” “My Way” and “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go” to emphasize their points.

“We decided to put music in our presentation to add a little creativity and set us apart from the competition,” Wiegman said. “We’d heard some of the presentations could be a little dry and without much personality.”

In the end, Taylor and Wiegman’s ingenuity and hard work earned them a sixth-place finish in the competition.

As for the lasting impact of participating in the competition, Taylor said “I was so inspired by the successful women I spoke with who are working in a male-dominated field.”

“The overall experience was worth all the hard work and headaches,” Taylor added. “No other experience in my time at UMSL has been more enjoyable.”

Jeff Copeland

Jeff Copeland