Alum Spotlight, NY Edition: Melody Behnam

Your Inside Look at Life as a JMU Alum in the Big Apple

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Melody Behnam, Examiner at FINRA

As a recent graduateof JMU, Melody Behnam was determined to start a life in the “big city”. Having visited New York City the summer of 2004, Melody was certain that NYC was the right place for her. Prior to her graduation in May of 2005, she began searching for consulting jobs that would allow her to use the skills she had attained in working towards her BBA in Economics. She participated in an on-campus interview with BearingPoint (formerly KPMG Consulting). Following her interview, Melody was originally offered a position at BearingPoint’s headquarters in McLean, VA, however was able to negotiate a transfer to their NY office. She spent three years consulting for industry leaders such as JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers. After her time with BearingPoint, she decided to pursue her long-time dream of attending law school.  Melody recalls, “I remember waking up at 5:30 in the morning to take a practice section of the LSAT before going to work, reviewing my answers during my lunch break and taking another practice section upon returning home at the end of the day. Time is a valuable commodity in the city and you have to be creative in fitting things in”. In the fall of 2008, Melody began her first semester at the New York Law School.

Following graduation from NYLS, Melody began a new career as an Examiner for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), also in New York. In her new role she was responsible for completing a variety of tasks, such as conducting standard reviews of financial and supervisory records, presenting proposed examination strategies to the FINRA management and enforcement department, participating in training on new financial rules , and continuing her education for her legal license. Melody notes that in order to be successful at her job it is important that she maintains a healthy dose of skepticism as well as clear and concise analytical writing. She says, “When documenting my reviews I have to ensure my writing is clear and concise because it is subject not only to management review, but also to review by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clarity is especially important as the financial products and issues can be very complex”. The skills she developed while completing her Writing Rhetoric minor at JMU have aided her in perfecting her writing.

Melody notes that working in NYC requires specific personal qualities such as patience and a good attitude. She says, “No matter what industry you are in, New York is filled with leaders who build their success from hard work…it’s important to be enthusiastic and make the best of each task (no matter how administrative they may seem) because there are lessons in each experience, and people will notice”. Melody suggests that aspiring NYC professionals set goals and find mentors to help routinely assess their progress. She notes that doing so often leads to networking, connecting to potential opportunities and strategically planning a career. Melody advises, “You should look for contacts that have the job you would like in 1, 5 or 10 years, and ask them about their career path, feedback on your resume and your proposed career plan. However, be sure to ask for advice and not a job”. Another piece of advice Melody has for soon-to-be graduates is to maintain contact with alumni. She says, “Currently going through my next career transition, I still reach out to alumni of both JMU and NYLS who were listed in the career resource departments of my schools or on LinkedIn…Most people are very kind and will connect you with opportunities if something is available”.

We at Career and Academic Planning (CAP) can testify to this. We know that JMU alumni are more than happy to help other Dukes by providing connections and networking opportunities. An excellent resource that JMU graduates can use to reach out to other alumni is LinkedIn. Check out the JMU Alumni Association group, as well as other region, major and organization-specific JMU Alumni groups!

Stay tuned for our next edition of CAP <3’s NY to learn more about JMU professionals in NYC!

Written by: Kelly Gooch

Contact: goochke@jmu.edu

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