Chris Hemler graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 with dual degrees in Finance and Accounting and currently works at Houlihan Lokey, an investment bank in McLean, Virginia.
What is a valuable lesson you learned as a student?
Preparation is key. I learned to prepare well and that will help in any work situation. In school that applies to exams and projects, and in the working world that translates to meetings and presentations.
What did you do as an undergraduate that prepared you for your career?
Getting as much work and leadership experience as possible. I worked part-time as a waiter at Bogen’s Steakhouse, which is now 622 North. Experience in hospitality and customer service was great exposure and taught me how to work with clients and different types of people. It’s also important to get involved and gain leadership experience as early as you can. I served as Philanthropy Chair for my fraternity and Director of Finance for the Interfraternity Council. Even small leadership roles in a club or class project will help prepare you for larger opportunities.
What is a highlight from your early career experiences?
After graduation I started a two-year rotational program with GE which involved moving every six months. I worked in Connecticut, Upstate New York, and Florence, Italy. It was a great experience to be able to live in a new place with different people, especially in Florence, where experiencing another culture as more of a local instead of a tourist.
What advice do you have for recent graduates?
Be open to try new things after graduation. Take opportunities to travel and don’t be afraid to go somewhere new where you might not know anyone. In my opinion, collecting experiences is more valuable than collecting things. You shouldn’t rule out trying something new or going somewhere unfamiliar because those experiences are often the most valuable. So be open to new places when you’re looking for a job or internship because that’s the best time to do it.
At the workplace, it’s important to be willing to go above and beyond, even on the small tasks. Recognize that you’ll begin to get a reputation as soon as you start working. Embrace it and use it to your advantage by making a strong first impression that will stick. Work hard, be humble and don’t think you are above any task- do your best at the small stuff.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy working with small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them meet their goals, whether that’s expanding their business, accomplishing a career goal, or setting up a long and happy retirement. I also enjoy the team setting and being able to work in a fast-paced and collaborative environment with really smart people.
Can you describe your involvement with the Recent Alumni Board?
I’m a member of the Outreach Committee, which helps develop the Recent Alumni Board’s communication strategy and drive awareness of Board activity. The Board is an important bridge between students and the administration because it allows Board members to engage with students and voice their perspective to the Dean and Advisory Council.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy watching sports, playing golf, and sharing good food and drink with friends and family. I like new experiences, whether that’s travelling to a new place, trying a different restaurant, or reading a new book. That reminds me, the Recent Alumni Board created a display at Newman library of books the Board recommends. I encourage students to check it out to see the books that made a positive impact on the careers of the Board members. As an example, my recommendation was The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Most people think that success leads to happiness, but this book reverses that equation and provides evidence that happiness actually leads to success. It’s a fun read and has a lot of good advice as you deal with the stress of finding and/or starting a new job. If you’re interested you can check out Shawn Achor’s TED talk on the topic as well.