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Careers in Finance

CHAIRMAN : Kwame Jackson

Photo of Kwame Jackson
Kwame Jackson is probably best known for his appearance on the reality TV show THE APPRENTICE. In the first season of the show, he finished as the runner-up in the contest to become Donald Trump's protégé for one year.

More recently, Kwame has taken advantage of his exposure on THE APPRENTICE to launch a career as an entrepreneur with his own company. He is the chairman of Legacy Holdings LLC, which is a holding company. A holding company manages a number of different ventures through subsidiaries, or smaller companies that it owns.

We had a conversation with Kwame to find out what he loves about his career and what he did to get there.

Describe what you do in your career.
I'm an entrepreneur, professional speaker, and media personality, so it's hard to nail it down to a neat and tidy "job description." My goal is to take advantage of opportunities that life presents and turn them into economic pursuits. As an entrepreneur, I'm focused on establishing a small private investment firm to do real estate-development deals -- raising money from investors to acquire land, buildings, etc.

I've lectured at approximately 200 different venues, from colleges to corporations and civic groups, and have made some interesting first steps into television, books, and movies.

Describe how you got to where you are today. What was your smartest move? What would you do differently if you had the chance?
I think it's important to prepare yourself for opportunity through education and outlook. Being a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the Harvard Business School is definitely a great first step to working at places like Procter & Gamble and Goldman Sachs, my former employers. They are also excellent training grounds for entrepreneurial skill development. I would also recommend that students investigate Fortune 500 internship possibilities at www.inroads.org. I'm an alum of this program. I don't live a "woulda, shoulda, coulda" life so there really isn't much I would change.

Why is a person's outlook important for a career?
Your outlook determines how actively you look for opportunities that are not always neatly packed along the roads that people typically suggest or travel, like my decision to compete on the first season of THE APPRENTICE. In the end, we have our whole lives to be ordinary and only a few fleeting moments to be extraordinary -- which would you prefer?

What's the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is not having one! I have an entrepreneurial career that I've built based on education, training, and hard work; and that is much different from having a nine-to-five-style J. O. B.

I also find it very rewarding to own my own time, define my priorities, and make a difference in the world and in the lives of others. There is nothing wrong with doing well while doing good. But it is also important to remember that the entrepreneurial road is full of risk and setbacks and is not necessarily for everyone. All that glitters is not gold!

What do you see yourself doing in five years' time?
I hope that in five years my company, Legacy Holdings LLC, is further along as a private investment firm and doing some significant deals in the real estate space and beyond.

I also have a vision for myself as an influential media personality (TV show, books, etc.) focused on motivating young people through honest, relatable, straightforward dialogue on topics like business, finance, entrepreneurship, pop culture, and education -- a hipper, cooler Bill O'Reilly or male Oprah of sorts.

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in finance?
If you know you want to be in finance early on, it's important to start doing well in math, economics, and accounting in school. You should start to understand the business world around you by reading publications like THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and BUSINESS WEEK, and your favorite online sources of financial information.

It's important to understand how the businesses, capital markets, and money move around the world and influence events and vice versa. Purchase stock in companies that you know and understand from merchandise you already own like Sony Playstation or EA Sports. Pay attention to CNBC, be intellectually curious when you hear about a merger or a major move from the Federal Reserve, and check me out at www.kwamejackson.com for continued updates and tips.

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