In our continuing attempt to help students visualize a pathway from their History studies to a post-Bethel career, we often point out that the single biggest cluster of careers for our alumni is not secondary education, higher ed, or law, but business. Today, another example of that theme: Brandon Marcott ’07, who recently launched his own financial planning firm.
According to surveys we’ve done in the past, about half our majors come to Bethel planning to study history and half make that decision after a year or two… Which group were you in, and what made you want to major in History?
I was one of the people who knew coming in. I had it all figured out (as most 18-year olds think they do). Major in history, keep going to school, eventually get my doctorate and be a professor. Didn’t exactly turn out that way… but I’m still glad it is what I chose to study. It’s what I liked the most, and I believe having a mind that was always analyzing and loving research made me well suited for historical studies.
Do you have a defining memory of your time in the History Department? A course you took, book you read, discussion you participated in, etc.?
There are so many awesome memories: my first CWC lecture with David Williams, Cold War with Chris Gehrz, being a TA for GW [Carlson] and sitting in his book filled office every week…
I know the question says “a defining” but I’m going to list two. First is the transformation that took place within me as a person. I can remember a course with Dr. Gehrz [HIS/POS241L Revolution and Political Development], which was of my first history electives. I felt the content was just too over my head. I felt overwhelmed, insignificant, and after the first or second lecture with Dr. Gehrz, I went up to him and essentially said that I didn’t know if I was cut out for this level of study. (It still sometimes bothers me today to think about this moment!). I felt totally inadequate. [ed. – So did Dr. Gehrz, filling in for John Lawyer in a class he know almost nothing about!] Fast forward to Senior Sem and feeling confident as a student, learner, and person and absolutely loving the work and research I did. I believe that speaks to the level of guidance and encouragement from the folks in the department. I wouldn’t have made it to that point if not for people like Chris, Kevin [Cragg], & GW.
Second is being able to daily witness amazing examples of people living out their love of Christ within their professional calling. Your work life was not separate from your Christian life. Yes, we were at a Christian school and one should expect that I suppose, but I really appreciated that and it has greatly shaped me in my professional life.
A lot of our majors (as many as 30%) end up working in the business world, but it seems like that path is often less predictable than, say, history-to-law or history-to-teaching. How did you go from majoring in History to financial planning? (Would your 18-year old self have been surprised to learn he ended up doing this kind of work?)
Goodness yes, I’d be surprised. Much of how things transpired was due to the economic and employment climate of the time. Graduating in ‘07, I had one solid job opportunity which I snatched up quickly. To this day I cannot remember how I got that job, but I can tell you it was not what I wanted to be doing. Post-Bethel what I had wanted to do was get my masters in Public Administration and work in local government. Essentially, become Ron Swanson. In 2010 I began the process of putting together a plan to make that happen. I started researching flexible schooling options and started applying for city jobs. There was one particular job I applied for with the City of St. Louis Park that I was super excited about. It was only an entry-level assistant-type job. Pay was something like $40k.
1200 people applied for that position. 1200 people. I somehow made it down to the final three, but didn’t get the job.
That moment made me realize I didn’t have the stamina to go through that again. If I was to change the path of my professional life, I would need to step out and do something where I had a bit more control. I made one stop in financial/insurance sales for four years before finally starting my own financial planning company just a few months ago. Now that I’m here I love it, but 18-year old me (and even me a few years ago) would have never anticipated this.
Do you see any connections between your studies as a History major and what you do now as a financial planner? (And entrepreneur, perhaps?)
You will note, there aren’t too many reserved introverts in my profession. While that may hinder my ability to market myself in the traditional sense, I think it increases my ability to analyze and problem solve for my clients. My history major greatly enhanced my thinking, research, and problem-solving skills and that directly relates to my profession. Ultimately, the most important connection was beginning to learn how to intentionally live a life that is fully God’s. That was something I often witnessed and helped shape me today in all aspects of life.