Alumni Spotlight: Jeff Chery, Citigroup

Chery, a USMC veteran, was hired into Citi’s Military Officer Leadership Program.

Jeff Chery

Service: United States Marine Corps
Education: BS: Park University, Class of 2016; MBA: University of Central Florida, Class of 2017
Major: BS: Double major in Management and Computer Information Systems; MBA: Corporate Strategy and Leadership
FourBlock Cohort: NYC/Atlanta, Spring 2017
Current Company:  Citigroup
Position:  Vice President
Hobbies: Athletics (basketball, soccer, strength training and conditioning, mixed martial arts), mentorship and volunteering

Jeff Chery’s transition story is one of dedication. The USMC veteran impressed FourBlock staff and corporate leaders alike by completing an eight-hour roundtrip each week in order to attend class.

This level of commitment caught the attention of Citigroup Managing Director John Tien, who quickly hired Chery into the company’s Military Officer Leadership Program.

We recently caught up with the standout alumnus to discuss his military transition, key takeaways from FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program, and advice to fellow transitioning veterans.

What struggles did you face during your transition from active duty back into civilian life?

My biggest challenge was finding out that you need experience even for entry-level roles. I was of the mindset that I had no relevant experience within the financial industry, and therefore I was at a disadvantage.

What drove you to join a FourBlock cohort, especially considering our nearest class was an eight-hour roundtrip away?

I heard great things about the program from a colleague up in NYC, and I was prepared to do anything to enhance my career readiness and employability. I was actually registered to attend the NYC program, but when I relocated to GA I knew enough about the program to know it was something I wanted to be a part of. The 4-hour drive was not going to deter me from that.

How did the program impact your transition?

For me, the biggest impact was the realization that while I had no industry experience or hard skills, those were teachable. What I did have through my time in the military were the soft skills, which are inherent to success in any organization. Learning how to leverage those skills and translating my military experience to exemplify them were key to overcoming my transition struggles.

What were your key takeaways from the course?

In terms of networking, it is important to build genuine relationships. For some, networking means reaching out to as many people as possible and only people you believe can do something for you (e.g. get you a job). Sort of like a transactional approach where once you have gotten the job you are done. But your network, like any relationship, needs maintenance. Instead of reaching out when you need something try to learn about what they do, see how you can add value, or just say hi. Building genuine relationships builds sponsorship, which is much more powerful than a rolodex of random people.

What have you accomplished since completing the program?

Speaking of sponsorship, I was hired into Citi’s Military Officer Leadership Program after approaching FourBlock guest speaker and managing director John Tien — not for a job, but to express how much his message resonated with me and that I wanted him to become my mentor. The MOLP is an awesome program that gives military veterans the opportunity to gain industry knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career within financial services.

What do you love about your current company?

1a. Culture. 1b. Career mobility. The culture at Citi is one of legitimacy. Initiatives from diversity and inclusion to paying it forward and corporate responsibility is encouraged by senior leadership with buy-in at every level. Mobility in the sense that I am not worried about ever being pigeonholed into any one role. There is ample opportunity to move laterally and/or upward to take on more responsibility.

What one piece of key advice would you give to veterans who are currently transitioning? 

Simply put, do not sell yourself short. The same skillsets that contributed to your success in the military will do the same in your civilian careers. You just have to retool and adapt.

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