Which F500 Entry Level Job to Take?

Krajer55's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 26

I am currently trying to decide between two different fortune 500 offers currently, and I am struggling to come to a decision. Here are the two offers:

JCPenney: this one is an FLDP. the first 14 weeks are general finance training and then I will spend two years rotating through the different areas of the Finance department. This company is currently on the ropes in terms of financial viability as the brick and mortar retail industry is fighting to stay viable but still has hope of surviving. However, I really enjoyed the interview process at this company and the senior leadership seems like a great group of people to work under and learn from. Because it is an FLDP, I will get more exposure to senior finance executives and have a potential faster track towards senior/management roles.

Lockheed-Martin: this one is not an FLDP, just a regular financial analyst position. The policy at this company is that you can internally apply for their FLDP after one year of working there. However, this program is apparently very competitive to get in to and is definitely not a sure fire thing. With that said, it's a great company with a solid reputation as far as I know. I liked the management team during the interview and I have a manager who will for sure have my back. This position will have more of an accounting focus than the retail FLDP. Every other Friday is off which is pretty tight.

I do plan on getting my CPA and MBA at some point in the future. The big thing for me is I am of course looking for the position that would provide me with the most potential opportunity for my professional career. Both positions pay around the same. The manager I know at Lockheed said I would have the opportunity to move around to different areas if I desired. All in All, JCP I think guarantees me more exposure, but it doesn't have the same kind of reputation and "safety" that the defense contractor does. What do ya'll think?

EDIT: included the company names

Comments (25)

Dec 4, 2017

If I were you I'd post the names of the companies -- your identity will remain protected and it will help people give better, more-informed advice. Personally, I think that rotational programs are excellent training and I find retail more interesting, so I would probably go that route, espec. cause it seems like the defense gig is more accounting/forecasting focused. That said, if you actually have an interested in the defense contracting space, go there. Both of these programs are solid options and I encourage you to do your due diligence by talking to trusted mentors and advisors. If you truly have trouble deciding, remember that things tend to (usually) work out for those that go with their gut

Dec 10, 2017

Hey man, thank you for the response. The two companies are JCPenney and Lockheed-Martin. Honestly, If JCPenney wasn't in a dying industry, I would probably go with the FLDP. I do find defense contracting more interesting than retail. However, I am not quite sure which one would potentially provide better exit opportunities if it turns out I did not like the one I end up choosing. I am definitely talking to all of my mentors and trying to do as much due diligence as possible, results have been mixed to say the least haha.

Best Response
Dec 4, 2017

I'm currently in a defense FLDP. Right now it is a really great industry to be- Contracts are getting awarded faster than companies and staff up and execute on the contracts. Lots of openings mean potential for speedy promotions.

Here is my word or warning: The defense industry is very different than all the other industries. There is a whole lot more compliance that goes into government contracting, so finance has unique reporting responsibilities. Sales and earnings are recorded in ways very different than most companies. Furthermore, if you are in an area with a lot of classified contracts, you might not get cleared on those contracts and you'd be kind of blind to what is going on in your area and you wouldn't actually learn much about the business. I personally chose defense because I thought I would more enjoy going to work in the morning if I worked for a company that does cool futuristic stuff. Now that I'm in it though, all the really cool stuff is classified and all the unique government contractor responsibilities start to make me fear that this work experience wont be transferrable to different industries.

Here is another thought: In which industry would you like to be a Vice President? That's a good way to think of it. During the day-to-day grind, having to drive to make it to the top will keep you going and keep you thinking strategically about the industry and your job. If you asked me 2 years ago what industry I would like to lead a company in, I would have said defense.. But now I know that being a director or VP means talking to various generals and admirals and finding what products they need. It means trying to milk the defense budget for contracts. It means getting contracts awarded and then protested for months while the government tries to determine if the selection process was fair. No thank you.

The last point is that at a defense company, to really rise to the top, it would help a lot to have an engineering background to really understand the products and capabilities. At a company like JCP you don't need to understand how clothes are made or know about textiles- you just need to know business and marketing strategies.

If you like defense, great. Go to Lockheed, kill it, and get into their FLDP. If you don't like defense then it's a tougher decision. Although JCP is a sinking ship, you might get really solid experience going through a consolidation and getting to do cost-cutting projects. A third avenue is to go to Lockheed and keep your experience generic (and not defense-focused). Do FP&A roles and then jump ship to a different company later on. Avoid the jobs that have you neck-deep in defense-exclusive stuff, like proposals, estimating & pricing, and rates & budgets.

Let me know if you have more questions!

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Dec 4, 2017

That is definitely the kind of insight that I needed, great post! Based on that I'm not sure if I'd want to be an executive for a defense contractor, but I also don't see myself wanting to be an executive in the retail industry either. I think tech or manufacturing would definitely be the industry I would be most interested in being an executive in, but I would run in to a similar problem in that I feel like an engineering degree would also start to provide a lot more value the higher up you go in those industries, similar to what you were saying about Lockheed. Which one do you feel would potentially provide better exit ops in terms of the tech or manufacturing industries? Would the FLDP at a defense contractor be "too far along" to the point where it would make my skillset not as readily transferable to other industries?

Dec 4, 2017

I wouldn't say that either job will pigeon-hole you into a specific industry. I just know that defense has a lot of roles that really only apply to the defense industry, and that if you spend too much time in those roles, you won't be able to directly transfer that experience year-for-year to another industry. If you do go for Lockheed, I'd try to keep your experience more general, like controllership roles or FP&A.

Dec 10, 2017
dan_yo23:

The last point is that at a defense company, to really rise to the top, it would help a lot to have an engineering background to really understand the products and capabilities.

Not ... exactly.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Dec 11, 2017

I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but I know that at my company the program managers disproportionally come from engineering than from finance or any other function, and same goes for the product line directors and VP's. I think it follows that at a company made up mostly of engineers, a greater number of engineers will rise to the top. Maybe your experience leads you to believe differently?

Dec 4, 2017

@dan_yo23" That's great advice coming from someone in one of your target industries.

Maybe excluding defense, you will learn 'mostly' the same technical skills at these FLDP programs. Where it diverts is the actual business models and experience. Where you think you want to be as a mid to senior level employee should depend on what industry you want to work in. Don't like talking about retail? Maybe not JCP. Very into healthcare / pharm ... consider finding your way into that space.

Where you choose to be FLDP does not mean that's your industry for your career. In my experience it's relatively easy to lateral from industry to industry so long as you have relevant experience in the job description.

Dec 4, 2017

Thanks for the response. Yes, I don't think either industry will be a long term thing for me now that I think about it more. That was a fear I had is that taking the FLDP at JCPenney would pidgeon-hole me in to that industry, but I think I lost sight of how similar finance and accounting skills are across different industries.

Dec 4, 2017

I would actually say go JC Penny. That position will get you exposure to the different worlds within corporate finance and beyond. I would basically just plan on jumping ship to a different industry (happens all the time, esp when you're lower in you career level) after a few years. Dallas (where I'm assuming you are) is a CF mecca, so keep that in mind.

As others have said, the defense industry is actually very unique, and could actually hurt your chances of moving to a different industry given that they deal so much with the government, etc.... This problem is magnified by the fact that you're not rotating among different groups. Also keep in mind that while the defense industry right now is hot because of Trump, that might not necessarily always be the case (thus, it might not actually be safer). See Bernie Sanders as President.

cant lose either way really..

Dec 4, 2017

Yeah those are some pretty good points, thank you. I will definitely keep that in mind. yes, I will be in the Dallas area.

Dec 4, 2017

Lockheed>JC Penney- brand wise as JCP is a sinking ship and has no real strategy to sustain itself in the future. Lockheed is respectable and if you aren't there too long you shouldn't be labeled a defense guy.

Yet FLDP>non-FLDP Analyst makes a huge difference in terms of opportunity and network.
I'd say the FLDP tips the scales slightly in favor of JCP over Lockheed in making this decision. Just my .02

Dec 5, 2017

So just for more clarification, let's say I might potentially leave JCPenney after 3-4 years. Would the opportunity and network value from JCP still extend in to a new opportunity at a different company, in your opinion?

Dec 5, 2017

I would take the JC FLDP personally. I worked on some projects for Sears Holdings and even though brick and mortar retail is a dying market there are still interesting strategy initiatives and fiance work that is being done.

Dec 6, 2017

I would take JCPenney for the same reasons others have mentioned. I think you should take it as a cool learning experience. Since they're a distressed firm you will get more unique projects.

Dec 10, 2017
Krajer55:

I am currently trying to decide between two different fortune 500 offers currently, and I am struggling to come to a decision. Here are the two offers:

JCPenney: this one is an FLDP. the first 14 weeks are general finance training and then I will spend two years rotating through the different areas of the Finance department. This company is currently on the ropes in terms of financial viability as the brick and mortar retail industry is fighting to stay viable but still has hope of surviving. However, I really enjoyed the interview process at this company and the senior leadership seems like a great group of people to work under and learn from. Because it is an FLDP, I will get more exposure to senior finance executives and have a potential faster track towards senior/management roles.

Lockheed-Martin: this one is not an FLDP, just a regular financial analyst position. The policy at this company is that you can internally apply for their FLDP after one year of working there. However, this program is apparently very competitive to get in to and is definitely not a sure fire thing. With that said, it's a great company with a solid reputation as far as I know. I liked the management team during the interview and I have a manager who will for sure have my back. This position will have more of an accounting focus than the retail FLDP. Every other Friday is off which is pretty tight.

I do plan on getting my CPA and MBA at some point in the future. The big thing for me is I am of course looking for the position that would provide me with the most potential opportunity for my professional career. Both positions pay around the same. The manager I know at Lockheed said I would have the opportunity to move around to different areas if I desired. All in All, JCP I think guarantees me more exposure, but it doesn't have the same kind of reputation and "safety" that the defense contractor does. What do ya'll think?

EDIT: included the company names

I'd take Lockheed.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Dec 10, 2017

I ended up taking JCP. I'm not quite sure what I want to do yet in the corporate finance sphere, and JCP seemed like the quickest route to potentially figuring that out. However, my connection at Lockheed said that if I didn't like it and it wasn't what I thought it was cracked up to be, to give him a call a year or so down the road. With that said, what made you want to pick Lockheed? I'm interested to know just so I can keep it in mind for further down the road.

Dec 10, 2017

You have a fraternity brother who can apparently propel you to different roles at Lockheed. If this guy is as effective as you claim, take Lockheed without thinking further if you can verify your guy's influence.

Dec 10, 2017

it's a pretty solid connection. But even with that connection, the rate at which I would be able to move around would still be much slower than the typical structured rotation at an FLDP. The important thing for me right now is just trying to figure out what part of corp fin I want to go down.

Dec 11, 2017
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