This Woman Went From Intern to Vice President in 5 Years—Here's How

Sophie Miura

When sophomore Julissa Arce applied for a summer internship on Wall Street, she realized the odds were stacked against her. "I was a woman, I was Hispanic, I had no connections and no legal papers for employment," she writes in a powerful article for CNBC. "Wall Street was a boys' club, and I didn't have a membership."

Arce, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was determined that her background, her gender, and her ethnicity wouldn't hinder her future, and she set her sights firmly on leading firm Goldman Sachs. "As a sophomore, I wasn't qualified to land an internship at Goldman Sachs just yet, but I started to create a road map and an execution plan to get there," she explains. This involved landing other internships to build experience, working part-time so she could support her life in Chicago, and upping her skills by reading motivational career books during her commute.

After five years, Arce hadn't only secured the coveted internship position—she'd jumped to vice president at Goldman Sachs. "By the time I was 27, five years into my career at Goldman, I had been promoted from analyst to associate, and from associate to vice president. I had gone from making $10,000 as an intern to making over $340,000 as a vice president," she says.

Here's the five-step method she followed to fast-track her career, which is just one of the tips she offers in her forthcoming book, My (Underground) American Dream.

Step 1: Schedule regular check-ins. Arce says she had meetings with her managers periodically to track her progress.

Step 2: Be clear about your salary expectations. "Set and receive expectations for compensation" so there is transparency, she says.

Step 3: Pursue promotions. Don't wait for good fortune. "Be intentional about promotions," she says.

Step 4: Own your successes. "Self-promote (something many people are afraid to do)."

Step 5: Be flexible. Plans aren't iron-clad. Regularly review and adjust your trajectory as factors change.

Next Up: Four ways to ask for a raise (and actually get it).

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