That was the message Thomas Barkin, the new president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, delivered to George Mason University students on May 7.
In his first public comments since taking over the Richmond Fed, Barkin urged students to keep up with the rapid changes in technology in the labor market, build relationships by networking with people you trust, and ask questions.
“There absolutely has got to be something about being a lifelong learner and forcing yourself to stay up to speed,” Barkin said at Merten Hall on George Mason’s Fairfax Campus. “Understand what’s going on in the market, build relationships. Those sorts of things actually pay off in spades.”
Barkin was joined in discussion by Mason President Ángel Cabrera, a member of the Richmond Fed’s board of directors, and School of Business Dean Maury Peiperl.
It was another appearance by a high-profile leader on Mason’s campuses, which in the past month has hosted then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia representatives Barbara Comstock and Gerald Connolly.
Peiperl said he wants the School of Business to host even more of these forums, which engage faculty, staff and students in conversations about important topics of the day.
“I want us to be the place that convenes these conversations on a regular basis,” he said.
In addition to acknowledging that U.S. interest rates probably have room to grow given the strength of the economy, and that the Trump administration’s plan for tariffs is causing concern among his business contacts, Barkin let Mason students know of the career opportunities at the Richmond Fed.
He called cyber security jobs “probably the hottest ones out there,” and touted research jobs as “a great way to get started to have a career there.”
“Some may be interested in banking or supervision,” Barkin said. “We hire folks there in audit. We have folks running our cash machines, and we have law enforcement officers watching the cash. We actually have an incredible variety of things.”
The foundation for them all is the same, Barkin said, a willingness to stay current.
“I talk to lots of people who 20 years later have said they’ve lost touch,” Barkin said. “There’s no reason to do that unless you choose to.”