In this week’s article we explore the balancing act and “art-like” nature of “attention to detail”. Have little or no attention to detail, and you are probably not meant to work in Finance; have too much of it and you can either be too slow of a performer, or face risks of anxiety and even depression.Continue reading
After months or even years seeking your next career challenge, that coveted change and maybe jumping on to your dream job, don’t fall for the temptation to stage a reckless departure or taking the chance to let out all those grudges that may have built over years with colleagues, bosses or direct reports. Instead, take the opportunity to quit with integrity, and as in many other parts of building your long-term reputation and character, play “the long game”: you will benefit very much in that marathon that is your career.
Before breaking this up, let’s state some obvious facts:
- Your network will have memory: If you are going to work in Finance in the long run, chances are your network will continue to grow on your current one, meaning that your current “nodes” will be in touch with the future ones. Or put into examples: your current bosses, colleagues and direct reports will be moving around and meeting people that will be important now or in the future
- How you quit is another reflection of your character
- An abrupt and impolite departure reflects bad on you, not on the firm you are leaving
How to do it correctly
- Notice: starting with the formality of it, be mindful of your contract and respect the minimum notice period, that is, let your employer know with at least the minimum anticipation as you agreed when joining (or when you were last promoted). Notice period can go from 2 weeks to months. Just make sure that you tell it directly to your direct supervisor, ideally in person, and with this timeframe in mind
- Performance: work at a 100% of your capacity until the very last day. This is critical. Do not fall for the temptation of “checking out” in advance; together with the unpleasant memory you can create if you depart suddenly and ungracefully, if after the announcement your supervisor or colleagues find out that you had been slacking or taking it easy because you were on your way out, your reputation will be tarnished.
- Farewell and a special kind of “thank you note”: make sure you say goodbye to everyone with whom you had established a relationship. Always leave on high ground. Don’t trash your current employer just because you are leaving for (supposedly) greener pastures; a lot of things can happen (like you coming back to the current company, your current employer acquiring your next employer, etc, or as said before, you willing to make your next move and meeting people you may have offended with a rude departure). And when you craft that farewell e-mail (a special variation of a thank you note), thank everyone for the opportunity and the learnings, make special emphasis on those specific mentors you had and make sure that you leave everyone with a good feeling about your time and experience as a team member
- Thinking of the future: make sure you leave contact details and are connected to your relevant co-workers on LinkedIn. Also, and most importantly, ask for recommendations and honest and brutal feedback upon leaving, from your mentors, or your colleagues and supervisors. As you leave and time passes, people will forget the interactions you had and you will have foregone a great chance to improve.
All experiences matter as you progress in your career; those that you leave on a high note and almost with regret, and those in which it seems that you never find the shiny happy moments and, looking in hindsight, they taught you some of or the most valuable lessons years into the future. I had both extremes and also experiences in between where not enough time had passed and were almost innocuous. But as stated in the first paragraph, this is about playing the Long Game, as Jocko always states in his books and podcasts. Keep it up and continue to do your best every day, to keep writing your story as a Finance professional.
Until the next time.
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary we thought we’d bring a special edition with the year in review, trends we have been witnessing in the recruiting side of Finance and also announce the Breaking into Finance Guest Series among other novelties for this “second season”.
- April 2020: pre-launch at Columbia Business School
- May 2020: full website and Individual/Institutional Program launch in May
- May-December 2020: delivering the Individual Program and starting to fulfil our mission to help people achieve their networking and recruiting goals in Finance
- Q1 2021
- Winter-Spring European live tour at ESADE, IESE and LBS
- The BIF audience surpasses 250 members
- Q2 2021
- One-year anniversary celebrated with a great session at Columbia Business School
- On the one-year mark, we launch the BIF Guest Series to bring accomplished professionals to share their experience an advice across the Finance industry
Since launching, Breaking into Finance has helped clients in Spain, the UK, the US and Latin America. We have invariably seen solid progress in this 2-way “conversation” which is the Individual Program, resulting in big boosts to the respective networks, increased confidence and performance in interview-settings and, most importantly, landing offers from bulge bracket and boutique banks, consultancy firms, asset management firms while, incorporating a systematic approach to networking to their existing academic and professional backgrounds.
Trends since 2020
Since Q1 2020 the World has undergone accelerated and unpredictable changes, but some trends are emerging and consolidating. We are still observing and coping live with them as we advise clients, and will probably come back to write specific articles about them
- Are Finance jobs going to be remote or do we really need to be in an office
- An accelerated economic cycle: big bust and now…boom? (as ever, country by country differences)
- Finance jobs: will technological progress jeopardise a significant part of the jobs in the industry
New this season
Among the novelties for the new year, we are proud to announce the Breaking into Finance Guest Series: we’ll bring accomplished professionals in a wide range of Finance specialisations, from Equity Research, to Hedge Funds, to Private Equity, to Investment Banking, to Sales&Trading and more. We’ll have the chance to go together through our guests’ careers, the challenges and the lessons learnt, and their successes and take-aways for replication. We hope it will bring you additional insights to improve your candidate profile.
We start with a bang with a star in the Equity Research industry: Alex Fries, Head of European Real Estate Equity Research at Credit Suisse. We covered a lot of ground from his transition from the military into Finance, learnings from difficult interviews, tips for becoming more effective at networking and much more. Stay tuned as we’ll soon upload teaser videos, the full interview and announce the following participants.
Additionally, we’ll bring later in the year a series of seminars that will go through the journey with the student body: from introductory “what’s in Finance and basic recruiting and networking tools” at the beginning of the academic year (September-November), to “interviewing” around the heavy interview season (December-February) to “advanced networking” in the late season recruiting.
So as ever, we recommend that you stay tuned, subscribe to our periodic newsletter and get in touch if you think that either the Individual or Institutional Programs are suitable for you or your institution, or to discuss any of the topics we bring about. In the meantime, happy networking!
The “thank you note” after you finally got to meet an interesting network contact, or even the firm offer for that dream job, do not represent the end to the networking effort if you are serious about it and you want it to be a tool that helps you build your career and win “the long game”, as Jocko Willink says.
If you are in pure network expansion phase
The coffee or phone/video chat is not the end, but rather the start. Apart from sending a timely thank you note, you should add your notes in your tracking system, and put a reminder to “future you” on when you should contact again this specific person. In more than one occasion in the past, by following up systematically and throughout the years, I ended up building profitable business relationships and landing dream jobs. In one specific case, it took me 6 years of continued “coffee efforts” every 6 months to get to that desired job; and when to the untrained eye it was “a very lucky strike”, I saw it as “I was at the right place at the right time, because I consistently helped fate” to be there.
You’ve got an offer for a new job, now you can stop networking completely (…not really)
Although one can get tired especially after long recruiting efforts, I strongly suggest that after an appropriate “cool-off period” after landing that job, you resume your networking efforts.
- First of all, to avoid losing the ability to do it.
- Secondly, because it will be much easier now that you don’t have the pressure to get a job, but rather do it to continue to meet interesting people, deepen your network and learn about new ideas.
- Thirdly, you never know when you will need it again for the next job and, as mentioned above, the dream job can take years to mature and depends on building relationships outside of the formal recruiting circles
- Finally, because your job, either now or in the future, will very much depend on the quality of your network and connections
The reminder: keeping that share of mind and getting a ticket to “be in the right place at the right time”
I have been recommending our clients at BIF to have a master file with their networks and incorporate the ability to set reminders for the next time they need to catch up with each contact. Be as fancy and sophisticated as you like, but make sure that you follow up with the contacts 3 to 6 months after each coffee, especially around “back to school seasons” (ie. after the Summer, or in January), or when you have a “great excuse” like a change in jobs, a new project, or something related to your last conversation/s with the contact.
By forcing yourself artificially, at the beginning, to re-connect with people, it will become an ingrained and long term habit, which will increase dramatically your odds of being at the right place at the right time, for example, calling that contact who will, following a catch up coffee, connect you to the exact contact that will land you your most desired job.
Get in touch to discuss our Breaking into Finance individual program, the core of which is how to start or strengthen your networking abilities, be it for the build-up of your network or getting your next job.
By definition it is simple and innocuous: the thank you note is a short email or message that follows a meeting or an interview, be it in person or on the phone. Another formal aspect: it is advisable that you send it on the evening after the meeting happened or the day immediately after. A final formal aspect to it: if there was a specific follow up set in the meeting or interview, then included it into the thank you note, ie. attach your CV if agreed, send some reading materials you discussed about, etc.
But beyond the formality, my experience after 20 years of networking is that a big majority of people trying to switch jobs or progress their careers, forget about this very simple tool, or, in a minority of cases, use it against themselves. Although it is not as powerful as, by itself, to secure you a job, it adds one more positive point to your candidacy as it preserves the share of mind you have with your counterparty or potential employer.
Fall of 2007: “You have to love the thank you note!”
To give you some colour into this: a fellow Argentine who was a couple classes ahead of me at Columbia, kindly self-appointed as our investment banking recruiting and networking coach. He had wise words at each step of the process and, in my case, I attribute a good part of my success for the Summer and full time job success to his advise, his crude assessment of progress and his always timely tips.
One of this was an “oda to the thank you note”. Fall 2007…I was complaining about the Nth investment bank event in the week and having to send some thank you notes as I felt exhausted in the evening, when he just said: “No…you are not understanding this game. You need to love the thank you note! Automatize it as much as possible, never mix up names or banks and be the king at it; think that it can be the decisive factor in this fully standardize banking recruitment, all else being equal versus another candidate”. And never again I complained or forgot to send a thank you note, be it after a networking/recruiting interaction or after business meetings “as a grown up”.
Let’s move to practical things to do and avoid when sending your thank you notes:
- Tone: keep it short and professional
- Title/subject: don’t get too creative. Unless something specific needs to go into the subject play it safe with something as “Great meeting you today” o “Interview yesterday”
- Content: 2 or 3 lines. Maybe 4 lines if you are attaching something. And if you agreed on a follow up, put it in the closing of the message.
- When: Keep the balance between being perceived a stalker (ie. send it as you are making your way down on the elevator) and being “too cool” (sending the thank you note 2 weeks after the meeting).
- CV: do not send your CV UNLESS you were asked to do it
- Mix up names and companies. It can happen, especially if you are in the midst of high-recruiting season during the MBA, but it is a silly way to call into question your “attention to detail” and sometimes just being crossed out because you annoyed the receiver. Do that extra round of review before sending it and and check the name please!
- Ask for favors: if it was an interview, certainly won’t be the case. If it was a networking meeting, the appropriate time to ask for favors or information is during the meeting. The follow up note might be just to remind something you spoke about but if there is something pressing that you may want to ask, it’s better to not leave it to a thank you note but rather a) Call the person b) Try to meet again c) Send a separate note. Ie. if you come see me and in the process you did not ask me to introduce you to X, Y or Z, don’t put it casually on the thank you note because a) I will probably not do it and b) It will make you look badly for not using the real live chance to ask for it.
Hope you find this useful as you continue to navigate the 2021 recruiting and networking season. On our next Blog article we will come back on a related topic or follow-up to the thank you note. Until the next time, keep your chin up and happy networking.
The fast answer: it depends. You can argue both ways. On the one hand, being at school, in that “cozy” and friendly environment feels better than going through a tough recruiting environment. On the other hand, it is always great to be out there, facing reality, networking and, if you manage to get your desired job, it will speak greatly about the value of your candidacy.
In my experience, when Lehman Brothers imploded in 2008, recruiting felt ugly, cold and uncomfortable and sitting in a classroom felt like a very protected environment, and the prospects of adding some extra credits, another masters or even a PhD were out there being considered by the student body. In my case, I had no doubt that my choice was to go head first into recruiting; I gave myself no choice than giving 100% to networking and recruiting and that I should get a job offer to be working full time by graduation in the Summer of 2009.
THE CASE FOR STAYING LONGER IN SCHOOL
- Continuing to add skills that will serve you when you finally graduate and look for a job
- You can twist and steer your major or specialisation depending on the market moves
- Procure an exchange quarter or semester to one of your target cities (ie. Go to London if you are somewhere else), to be a student while you are closer to future employers
THE CASE FOR FACING THE MARKET FASTER
- Continued education has explicit and implicit (opportunity) costs. If you go straight to working (even when it takes longer than wished for) you have no education cost and you start earning money faster
- By being actively recruiting you are fully connected with the reality of the market, what employers in your sector are looking for and developing connections that will serve you now and in the future
- The market reality can be brutal at any time, but in the middle of COVID uncertainty, it is not inviting or a friendly place. But if you manage to succeed in this market, it will greatly boost your confidence and put a stamp on your CV
It doesn’t matter which camp you are on, one thing is constant: the need for deep and professionally executed networking. If you decide to continue to be a student, networking should keep you in touch with reality and avoid you looking only with “happy glasses” at the market by the time you graduate. If you decide to shorten your study program or graduate when originally planned, networking will ensure you not only have the formal roads into job opportunities, but also knock all doors, backdoors and windows that can get you a full time job or internship. Case in point of shortening study program: a good friend and star candidate at a leading European MBA, decided to speed up the 2 year MBA program and go face the market 6 months ahead of original graduation; not without efforts and pain, he landed a handful of internship and full time offers and has now agreed to join a top PE firm.
In either case, act with “Extreme Ownership” as Jocko says. If you stay in school, don’t be lazy or just face away from challenges. If you decide to look for your job right away, don’t waste energy complaining about how bad the market is, but rather look for the opportunities and capitalize on them. In both cases, networking and a mentor, will keep you in check, as we always say in our Breaking into Finance program.
Stay in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your thoughts and the decisions you are pondering or have made. We are here to help! Until the next one.
Networking lies at the center of every effort to get into Finance for the first time or to take the next step in your career. Because even when you are taking the formal route of applying to a job through your university or a job-page, networking will provide you with an edge by being connected with people in the industry, having practiced your pitching and other interpersonal skills, and becoming more of an insider before, during and after the formal interview process.
I have spent most of my life as a Finance professional networking to be a better professional, calibrate my next move or, as I became more senior, to generate new business, revenues and profits.
The recipe, however, is always the same for us at Breaking into Finance, and we summarize it today as a decalogue.
- THE LIST: the starting point and the element that will concentrate your efforts is growing the list of target companies and contact people at those companies. If you are starting from scratch start dreaming big and putting only there your ideal employers, and then continue to grow it with smaller firms, related companies, headhunters, etc. The key to your list is to always come back to it, keep notes and always make clear markings for the next steps, setting reminders for next contacts, etc. It might not be obvious but a relationship that starts today with a coffee with a stranger and evolves with periodic meetings and e-mail, might result in getting your desired job in 6 years: I can attest to that! (E-mail me if you want the details).
- Spend time and be creative to make your list grow: if you want to do successful networking, you should take networking as a part-time job or full-time job, if you are at full speed trying to originate new opportunities. Also, think beyond LinkedIn and Google to get ideas and “leads” to make your list grow bigger. Who was your high-school classmate that entered into banking? Didn’t your sister in law know someone at that fund? I found that when you are spending significant time in growing your network, you start “seeing the Matrix” and make more and more associations that lead to productive coffees or conversations.
- That what you measure you can improve: use whichever analogue or digital tool you prefer, but create an interactive tracker that allows you to add notes and follow up steps to each row in your list (step 1).
- Reach-out / say bye to shyness: as a kid I was shy, and I am still not a big fan of picking up the phone and go on a telephone call spree. However, I forced myself to progressively do those calls I initially dreaded, by always following the same steps: having a script in front of me, putting myself into a good state before the call by smiling or playing a song I like and then go on and making that call. It will become natural! And the same goes to getting out there and having face-to-face meetings.
- Make it face to face, when possible: make your network grow, one coffee at a time. It is always better to make it in person, as you will interact, see each other’s body language and it will be good to put a face to the name. In COVID19 times it maybe tougher to meet in person, but you should still try. If not possible, go for a video-conference, to at least see how the person looks like.
- Find a mentor: with the purpose of getting advice, keep your efforts in check and provide extra discipline, as you will have to prepare every time you are bound to see your mentor. An important note: mentorship is a bilateral thing, so make sure that if you want someone to mentor, that person is willing and able to do it. Doesn’t have to be many years your senior though, when possible, these mentor/mentee relationships are the most productive.
- Realize you are not bragging, you are just selling yourself. In my experience, we Latins/Southern Europeans tend to be talkative, but when it comes down to sell our strengths, we become shy or “let the employers discover it with time”. Which is the wrong approach for a short, targeted period of recruiting, and one in which you are putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage. Rehearse talking about your achievements as well as practicing how to rebate the most apparent weaknesses you may have, and you will suddenly be a more valuable candidate, even when at the core, your experience, education or skills, hasn’t changed at all!
And three things to be aware of
- The enemy within: many times you are your own worst enemy, sabotaging your own efforts, procrastinating, or thinking you can’t do it, that they won’t hire, you, etc.
- Social agenda: whether you are in your MBA, your masters or your undergrad, or just working and feeling “the next beer with your colleagues is way more fan than researching for your next job”, you will sometimes have to skip some of the fun to increase your chances of success
- A marginal effort (in terms of time) rarely produces big changes. Looking for a job or your next career step needs to be taken seriously. So as implied in the previous point 9, make the conscious effort to block out some time each day
Keep the chin up and don’t get discouraged! I usually compare networking to fighting “guerrilla” style; it is constant, it is spread-out, and you rarely see a linear progression. And especially in these convoluted times, it can be even more discouraging. But paradoxically, these are the times when spending most of your extra time or extra energy on networking, will produce the extra results that allow you to be that respected professional that managed to make a great transition or career move in the midst of the worst uncertainty crisis in many years.
At Breaking into Finance we are ready to help you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have comments or question on this articles, or if you want to learn more about our Services: the Individual Program or the Institutional Program.
Until the next time.