Networking as a long term habit

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.

The thank-you-note and beyond

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:

DO’s

  • 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).

DON’Ts

  • 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.

Part 3 of “Breaking down the interview”: on strong starts (and how to profit from the “walk me through your resume” question)

Champions or those en route to be champions (with the right momentum) seem to be striking hard since the first minute and after a few minutes in the game they are up by some significant margin, be it tennis, basketball, soccer or whatever sport you like. Personally, I remember that after a tough month seriously preparing for “hell week” of interviews with investment banks in December 2007, I started the marathon of interviews with banks and funds and after a few lukewarm interviews, I nailed systematically the first round interviews, establishing an early advantage at the onset of the interviews.

It was not only because they were remarkably similar, but also because I used correctly the initial “walk me through your resume” question. Is there a magic answer? In my view, it is the time when you drop your perfectly rehearsed, and naturally flowing, “elevator pitch”, maybe in its longer version of up to 5 minutes.

This is “your story”, or the essence of Part 2 of our BIF Individual Program. There are no shortcuts to this; just the hours spent on

  • Getting your end goals right, and writing them down
  • Working backwards the plan on how you will get there
  • And then, re-writing your story up to date, to show the interviewer why you studied what you studied, how you changed jobs and made a series of decisions that led to who you are today.

A few “must do”

  • At all times convey the message that you made each decision.
  • Avoid at all costs talking badly about past or current employers, or your schools
  • Put all things in positive light and be energetic (if you don’t show energy at the beginning, then what can we expect in minute 45?)
  • Avoid talking about confidential information of your current or past jobs (this speaks badly about you as a trustworthy individual).

A strong opening to an interview might clear the way for smooth sailing in the rest of the interview. For those of you familiar with path-dependent exams like GMAT, if you are successful in the initial questions, then an easier set of questions await for you. And as in GMAT, on the contrary, if your answer to the “walk me through” question is a disaster, you show weaknesses, lack of energy or clarity in your goals, it can just open the gates to a nightmare interview.

Let me also add that it is a great confidence booster. So if you nail the first 10 minutes, you will then feel more comfortable in trying “difficult shots” a la Federer, while if you struggled initially, you will just be defensive and try to have the interview finished. And that is sensed by the experienced interviewer (I can see that now on this side of the table). Let me tell you that when I was in Argentina, I used to be one of the interviewees willing for the meeting to end; but once I learned the basic tricks and, above everything, started rehearsing appropriately, I started having occasions in which I actually wanted the interview to continue. I felt many times that I was on a roll, connecting with the interviewing party, hitting all the right buttons and levers. And this is exactly what you look for in an interview.

And you can get to that by starting with the right foot (or nailing the answer to “walk me through your resume”). So keep drilling that elevator pitch, keep rehearsing your interviewing skills and get in touch as you continue to make progress in this 2020/2021 interview season.

Part 2 of “Breaking down the interview”: on tough questions

As a continuation to our last entry, and given that many of you are entering, or will enter soon into the high season of recruiting and interviewing, we present the series entitled “Breaking down the interviews”, where in each entry we discuss a specific section of an interview (which might only last 5 minutes). Today, we discuss the tough questions, also called curve ball questions.

Our basic recommendations are:

  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse…and stick to your game plan
  • Remember that some interviewers will just be fixated on your weaker points. So be it. I, for instance, had a strange situation when I just moved to London whereby a headhunter said that he would not present my profile to a UK focused fund because I had “a funny accent”; years later, that same headhunter reached out to pitch his company to bring me candidates to the firm I was working on at the time (I was still working in England, most of the time working with native English speakers). I still had my funny accent and clearly was stronger than what this talent hunter perceived.
  • There are no right or perfect answers. In most cases, it is just about seeing how you react when confronted with a tense moment.
  • Be as thorough as you can, thinking bad scenarios or points on which you have been attacked in the past or that it is just one thing that when asked, makes you nervous.
  • Some usual tough questions
    • Gaps in resume (why there are some months or maybe years with no full time job). Spend time polishing your story and having an explanation for everything in your profile.
    • You have been fired
    • You are trying to change geography
    • You have a poor GPA
    • You are not a native speaker of the language in which you will interview and conduct the job (typical of people moving into New York or London)
    • You attended a not so strong university

Once you had made an exhaustive list of what can be tough questions for your candidacy

  • Take time to answer them in writing properly. Then organize them nicely in a few bullet points
  • Rehearse and re-write
  • Record yourself (audio and video) – When I was trying to change jobs back in 2013, I would record myself answering tough questions as audio notes, and play those on my headphones during commute. It was impressive how, suddenly, answering tough questions in interviews became natural and reduced them to just one more question, other than a drama that changed the course of an interview.
  • Ask your mock interviewers, your partner, your parents, siblings, whoever close, to grill you on these tough questions.

A couple final remarks:

  • Interviewers are human. And human beings have bad days and good days. It might be the case that they are having a bad day and after firing a routine tough question, they just keep drilling when they sensed weakness. And maybe on another day they would have been just pleasant interviewers.
  • Some people are just mean or enjoy awkward moments for the interviewee. You can’t do much if they are like that, probably had a fixated idea about rejecting you since they read your CV. Stick to your plan, always be respectful and think of “the next game”. I, for instance, had an awful interview at a London based bank back in 2010, whereby the interviewer was not looking straight into my face, kept on interrupting me as I wanted to explain my experience and at one point, he stopped me on my tracks of explaining a deal, he said it was nonsense, and threw a pen across the table, telling me to be in silence and write down the yearly cash flows of the investment I was describing. Funny enough, I hated the situation but still continued my game plan, and I ended up getting into the final round and later on, working for a few years with that guy.
  • Your perception versus the real thing: when an interviewee is asked a tough question or poked about a weakness area, she/he can feel that he is bombing the interview, that it’s being a disaster and that there is no way you get the job. Well, that is a perception and if you stick to your game plan, these will be natural parts of an interview and you will be surprised how well you navigate.

The important thing, as I try to instil in every entry and in every piece of advice I give: make sure you give 100% to each moment, that you are professional because even when a tough question (or series of tough questions) does derail your candidacy and you don’t get the offer, if you played by the book, you will still get this kick inside saying “ok, what’s next. I did my part, didn’t work, let’s take on the next challenge”.

See you next time for entry #3 of this series. Keep it up!

Key questions to ask at the end of an interview that may push you closer to that offer

You’ve been through the explanation of your background, story and why you want this job; you’ve succeeded in answering a few tough questions or curve balls; you did a good job in answering some brain teaser or technical questions; and at the end of the interview, they ask you the simple closing question of “Do you have any questions for me (us)?”, you blank, and you ask some silly “get me out of here” questions like “So, what’s the next step of the process?” or worse, “No, I don’t have questions on my end”.

Don’t get me wrong, just by answering smart questions at the end of an interview after you have done poorly, won’t get you the job or the ticket to the next round. But if you have done a good job overall, asking bad closing questions can spoil your performance; let’s put it in mathematical terms: asking smart, well-thought questions at the end of an interview is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

It is part of the 4th and final step in our Program, as we prepare to rise, shine and get the offer from that coveted job. Below we share a few specific and other generic questions you will find useful. I must confess that in the beginning of my career I dropped the ball many times by blanking or having just procedural questions, so I would have loved to read this list. Let’s get into it.

On your interviewer background

I mention it to the point of exhaustion: in the era of Internet, it is unforgivable to go to an interview and not having done at least a basic news-run on your interviewer, the team and the firm. Starting with the interviewer, remember that we are all humans and even seemingly super-human Managing Directors like to have “their egos massaged” then, without being too obvious, ask about their achievements and listen as they share their past experience:

  • Why did you join this firm? And how does it compare with previous experiences?
  • What deal / transaction / project are you most proud of in your career?
  • What was the most challenging moment during your career and why?
  • (On specifics of interviewer education): What made you take this or that decision and study X at Y University?

On the specific team you would be joining

  • How do you evaluate performance at the end of the year?
  • What do you like about working on this team? (this can give you further intel on the different team members and dynamics)
  • Who shall I be spending most of the time with if I joined? (always respect the hierarchies and don’t insinuate you will be talking to partners and managing directors)

On the firm

  • What are the key strengths of the firm? (discussing historical as well as forward looking)
  • What are the key values of the firm and how are those relevant in attracting/retaining top talent?
  • What are the biggest challenges, in your view, for the Company at this time?
  • What type of training do you have for junior team members?
  • Can you share some insights on how the Company has been adapting / preparing / responding to the COVID19 environment?

On the market

  • What is your view on the market / the economy / the specific sector in which the firm operates? And how are you / the team working to have an edge?
  • How do you see the industry evolving (Technologically, consolidation, etc)? Do you think COVID will accelerate existing under-currents of change?

On your career / junior professionals evolution

  • What are the characteristics you have seen repeating in successful young professionals?
  • If I was to get an offer to join, what could I do ahead of starting to be more prepared?
  • What would you say would be my growth / career path if I joined the firm?

So ahead of your next interview, pick a few of these or prepare your own, and be sure you have them under your sleeve to end the interview on a high note. There is no specific formula or defined order for these; just make sure you have a few rehearsed questions and you sort them / ask them depending on how the interview went.

We are looking forward to your feedback on this article or on anything other topic on our Blog, and don’t forget to get in touch if you have questions about our Individual or Professional Programs. We will get in touch ASAP if you reach out at info@breakingintofinance.info.

Until the next time.

I got laid off, what shall I do next? We present you with a practical action plan

Unless you are working for yourself, being laid-off is a scenario that you might be confronted with at some point in your career. In periods of uncertainty and turmoil, lay-offs tend to be widespread and your probabilities of getting through that sour moment are higher. Today’s article is not going to make you forget about that painful conversation or any uncomfortable feelings that the situation generates, but rather try to give you an actionable “turnaround” plan to make the most out of this unwanted situation.

Unless you did something illegal or unethical, nothing to be ashamed of

Unless you have done something illegal or unethical, this is a normal thing that can happen to anyone working for a third party. And nothing to be ashamed of, or however you might call that feeling. Especially at times like this, many companies need to adjust the size of the teams.

First things first: deal with grief and get things off your chest (with those in your corner, not with your former boss)

Make it short, don’t pity yourself too much but also, don’t expect to be at full productivity one hour after having been let go by your now former boss. The important message here is go through a few, pre-determined steps to get back on your feet and have a clear mind as soon as possible (ie. Don’t go on a “Leaving las Vegas” type of alcohol journey).

A good suggestion we have for you: get things off the chest and not just talking to friends, family or partners: write your thoughts on the last job, what you liked and didn’t liked, what you did right and wrong, the next things you want to do and any other brainstorming ideas that come to your mind. Putting things on paper clears the mind for me; and it is useful to come back and pick for your formal action plan.

Find the right habits to get you back into a job quickly

  • Exercise and be healthy: in line with not drinking yourself to death, and even though it is not the main topic of this page or blog, exercising and keeping your body healthy can be central to be centered and a strong candidate for when the time to shine comes. A few suggestions (mostly free) that don’t require spending money or getting into crazy new sports: 1) do cardio outside early in the mornings (ride your bike, go for a run or any other cardio option, with uplifting or inspiring music) 2) get into yoga (a great free yoga-for-beginners library here) 3) Work-out at your gym or, if you don’t like going to the gym do these body-weight workouts at home (you will only need a chair and little more), doing 2-3 cycles at a time.
  • Routine: create your routing for work-days, in order to follow a pattern that a) does not lead you to go 24/7 on an job-search spree and b) gives you discipline to avoid binge-watching series on the streaming menu.
    • Allow yourself to rest: schedule your routine such that you have proper night sleep and don’t do it over in the weekends
  • Meditation: add a peaceful mind to a healthy body and a good routine and you will be fully centered and a candidate that more and more employers will be willing to hire. I have no interest in this company but just recommend a place for beginners at the Meditation game (click here for Headspace website). Although it may not be the best time to start meditating, the essence of mindfulness is really handy in this situations, as you need to be able to see the broader picture, contemplate your mind without getting into “fighting” each and every thought that comes with regards to your last job (if only I did this different or “why me” or “I am so unlucky”). Just try and get into the mood of letting the thoughts pass, acknowledge them and, with a calmer mind after meditating, start your day (or get back to your search process in case you are not doing it at the beginning of the day)

Do not wait until August is over

  • Yes, you may take some days off, or even go on that holiday that was already planned and paid for but be back as soon as possible and try to be productive ahead of September 1st
  • Be aware that as in any crisis, some firms over-did the reduction of teams, while other firms start getting the rush because they did not hire enough analysts/associates out of masters programs and even more, some other firms in “hot” sectors (like restructuring/turnaround shops) need to get work done and need to hire people (in industry parlance: “they need bodies” at the bottom of the pyramid).

This line of argumentation tries to get that edge for doing a bit of sacrifice: if you wait until it is September, you will be on the same level with everyone that decided to wait to look for a job until coming back to your home-town. If you get into your state of flow while everyone else is sunbathing, you will have an edge!

Time to “BIF-up” your candidacy

At this critical time for your career, the Breaking into Finance program can guide your effort through its 4 pillars:

  1. Review and reinforce your story: use this involuntary break to review and redefine your story as needed. Also, not the time to be especially picky on your next job but this can be an awakening to change to a different sub-sector
    1. Re-vamp your marketing materials: polish your CV, your elevator pitch and especially, be ready discuss openly and firmly your being laid off.
    1. Networking: get your action plan ready and start approaching people that maybe closer to you and that you know are working and not on holidays. For those you are not close enough and/or are positive they are on holidays, have everything ready to shoot those networking messages in September.
    1. Practice interviews: become that “very focused professional” (aka. Weirdo) rehearsing the interview skills at the beach or by the pool, as much as needed. Forget about what they may call you; better to be ready for when the next interview comes.

Closing thoughts

In many cases being fired or being denied that fair promotion leads people to thrive in the job that was actually right for them. I am not saying that you will become the cliché or movie story saying “this is the best thing that happened to me”; but sometimes a slap in the face helps us re-channel our energies.

As it is always the case from Breaking into Finance, we invite you to focus your energy in solving the problem (getting a job) while keeping a positive attitude that without doubt will show in your interview. In this, it is essential the piece on meditation.

Chin up! And remember one of our launching mottos: this too shall pass. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any comments on this or any other article; visit our Services to see how we can be of help; or just reach out at info@breakingintofinance.info.

Improve your networking skills with this Breaking-into-Finance decalogue

Decálogo de networking de Breaking into Finance

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Do I need to take an MBA to get into or advance my career in Finance? The short answer is “NO…BUT…”

My graduation at Columbia in 2009

One recurring question the up-and-coming Finance professional asks oneself is whether doing an MBA is mandatory in order to progress in your Finance career. I went through the “MBA or no MBA dilemma” 15 years ago, in 2005; later on pursued my MBA at Columbia Business School and have been in touch with Columbia and other business school students in the US and in Europe.

So here goes my answer to the dilemma: you do not necessarily need an MBA to advance your career or come closer to your goals. However, if pursuing that MBA fits in well in your life plan, it will be a great boost and great contribution towards being a “well rounded” professional.

Why you should do it?

  • It greatly increases your chances of progressing or getting into finance, by plugging yourself into your MBA school’s student and alumni network and connecting you to more potential employers.
  • It is a great life experience: the reason why so many people get into formal MBA programs each year is not only an economic/professional one. A big part of it will be enriching your life with 1 or 2 years of social and professional experiences and building life-long friendships.
  • It will be a great social time, for single or married students. It will be unique point in your life when you are not a very young adult, you have some money in the pocket and you have a big group (depending on class size) of like-minded people with whom to socialize, travel, create companies, network, etc.
  • It is a good investment: education is, in general, a great investment (see Patience on the list of things to consider). In the case of doing an MBA, that investment can actually materialize in a multiplier to your revenues and the “terminal value” of your career.
  • It can be the pivotal change you are looking for: you may use your MBA for a geographical or career change. I did the former to move from Latin America to New York first, and to London later; and it is a very nice and orderly way to transition into your desired professional destination.
  • Anyone that is considering doing it SHOULD DO IT. Otherwise, you will find yourself 15 years from now asking why you didn’t do it when you had to

What things you should consider? (it’s not all rainbows and sunshine)

  • It is not the silver or magic bullet. It helps a lot, especially if you join a school that is strong at the specific sector you are aiming at; but it will still require effort on your side.
  • There is no “one size fits all” MBA. Two people in the same learning team, in the same cluster and in the same year in b-school can have dramatically different experiences. Because as with most things in life, the outcome will vary depending on your interest, the energy spent and the goals towards which you are using the time at school, its resources, its alumni network, etc.
  • Consider the cost: the direct tuition and living expenses, as well as the opportunity or foregone income cost.
  • Patience: the benefits can be relatively immediate, as it happens to someone coming from emerging markets and working full time in New York or London after school, with a 3-4x multiplier on pre and post school jobs. Or someone achieving the jump to the dream job right through the MBA. However, in many cases it might take you a longer journey to reap the career and economic goals. Just be patient! I can tell you that the effort finally pays off.
  • Social time: you will have a great time in any school you pick. But don’t fool yourself: go to the best school that is on your reach and your target, ie. The best brand that you can get on your CV.

A final consideration of online versus in person: due to the global lock-down, classes of 2020 and 2021 had the last three months of classes of the 2019/2020 year remotely. I see this as a convenient way to deal with an extraordinary situation. But the personal view of the author is that, same as the physical office will continue to generate “synergies” by having informal interactions other than in meetings, in person education will continue to add more than just taking an online course

To sum up, I would do an MBA in every future life I have. And I would do it a couple years earlier (I started at 29 years old). It helped me transition from Latin America into my dream of working in New York and London, developer a rich network in Europe, have a great time along the way, and the journey took me to Spain where, by the way, I found my soulmate.

In the meantime, contact us with any comments or questions you may have on this article, or visit our services to see our proposed Programs. We are looking forward in working together with you to achieve your recruiting and networking goals. Contact us!

Why developing a public or private investment pitch can increase your chances of getting a job

Develop an investment pitch to strengthen your candidacy

Whether you are applying to an asset management role or not, it is good use of your time to develop an investment idea, be it on listed debt or equity instruments, or an asset or company on Main Street (ie. In real life). I discussed it during my webinars over the past few weeks on how to better use your lock-down time (click to see video of the presentation at Columbia Business School), and even when Western countries start going back to normal, I still keep it as a very valid recommendation to strengthen your candidacy.

It has many benefits:

  • Potential economic profit if you invest and you are proved to be right
  • You practice your financial analysis and pitching skills in preparing to present it
  • It gives you more tools and depth as a candidate.

And relatively little or no downside:

  • The opportunity cost of the time spent developing the pitch
  • A monetary loss if you put your money where your mouth is, and it doesn’t turn out as expected (in any case, I am not suggesting you should bet the ranch on this)

All in all, it leaves you as a stronger candidate for the next interaction you will have with your target employers, be it formal or informal.

What is the pitch? What shall I prepare?

As in previous entries, let me start by stating what I am NOT suggesting here: I am not implying that you need to develop a super deep industry and company analysis, with a long presentation and a massive valuation model, as if you were a seasoned analyst at a big hedge fund. Also, because I made this mistake in the past: don’t try to overcomplicate the analysis. Do it with a lot of common sense, and very simple. Simple is beautiful when it comes down to investment discussions.

Instead, I am encouraging you, regardless of your previous experience and technical skillset, to use your financial-analysis muscle in an exercise that will be very similar to what you will be doing as a full-time employee in that desired job. And the resulting product of your effort, “your pitch” should be a clean explanation of what is the opportunity analyzed, the reasons for recommending it, the pros and cons of investing at the current price and a number of additional technicalities described below.

  • Gather the data set:
    • If listed: latest annual and latest quarterly report, plus COVID19 update and any sell-side Research you can get access to;
    • If a private opportunity: gather all the information at your disposal (qualitative and quantitative) to make a full assessment
  • Write down equity story (why you would invest in this);
  • Understand, and state clearly, the COVID19 impact in the short and long term for sector and company (or asset);
  • To the best of your possibilities, build a valuation model. If a modeling fan, build a full, all-financial-statements-and-sensitivity-tables kind of model. Otherwise, a good “back of the envelope” model, grasping the basis should suffice to sustain a meaningful conversation on the opportunity.
  • Set entry point (recommended acquisition price), catalysts, stop-losses and investment horizon. If a private transaction, replace “stop losses” for how you would think of the biggest risks to the investments, and how you would try and mitigate them.

An additional twist for those of you in the Private Equity track or that might be more senior than entry level, and that are entrepreneurial

If you fit in either the “no matter what the age but entrepreneurial” candidate; or if you are already more advanced in your career that people can start expecting you to “originate” deals (ie. Find new businesses that can bring fees to the firm), then you can use the above suggested check list to find and develop a real business opportunity such as buying out or funding/lending to a private business, which will go very well with networking and interviewing with entrepreneurial places to work where they value junior members capable of bringing in new businesses.  

To conclude, even when you are not intending to be the king of private or public investments, and you just want to be the proverbial investment banker, this exercise can:

  1. Provide you with a variety to your routine practice of networking and interviewing; and in the process of getting out of your comfort zone,
  2. Equip you with more tools and themes to discuss on your next meeting
  3. Open the doors to certain entrepreneurial shops that would otherwise be closed to recruiting
  4. Make you some money along the way

Remember to contact us with any comments you may have on this article, or to visit our services to see our proposed Programs. We are looking forward in working together with you to achieve your recruiting and networking goals. Contact us!

Being flexible on compensation can highly increase your chances of getting a job in this environment

An idea to increase your chances of getting a job in this environment

Yes, it is the hardest environment in many years to get a job. Yes, there will be people that still get the job they are looking for. To make sure YOU are one of the candidates that secure an internship or full-time job, Breaking into Finance suggests one thing to consider in order to increase your chances: being flexible on compensation.

Let’s start by saying what I am NOT suggesting here: I am not saying you go out there and advertise loudly that you are ready to work for free. NO. You are a hard worker, well-trained and highly educated, so you have a value that the bank or fund that hires you should pay for. HOWEVER, I heard many times over the past few weeks, that students are being told by companies that there is a freeze on their headcount or, in other words, they cannot increase the amount of money spent on paying salaries.

What I am suggesting here is the following: continue to pursue the jobs and companies in your networking target list either formally (through a recruiting process) or informally, through networking (as discussed earlier this month in an article on Cinco Dias) and try to put yourself in front of the hiring team or the human resources department, be it on informal meetings or in formal processes.

At the right time, if you have done your job right in selling them your profile as a candidate and they would like to hire you; and it is clear, implicitly or explicitly, that spending money to pay your salary be tough to from the company’s finance team, be open to, or suggest directly, the possibility of going, temporarily, for a lower payment than initially discussed, to have an unpaid trial period, etc.

The goals: 1) Signaling: you are showing flexibility and willingness to take a hit to join the team 2) You are a pragmatic professional 3) Get your foot through the door and start getting that valuable experience. 

The caveats: don’t do it upfront, as otherwise can undercut your value or feel like a desperate move. And be firm about setting upfront a plan to get to full remuneration once the crisis is past and once you have proven your value.

Don’t get discouraged by the current uncertain environment. Continue pushing forward, make that call, send that e-mail, get that informal coffee with people in the industry, day in day out, and be sure that the next job in Finance gets closer with every minute you spend on the effort. In the process, contact Breaking into Finance and we’ll be thrilled to assist you in your quest.