Friday, March 21, 2008

Recruiting Recap

So in the end I'm not going to be in Chicago for the summer (or setting myself up to go back to Seattle post graduation) but, although not with a VC fund, I did get an energy related position with a group of some of the nicest/most intelligent people I had the pleasure of meeting through the recruiting process (not long-only). Here's some of what I learned in the process about the joys of IM recruiting.

  1. Suspend disbelief: the recruiting season brought many surprises both good and bad for many (as I imagine it does every year), carry your expectations lightly going into the process and be prepared for the worst. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised. Despite the second-years' best warnings, I was not sufficiently prepared mentally/emotionally for how awful it was. When I got invited to interview for nearly every firm I applied with, I thought it would be a snap - well I was soo wrong. It's a hugely arbitrary and baffling process. Beware.
  2. Take closed lists with a grain of salt: my final offer came from a firm that didn't even close list me. Not unusual. 'Nuff said.
  3. No two IM searches are the same: talk to all the second years that you can but know that every IM internship quest is a unique beast.
  4. Be prepared for an off-campus search: in IM the off-campus job search is a healthy and vital part of the process. Don't overlook it and don't assume it will be harder than an on-campus search. In many ways it's nicer (as I have had second years tell me).
  5. Don't be afraid to be picky: part of my panic was that very few of the on-campus firms were very interesting to me, so when the few I was interested in didn't seem to be working out, I started to really worry. But if you can handle an off-campus search, then you should feel at leisure to pick the right firm, even if being picky in the face of rejection seems an impossibility.
  6. Be prepared: you don't get to be picky if you are a fool. Yes, GSB students are generally impressive but a few make a real disaster out of recruiting by failing to prepare sufficiently. Don't be like that. Keep the good name of the GSB intact for the rest of us. Keep your humility hat on, do your research and know what you're getting into.
  7. What they really mean when they say the IM search is more extended than banking/consulting: is that you will have absolutely no time most (if not all) of winter quarter to focus on your classes and you will be utterly exhausted and depressed for weeks after your banking/consulting/marketing/corporate finance/general management/basically-everyone-but-PE/VC classmates happily move beyond the internship search. Plus, your job search may well extend into spring quarter - especially if you are focusing on hedge funds. Professors at the GSB don't care if you have 20 interviews the week of your mid-term (generally speaking) - so don't expect that "excuse" to get you very far. For an IM search, the 15-20 or so interviews that I did in total (1st and 2nd rounds included) is on the light side but would be an impossibly high number for some other industries. Yes, 20 interviews two weeks is as miserable as it sounds.
  8. Being a career changer in IM is hard: but not impossible, don't talk yourself out of success. (But, for your own good, make sure you've done your best to figure out if you really want to be in this line of work and, in case you convince no one that you do, that you have a back up plan.)
  9. Interview success comes from an unpredictable mix of personality and technical skills: it is highly unlikely that you will get an IM job through sheer force of personality alone. You are not hired on the basis of your conversational abilities but, of course, a pleasant demeanor never hurts, and, surprisingly, the interviews may not be all that technical. Having experience/CFA may cause interviewers to hold you to a higher standard or to happily ignore quizzing you on technical stuff at all. Since you can't know in advance how it will go - you have to be prepared to impress on both fronts.
  10. If you don't get what you want don't despair: cliche as it might sound, career services' "it's a marathon, not a sprint" truisim is so ... true. It's just a summer internship. Buck up. (Yeah, easier said than done, especially from someone who got what they wanted.) But I finally felt this way by the end. I know of first-years who waltzed off to "dream" summer internships and came back chastened the following fall. And disappointed first-years who ended up with a great position in the second-year. You're a great school, learning great things, meeting great people - it's going to turn out ok in the end. You'll probably forget this while recruiting anyway but it never hurts to say it again.

Sort of a lazy recap - but those are my thought so far. Funny how the recruiting process already feels like a lifetime ago.

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