Thursday, August 23, 2007

Oh My God

Just days ago I was writing about how incredibly prepared I felt. Now, before I've even had one single class, the first feeling of "Oh My God -- what have I gotten myself into" has already crept into my mind.

Today I went on a full-day recruiting event from one of the bulge bracket (i.e. top) Wall Street investment banks. We were taken up to the 27th floor of their office building in downtown Chicago where senior executives of the firm were put in front of us to tell us how delighted they were to speak to us and why their firm is truly one of the best to work for. Fortunately it wasn't all sales pitch and they had some interesting (and way over our heads) explanations of what investment bankers actually do, how the different divisions work, and what historic current events are currently taking place in the financial markets.

During lunch and dinner (on the 57th floor with spectacular views over the Chicago skyline at night) we were put into groups with junior investment bankers who we could ask more forward questions and who would be able to give more forward answers. Invariably, the one topic that kept popping up was "lifestyle issues", the euphemism for not seeing your friends and family because you work seven days a week. The responses were basically different spins on the truth most of us already knew: during the first years you have to be prepared to make big sacrifices, but if you last long enough to make Managing Director (which in the i-banking world is higher than VP or SVP), you will be able to "leverage the resources that are available to you", i.e. let others do the grunt work. Moreover, you'll actually have time to spend the extraordinary sums of money you are making.

The associates (which is the level you start at after your MBA) defended their career choices by saying that workweeks are not always 120 hours and can get "as low as 60-70 hours", and that "if you work until midnight on Friday and are prepared to work long hours on Sunday, you can actually have the full Saturday off, if you plan well." And, unlike consultants, who are on the road 4 days per week, bankers mostly get to sleep in their own bed, albeit for short nights.

No shattering new insights if you had read up on i-banking like I had, but the kicker for the day for me personally was that you truly get an idea of the competitive nature of recruiting. There are limited spots available, and the lengths you have to go through to secure one are daunting.

There were tips on how to behave at recruiting events, how you should and shouldn't network, how one screw-up in approaching recruiters can easily destroy your shot at a summer position, and even how and when to send thank-you notes after recruiting events. One associate recommended flying to New York and trying to set up 30-minute meetings with bankers in order to build your network. He laughed: "I know it sounds crazy, but I've seen people who do it and they were generally successful." If you want to work in Sales & Trading it's even more difficult because this division doesn't recruit on campus and you have to reach out on your own to find recruiting opportunities.

On the bus ride back to Evanston, I sat next to fellow Kellogg students to discuss the day. I sat next to an Israeli guy who had been an intelligence officer in the Israeli army, then had done real estate investing in Eastern Europe, and another guy who had been setting up divisions at various service companies and was looking to break into a competitive hedge fund. Another guy had been run the armed forces training academy in the country of Georgia. It's great to study business with people of such impressive backgrounds -- until you start competing with them for a job.

The bank tried its best to convince us that career switchers have a perfectly good shot at landing a job, but among the career switchers there were many with a finance background, which I don't have, and according to the bankers that means you'll have to work extra hard to get up to speed. In the last 6-12 months I had been reading up on financial markets and thought I had a pretty good rough understanding of how the banking industry worked and what forces were at play in the current downturn in the credit markets. Today, however, I learned that I know nothing.

So in short -- not only is it going to be tough to get considered for a job at a bulge bracket bank, I'm also going to have extremely qualified Kellogg students competing against me for the same positions.

In a way I have known this all along, but seeing it with your own eyes has a way of letting reality kick in, nice and hard.

14 comments:

MBABlogger said...

Thanks for sharing the experience of the bootcamp! I had been looking out to get to know how it went.

Sushmitha said...

Hi,

My name is Sushmitha and i am trying to do my MBA in the US. I am applying for the fall 2008 session and am very very keen on Kellogg! Can you please get back to me at sushmithak@gmail.com and let me know what your experience has been like there till now? I am very keen on a career in marketing. Needless to say, Kellogg is my first choice ;) ... please get back to me when time permits!

aastha said...

I must must compliment on your writing style and humour! truly commendable (is there an e in truEly, never mind!) I was googling kellogg interview experieces and came across your blog... I devoured them all, very entertaining and now if my interview tomorrow doesnt go well, I know who to blame :-)

SmartSkag said...

Hi,

Thanks for sharing your experience.
Sad you are not able to keep this blog updated.
Is it possible if i can contact you directly thru mail to discuss ur kellogg experiences further?

omri.eventov said...

Hi,

My name is Omri and i am applying to fall 2009.

Since I'm an Israeli, I wanted to ask you about your experience as a foreigner at Kellogg and if there is anything special you can share with that is related to VC and Media, which are my fields of interest?

Thanks,

Omri
Omri.eventov@gmail.com

donald said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Betty

http://www.my-foreclosures.info

Sebastiaan said...

Hey,

Heel cool het schrijven over je beginnende carrière. Ik kom hier, omdat ik vandaag op school een foldertje oppikte waar in stond dat investment banking 50-120 uur per week zou kosten. Ik schrok! Ik ben nu pas begonnen aan de universiteit van amsterdam en begon hier eigenlijk voor een strategische/marketing carrière, maar vind tot nu toe alles wel leuk. Vandaar dat ik besloot te googelen of het allemaal wel waar is en hoe het precies in elkaar zit.

Maar zou je werkelijk 120 uur per week willen werken? Ik zou het werkelijk super knap van je vinden. (En mag je trouwens complimenteren met het feit dat je op deze prestigeuze school zit). Ik blijf je daarom maar even volgen en ik ben benieuwd wat je ervaringen zijn. Want alhoewel ik het allemaal super interessant vind en een carrière ambieer. Is de kans klein dat ik elke seconden zou wijden aan werk. Alleen zodat ik die dikkere auto kan veroorloven.

Nu vertel ik dit eigenlijk allemaal om te schetsen wie ik ben, maar meer omdat ik benieuwd ben naar jou visie. Hoe kijk jij er tegenaan? En hoe ben jij van plan je sociale leven te behouden en wat zijn je toekomstige plannen? Ik ben zeer benieuwd.

Met vriendelijke groet, Sebastiaan Thuis

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I have never thought that there weren't any need in large starting capital.
Now, I feel good, I started to get real money.
It gets down to select a proper partner who utilizes your funds in a right way - that is incorporate it in real business, and shares the income with me.

You can get interested, if there are such firms? I have to answer the truth, YES, there are. Please get to know about one of them:
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I have never thought that there weren't any need in large initial investment.
Nowadays, I feel good, I started take up real money.
It gets down to choose a proper partner who uses your funds in a right way - that is incorporate it in real deals, and shares the profit with me.

You may ask, if there are such firms? I'm obliged to answer the truth, YES, there are. Please get to know about one of them:
http://theinvestblog.com [url=http://theinvestblog.com]Online Investment Blog[/url]

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