3/17/18

Patrick surprised me by getting a site feature implemented within 36 hours of its suggestion (context here).

I want to test out the new feature where only Certified Users can respond, so I took a moment to think of a good question.

What is the best advice you ever got on your career, and what was your relationship with the person who shared it with you?

I can think of a great memory.

In my second internship (elite, white-shoe investment bank) I was formally paired with a Vice President in the group at the beginning of the summer through a 'speed dating' format event. The whole intern class sat in chairs for an hour and got to meet six employees who volunteered to be a mentor who rotated for ten minutes each.

He and I clicked immediately from the start. He was the second person to sit across from me and we ended up ignoring the rotation rules and goofed off for the following four slots. We just hit it off that well.

I did well that summer, but as we hit the ninth week I put out informal feelers toward some of the people I'd done work with. My summer had been a high volume of short-duration projects, nothing substantive I could sink my teeth into and really prove myself on, so I felt that my return decision was going to boil down to fit: how well people perceived me.

From some of my posts it's probably easy to ascertain that I didn't come from a privileged background. In hindsight, I can identify that that made me hyper-sensitive to how well I integrated. If you feel like a foreigner, you're naturally going to be more on your toes.

My worst fears were concerned when half a dozen of the Vice Presidents and Directors I spoke with looked up from their desks and spoke lackadaisically about their enthusiasm for my prospects in that group. I was gutted. I had genuinely worked hard, produced error-free product, and truly wanted it more than any other kid there.

I took the afternoon to collect my thoughts, then hit up my mentor. He huddled with me conspiratorially, listened for 90 seconds, and gave me one of the best gems I've ever received.

"This is really simple. You don't have a content problem, man. You have a marketing problem."

That was it. The work product wasn't the question; I had that cold. Regardless of how well I thought I'd shown people what I was about, I clearly hadn't shown what they needed to see. Life hack: people are looking for things -- you can win by demonstrating you're that thing.

It doesn't matter the arena: interviewing, working, dating, sales, it's all the same. You can get farther by showing how you match the heuristic someone's relying on, even if they have no idea what that heuristic is (or what a heuristic is).

We've all heard this a dozen different ways. "Perception is reality" or some other trite Instagram-ready byline. As a young adult though, I hadn't ever been in a professional setting where something I really cared about was on the line and people's perception mattered more than the hard facts.

With my friend's help, I went on a four-day charm offensive. We identified all the people I'd spoken to who weren't strong supporters, all the people I hadn't spoken to but felt might be in that same camp, and then (critically) anyone who we knew was an ally.

Then we shortlisted the ones he knew actually mattered come decision time, and then I went to work. I got one-on-ones with all of them (no more than two a day, and strategically calendared based on where they sat on the floor so it didn't look like I was just headhunting to curry favor before the shot clock expired).

I opened up with sincerity to explain a bit more about my background, where I was from, how I developed the interest in the job, what exactly I learned over the summer (about myself, not about the job), and how I looked forward to putting that to use if I returned.

I got the offer.

More importantly, I have my friend's short words of wisdom mentally tattooed at the front of my mind. In everything I've done since, I painstakingly invest mental energy in evaluating how the people I'm interacting with will perceive anything I do or say. I map this out in a turns-based way, building successive conditionalities where I am able to place probabilities on how each incremental step contributes toward my desired outcome.

This, in turn, has helped me move logarithmically faster through my career.

I'd love to hear stories from other working professionals, especially @CompBanker (that'll probably take awhile ... ), @Layne Staley, @TippyTop11, @GridironCEO, @takenotes08 (I may still owe you a PM, going back to check on that now), @Frank Slaughtery, @Going Concern, @SSits, @Dingdong08, @BlackHat, @BTbanker (get Certified, man), @ArcherVice, @GoodBread, @shorttheworld, @IlliniProgrammer, @In The Flesh, @rufiolove, @Frieds ... and anyone else who I apologize for forgetting.

@freeminimalist.ru Patrick, thanks for a fast turnaround getting the new site feature implemented. I'd love to hear from you too.

Comments (56)

3/12/18

Not really a story, or even originally intended as career advice, but probably the best career advice I ever received was the following:

"You can't control something until you first understand it"

It was said by a well known hedge fund C level person that I heard speak in an intimate setting a few years ago. The context was not career oriented at all, but something clicked for me when I heard it, and I filed it away in my mental suitcase

It has been a cornerstone of my entire perspective ever since

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3/12/18

My traditional "career" was so short-lived that I can't pinpoint one specific piece of advice, but I can pinpoint several critical people that helped me end up where I am today (besides my family).

  1. Vice President at Rothschild that took me under his wing early on (after we had a few mediocre associates on the team - think HBS bullshitters with no hard skills trying to "guide" a liberal arts analyst (me) on how to model = disaster). He gave me a shot and realized I could learn fast if I was taught - in exchange I gave the firm and his deals 1.5yrs of 90+hr weeks
  2. Analyst in my class at Rothschild sat down with me an explained what private equity was, how to study for the interviews, what to expect, etc. He helped me land a PE job. Without him, I don't think it happens.
  3. Another analyst in my Rothschild class that help me stay in private equity after I had been fired 6 months into initial PE gig in Boston.

In short, those first few connections in my IB analyst class were critical to my overall career and life trajectory.

I think related to #2, I think the quote "You don't know what you don't know." is very relevant

Looking back, it's unbelievable to me how LATE I was on EVERYTHING....IB recruiting (never even had an IB internship), PE recruiting (didn't start until midway through my 2nd year) and even knowing what private equity was...and this was coming from a very privileged background. Great high school, great parents, great college...it just goes to show you how much it helps to seek out advice early (even as a cocky 18-20 year old) since there is likely a lot more out there that you don't even realize...

I've tried to take this approach to running WSO -- given how bad I was at mapping a path in my career, how far behind am I on running an online community and business? What am I missing and how can I keep WSO strong? This is what keeps me up at night. I don't know what I don't know and there is always someone coming to take your lunch in business -- so I better keep learning or die.

3/12/18

Great post and thanks for creating this new type of thread. After doing some digging to find what the colored title means, I think it is an awesome idea! Will hopefully filter out some of the noise for what should be an insightful thread. Many thanks to @APAE for the idea.

3/12/18

My previous bosses sat me down and told me "we love your attitude and we like your work but watch what you say, you never know what can offend someone". I believe I made a joke about everyone who drives pick-up trucks being insufferable (so many truck douches in TX it's ridiculous). Even if it was a joke my bosses' dad owned a truck all his life, he wasn't offended but just used it as an example during a performance review. I don't take things too seriously and I'm not sensitive so I have to watch myself sometimes. Other than that I think it's mostly been learning from example, I don't really have any "mentors". Maybe that'll change.

3/12/18

"Never let your network go stale."

This was from my first MD after business school years after I worked for him sometime shortly after the global financial crisis. For context, he loved his firm so much that he was closed off to discussing all opportunities outside the firm and basically let all of his relationships prior to entering the firm wither away. He was at the firm somewhere around 15 years and loved every minute of it for the first 12 years. By the time he was in his mid-fifties, a new management team came in and wanted to go a different direction and marginalized him. Then laid him off in the middle of the global financial crisis. Now, he was trying to revitalize relationships that he hadn't spoken to in over a decade to get a new job and it wasn't helping much. He gave me this advice trying to ask me for a job. The other thing I learned was that no matter how much you make, you have to spend less than that to accumulate wealth. He didn't do that either, as he spent like a drunken sailor. He never really recovered. It was absolutely brutal.

So, the takeaway for me was to keep in contact with people you have worked with before because you never really know where your next opportunity will lie. If you have limited contact with your network, your opportunities will be similarly limited. I have sourced multiple jobs from my network since that time and spend at least a few hours a week simply reaching out to my network to hear how people are doing. If I have an opportunity for them or they have one for me, all the better.

3/12/18

Not sure if this was the most important piece of advice. But this is what stuck out initially.

One of the first days at a new job my CIO took me out to lunch and after some regular relationship building the lunch finished with "remember everything you do matters, try to make everything matter when you do it. Treat your interactions with colleagues or superiors like it matters, your emails to team members or GP's like it matters, and your health, finances and personal relationships like they matter".

Simple advice but impactful. I've thought about that statement a lot since then.

3/12/18

One of the most influential pieces of advice I have received in my career thus far was something that was not even directed towards me.

I worked for a small investment firm out of undergrad that was going through a lot of changes (new partners, new fund, ton of fundraising, etc.). Coming out of school, I couldn't have been more pumped about the possibilities of what direction the firm (and myself) would be heading should everything go "as planned". Needless to say, after about a year or so of total mayhem, things were not working out.

There was this guy who I guess we'll call VP-level - right-hand man to the head honcho of the firm. Basically did everything the head guy asked but didn't really have any core skills/duties. He was the one I reported to on all my work and after awhile he became intolerable. Acted like he was responsible for sourcing every deal (only deal he ever sourced went to $0 in <6 months) and for all the new fundraising (his job was making sure the head honcho's clients actually signed the checks after being sold by said head honcho). Guy was totally worthless and it wasn't taking long for me and the rest of the firm to realize.

As I mentioned, the whole new fund/new firm/new paradise idea everyone was talking about wasn't working out after too long. It got to the point where some partners were bought out and went their separate ways. (Also bears mentioning this is when I decided I wanted to break into IB - and did!). It was during this mass-exodus of the firm when I heard one of the most insightful pieces of advice I don't think I will ever forget. It was after the VP had been canned (a surprise to no one but him) and he was on the phone with one of the partners who left. I could tell the genesis of the conversation was this VP asking the ex-partner for a job at his new venture.

The partner straight up told him: "In any business setting, you need to think about the value that you are adding. What are you bringing to the table that no one else is? I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but frankly you cannot add any meaningful value that either myself or someone else I am looking to bring on will have."

Ever since then I have always thought about what that means. It may sound simple, but obviously not everyone totally understands what adding value means. This guy was the epitome of someone who never took the time to acquire a core set of skills or develop a network that was self-sufficient. I hope to never be in that position no matter what - because it is not pretty.

3/12/18

"If you know yourself and what you're going to do, you'll leave a strong impression on everyone you meet."

This isn't career-oriented per se, but it came from my first exposure to formal networking and interviewing as a high school senior. I wanted very badly to study international relations at a certain university, so I signed up for a tour there. I didn't tour every school I was interested in, and got into a habit of emailing students and professors who were doing what I (thought I) wanted to do. This naturally extended to keeping in touch with my tour guide at my top-choice school. That, and he was just a really cool dude -- he didn't try to show off for the tour group or be anything other than himself (which, as a former university tour guide, I can say you don't see a lot of).

He was a young guy when we met (no older than 21), but he was very wise for his age and with a very strong sense of self. He was also very religious, and his faith guided a lot of his decisions in terms of hobbies, personal fulfillment, etc. I forget the exact context of what we were talking about when he told me the quote above, but the quote got stuck in the back of my mind since then and was only rooted out thanks to this thread.

This guy's whole approach to life was grounded in his becoming a better man for the greater glory of God (Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, as he would say), and ultimately, for himself to reach his potential. This was evident in everything about him, from his gait to his dedicated approach to his writing to his spending a large amount of time helping others (he volunteered at a homeless shelter and worked with the people there very closely) for its own sake, on top of his other commitments. He knew where he was going, what he was doing, and most importantly, why he was doing it. Did he have all the answers at 20/21? No, but he was ahead of 95%+ of his (and now, my) peers already, and that made a big impression on me even as a teenager.

I think in recent years, I got too caught up in the "path" we all talk about on WSO, which led me further from what I intuitively want for a chance at someone else's version of "success" (probably some marketing department's whose target audience is eager-beaver college seniors looking for a "prestigious" gig, to be frank). So I'm glad I ran into this thread; it certainly gave me a moment to stop and think about where I'm going and if it's where I actually want to be.

3/12/18

Tons of good advice so far and I'm sure more to come. I've definitely received a whole host of good advice in my career so it is hard to pick the best. I guess what I'd offer up is the following, which isn't particularly insightful, but has been important for me:

Never burn bridges and always treat everyone with a respect. As you progress in your career, your peers and counter-parties will also be progressing in theirs. The analyst working your sell-side engagement may transition to the buy-side next year, may be in business school in three years, and may be a VP at a competitor PE firm in five. Before you know it, all of your peers will be influential members at their respective firms.

I've been working in the industry for 10+ years now and it is ridiculous how frequently I encounter folks that I've worked with or met before. I've also been asked on numerous occasions to provide an "off the record" reference for people I've worked with in the past. Some folks don't even know that I played a role in helping them get a job or secure an engagement. So it doesn't matter how much you hate someone, how dis-pleasurable it was working for someone, always resist the urge to tell them off. It is likely that your paths will cross again.

CompBanker

3/12/18

This is great advice and something I'm trying to work on myself. Much easier said than done. So many assholes out there

3/13/18

Learnings that have come to me both in the form of advice (though often more indirectly) and observation:

1) Good health - have a regular exercise routine and healthy diet. You'd be surprised the negative effect that poor habits outside of the office have on your work. By not neglecting your personal health, you have more energy and stamina to deal with the rigors of work.

2) Toxic colleagues - learn to read people early on and recognize individuals who bring negativity as part of who they are. For example, seeing the early signs of a potential asshole boss during the interview process will save you a lot of heartache down the road.

3) Over-communicate - Stay in touch with and update your co-workers throughout the process of whatever it is you're working on (deck, model, etc.). I think this has direct bearing on APAE's experience. Simply put, through regular interaction with your colleagues you create a trust and familiarity with them. So when your content is good, your marketing will be too.

3/13/18
23mich:

2) Toxic colleagues - learn to read people early on and recognize individuals who bring negativity as part of who they are. For example, seeing the early signs of a potential asshole boss during the interview process will save you a lot of heartache down the road.

This this this! You can be happy cold-calling for kind people and suicidal working for toxic people who fight over the pettiest things. How do you screen for red flags early on?

3/15/18

I was thinking this too. After my last role, I learned the value of stressing applicant due diligence. While impossible to know a person or company 100% in five rounds of interviews or fewer, there is a LOT that you can do to decrease the chances of taking a role at a dumpster fire. Make sure you reach out to former employees and make a true effort to hear from those that did/didn't enjoy their time.

3/13/18

Good list!

26 Broadway
where's your sense of humor?

3/13/18
3/13/18

If you're with your boss, especially in a social interaction, and he's not on his phone, you don't need to be on your phone.

I realise there are exceptions here, but the rule of thumb is that his time is more valuable than yours.

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3/13/18
  1. Never make the same mistake twice. Everyone expects someone new and without much experience to make a mistake here and there, but the worst thing you can do is be a "repeat offender". Be absolutely rigorous in understanding why you made the mistake you made, and how to prevent it from happening again.
  2. Set expectations. Not everything needs to be a fire drill, and I'd rather know I'm going to get something of exceptional quality a few minutes late than get something shoddily thrown together a day early.
3/13/18

This was a tough one for me to swallow but I constantly go back to it, but someone that I interviewed with told me fairly early on to never compare myself vs. another peer (when it comes to #s, promotions, etc). Gist is everyone got there because they all can do the job, and the moment you start comparing yourself to others is when you'll start feeling dissatisfied.

I think this also enabled me to not to keep up with the joneses, which is something i see way too often.

Another good career advice I got was to learn golf.

3/13/18

After 29 yrs of hardcore, commission based selling and agency building (no not IB but relevant nonetheless), a business coach shared this message:

4 keys to success in business and in life:

  1. Say please and thank you
  2. Show up on time
  3. Finish what you start
    4. Do what you say you will do!!!!!

So basic but so important. I highlight the last one because this is the key to being taken seriously. At whatever cost and however inconvenient, do what you say you are going to do. If it sucks, it's your fault for committing. People won't take you seriously if you don't follow through. Even socially. if you say you're going to a kid's birthday party (work colleague or anybody's kid), go no matter what. If you say you're going to meet someone for drinks, go no matter what.

Also from my dad, "Be the best at whatever you do, even if it means being the best garbage collector." So true

3/16/18

My father also always told me (as his father told him) "be the best at whatever you do - even if you are the garbage collector"

Words to live by.

3/16/18

Fantastic advice all around.

In my admittedly limited experience, I have found that perhaps more than anywhere else, in business, your reputation is of paramount importance.

I have seen people's professional prospects be derailed because of trivial mistakes. I have seen other people's serious mistakes result in little or no consequences to them. The difference in every case was whether and how their reputation preceded them.

People are skeptical - all the more so in business when the stakes are high. If you have a reputation for sloppiness, sloth, or anything else negative, every little error you make or difference in opinion you exhibit will be held up as "another nail in the coffin", and every success you make will be met with a sigh of relief. By contrast if you have a reputation for good work, talent, dedication, etc, the same mistakes etc will be regarded as hiccups undeserving of serious attention, and your triumphs will be regarded as another foundational stone in what will eventually become your throne.

Always consider how your actions impact your reputation. A reputation is a cumulative and compounding thing - if you don't invest in it early and often, it will be harder to catch up later, and you may not have enough of it to lean on when you need it most.

3/16/18
3/13/18

Always be interviewing/networking. This might be fairly obvious to most of you on here, but is the most valuable piece of advice I've received. Before I heard this advice, I've always had a near-term motive for talking to a professional or peer.

Instead, it's better to catch up with people and see what's out there. Connecting over a longer span of time builds organic relationships, takes the pressure off of the conversations, and keeps you in touch with what's going on in your market and industry.

3/13/18

"Divorce is a dilutive transaction." - My MD, shortly after getting divorced.

ask why, asshole

3/13/18

"The most valuable skill you can have is learning to build relationships with those above you." Unless you work for yourself, you can advance only so far in your career based on your skills before you hit a ceiling. How far you go beyond that will depend on how much those above you are willing to pull you upwards and root for your success.

3/13/18

Great list so far. One thing I'd add here is to always look for how you can help/add value to others. Be proactive and intentional about this. Be consistent about this. This is how you build professional relationships.

3/13/18

Not exactly a single piece of advice I was given, but one of the most valuable things that happened to my career is owed to one man.

Was at a F500 for an internship and he was a c-level exec who gave a speech to the intern class. Being the shameless and hungry student I was, I relentlessly fought to get a meeting with him and finally got it after having him reschedule a thousand times. Walking into his office, I was able to sell myself as a scrappy and do-it-all type of kid and he staffed me on all kinds of project which were outside the scope of my original job title, proving that I was worthy of his word and recommendation.

Each assignment I was given within the company, I crushed and was finally able to see what he had done. The guy made me grind out great work while I was working with a massive chip on my shoulder being from a non-target etc. and helped me see that it really wasn't an impediment at all and that I wasn't much different than the kids who had more of a background advantage.

I was able to come to terms with his help, that all that mattered in my job search (he knew I wanted to get a job in IB) was a change in my attitude. This may not seem like a huge deal but in terms of the way I carried myself and in turn the way interviewers perceived me, it was a game changer.

I guess I was touched by his efforts to help me see myself in a more correct way and it's something I've tried to instill in every non-target student who networks with me. Can't stress enough to find a mentor who is willing to invest real time in you - it's really amazing what an attitude change can do for you.

I know this has some grammatical errors but wrote this in a hurry

3/13/18

First off, apologies for being horribly late to this thread and to many others. I blame my pending nuptials and also having wso blocked at work.

Two things come to mind. First was from my first boss at my first job out of school. I asked a question about a meeting she had attended with other managers that was "above my pay grade." And we ended up chatting for 30 or 40 minutes while she drew out on the whiteboard everything they had discussed. When I said thanks for taking the time to explain all that, she said "you don't hit home runs if you don't swing. Don't ever hesitate to ask if you want to know something." Great life advice too.

And another from a more recent boss is "Don't be a button pusher." Understand why you're doing what you do and what those numbers and tasks represent. It's a way of not rendering yourself obsolete.

Metal. Music. Life. headofmetal.com

3/13/18
In The Flesh:

First off, apologies for being horribly late to this thread and to many others. I blame my pending nuptials and also having wso blocked at work.

Two things come to mind. First was from my first boss at my first job out of school. I asked a question about a meeting she had attended with other managers that was "above my pay grade." And we ended up chatting for 30 or 40 minutes while she drew out on the whiteboard everything they had discussed. When I said thanks for taking the time to explain all that, she said "you don't hit home runs if you don't swing. Don't ever hesitate to ask if you want to know something." Great life advice too.

And another from a more recent boss is "Don't be a button pusher." Understand why you're doing what you do and what those numbers and tasks represent. It's a way of not rendering yourself obsolete.

Number two, in so many words from an old mentor. He told me everything I learned in college was surface level and that I would never be able to quickly and dynamically think through problems without having a strong understanding of technical fundamentals.

All of my life trying to find the quickest repeatable patterns, flipped upside down. Always build a solid foundation and build from there. Not only does it save you a ton of time in the long run, you'll be legitimate when your counterparts may not be.

3/13/18

The best career advice I ever received is not all that different than what many others here have received, but I'm happy to share it and the story behind it.

(Also thanks to @APAE for the prompt and the new CU format. I hope to see many more gold threads in the coming weeks.)

The advice was: if you excel at what you're doing, you will get the chance to excel at other things.

Here's the background: I was a lowly summer researcher in an engineering lab at a large state school over one of my college summers. The guy who was the head of the lab was a legend in the field, and had ~500+ publications to his name by that point. He wasn't just a paper-churner, though; he'd been a board member in industry, and part of government task forces, and had patents, and he was an MD/PhD, and had just a fabulous list of accomplishments.

During one of my mid-summer update meetings with him, I asked him how he'd gotten to do all of the wide array of things he'd gotten to do over his career, and how he'd prepared for them. It seemed like from one step to the next, it was all so elegantly crafted, as if the 5th experience was the perfect summation of his skill development from the first 4, and so on. I figured he'd started with a grand plan when he was 17 and ticked off items as he did them.

He laughed as hard as an 80-year-old academic could laugh, and said that nothing could be farther from the truth. He said that he was smart, and he was a hard worker, and so he picked a thing (first, medical school) and tried as hard as he could and did very well, and at the culmination of that, he had opportunities to do many things. So instead of agonizing over the "career trajectory," he picked one (a PhD program), worked as hard as he could, excelled again, and then had a new set of opportunities to pick from.

Especially to those picking the right preschool to maximize their Ivy chances, this all might sound a bit reactive. But the world his opportunities came from did not have any defined structure, as the field itself was being shaped by him and his contemporaries. And ultimately, he had the chance to pick the roles that he found interesting and rewarding, because he'd built a foundation for himself role by role that uniquely set him up to be valuable in that world.

I think we on this site, and those still on an educational track, adhere to a more structured career development paradigm because it provides an option to avoid the paralyzing prospect of unlimited opportunities. But trust me, kids, the structure ends, either as you age out of it or when your industry changes or the development paradigm shifts.

So for me, I use the advice as a reminder to balance the 10-year-planning for a moment with making sure that I'm doing what I can to excel in my current role, with the faith that good performance now will open doors later that don't even exist currently and I couldn't possibly have planned for beforehand.

3/16/18

Had to SB because THIS. So much THIS. A defined, specific path can be comforting, but it becomes frustrating as hell if you deviate or miss any steps along the way -which has been a recurring theme in many of the threads on here.

But the reality is if you put together a bulletproof body of work while remaining flexible and open, new/alternative opportunities materialize. I've essentially been winging it the past decade, but had some major wins simply because I remain location agnostic and embrace any chance to try something different. My personal motto when it comes to work is "so long as the check clears". Most of us aren't out here trying to cure cancer, so some perspective is in order.

That said, the most valuable skill I've picked up is selling. If I hadn't started off in that industry because every other door was closed, there's no way I could have persuaded/influenced people to take so many chances on me coming out of an extreme non-target - with no internship experience(!).

Which is why I'm often bemused by some of the threads that pop up. Great back office jobs but hate life if they're not in IB. Target schools but think an interview ding is the end of the world. Transferring from a top 10 to a top 5 school for better recruiting chances. Still in H.S. but want tips on Oil & Gas modeling. Cracks me up each time.

3/13/18

Two good pieces of advice I've heard:
- Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance.
- Work hard and take all the luck you can get.

3/13/18

This is a really good list and great idea.

Here is mine: you are responsible for your own education and success, so be relentless

Getting into finance is easy. That's right. Getting into banking/private equity is "easy." Staying in it is extremely difficult. Therefore it is of my opinion, that if you are relentless in your pursuit to perfect your trade, whatever the profession, you will find success.

Additionally, I've also witnessed candidates and analysts simply not willing to put in the effort to learn, even when a tremendously hard-to-come by opportunity is essentially handed to them. It takes a lot more than smooth talk and bull shit to survive finance.

3/13/18

APAE's post reminded me of Marc Andreessen's old blog post titled "The only thing that matters":
https://pmarchive.com/guide_to_startups_part4.html
Otherwise, intellectual flexibility is a key to success in finance/business/life. There are many examples and smarter men than me have said this is the real takeaway from studying Warren Buffett.

patternfinder:

Of course, I would just buy in scales.

See my WSO Blog | my AMA

3/14/18

Advice from my favorite professor in undergrad - choose a boss and not a firm.

He was semi-retired after a long career in finance. Didn't appreciate how spot-on this advice was back then.

Early on in my career I was very focused on brand, but I am glad I followed my professor's advice. I have found that your interaction with your boss is likely to impact your career early on more than the firm/group itself. If your boss likes you, you will get staffed on more/better opportunities, have more responsibility and have an advocate in your corner come bonus/promotion time. This still remains true today after being in PE for numerous years. I have many friends who work at great firms that dread going into work because they don't see eye to eye with their bosses/teams. Numerous polls have shown that the majority of employee attrition is due to employees' direct supervisors and this is still true in finance.

3/14/18

Two things:

Don't judge people without seeing things from their side first

A new property management company was interviewing for one of our upcoming deals. We all packed into the conference room - the head of the property management company, the head of the region, the VP of marketing, the regional manager, and the proposed property manager on their side and myself, my VP, and the two owners of my company on my side. The presentation was predictably boring, but they're a solid company, and my and my VP's assessment to the owners after the meeting was that the firm is fine, but the property manager was thoroughly unimpressive and wouldn't work. After all, these are supposed to be outgoing, bubbly people and she barely spoke two times during the two hour presentation.

My boss paused and said to look at it from where she was sitting - she was in a room with 4 of her bosses and 4 of their potential bosses. She was probably nervous as all hell and in a situation thoroughly removed from what her actual job would be. We didn't end up going with her still, but we definitely gave her another shot one on one with either of us - a situation far more relative to her position and one that, while still stressful, wasn't unnecessarily so.

Another one is:

There are a million reasons why something doesn't get accomplished, and only one reason it does

Meaning, you can make any excuse in the book for why something can't happen or didn't happen, and, as an intelligent and responsible person, your excuse a lot of the times is completely valid. Still, things need to be accomplished and the only reason they get accomplished is because someone accomplishes them. Someone finds a way to make it happen.

It's a mentality that has certainly stayed with me and makes me think about how to accomplish objectives, even with overwhelming adversity, as opposed to rationalizing why objectives can't be accomplished.

3/14/18

Part advice / part story.

My first role after college was at a VC-funded tech-startup. Our CEO had sold his previous company for over $1b during the dot com bubble and was a all-time pioneer in the advertising/commerce space....point being, not some computer engineer with a pipe dream.

One day I saw him taking out the trash (again, startup) and I immediately jumped into action, "Oh no Mr. Smith (not his real name) let me take that out for you." He pulled the trash out of reach and said,

"I'll take out the trash, you go focus on serving our clients and working with our engineers. It's my job to do whatever I can in order to ensure that everybody here can spend as much time, energy, and effort working with one another to achieve our goals"

This ties into the 'pick your boss' advice from above. That day showed me the importance of leading by example, treating your subordinates with respect and emphasizing the importance of being a team-player. One day it might be you taking out the trash.

3/15/18

My last commanding officer was a Civil War nerd like myself and when the context came up he always restated one of the best and oft forgotten Lincoln quotes, which was, "I do not like that man. I must get to know him better."

While that mindset is important for personal conduct, it becomes even more so when you're in a leadership position and creating a positive workplace environment. When you're responsible for a group's performance you can't let things that tick you off about a person get in the way and good leaders are the ones that build the bridges by finding the good in them and bringing that out. I do my best to live by that little quote both in and out of work.

"We listen, if it feels good we shake."
"This town is nuts, my kind of place."
-WSMFP

3/15/18

One addition, though i forget where I heard it first: the old "dress for the job you want" maxim hasn't steered me wrong yet.

Metal. Music. Life. headofmetal.com

3/15/18

Fantastic posts. +1 to basically everyone.

One of the better pieces of advice I got early on: "You can't check what you can't do". Given to me as an MBA Associate 0.

3/15/18

This isn't so much career advice but a great tip just for rapid learning and execution when you're new on the job.

Had a supervisor tell me to sneak in a micro recorder to meetings w/ our VP because he had a tendency to jump all over the place with his thoughts. It became a habit and now I walk out of meetings able to playback difficult concepts or steps to a process in order. It also reduces the number of times you need to ask the same question and makes your colleagues think you've got perfect recall!

3/15/18

ive been meaning to get one of these recorders, how much did you spend? any recommendations?

3/16/18

I went for the cheapest thing that looked decent on Amazon. ~$30; I did check the reviews to see how far its range extended, though. But any of the $30 items should suffice.

3/16/18

thanks man. Ordered one!

3/16/18

Fair enuf. It was helpful as "career advice" in the sense that for many of the early years of my career, I was judged very much on what I could do.

3/15/18

@APAE First off, awesome idea - both for a certified user only response thread and the best career advice you ever received. The former is a great thing to have to help have curated content, which is definitely needed. The latter, I'm surprised this hasn't been asked before.

To you question, I have a few pieces of advice:

1) Listen. I can't stress that enough. It doesn't matter what you do, just listen to what people are saying to figure out what they truly want or need. Understand their position, put yourself in their position as best you can, and offer them the best advice that helps them out in their situation. Pitching an idea because it's the newest flavor of the week doesn't help anyone. Taking a step back, think about who your client is and, regardless of whether or not you are an Analyst or an MD, and ask if you are meeting their needs and delivering something that that you firmly believe meets their needs. Even if it's just listening to what the people above you want, it's about taking a step back, processing everything instead of running on autopilot, and thinking before you act. I know it's such a simple thing, but it's helped me more times than I can count to deliver results for clients.

2) ELI5 - For those of you who are unfamiliar, there's a board on Reddit called ELI5, or Explain Like I'm 5. Before I came across the board, I always thought it was supposed to be Explain Like I Have a GED. One of the first clients I dealt with was very successful but only had a high school diploma. The first time I met with him, I was presenting him with some analysis for an idea he asked my team to vet, and he stopped me 5 minutes in and said he only had his GED and that everything he learned came from experience. He asked me to explain the analysis to someone who only had a GED. It was an enlightening experience because it forced me to think about not only what I'm presenting, but how I present it. I began presenting to people as if they knew nothing about finance and only graduated high school. It made presentations much easier to do and I was able provide better advice and analysis to clients. I know you can say it's all about knowing your audience, but the further along I've gotten in my career, the more it holds true. The higher up you are, the further from the nitty gritty you are, and the more basic things need to be. Let everyone else ask questions and dictate the flow, but keep things simple and easy to understand and everything should go better.

3) Don't be the god damned Sheriff. This one is a little bit confusing and comes from a former colleague of mine. If you've ever seen a western, the sheriff in many movies is often a gunslinger who is the protagonist, and often the hero of the story. He comes in, saves the day, and then rides off into the sunset. We worked with a guy was often demanding, gave little credit, not even where it was due, and took the glory for himself. Mind you, I liked the guy because he was no-nonsense and straight forward whenever there wasn't something that was "urgent" on the table. Every time he gave an urgent project, he would demand we reorganize everything to make it work, come in, take all the credit, and then ride off into the sunset. Yes, as the senior man, it's your job to win the deal in front of the client, but not taking the time to show any appreciation or help in private can really be a drag on morale. Something as simple as a thank you or acknowledgement goes a long way to keeping the morale up and reminding people that they aren't just cogs in a machine.

I'm sure I have more, but that's all I have for the moment.

3/17/18

Thanks @Frieds.

I'm really pleased seeing just how this thread turned out, then watching a couple others take off too (which I have been late to reply to, sorry @dcrowoar and @Layne Staley) is awesome.

Your "ELI5" comment is on-point. I am continually amazed how permanently applicable the "KISS" (Keep It Simple, Stupid) acronym is.

I used to put an inordinate amount of effort into obsessing over all the minutia and intricate details of what, how, and why a transaction would or wouldn't work. Funny thing is, when you get in front of really senior, powerful people, they all want to go back to the basics. That brilliant scene with Jeremy Irons in Margin Call is very apt.

I learned to work smarter and put the effort into simplifying the problem so people could then apply their intelligence to giving the hardest answers.

The best analogy I have for it is that grade-school math principle we all learned: LCM (least common multiple). Yeah, the math still has to work out, but if you can simplify the equation by boiling things down to their fundamental components, all of a sudden the problem gets way easier to solve.

Thanks for a great point.

Most people do things to add days to their life. I do things to add life to my days.

Browse my blog as a WSO contributing author

3/15/18
3/15/18

Probably not the best advice I've said or heard, but I personally think it belongs in here somewhere: experiences are more valuable than material possessions. Even though I can't keep an experience, there's something far more rewarding and fulfilling in saying that I climbed Everest or raised thousands or millions of dollars for a charity that I organized (hypothetical examples) compared to buying a Lambo or a house that's too big for me.

That and everybody wang chung tonight

3/16/18

A few pieces of advice that have served me well:

1) "Don't let them make their problem into your problem."

2) Context: When you are concerned about getting canned and are considering quitting, "Make them work for it."

Lawyer turned VC, turned banker, turned VC and never leaving again.

3/16/18

When I was an intern with Philadelphia's branch of Blue Cross Blue Shield, called Independence Blue Cross in the city, we had a phenomenal team leading us. Everyone was very involved as the selection process was intense, and only .3 to .5% were selected, so we got great access to everyone.

The CMO gave a very compelling speech on what it means to be a professional one day to the group of 80 or so of us. Afterward, when I returned to my desk, I sent him an email asking if I could have 10 to 15 minutes of his time, whenever he could fit it in. He invited me to lunch the next day, to my great astonishment.

I scrambled to get some intelligent questions together as it was a shot in the dark with no planning.

During lunch, I asked some questions that must not have been that impactful as I forget most of them. Except one.

I asked "So you are in charge of 9 digit advertising/marketing budget, and you get new interns every year. Why did you think that it was important to meet with an intern that isn't even in you department?"

He said "Because you had the balls to ask. Let me tell you something: In business, no one will give you anything. You have to earn everything that you're worth"

And that has stuck with me ever since.

Hopefully you enjoyed the story!
-AJL

3/17/18

" 'If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don't ask what seat.' - Eric Schmidt by way of Sheryl Sandberg.

To generalize, focus on being on the best platform, not having the best position/ title. This is especially true in finance, where people frequently 'trade down' (in terms of firm) for bigger titles/ raises. This sometimes makes sense, but all too often you end up wishing you'd taken the time to progress with the higher quality firm

3/17/18

Health. "Your volume and quality of output is correlated with your health. People prefer working with and engage better with people who look better, act more energetic and optimistic." from a former boss

3/17/18

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3/17/18