Reader Q&A 2012 Edition: Networking Gone Wild, Strangers in Strange Lands, Deciding on Offers, Personal Updates, and Responding to Critics

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Reader Q&A: 2012 EditionAfter another long absence, reader Q&A makes its return today.

It seems to come around once a year by this point, so I’m labeling this the “2012 edition” (there, a partial date before you leave another comment complaining about the lack of dates).

Today we’re going to talk about networking gone wild (no NSFW photos, unfortunately), strangers in strange lands (career transitions), how to decide between multiple offers, and then a bunch of personal and site updates and randomness.

Mermaids may or may not make an appearance by the end.

Networking Gone Wild: How Much is Too Much?

With recruiting tougher than ever before, you might have resorted to “creative” networking tactics… sometimes you’re a little too imaginative for your own good, though.%

Q: Let’s say I found someone via online stalking, i.e. Googling or searching social network profiles for hours and tracking down their information. Is it wrong to contact them?

A: Nope. I would still contact them and ask for a chat – it never hurts, and the worst they can say is “no” or ignore you.

Just say you found their information “online” if they ask (or to explain where you found it in your initial email). And if they really press you, say that you had a mutual connection on some network and found them there.

Q: I’m at a non-target. Should I go to information sessions held at target schools?

A: Yes, absolutely.

Some people may get pissed off, but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And if you think it’s too expensive or time-consuming, your priorities are all wrong and you should give up on getting into front-office finance roles right now.

Holla back, office?

Q: Do you think it’s going too far if I show up at a firm’s physical office location and demand to be let in? I really want the job more than anyone else!

A: That would be going too far. And it won’t even work at large banks because they have security.

There are urban legends of people doing this successfully in ancient times, but I don’t think it would work well today. Maybe if it’s a tiny firm and you could spin a really convincing argument it might work, but this strategy is still too aggressive for me to recommend.

Q: Do you think I should buy gifts for everyone I just interviewed with? I want them to know that I REALLY want the job.

A: That would be more than a little weird. Maybe send “thank you” notes if you can do it quickly, but buying gifts for people when you’re just interviewing is going too far.

Q: What’s your view on emailing multiple people at the same firm? Do my chances improve if I speak with everyone there?

A: I would advise against emailing too many people, especially if you’re just emailing them and you don’t actually get through and speak with anyone. It can be especially annoying at smaller firms, where everyone will see your emails and talk about it.

If you’re emailing lots of people at the same firm, make sure that: 1) You contact people in different groups and not more than 2-3 in the same group; 2) You space out your emails so that you don’t seem too annoying.

A lot of people in finance perceive email from unknown senders as “spam,” and you don’t want to become a King Spammer. It’s better to be more aggressive at in-person events and over the phone.

Q: So I found this MD’s home address. I also have a camouflage kit, and I noticed there’s a lot of foliage in his backyard…

A: OK, now you’re abusing this. Next topic.

Strangers in Strange Lands: Got Career Transitions?

So, do certain areas in finance really make you too specialized? Can you move geographies even after you’ve been working in one place for years?

Q: I started out on the west coast of the US, but I want to move to New York.

I’m doing real estate consulting here and I want to move into PE but I keep running into resistance over my geographic change – what can I do?

A: I don’t think this “resistance” is about your geographic change – the problem is that you don’t have transactional experience and yet you want to move into private equity.

You should learn something about transactions and financial modeling on your own or get some type of experience that looks relevant, and then start making lots of in-person trips to New York to network (find relevant conferences to attend to explain it to your current company, and then network with PE people when you get to NY).

Q: I’ve done an internship in business development at a tech company. Pre-MBA I was doing engineering. Can I get into investment banking? How do I do it?

A: First, consider fields outside of banking: venture capital is the most obvious one if you have that experience.

Within banking, focus on tech or TMT groups and talk about how you want to combine your two interests.

And then, the usual advice about keeping all your options open, thinking about smaller banks, and so on.

Q: So, can I really get into private equity without an investment banking background?

A: Yes, you can.

At the mega-funds and even the larger middle-market funds it’s dominated by bankers (and sometimes consultants), but there are thousands of smaller firms where you’ll find people from all different backgrounds.

Spin your experience into sounding relevant for PE (any type of ROI analysis you did, managing teams, finding new customers, partners, etc.) and make sure you know the technical side very well.

Q: I’m an intern at the corporate finance department of a F500 company. How can I get referrals to their internal M&A team?

A: A couple tips:

  1. Do it while you’re still working there – it’s much harder after you leave.
  2. Ask your team, but name a couple different areas you’re interested in rather than just M&A. That way it seems like you want to get to know more people instead of hopping over to one specific team.
  3. Go to internal company-wide events – big firms should have tons of mixers and networking events.

It’s definitely possible to complete an internship in another area, and working in the M&A team will make it easier to win IB offers later on.

Q: You’re being way too optimistic with the exit opportunities from specialized groups like FIG. Isn’t it really, really hard to move to other areas after starting out there?

A: Yes, it is more difficult, and yes, I agree that the interviewee was being quite optimistic.

But it’s an interview and it reflects his own opinions, based on his personal experience. Everyone’s different, and a lot depends on your bank, your region, and your group.

Here’s the thing, though: you inevitably get pigeonholed into more specialized roles as you move up.

One friend worked on a single telecom M&A deal at a boutique 10 years ago, and from that point onward he kept getting shuffled into TMT-type roles at banks and hedge funds all because he was “the telecom guy.”

So while I agree that some groups are more specialized than others (FIG, Energy, Real Estate), you’d become more specialized as you advance in almost any industry group.

Deciding on Offers: Bulge Bracket Death Match

Apparently the article on how to decide on internship offers wasn’t enough, because the questions keep coming in…

Q: I have an offer at a top private equity firm in their real estate group, and then a generalist investment banking offer at a smaller bank. What should I do?

A: Depends on what you mean by “smaller bank.” If this is a regional boutique with 2 people, I would take the RE PE offer; if it’s a middle-market or larger bank, I would take the banking offer unless you are hyper-enthusiastic about real estate and want to stay in it for the long-term.

Real estate is another field where it gets harder and harder to leave the longer you stay in it.

Q: I have an offer at a small PE firm in Asia and a bulge bracket investment bank in the US. If I want to do private equity in the long-term, which one should I take?

A: Go with the bulge bracket offer, for all the reasons outlined here on why you usually want to start out in banking. If it were a mega-fund you could make a better argument for taking the PE offer instead.

Q: Regional boutique bank offer vs. MBB (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG) consulting offer. If I want to do banking long-term, which one should I take?

A: Assuming that this is for an internship, I would go with the MBB offer because brand matters a lot.

It would be a closer call if these were for full-time positions; there I might lean toward the boutique bank because it’s still difficult to move into finance from consulting, even if you’re at a top firm.

Q: I have a Restructuring offer at an elite boutique and an M&A offer at a bulge bracket bank. Which one should I take?

A: You can’t go wrong with either one, but I would go with the bulge bracket offer because you get broader exposure and you may get more networking opportunities.

But if you really want to do Restructuring or Distressed M&A for the long-term, the boutique may be better.

Q: Dude, why does everyone else on this site have internship offers except for me?

Can you start a marketplace for people with multiple offers who want to sell one of them off?

A: Not a bad idea – please take care of it this weekend and have a draft of the new site design on my desk by Monday morning.

Personal Updates, Site Plans, and Responding to Criticism

Yes, the real reason you read M&I: my own antics and sarcasm-laden responses.

Q: So where are you geographically now?

A: I moved back to the US in 2011 and I’m based in New York.

Traveling for a few years was fun, but after a certain point you get tired of logistics, having to make a new set of friends in each place, and so on. Or maybe I’m just getting old…

Q: Someone should interview YOU, Brian! What about your own story?

A: I think it’s a little self-indulgent, and I would rather focus on readers and interviewees who are working in the finance industry. Answering a few questions once in a while is OK, but some of the appeal of this site would go away if I started sharing every detail of my personal life.

Do you really want to see videos of my cats? (OK, I actually don’t own pets)

Q: These interviews with readers are filled with inaccuracies! I’m going to kill you and burn down your house!

By the way, I’m going to keep telling you they’re horrible and then refuse to contribute anything or be interviewed myself.

A: I think you just answered your own question: if you feel something is inaccurate, go ahead and send in the correct information. Or volunteer to do a quick 15-minute interview with me to share your side of the story.

I do agree that a few interviews could have been better labeled (make it clear that it only applies to one specific region in a country, or that the person was just an intern, etc.) and that will be done more effectively in the future.

Interviews are not going away anytime soon because there’s only so much that I, and the rest of the associate editors, know – the real power of this site lies in the community and the wide readership.

Q: OMG you have so many competitors now! Everyone has a blog about how to get into finance! How are you different? What are you going to do?

A: First, we’ve been around since 2007 and have published hundreds of articles and created hundreds of hours of video since then.

Most other sites get started and die in about 2 months.

Most “competitors” also make a few key mistakes: 1. They’re not prepared to quit their full-time jobs and stick with it for years; 2. Their content is poor or non-existent; 3. They don’t say or do anything different; 4. Most importantly, they don’t care about people and are just looking to make a quick buck.

If you want to start your own site, do the intelligent thing and take a different angle or add something new to the discussion. And be prepared to stick with it for the long-haul and care about your readers, or don’t bother writing.

Q: Upcoming plans? Courses? Interviews? Videos? HBO series based on your short stories? Bottles?

Can you get me a meeting with Jeremy Lin since you’re both in New York?

A: A lot is going on behind the scenes. And if your attention to detail is really good, you can already figure out some of what’s coming.

I’ll get back to you on the meeting with Lin..

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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53 Comments to “Reader Q&A 2012 Edition: Networking Gone Wild, Strangers in Strange Lands, Deciding on Offers, Personal Updates, and Responding to Critics”

Comments

  1. John says

    I love these Q&A articles, very disappointed that they will only be annual haha

    This may be off-topic but I will be attending college on the east coast (hopefully at a target school but I’m not sure yet). I would love to work in San Francisco but do I have to travel there every week to land offers?

    Thank you!

  2. MSF or MBA says

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks a lot for this info. I have a query that I would like to share with you. Basically, I am an Internet marketing consultant from past an year (15 months to be precised). My aim has always been to get into finance & join an BB I bank or a PE firm. Also, I want to do an MBA in Finance soon from a target school for the same purpose by next year. My question is that Do you think it will be a good idea to leave my current employer and join a Financial services firm (in Risk Analytics) for around an year and then move out to do an MBA? Or should I stick with the same job and do my MBA, and then get into a Boutique or a BB bank?

    In a big dilemma and would appreciate your quick response.

    Thanks.

    • says

      I think a better idea would be to apply to MBA programs, and then do a pre-MBA internship or part-time internship during the MBA in something that’s closer to IB/PE. Risk analytics is quite different. So I would stick with your current job until then, leave for a few months before the MBA, and do the internship during that time.

      • MSF or MBA says

        But brian don’t you think that an year in risk analytics would give me at least a start in finance which my current job doesn’t. Also, I have an option to join an IT consulting firm or an equity trading firm as a trader. Do you still think I should stick with my current job or switch to any one of the aforementioned jobs.

        Thanks.

          • Adam says

            Risk analytics and IT consulting – stay away. Equity trading maybe, but sounds like it’s a prop shop – if so then probably not a great idea.

            You need to focus on building a profile that will maximize your chances of getting into a top MBA and on catching interest from banks for IBD. Internet marketing is probably your best bet here. It can be useful for getting into a TMT group, especially given how popular social media is amongst investors at present.

          • MSF or MBA says

            Thanks for your feedback Adam & Brian. I was wondering if I should apply to Master’s in Finance & Economics (or Master’s in Strategy & International Management etc.) courses at some Universities such as St. Gallen & Stockholm School of Economincs, HEC Paris, LSE etc. Do you think I should stick with MBA or should also think about applying to such programs considering I only want to work in IB or PE in future.

            Thanks.

          • says

            And just to add, Master’s vs. MBA really depends on how long you’ve been out of university… if over 2 years or so, MBA is the way to go but you usually need 3+ years of full-time experience. With less experience than that, MSF programs can be better.

          • Adam says

            Just to add, LSE like Nicole mentions below is good, but not so sure about the others. Not bad at all per se, but focusing on getting into a top MBA is probably a better bet.

  3. Ted says

    Hi Brian,

    The articles which you guys produce are really insightful.
    I am from South Africa and at the moment i am stuck into either moving into a hedge fund company which recently launched about years ago and a private equity.

    I am trying to weigh up the growth opportunity of both companies which are highly attractive.

    I am just undecided on which path to take.
    Please advice?

    I would really appericate it

    • says

      Really depends on what you want to do long-term. Hedge fund work is very different most of the time and it’s better if you enjoy following the markets, trading, and paying attention to the news. Whereas private equity is more about analyzing individual companies and potential deals in-depth, doing a lot of due diligence, and coordinating larger teams, at least when you’re doing a deal.

      So it comes down to what type of work you would prefer. See: http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/buy-side-vs-sell-side/

  4. Donal says

    Boom! I hope that life-long readers, supporters- and out-and-out M&I legends such as myself will get a signed copy for free?!

  5. Daleen says

    Hi,

    I’m 1st year analyst at a boutique, and want to move to BB in my second year. Should I go through headhunters? Or should I just network with bankers from the other firm?

    How does the process work?

  6. Ted says

    Hi Brian,

    Ted here again,i wanted to ask can you please advice on what one must look for when being interviewed by a snall privat equity firm?

    Would reall appericat the advice.

    Kind Regards.

    • says

      Similar criteria – ability to lead teams, work on deals, source good investments, and so on. Sourcing is probably more important at smaller firms because you’ll be doing more of it.

  7. Sam says

    Hi Brian,

    I have been an avid reader of your blog and even bought your advanced fin modeling course during my internship at a boutique bank here in India. I was given a pre place,ent offer based on my performance and since I was from a non target b school (though its known for finance but more for treasury, back office financial research) and was sure that no better bank would be coming for their front office ib team, I took up the offer. Now its been 1.5 years with my firm and I feel and am not doing anything substantial here. I want to move out. Issue is that due to lack of any substantial experience (investor side n deal closure), better mid market banks dont shortlist me (add to that since I am not from a target b school even bb dont have a look at my cv). I know I have the knowledge and i would be able to crack the interviews once given a chance, but my CVs itself dont get shortlisted. And if I pitch for Analyst/ Associate levels at a decently sized PE firm as well, given my designation (Sr. Associate), I am considered overqualified. I am in a soup and really want to move out since the more I stay here, the more stuck up I would be. What should I do?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d network a lot and try to get as many interviews as you can. Focus on current job and ace it too… hang in there

      • Sam says

        Thanks Nicole,

        Im networking as much as i can. As far as work is concerned, its really bad even if I try to ace it. Currently it is a mix of consulting and banking what i am doing. More of consulting to be specific.

  8. James says

    Hi,
    I just got an offer! Thanks alot for sharing with us all this timesless articles. I have a question, do I have to give out phone numbers of all my previous employers? To be honest, I have lost contacts with one or 2 of my past bosses ( they either ignore my email or moved out of the country). How would I fill out the reference check? Moreover, for those that I still keep in contacts with, should I call them and make sure they say good things about me?
    Best,

      • James says

        How about the people I have tried to keep in contact with but to no avail? Will they ask my previous bosses about my performance?
        Best,

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes some might call up your previous bosses about your performance if they do reference checks, even ones you have tried to keep in contact with

          • James says

            I also have one boss who didn’t agree to be contacted when I asked him. How should I resolve this?
            Best,

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Did he say why?

            If they ask you for references give them bosses who are willing to be contacted

          • KK says

            I am also in the same position. I did this internship about 3 years ago and can’t contact my boss. can I just leave his contact information blank? Are they ways they can track him down?

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Yes, if your boss is unwilling to give you a reference, try to give them contacts of your other colleagues/bosses who want to help you.. unless they specifically request for that boss’ info.

  9. Leyla says

    How keen are US BBs on hiring summer interns from overseas? Is obtaining an authorization of a work permit as tedious as claimed by popular belief? Thanks.

  10. mohange says

    Hey I’ve a question. Last year I interviewed with a top boutique. It was a lateral hire and I made it through the final round with the VP. but they shot me down in the end. Do you think it’s appropriate to contact the VP again for future opportunities? or this would actually put me in a bad position since he would recall who i am and wonder if i have anything new to show on the table…

  11. LadyX says

    Hi Brian,

    I cannot believe I missed the annual Q&A :(

    But I just have a quick question: I have an internship offer from a top bulge bank and a full-time offer from a low-ranking/mid-market bank, which one should I go for?

    Thanks!

    X

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Depends on which team you like better and how much job security you crave. I’d take the one where I get along well w the peeps the most

  12. BadgeArms says

    Hi Brian,

    I have an odd situation. I have graduated (from a good uni and with good grades) last year and now have a corp fin-related job in London, but it’s not IB. However, I do meet a lot of senior investment bankers, and network with them quite extensively.

    I would like to break into ibanking and recently got an opportunity to refer a deal worth around $500m to an ibank (practically of my own choice, as long as it meets client’s conditions). Do you think it would be OK for me to ask my ibanking friends (VPs, MDs etc) directly whether they’d be inclined to give a job in exchange for the deal? Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t know if that’s the best offer but it depends on a few factors 1. how close you are to your “friends” 2. can you really “deliver” the results (give the deal to the bank) 3. how much the bank will actually make from the deal

      It is a delicate situation. You need to “feel” it and understand the situation. Since I’m not physically there with you to see how you are, how you speak, who your contacts are etc, I can’t give you an answer to this question. Trust your gut

      • BadgeArms says

        Hi Nicole,

        Thanks for your reply. I agree this is a funny situation, and I will need to approach it with an appropriate degree of delicacy.

  13. MAC says

    Ok, so I have an extended offer for the summer evaluating derivatives at GS (I’m currently interning there), however they have offered me a Depository Receipts position at BNY. I’m pretty sure my current position is a hell of a lot more technical, but I feel that perhaps the BNY position may catapult me closer to a front office role. Any thoughts?

  14. Parth says

    Hi.

    I live in Delhi, India, and am preparing for my Chartered Accountancy exams. Now, i would have to undergo a 2 year training in auditing. Assuming i do it in a Big4, i was thinking about networking with the TAS there, and somehow getting into touch and eventually landing an internship with an IB in Mumbai(the finance capital of india). Is this a good idea? How can i network better and increase my chances? Any other suggestions?

    Thanks.

  15. CK says

    This may be an odd question coming from a 20 year old, but when looking for jobs, is an online presence needed? (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) I am not active on any of these social media platforms and am afraid that they will hurt my chances because I am reading about how employers stay are reluctant to recruit recruits they can’t google up.

    Thanks.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      It is not needed but it will certainly help you. LinkedIn would help. Facebook can too, though some may prefer to keep it private. If you’re worried, then get on these platforms.

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