Monday, August 31, 2009

Resume Tip of the Day

The recruiting season is officially well underway and resumes are flying across cyberspace with lightening speed and frequency to match. So how do you make sure your resume stands out, is noticed, read, remembered and found at a later date?

In an email attachment, the title of your document may make the difference. So before you attach your resume, that's saved according to your own personal filing system, rename it. For example if your resume is saved as "cgsmresume.doc" rename it as "John Doe Resume Fall 2009 resume.doc." If your resume is saved as johndoeforjpmorgan.doc, rename it "John Doe xyz position title.doc"

When you send your resume, it should always place your name in the title. If you are applying for a specific position, include that in the name of your document too. For example, when I applied to this position, the email attachment looked like this: "Rachel Delcau Student and Alumni Relations Manager Resume" and the cover letter was titled accordingly as well.

Following this simple method will help you build your personal brand with recruiters, who see hundreds if not thousands of resume attachments every season. When you include the name of the position you go one step further in allowing the recruiters to immediately identify you with the position to which you are applying, which may be helpful on multiple levels.

The only time not to follow this procedure is if the application instructions call for something else.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Associates: Becoming a Top Performer

As fall approaches, many business-school graduates will launch careers in finance, on Wall Street, at investment firms, in brokerages, in wealth management, with hedge funds or private-equity firms. Others will start the same by transferring from other companies or careers.

In financial institutions, many MBA's or early-career hires start off in "associate" positions in corporate finance, corporate treasury, trading, or private banking. "Associates" spend 4-5 years refining technical skills, doing deals, preparing pitchbooks, doing research, meeting clients, broadening networks, trading, investing, selling, modelling, and planning the next stages of a long career. In many institutions, they are eventually considered for promotion to vice president.

What are the steps to get to VP? How do associates become managers, get distinguished or noticed--become leaders in the pack?

At many institutions, associates are divided into classes--based on the year they join the firm (or the year they finished b-school). Sometimes there are fairly defined performance expectations (sometimes based on measurable criteria, but often based on subjective assessments).

At the end of each year, they are subject to an exhaustive appraisal process--evaluations, ratings, and rankings. For managers, the process is agonizing, sometimes political, but often necessary for parcelling out bonuses and deciding who has what it takes to become a vice president down the line. For associates, the process may come across as vague, unscientific, impossible to interpret, sometimes unfair.

What can new associates do to distinguish themselves, create a "buzz" about themselves, and get evaluation committees excited about their accomplishments and their prospects ahead?

First, it helps to know in general about the process, know what committees and managers are looking for, know what qualitative characteristics they are looking for, and know what senior person will be your advocate in this process.

Second, it helps not to get bogged down too much about the same process. Do your best, make yourself invaluable, keep learning as much as possible, and be known for being a team player. Avoid being considered "mediocre," "average" (in other words, replaceable).

Third, try to be known or identified as a "top performer." Some of things evaluation committees look for follow.
Top performers:

1) have exceptional energy and "gravitas." They work hard and seldom let up. They don't complain about responsbility and accountability and even welcome it. They are up to the challenge, and they show up all the time,

2) keep up to date on industry issues, banking and finance topics and products, clients' businesses,

3) are consistently regarded by those senior and junior to them as a "go to" person. When there is an urgent client pitch or deal or a major project or research analysis, everybody goes to them to get them involved or to help lead the effort,

4) are self-learners and don't require hand-holding when the material is new or when the project is complex. They grasp new material rapidly and smoothly. They are generally distinguished in quantitative topics. They appreciate theories of finance and economics, but can offer informed critiques, too. They are cerebral in many ways and style. They have innate curiosity to learn, understand and know,

5) are willing to share and help those less experienced. They are regarded as team players and pleasant colleagues to work with,

6) have strong, polished writing skills in memos, presentations, e-mails, and pitches and can produce material quickly (without delay and on time),

7) have expertise in complex financial modeling, not just competence. They are creative and insightful in modeling, as well. They are attentive to and respectful of details. They are intolerable of errors of any kind in presentations or communications to clients,

8) are well-rounded, versatile, not one-sided in talents, and “solid” in most areas,

9) are comfortable in networking internally, comfortable among senior managers, and show signs of having good relationships skills with clients. Although not yet experienced with clients, they already understand what it means to be "client-centric,"

10) are willing to take measured, proper risks in business situations and career management,

11) show leadership potential, are mature, and are confident in the work they produce and assertive in supporting it. Seniors can see them "running a business unit" or "leading a major transaction" one day,

12) have a rational point of view about business situations, investments, transactions, or corporate strategy and express it properly,

13) care about the fundamentals of finance and “block and tackle” (in finance and accounting) without thinking,

14) manage time, projects, workloads, conflicting requests, difficult managers, unnecessary requests and growing responsibility efficiently and adroitly.

15) while attentive to detail, understand the "big picture" in projects, client relationships, and deals,
16) get involved in corporate "extracurriculars": b-school recruiting, corporate charities, mentor programs, and diversity initiatives (like the Consortium, Inroads, SEO and MLT)

No associate, of course, has the time, endurance or capacity to perfect all of the above. Associates also have other priorities (family, health and hobbies, for example) that deserve attention.
But it certainly helps to know what the scorecard might be. And it helps to assess yourself periodically, especially when managers and seniors will not always provide prompt feedback or provide it fairly.

The process can be more subjective than objective and associates should be aware of that. Associates, thus, should focus on what they can influence. They should know there are some things they can do now to help shape the "buzz" that's created about them.

Tracy Williams

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Career Management and Job Search: 2009 Style

Remember the old days of looking for a job--when you combed through the want-ad pages of the newspaper or conducted a massive letter-writing campaign with sleek stationery and piles of envelopes...and then waited for replies?

Those days are gone. The process has gone electronic and proceeds swiftly--with Company websites, recruiter sites, job boards, Google searches, and now professional and social networks (Linkedin, Doostang, Facebook, etc.). The Consortium Finance Network wants to help you make sense of it all or help you exploit these technical advantages.

CFN will sponsor a webinar Wednesday, September 9 at 7 pm EDT on how best to conduct your search electronically or navigate more effectively in Cyberspace. Jason Alba, CEO of, will host the session. Beyond electronic tools for a current job search, he'll focus, too, on ongoing career management.

JibberJobber is a special website to help professionals manage their careers. Jason also authored the publication "I'm on Facebook, Now What?" and produced the DVD "Linkedin for Job Seekers."

Register for the session at RSVP:

CFN hopes this will be the first of a series of webinars on relevant topics in career management, finance, and diversity. Other webinars are on the drawing board, but if others have ideas, share them with us.

Tracy Williams

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How Mentors Can Help

How can mentors best help Consortium students?

The Consortium Finance Network kicked off its new mentor program last week, involving more than 50 Consortium finance students and over 25 mentors (most of whom are Consortium alumni at various stages in their careers).

Mentors, whether participating in the CFN program or acting informally, can enhance relationships with students and help in many ways. It may not matter whether the mentor is a recent b-school graduate or is at the peak of a long career. Mentors share experiences, provide moral support, and introduce students to other mentors and helpful contacts.

A new mentor fresh out of school might be the best at helping students understand the arduous, time-consuming recruiting process and understand what's behind the corporate presentations on campus or how networking at prospective firm helps. That mentor will know the process, will advise best on how to prepare for second- and third-round interviews, will undertand the tough school-vs.-recruiting juggling effort, and may know exactly what recruiters are looking for at entry-level positions.

Experienced mentors may understand better the cycles of business and finance, the long-term opportunities and growth sectors, the "big picture" on what banks and corporations need in entry positions, and the paths from the first year to senior management.

All mentors should first understand thoroughly what students' objectives and even dreams are. They should nurture comfortable, sustaining relationships. And if they can't provide solutions or guidance, they should introduce students to their own contacts--peers, colleagues, other mentors--who can help. The mentor acts as a door-opener.

What might Consortium students in finance these days seek from mentors?

Many are transitioning from other careers and exploring opportunities in finance for the first time. Many, therefore, are seeking clues on how best to handle the transition or how they can embark on a new path without being disadvantaged.

The best examples are the many Consortium students with outstanding backgrounds in a wide variety of fields, but who are now contemplating investment banking. How can they promote their past experiences as advantages in investment banking, or how can they convince the well-known banks they are qualified to be associates in corporate finance, private equity, mergers and acquisition, or public finance?

In the wake of the financial crisis, all Consortium students are asking lots of questions: Is investment banking for me? Will there be opportunities in sales and trading? Are hedge funds still hiring, and is that a realistic career path for me? How can I get access to the world of private equity or venture capital? Will there be sufficient deal flow or investing opportunities over the next few years? Is quantitative finance still a respectable pursuit? What can I do with my MBA skills in consumer banking? What is risk management? What would be my role in corporate treasury? What are the career paths in private-wealth management? And can I change my mind and transition from one specialty to another--from trading to banking or from brokerage to private-wealth management?

Not surprisingly, Consortium students want to understand better what they've heard often--the lifestyle and compensation. Are the hours as long and is the workpace as difficult as I heard? Will there be some flexibility? Can I handle it? How can I best manage or endure the hours and pace? What will the compensation be (post-crisis)? Is it all worth the time, effort, and persistence?

Mentors who are involved in these finance sectors and have endured some of the same occasional hardships (and career successes) will be able to provide some insight or introduce students to others who can supplement the guidance.

Consortium students also want to understand the diversity picture: What firms appreciate and value diversity? What firms value the backgrounds of Consortium graduates? Will the recruiting process be fair? Is there subjectivity in how they choose? Once I join a firm, will the appraisal process be objective? And how can I, too, create a buzz about myself, my work, and my commitment?

Whether the topic is diversity or the technical aspects of a specific topic, mentors owe it to students to be candid and open. The better relationships are indeed based on sincere dialogue. The best relationships, however, are those that last for years and help inspire students to become mentors themselves one day.

Tracy Williams

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mentor Program Kick-Off

Today the mentor committee officially launched the program by introducing mentors and mentees!

It is our hope that the program will provide for a fulfilling partnership for both mentee and mentor. The mentor committee worked hard to find commonality between mentors and mentees and it is our hope that both will discover similar interest and talents, as well as common struggles they have faced while pursuing a career in finance.

To make the most of the program we encourage teams to discuss what each member hopes to gain from the relationship and to set goals that they would like to accomplish. A mentor’s role, for instance, could range from weekly discussions with a mentee to actively helping a mentee develop leadership skills, or defining the wide range of career possibilities within the field of finance.

The following documents and sites have been created by the Consortium Finance Network to enhance the mentor program:

· Mentor Program Overview: A guide to expectations and communication based on academic and corporate recruiting calendars
· The Consortium Finance Network Guidebook 2009: A resource guide for new students which answers many frequently asked questions
· Consortium Finance Network on LinkedIn: The place for CFN news, job postings, online networking and program updates

Many thanks to all the mentors and students who have signed up to participate in the inaugural year of the mentor program. Additionally, I would like to thank Tracy Williams, Camilo Sandoval and José Calunga, who have been instrumental throughout the initial planning stages and launch of the mentor program. All of your efforts contribute to the success of the Consortium's diversity mission!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

CFN: Keeping Up

MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) was featured last month on CNN's "Black in America 2" special. The TV program featured its leader John Rice and peeped in on the most recent class of MLT participants, as they completed assignments in New York.

MLT is well known to many Consortium students and alumni, because it helped many of them become stronger applicants for business schools (including Consortium schools). Indeed, there is significant overlap between the programs. The CNN program, however, brought to mind how many of the MBA-oriented diversity programs and its students bump into each other literally--the Consortium, Toigo, Jumpstart, and MLT.

They overlap among the students who participate. It's not unusal for an MBA student at, say, Dartmouth or Michigan to be members or participants of all four. The objectives of all of the programs, however, remain similar and common. Students who've participate in more than one see unique advantages in their involvement in all.

In many ways, the programs don't compete. They interact and take on special roles in an overall diversity mission. Each program offers something different, but something very important. Toigo focuses on financial services; Jumpstart focuses on investment banking and consulting, and MLT emphasizes preparation for business school. The Consortium has a broader general-management objective and, of course, provides substantial financial assistance (full tuition).

CNN's special on MLT just as well could have been a special on any of the four--or better, all four....

Moody's, the global ratings-agency firm, is proving that it seeks to hire top, diverse talent even in the current environment. It has begun to highlight and tend to it relationships with diversity pipeline groups--including the Consortium.

Last month, it hosted a seminar and networking event at its New York City headquarters. Senior managers--including CEO Raymond McDaniel and top economist Mark Zandi--made presentations to over 100 in attendance. Moody's also discussed career opportunities in its primary groups (analytics and investor services, most notably) and allowed guests to meet senior people in many of its subgroups.

The firm, along with its ratings peers S&P and Fitch, has been in the eye of the credit crisis. But the firm remains profitable with ambitions to grow more internationally and broaden its services. It's no longer just a ratings firm.

At the networking session, besides the Consortium, representatives and alumni from diversity groups NSHMBA, MLT, WITI, and ALPFA attended. Daisy Auger-Dominguez at Moody's leads its diversity-recruiting effort....

With the financial crisis all but over, now comes the flood of dramatic tales of collapse, tension, fall-out and demise. The latest book tells us about the collapse of Lehman Brothers: "A Colossal Failure of Common Sense," by Lawrence McDonald, a Lehman VP in distressed-debt trading. In his perch in its raucous trading room, he claims to have had a ringside seat to Lehman's implosion.

McDonald was not a senior manager or an insider. He tries to convey his overwhelming disappointment of having reached his career-long dream of becoming a respected Wall Street trader at a major firm, but having that dream squashed in one dramatic September, 2008, weekend--because of (in his view) ineptness and insulated behavior in top management. Read the book (if you can bear to read more second-guessing about the crisis) not to understand how Lehman collapsed, but to experience what it feels like to be on the inside of the sudden collapse and disappearance of one of the most storied names of Wall Street history....

Tracy Williams

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CFN: Planning Ahead

The Consortium Finance Network has several initiatives in process for the fall. We urge your participation and welcome your feedback, as we plan now.

The mentor program will be rolled out in the next few weeks, once we complete student-mentor match-ups.

We appointed CFN school champions at most Consortium schools. Once they start school, we look forward to their updates on what's happening on campus--recruiting, company presentations, topical issues in courses, mentoring, alumni coming back, etc.

We hope to schedule webinars for alumni, sponsors and students--one focusing on how all of us can best use Linkedin and other online networks, another featuring a prominent senior banker who can offer career-related advice to all.

We are considering a "speed-networking" event in New York late fall, where top finance leaders will discuss industry topics and their careers in small roundtables.

If you have ideas or input on any of the initiatives, share with the CFN steering committee.