Friday, September 19, 2008

Financial Services Tips from an Investment Banking Veteran

Today’s post comes from our guest blogger, Michael Paone, Assistant Director of Employer Relations at CAPS. Michael has over 7 years of experience in investment banking, most recently at Bear, Stearns and Co., Inc. in New York City. For more on Michael, check out his biography. For his advice regarding fall recruiting during the current economic climate, read on:

As we all know, the current economy is facing a very serious downturn, and there is a lot of concern on Wall Street regarding when things will turn around. Over the past year the credit market has knocked out some of largest financial services firms, including Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc., Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG. I was a Vice President at Bear, Stearns working in the high yield research group so I was in Bear’s corner during the first round of this title bout. It was a difficult time for me as well as my colleagues, but we stayed the course and have found ways to move past this tough situation.

Now, I feel fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come to the University of Chicago and advise students primarily in the field of financial services while at the same time, working toward getting my MBA at the GSB. The current state of the financial markets should be taken seriously, but I want to encourage students that if we work hard enough and think creatively, we can find success despite the tough market right now.


First off, I want to be sure you have realistic expectations. It is a tough market and you (with our support) will need to work a little harder to find the right opportunities for you. More than ever, networking is going to be crucial to uncover the hidden job market. On-campus recruiting will still offer a plethora of firms that have great opportunities, but students should be aware that some of the larger bulge bracket firms are scaling back [Note to 2nd and 3rd years reading: what we’re hearing from many of the large firms right now is that they are actually going to be putting more emphasis on internship recruiting this winter. I’ll be posting again closer to Metcalf Season to provide tips and advice for internship recruiting]. However, at the same time that some of the large firms are scaling back, some hedge funds and boutique shops are looking at this market as an opportunity to select the best and the brightest to bolster their positions in their respective places in the financial market.

Although the economy is presenting a difficult environment right now, career goals can come to fruition if you are willing to stay focused, adhere to a game plan and think outside the box. Thinking outside the box this fall means working with CAPS to see which firms may be a good fit for you and identifying new companies for you to go after - even companies that were not previously on your radar screen.

I worked at Moody’s Investors Service prior to joining Bear. If you’re thinking “I’ve never even heard of that firm,” that’s my point exactly. I am very glad I did take a position there because working there provided me with an arsenal of skills that I relied on to achieve a promotion to Vice President in under two years of being at Bear.

Moreover, do not settle on one position and/or one firm. We can work together to think of firms that might be a good fit for you and your career goals… we know you’re very busy with school, but if we design a great plan and work hard your outlook will be much brighter.

While investment banking firms are offering fewer positions than in previous years, don’t discount the fact that there are other firms in the marketplace that can offer a great experience – both professionally and financially. For instance, smaller boutique shops can offer a candidate an experience that they may not get at a larger institution, e.g. more client interaction, more responsibility, more exposure to officers of the company, and potentially a faster career path given the additional responsibility…Even the Wall Street Journal agrees, as a recent article detailed steps that seasoned Wall Street professionals are taking to explore opportunities with smaller organizations that are planning to expand their footprint in the marketplace. In addition, larger corporations including Pepsi and Apple are multi-divisional organizations that offer opportunities in a variety of different business concentrations. If you’re interested in opportunities like this, you should come into CAPS and develop a plan to apply to these organizations.

“FAILING TO PREPARE IS PREPARING TO FAIL” – Coach John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach, 1948 - 1975

From the start of the fall recruiting season, you need to be actively involved in your job search. Our career fair is taking place on October 3rd and there will be over 75 companies on hand – these are companies who are hiring and who have positions to fill. Prepare your resume and plan to be at the fair – it will run from 12 – 4pm in Ida Noyes Hall.

In addition, this year we are holding four separate Career Networking Nights (two each for financial services and for consulting) – this is a great opportunity for students to speak with prospective employers on an one-on-one basis. Career Networking Nights (CNNs) are new this year, and offer students the opportunity to meet with recruiters from several companies at the same time (it’s like an information session, but you’re getting information from six or seven organizations at the same time).

The Financial Services CNNs are taking place on October 6 and October 16, from 5:30 – 7:00pm in Ida Noyes Hall. Think of them as mini-career fairs that are financial services specific. If you’re interested in financial services, block your calendar now and plan to attend both of these events.

Other tips:
· Utilize Chicago Career Connection to upload your resume and actively seek out positions posted on there by companies coming to campus.
· Come in and speak with our staff so we can help guide you and explore your prospects.
· Be prepared if you do not get an offer this fall – realistically, fall recruiting is going to be slower this year than in years past, and there are going to be many smart, talented and driven University of Chicago students who might not get an offer before the holidays. Just remember, that’s ok!… late winter and early spring will still bring opportunities, especially if the economy begins to turn around, and CAPS staff are available throughout the academic year to help you conduct your job search, and to seek out organizations that you may not have considered before.

To schedule an appointment with Michael, or any CAPS staff member, call us at (773) 702 – 7040.

Concerns, advice or questions about fall recruiting? Post them here.


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