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Finance Careers: Creative Strategies For Tightening Job Markets (Incl. Wall St)

We are entering an interesting market. Whether at graduate school (MBA, MS Finance) or undergraduate level, select financial institutions and industries, are taking a much more cautious approach to their recruitment efforts. During 2000 and 2008, we witnessed first hand the hiring boom, the slow down, and then contraction for roles across all industries, but in particular, certain financial roles.

It is important for the next generation of finance professionals to be mindful of these elements. Topics to consider include strength of the firm, strength of the team, project (aka deal) pipeline, sector focus, risk/reward of the role, and alternative recruitment options.

For example, if one is interested in pursuing a buy-side investment role (acquiring and investing in companies, as opposed to equities), we always emphasize learning transactional skills and executing deals is of paramount importance. Yes, investment banking is often a platform to launch into this job category, however, by understanding the various roles (hint...there is much more to being a private equity investor than simply running financial models and due diligence) in private equity equity, as well as exploring well regarded corporate acquisition teams, one can build a resume or pursue roles directly within the buy-side by communicating execution skills and identifying often overlooked opportunities.

An interesting career situation young professionals will find themselves in over the next 18 months, is to take a role with a marquee firm, but have exposure to future layoffs vs pursuing a role with another firm (with less of a brand name), but that may offer more "protection" in a down market. A great example is a current MBA student interning at a portfolio company of one of the world's top PE funds. We know him well. He is bright and motivated, but also, attending a top 50 business school (yes, that is right, top 50, not top 10). He is interning and helping build out the mergers & acquisitions team, assisting with everything from research, modeling, valuation and process build-out. The team is lean. He is a great candidate to land a corporate development (M&A) role, pursue consulting (transaction advisory or strategy), as well as select PE funds (that appreciate his background and depth of experience).

Each firm is different, but we've seen this recruitment playbook occur with many individuals. It's important to note that not all buy-side investors are the same. Often, senior level investors appreciate backgrounds they are most familiar with. Accordingly, cast a wide net, but target your search and conduct outreach to individuals that will appreciate your background more. It is about connectivity and building relationships.

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