Archive for September, 2006

Lad-Er Pitch?

September 26th, 2006 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Hi. I am flying out tomorrow for my trip to the diversity conference in Atlanta and I thought this my be a nice time to discuss another bit of MBA life that may be of interest to you as a reader. The Ladder Pitch.

The issue is this You the MBA need to summarize your entire career to this point to a recruiter in roughly ten seconds in such a way that they will want to talk to you more or pass you along to someone in your field. The concept may seem like a stretch, but it is quite necessary because if you take too long or expect the recruiter to help you in this process you will be taking time from the happy hopefulls standing in line behind you at the conference.

At a conference on the scale this one this number could be anywhere from no one to close to 50 people depending on a number of factors which range from the banal (whether you made it to the employer’s booth early in the day or late) to the entertaining (how large and how colorful the tote bags the firm is giving away are).

It may seem impossible to summarize an entire career in roughly three sentences, but I think that may be the wrong perspective. Basically the recruiter is a captive audience and has the same simple question that they would have to anyone they meet for the first time. These conferences are also the recruiter’s stock and trade. You are in their house. Do not forget this, because if you do they will suggest you go elsewhere. Think of the recruiter as our friend the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. He had the same question they do, “Who R U?”

A Recruiter Cordially Asks...My answer is thus: “Hello. I’m Mark, I’m a second year MBA focusing in finance. Before business school I worked in finance at a small biotechnology firm in Maryland. I am interested in opportunities in financial planning and analysis with your firm. (Pause 3 seconds, if no response) Is their anyone here today that I can speak to about this type of opportunity?”

Each of these sentences has specific and intended meaning. Let’s discuss…

“Hello” – Despite the fact that both the recruiter and I are at this fair for a business purpose, courtesy is still quite important. It would be quite rude to simply approach the person and begin talking about myself. We have all experienced people who take this approach and they tend to be a bit boring at their most harmless. 

“I’m Mark, I’m a second year MBA focusing in finance.” – This both places me geographically and provides a face to the name on the resume that I will be handing over in sentence three…

“Before business school I worked in finance at a small biotechnology firm in Maryland.” – Let’s the employer know that I have experience in the industry where I am applying for employment. The biotechnology element does limit me in terms of industry, but I am mainly looking at firms in this realm where experience in biotech is a positive factor. 

I am interested in opportunities in financal planning and analysis with your firm. – And now… The punchline. Here I have given the generic example of financial planning and analysis, but for all the firms that I am interested in I have applied to the job I am interested in previous to the conference on the web. This way I don’t simply appear at the both and expect the recruiter to suggest positions to me. This is not their job.

(Pause 3 seconds, if no response) – This is hopefully where the recruiter recommends an individual in my desired field that I can speak to about the job. If not I ask… 

Is there anyone here today that I can speak to about this type of opportunity?” – This is about as pushy as I get. Others differ in their approach and I don’t disagree with more “hardsell” methods, but I am fairly confident these folks have seen it all and the hardsell, frankly, is not really me, nor is it really necessary for the majority of the positions I am pursuing. I won’t give the line here, “Just be yourself” but I instead approach it in the following manner. “Would I be content in a position where I acted unnaturally in order to obtain the position?” Probably not.

What I try to do the most with the ladder pitch is to avoid having a Lad-Er pitch. I am the lad in question and what I try not to do is Er. Not err, we all make mistakes. I mean actually use the word er, um or uh. Or, for you, whatever your conversational safety net is. This is the word we use when the pedaling of our speech is too forceful for the rotation of our thoughts and we slip for a second. Fear not, I think to Er is human, I’ll be back later. Hopefully with a word that begins with F and fits the context that could be divine…

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Flight Planned?

September 19th, 2006 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

My approach to searching for an internship was mainly limited to the use of personal contacts both attained through school. For the most part I avoided the use of the most crowded of all entrances to the exclusive club of the attained job offer (more on this definition later, but you get the basic idea well enough for now) the career fair.

However, for the full-time search it was recommended to me that I attend one of the numerous career fairs offered to MBA students. I choose the first available and largest fair, which was a diversity conference with a career fair held in Atlanta this year. One may come to the conclusion that the preparation for an event like this is both simple and straightforward, this is not the case.

The two essential components which one should secure as early as possible are the obvious flight and hotel accomodations. I am choosing to splurge on the hotel. My reasoning for this is that I will be talking to recruiters for at least six hours two days in a row. I am willing to pay a significant premium for peice of mind provided by good accomodations. I am justifying this expense also by the fact that I secured an excellent deal on the flight.

Then there is the matter of appearance at the conference. For this it is necesssary to secure a garment bag that will bring two suits, which are significantly different in appearance but not in style. This is not trivial because the bag must be well-built enough to maintain the suits during the trip, but MUST, I repeat, MUST fit in the overhead bin. I have no desire to leave the fate of my future career which could result from this career fair to the fact that my checked bag is lost. Not to mention the funds I have committed to appearing in a room roughly the size of an airplane hanger wearing these suits.

Which brings us to preparation for the show itself… There will be roughly 300 impressive firms attending this conference and I need to have a number of other items to ensure that I am prepared for this fact. The first element is resumes, about… 70. Good resume paper, no seal, no color, no design, no scent (think more legal [not legal size], less Legally Blond). Business cards, less important, I’m bringing roughly 20. A nice portfolio to take notes in, I have one of these already thank goodness. A snazzy Smith School Pen and most importantly, an annotated map of the floor with a plan of approach.

Agreed, this last item is a little intense, but when I get there I want to have an idea where I’m going first and where not to go twice. So, I have divided the floor into four quadrants using the map the conference staff has been nice enough to provide me and I have a plan for pre and post lunch both days. All set… I think…

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I decided 2006

September 12th, 2006 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Nearly six months before returning to Smith for my second year I made three important decisions. I actually made the same decision three times, but with three different results in mind. The decision was this: What classes should I take?

On an idealistic level these options present the educational background that will provide the intellectual frameworks that will guide the decisions I make when I enter the business world. On a more pracitical level they will provide material for me to answer questions in interviews. On a more basic level they help me answer the question that floats around campus for a week preceeding and a day after registration, “What are you taking?”

It doesn’t really float though, it’s more like a buzz.

Actually curious what I chose? No? If not, too bad. I’m telling anyway.

My first and most clear choice was a course titled Advanced Financial Management. This course has a neat title like all courses, which does not really tell you much of anything. Think to yourself briefly what the phrase “Advanced Financial Management” means to you. Done? Ok. You could have come up with:

A. “I’m going to be taught how to manage my finances when I become advanced in age. Like retirement planning.”

B. “I’m going to be taught how to preserve other people’s finances when they themselves, or their finances become advanced.”

C. “I’m going to be taught how to manage when I have advanced finances.”

Fortunately, none of these answers are correct. The course is essentially Advanced Corporate Finance, however, for an important reason that I don’t think you care to read about – it would be confusing to title the course in such a way. The material is mainly concerned with items that would matter to an employee in the Chief Financial Officer’s department. How much is our company borrowing, do we pay enough in dividends, things like that.

I chose this course because of my interest in working in Corporate Finance as I have defined it above. My interest is more at the micro level of the firm concerning specific projects a company undertakes and how they should be funded, but the decisions this course discusses are important to my ideal future role as well.

The second course I chose is at an even more macro level for the firm. Restructuring is a course whose title is very representative of its subject matter. This course discusses firms who wish to make decisions about adding or removing segments of their firm or their entire firm. At a basic level the class deals mainly with mergers and acquisitions or… M&A.

*****MBA Buzzword Alert*****
M&A is the interest of a great many MBA students and is an exciting process for any company. The two most common ways for MBA students to want to get involved with M&A work are:
1. As investment banking associates supporting teams which advise clients either on the buying or the selling side of mergers or acquisitions.
2. As associates in the corporate development department of a company seeking to acquire other firms.
An important thing to consider here is the MBA’s role after graduation. Most often MBAs in banks and on corporate development teams are in more of a supporting role rather than selecting or structuring transactions (More Tim Meadows, less Tom Hanks)
*****End of MBA Buzzword Alert*****

This course covers more transactions than simply M&A, however they probably would not interest you. However, if one does and you want my knowledge (guaranteed to be only slightly above Webster’s definition in depth) on the subject, feel me to comment and I’ll give it a shot.

The final course I selected is the most popular course this semester for second year students: Financial Statement Analysis. This course is no doubt popular because of its universal applicability. It helps in corporate finance, banking and personal investing. The aim of the course is to demystify the accounting involved in financial statements. I mean this both figuratively and literally. The knowledge learned here will enable the student to see through the seemingly obscure minutae of the accounting treatments that funnel into a firm’s annual report. This knowledge will also enable the student to see through the mist (real or created – like in a roller rink or at a Halloween Party) between cash flows to the firm and accounting net income.

Anywhoo, that’s what I have for now. More later… 

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How I spent my summer vaca…?

September 5th, 2006 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

In my return to campus the most common line of questioning I receive is as follows:

1. “How are you?”
2. “Where were you this summer?”
3. “How was that?”

I ask these questions as well as it is a good way to get feedback on the experiences my fellow students had in the 14 or so weeks since we have last seen one another.

We are also asking these questions in order to get feedback on the industries and companies where we all interned. The exchange moves beyond banter to a sharing of information as is the case with so many conversations in the business world.

A quick straw poll of my memory reveals responses of three different characters. To provide a more robust background for the reader they will be interpreted in three ways.

A. Head-On: This will be a close estimate of what someone giving this response would actually say.

B. Pop-Culture: Here I will give a hopelessly dated and deliberately obscure attempt to frame the tenor of the respondent in a film we have both seen.

C. Fifth-Grade: Here I will present the respondent as though he or she was giving their summer vacation as a presentation to their fifth grade classmates.

Ready? Ok, here we go…

1. “You want to be me don’t you…”

A. “I had a great summer! I was in finance at Globotex and it was real cool. I got to do (insert things we learned about in class, but had no idea what they meant here) with people from a lot of divisions. Great company!”
B. “This is Shooter’s tour.”
C. “I went to the Bahamas with my mom and dad and we sailed and we went to the beach and we ate watermelon and we scuba dived and and and we… sailed!”

2. “I probably know more about this than you, but I’ll humor you for a moment…”

A. “I had a good summer at Globotex. I did a lot working with the rotary specs on the overhead girder, which was great because that’s what I enjoyed most about class last year.”
B. “You’ve got your uvulus muscle…”
C. “I spent time with my dad researching clipper ships. I know a lot about clipper ships. They have a special design…”

3. Does this really matter that much?

A. “Internship was ok. Vacation was great!”
B. “Me and my friends have been been too busy bathing off the southern coast of St. Barts with spider monkeys for the past two weeks…”
C. “I went to… summer camp. Just like last year… up North. Do I have to say more?”

4. Hated it…

A. “It was good. You? (Insert any response) Oh wow! That’s great!”
B. If you apply the correct cadence to the title of this section the reference is clear. Three snaps in a Z formation is the only hint I’ll give…
C. “Can I have a hall pass? I’m thirsty.”

As for my response to this line of questioning, I generally offer something like this,

“I had a very good summer. I worked at a financial consulting firm in Baltimore where I gained more experience in financial modeling and valuation. Many of the projects I worked on were in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, two fields that interest me.”

A quick analysis based on the content above…

Sentences one and two are about 80% 1 (You want to be me…) and 20% 2 (I probably know more…)

Sentence three is 70% 2 (I probably know more…) and 30% 1 (You want to be me…)

Weighting all sentences equal (an assumption subject for discussion…) we get…

[2*(.8*1) + 2*(.2*2) + (.7*2) + (.3*1)]/3 = 1.37

If you like to know why I didn’t list it as I repeated decimal… I am both in awe of you and slightly concerned for you. However in Business School typically decimals are not carried farther than two places.

The end result… seems to be that I enjoyed my internship, which I believe to be the case and I hope that others had similarly positive experiences. Back with more later…

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