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Sunday, September 6, 2020

10 Lessons from Year 3 in the Real World


As I begin the fourth year of my career, I thought I would keep up my series of real world lessons. The year 1 and year 2 lessons were proven useful again this past year, but below are the 10 points that I want to highlight in this post.

LESSON 1: If you need your job, then don't complain about it.
No matter how diligent you are or how great your time management skills are, there are certain days that really your physical and mental limits. As a result, you may need to release some steam. 

As I mentioned in my quarantine update, April was the busiest month of my entire career to date. One Friday night (technically, Saturday morning), after weeks of minimum sleep, I was exhausted, frustrated and burned out, and I called my dad at 2am. As usual, he was understanding and empathetic yet grounded.

"Okay... So are you going to quit your job?" he asked me. 
"What? No!" I answered. 
"Then suck it up," he said. "It's really that simple."

LESSON 2: When negotiating, know your place before asking for anything and acknowledge the counterparty's main concerns.
EVERYTHING is a negotiation. Addressing the counterparty's main concern is important because (1) it shows that you acknowledge them and are listening to what they have to say and (2) you are not beating around the bush and thus, a constructive discussion can actually happen. This is important not just for your own personal or professional goals but also in the context of deals.

I used this tactic when I was switching careers from consulting to investment banking. Since I would be joining as an analyst, I knew that banks would prefer to hire someone who can hit the ground running on day one. So why invest time and resources in me when they could hire someone who is already a banker? I knew I had to make my case really strong, and in the end, it worked.

This happens all the time in the context of deals. Banks want to sell companies for the highest price possible, and buyers want to pay as little as possible. For example, if a buyer is concerned about a company's leverage and cash flow, no constructive discussion is going to happen if the bank and the company do not acknowledge and provide context and mitigants to those issues.

This lesson might seem like common sense, but you would be surprised at how stubborn and selfish people can be.

LESSON 3: Dealing with management teams takes a tremendous amount of patience.
Bankers will understand what I mean by this...

LESSON 4: Whenever you are beginning a new project or deal, always invest the time to fully understand everything about the deliverable, even if it takes substantial time in the beginning. The value you deliver afterwards will be exponential.
Your rate in producing quality deliverables may be slow at first, but having a deep understanding of the company and the general question at hand will allow you to be more thoughtful in your work product and contribute to meaningful discussions with your deal teams.

LESSON 5: The main differences between middle school and the real world are college degrees and more sophisticated vocabulary.
Pettiness and passive aggression don't go away after middle school. Let's just leave it at that. The only thing you can do about this is to remain calm and level-headed — and maybe listen to some aggressive rap playlists on Spotify.

 Romper: Club Monaco (old, similar) | Watch: Cartier | Purse: Celine

LESSON 6: One of the biggest value-adds that anyone can contribute is effective communication.
Have you been in a situation in a high school or college club where there was someone who did not get the memo even after a club meeting? It literally does not change after leaving school.

There was one restructuring deal I was working on, where our strategy for our clients was very litigation driven, so my deal team was on 6 hours of calls with legal counsel on any given day. My associate and I were stumped because even after all those calls, the go-forward strategy was still unclear.

Before my associate and I began putting together materials, we always scheduled one additional call with an associate from legal counsel to make sure that we were all on the same page. One time, we even waited until 9pm because that was when the legal associate freed up. It still helped us save a lot of time and iterations when we were preparing our deliverables.

LESSON 7: You don't get what you don't ask for. Be vocal about what you want.
If you don't clearly state what you want, then no one can really help you.

I kind of touched on this topic when I was in consulting about how being awkward is the first step... This advice still holds true to me to this day.

At one point in banking, I really wanted to round out my deal experience by working with a specific managing director (MD) who I really admired. Of course, I told my staffer, but I also went to my mentor, the associates in the group and also to the MD's office directly. I made my case as to why I want to work for him, and that led to an opportunity to work on a fantastic deal that I am still working on now. The deal ended up being everything I wanted and more — it touched upon every process (restructuring, capital markets and M&A) and was extremely technical, so it is a truly wonderful learning experience for me and well worth going the extra mile to get what I wanted.

LESSON 8: Get yourself in front of powerful people within your firm and don't be shy about it.
Ties to lesson 7, but this is generally helpful in building your brand and network within your firm. The MD I mentioned above became a big advocate for me in my professional goals and also in my performance reviews.

LESSON 9: A trusted mentor who you can be vulnerable with is necessary for progression.
This also ties to lesson 7... If you need help and advice, then seek it out. A mentor also does not always need to be older or more experienced than you. Look around your colleagues and peers. Resources are everywhere if you know where to look.

LESSON 10: Take advantage of your personal days.
As I mentioned in my prior quarantine post, it has been a rough summer for all of us. Enough said.


What are some lessons that you learned this year?

Thank you for reading,
Phyllis

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