Lessons From a PE Superday

Mod Note: Each day we'll be posting the top WSO forum posts of 2014. This one was originally posted on 2/27/14 and ranks #8 for the year by total silver banana count. You can see all our top ranked content here.

Mine is a story with various parts; you can find details on my life as a Big 4 auditor in my Q&A here and my path to final rounds with a PE firm here.

I have to admit, I was feeling optimistic following my case study last week. The firm called me very shortly afterward to inform me that I had done a good job and I was being invited to the final round the following Monday. But you already know that.

As so often is the case, my anticipation caused the days to pass quickly. I was optimistic, but not complacent. I continued to deepen my understanding of finance, broaden my network, and sharpen my ability to sincerely and convincingly tell my story because I knew that there was a good chance that I'd still be interviewing after Monday. But regardless of the outcome, I knew that I would eventually achieve my goal.

Some who read my previous story decided that I must be a "classic millennial" with the hand of entitlement readily extended. To those people I would simply say that I am entitled to nothing except my own choices, and it really doesn't matter to me what anyone thinks because I'm only accountable to myself. Also, cynicism limits you. Plus it's lame. Back to my story…

It was a restless night and Monday morning arrived too soon. I was past the point of further preparation, so I had plenty of time to get ready and try to relax. I got to the city early, which was lucky because I found a hectic situation taking place literally in front of the building. News crews and police cars were blocking the street, and police tape had the sidewalk cordoned off about a half block in either direction. I was worried that it would cause me to be late. Luckily, I found another entrance and with the help of a particularly friendly building receptionist, I found my way to the offices with a few minutes to spare and was immediately ushered into my first interview.

By the end of the day, I had met with two analysts, four VPs, an MD, and the president of the firm. Each interview was unique and informative. Some were heavily technical, but most were behavioral. The president of the firm had a tendency to ask one behavioral question followed by second, third and even fourth order follow-up questions. For example, I was asked about a time I demonstrated leadership; then I was asked why I chose to be a leader in the situation; then I was asked what would have happened if I hadn't stepped up; and finally I was asked what I learned from the experience. These weren't difficult but I got the distinct feeling that he would detect any lack of sincerity. I was grateful I had real experiences and I had taken the time carefully consider them.

One notable experience happened when I walked into the office of the MD I had met during the case study. I noticed that his computer was on and his browser was open to my previous post, detailing the case study. He explained that he hadn't heard of WSO but wanted to check it out since it is on my resume; my post happened to be the first post on the homepage and it was pretty easy to figure out it was mine. I had a momentary internal panic attack because I try to maintain my anonymity, but I settled down because I knew I hadn't written anything derogatory, false, or self serving.

My last interview was over the phone from the office of the VP I had interviewed with during the first round whom I suspect had been vouching for me through the process. When it had concluded, I couldn't find him so I hung out with the analysts while they tried to call him. Since the schedule each interviewer had attached to my resume indicated that I had completed all the interviews, the analysts and I agreed that it would probably be best to leave and if he wanted to talk he could call me. An analyst escorted me to the elevator. I walked out to a calm street and a beautiful day, and I must admit I felt very good about the interviews. Once more I had the feeling that I had done my best, and win or lose, I was proud of myself.

I pulled out my phone to dial my wife when I heard someone calling my name. I put the phone away and turned around; it was the VP running to catch up with me. He apologized for not being around after my last interview and explained that he was in the office with the president and the MD I had interviewed with discussing their impression of me. The discussion must have gone well, because he wanted to tell me that the job was mine.

Needless to say, I'm ecstatic. It is the culmination of months of hard work and dedicated searching. Anyone who has been through the networking grind knows that it is full of dashed hopes and disheartening failures; but after going through it, I know those experiences build character and prepare us for the right opportunity. As my friend Tom once said, it only takes one.

I like quotes because they have a tendency of summing it all up. Henry Ford once said

Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.

If I've learned one thing through all of this, it is that you have to believe in yourself. The degree to which you believe in yourself will dictate your results, provided you leave no room for regrets. No sense of entitlement could have ever gotten me this far. Confidence and hard work got me this far. I knew I could, and I was right.

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