From Homeless to Front Office
About a year and a half ago, I posted about getting 20+ interviews and no FT offer (20 Company Interviews Later...No FT Offer looking for Advice). I wish I could say that I quickly got a job after that, but that wasn't the case. I'm going to be very vague about certain details, because I'd like to remain anonymous.
Working in finance has been my dream since I was about 12. Around 14, I decided that I wanted to do IB. I started seeking out any and all finance mentors I could find, in addition to reading the news, getting magazine subscriptions, watching CNBC/Bloomberg, etc.
My passion was self-directed
I'm from a very poor community. For perspective, I had neighbors without running water, a neighbor without electricity, and I knew someone without indoor plumbing. Yes, this was in the U.S.A...just in the parts no one talks about. There was violence. I don't want to describe my home life too much. It's too painful. It's too revealing. I'll just say that it was very 'volatile'. That's why for me, investment banking meant so many things in terms of financial independence, being part of a community full of intellectuals (to an extent), and status. It was (sorry MLK) my promised land.
Even so, I was not naive about my status in the world. As both a female and a URM, I knew that it would be even more difficult to break into the high finance world. I started networking and interning as a freshman. I spent thousands (no exaggeration) on networking events, conferences, and industry organizations over the years. I had up to 3 jobs at a time so I could cover my school costs as well as my career costs. This was all so I could meet people with the hope that one day they'd admire my intelligence and tenacity enough to provide me with a lead. When I was 15, a finance person told me that who I knew would matter more than what I knew. While people made fun of me in college for spending money to 'meet' people, it made sense at the time.
Now flash forward to my senior year. I had multiple high quality internships under my belt, not bad grades (considering how much I worked), and tons of people that I'd met in the industry. My school's career center knew and loved me. I never thought things would get so bad...
****Disclaimer for the people who want to say it's easier if you're a minority.****
I don't want to hear anything about companies' diversity programs because that only 'helps' if you're at a target school! There was something in my previous post that I purposely omitted. I didn't want it to turn into a crap show. At some point, there was a lull in the amount of interviews I was getting. Around December '14 things/calls slowed down significantly. I changed one thing before I started to get a faucet of call backs. I refused to check my race, or fill out an application where it was required. No agenda here. I'm just being 100% transparent now.
***End of disclaimer*****
Anyhow, I graduated without a job and began to move around from place to place. I kept being persistent. I lost count of how many applications I submitted after 350. I kept making calls. I kept seeing people, eventually maxing out my credit card to have those coffee conversations. It was difficult to keep up appearances. My friends started calling me stupid, dreamer, a leech (for couch surfing even though I bought my own food). I was told to grow up and be realistic. They encouraged me to give up.
After running out of money and hospitality, I found myself sometimes sleeping on the subway or train station. It was scary and painful and cold. At my lowest/poorest point, I could only afford to eat one bowl of cereal a day. I lost around 30 lbs between graduation and my hardships. I was able to do some part-time seasonal work, but while I had that job and was couch surfing, I had to pay for my stay, so I saved nothing. By the time I was permanently kicked out, I was maintaining odd jobs (one of which was a bathroom attendant) while trying to interview for my stable positions. (I just want to say if you walk into a club bathroom and there is no vomit or urine, please tip the attendant. I swear they do more than hand you paper towels. It's just the only way you can see them.)
Anyhow, I would be lying if I said I didn't go to a deep dark place. I thought many times about walking in front of a moving train. I saw so many years of work go up in ash. And for some reason, people in the industry began to express that I must not be trying hard enough. I could go on and on about the shitty things that happened. These are on the mild side.
However, I'll just end by saying that eventually I got the offer. An alum knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who was hiring. I had 4 different rounds of interviews before I got the job, and I'm very happy. Sometimes it gets annoying to hear people brag about their fathers getting them the job or seeing frat boys that barely graduated with no relevant experience go to more 'prestigious' institutions. But I'm never bitter. I see it this way: I've already weathered one of the largest downturns in my life and anything the markets throw at me will be no big deal.
For all of my struggling monkeys, persistence and consistency in the face of adversity will pay you dividends! You got this!!!
Mod Note: Best of WSO, this was originally posted December 2015