Broke in from the Big Four
I joined the Big Four out of college. I wound up in the CRE valuation/advisory group. Finding a job had been difficult for me. I knew that I wanted to be in finance, but I was a dumb college kid and had no focus. I figured this job could be a springboard.
I knew immediately that the Big Four was the wrong place for me, and I began sending my resume out to other firms within my first six months. I had many interviews but I couldn't get any offers. It was difficult to shake the impression that I was an accountant, and companies had a glut of people with relavent experience to choose from. There were multiple times when I got to final round interviews with prestigious firms. I was sure I had the job. I would wait to hear back. And wait. And wait. And nothing. Weeks later I would find out what I already knew.
After a few years I began to get more desperate. I had been promoted for a year and the next hurdle, manager, seemed not far off. At that point I would be a lifer, I figured. I started interviewing for positions in 2- and 3-person offices. Anything to get out of what I was currently doing. I was stunned that I didn't get those jobs. In hindsight, not getting them was a blessing.
It was around this time that my best friend quit. He left to do Asset Management for one of the largest real estate private equity funds in the country. He had lucked out due to a family relationship. We didn't talk much after he left. I was despondent at the office, as another of my friends had quit recently as well. A few months later I got a text message asking me if I wanted to interview. I'd have to pay my own way but here was a great opportunity. I'd have a man on the inside, and our backgrounds were nearly identical.
I flew out to New York and the interviews went very well. The hiring manager liked me a lot, and it was down to just me and another person.
I didn't get the job.
FIVE WEEKS AFTER I INTERVIEW and one week after I got rejected, I get a phone call from a 212 number. It is the hiring manager, and she wants to know whether I am still interested. An associate quit the friday prior and the group needed another person. Fortunately, I had just interviewed and everyone liked me. I was the immediate choice.
On one level, the way I got this job opportunity was discouraging. I sent out hundreds of resumes. I interviewed tens of times. Each of those opportunities were inferior to this one, and I still couldn't get the job. And at the end of the day, it wasn't my hard work or tenacity that got me the job. It was luck.
I try to think about the probability of having gotten this opportunity. It's almost certainly less than one percent. First, there are the odds that my buddy would have gotten his job. Next, the odds that they would have been looking for a second analyst and wanted me to interview. The odds that, in spite of flubbing my phone interview (my perception, anyway), the interviewer liked me. And the odds that the company ended up needing to hire a third analyst coincidental with when I interviewed.
I think there are two lessons to learn here. First, don't give up. The future is unknowable. Eventually, hopefully, a great opportunity will come along. At that point it is up to you to seize that opportunity. And last, do what you can to increase the probability that serendipitous events like this will happen. Build those connections, expose yourself to new opportunities, etc.