This is written as a post of encouragement rather than specifically targeting IB or PE industry/forum.
First, to start off, I've showed a pretty poor judgment in the past. Notably you can read this thread: //www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/looked-the-fool-go-ahead-laugh
My resume: http://www.razume.com/documents/19475 (non-target. my school is actually UNACCREDITED. without giving away too much, it's a "credible" non-accredited school that'll be accredited soon. but most importantly, it has ZERO alumni base)
I came to China/Hong Kong thinking it'd be easy to get a job, since I speak 3 languages (English/Mandarin/Cantonese). I applied to all the BBs and MMs in Hong Kong. Zero response. It wasn't hard to figure out my resume wasn't getting past HR. I paid for a premium linkedin account and messaged MDs directly. No response. Of course I read the Network Ninja guides before e-mailing, but, no response.
I realized it was useless to try to get a job in finance in HK (not to mention I don't even have a). I moved to the mainland. My strategy was simple but very indirect. Every evening, I would attend Toastmasters (for those who don't know, imagine Alcoholics Anonymous, except for public speaking. In America, not a lot of top professionals attend. In China, it attracts diverse business people, including those that work in finance).
Over a period of 3 months, I landed 3 whopping interviews. (Friend of a friend of a friend kind of introductions). I'll describe them for comedy.
- Meeting with the Vice-CEO (think MD) of of a major securities firm (think top MM IB in U.S.). Got the contact, called directly, said I've come to China to look for a job, seemed like a cool dude, told me to meet him at his hotel where he was taking classes. Took me 1hr 30min to get there, it's like the Venetian, but less tall, reproduced in some hidden away Chinese mountain. The Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business was holding classes there (I was like, wtf is the Cheung Kong GSB? Much later, it turns out this is the #1 eMBA school in China). I meet him in his room, he gave me his business card, first question: "So, where did you study for your Masters?" "Um, I don't have a Masters." "Oh." And that's it. That was the fucking interview. It all went downhill once he realized I didn't have a Masters (it's actually a very normal requirement for people that want to get into any finance related work in China). I told the MD that I wanted to be an "analyst". He just laughed and said, they have their own "analytical department", people in his team do real work (i.e. build relationships, fuck hookers with CEOs). And that was that. I found out later from his business card that this MD is a "Financial Sponsor" (bao jian ren), think Galleon's Raj, but legal, with very close ties to the Chinese government. There are only 200 financial sponsors in China. Companies have to go through a sponsor to IPO. Fuck! I didn't capitalize on this opportunity properly!
- Meeting with the Vice-GM (again, funny title, definitely MD level stuff) of a mega-Chinese conglomerate that's building a commercial bank after acquiring a small one (this is the simplest way to explain it, since banks are tied to a "region" in China, the quickest way to "start" a bank is to acquire one). Since they've just acquired this small bank, they're in a small city that took me 3 hours to get there. All he did was ask me questions about my family. After 2 minutes of that, he said "I'm sorry, I don't think I'd want you to work for me. Your family situation (my parents being in the U.S.) seems very unstable, and I wouldn't want to spend money training you because you know nothing, and it wouldn't be realistic to ask you to start by being a teller first." Fuck you! (Later I found out these type of "family background" interview questions are very common in china) In case you were wondering why I didn't talk to the Vice-GM on the phone first, well, I was introduced by a friend of a friend (again, through Toastmasters), and that friend introduced me to the Vice-GM on the spot (yes, Welcome to China). Depressing and a waste of time.
- Meeting with a shady company's MD/Owner/CEO/Whatever Title. Why is this company shady? Because I can't figure it what the fuck it does. According to its website, it does everything in finance. No exception here, got here because of a connection through Toastmasters. I came to the company with the biggest skepticism. However, the company has an AMAZING office (these are expensive at the city I'm staying). I was led into an AMAZING conference room where I chatted with the CIO, whom proceeds to tell me their company does EVERYTHING. He says the company is a shell right now because their parent company was acquired by a major firm (think top MM in China). So right now, besides the CIO and the Owner/MD, everyone else (6+ people) are just secretaries/ . Speaking of their secretaries, Oh Jesus Christ are they FINE. I would work here just for them alone, but fucking them would probably prove a daunting task. Their MD likes me, and wants me to work there. I don't.
Throughout this 3-month period, I was definitely depressed. If I didn't have a GF I would probably have killed myself. WSO was a big help in keeping my head up. I stuck to my plan, I attended lots of networking events and keep meeting lots of people. I never let any negativity show in public, although it was eating me up in private. It also helped that after doing lots of homework, I figured out the closest thing they have to an analyst in investment banking, private equity associate. The problem was to get into these top PE firms, you needed a top Masters degree and at least 2 years of i-banking experience. However, I was foolish enough to believe I can intern at these places. I then proceeded to telling everyone I meet passionately that I want an internship in PE.
Finally, I met a woman that was willing to help me. She introduced me to a MD (this time, the title was "correct". They use "western" titles) of a top domestic PE firm (they only do RMB funds). I'm guessing this woman has a pretty good relationship with the MD, and he agreed to meet me Monday late morning even though he was flying out that afternoon. The funny thing about the whole meeting was, he talked almost the whole time. I said I wanted to find out about the PE situation in China (I did research beforehand, of course) and he patiently used at least 45 minutes to explain it to me. Even though the firm is hiring, the requirements are high (see above). I asked if I can intern there and he said I would have to ask HR, because of the projects he was taking on, he is not involved in the current hiring situation. Fuck.
No surprise, after contacting HR, they said they would let me know if they have anything (which they never will). I e-mailed the MD again asking for his help. 2 days later, he replied saying since the firm just took on 7 new hires; they're not looking to add anymore at this time. Fuck. I had such high hopes and was completely enthralled by this firm's previous transactions. This was probably the lowest point in my life.
I kept my head up, kept trying to get to different MDs through people I meet. Suddenly, 2 weeks later (just a couple of days ago), I got a call from the previous PE firm I interviewed at and told me to start work on Tuesday. Then the MD called me and told me to start ASAP. I would be paid 2800rmb/month (less than $430USD) to intern there.
After being at work for 2 days now, this is definitely my dream come true. They have a flat structure, which means I'm allowed to sit in all company meetings (including do we do this deal or not top strategy meetings). My first mission is to read a 380 page textbook on private equity, in Chinese, so that I am able to at least understand what goes on in their important Monday meetings. You have to imagine, I am 24 years old, and the next youngest person is at least 30. By no means am I set, as my "internship" is set for 3 months, but I'm 100% I can turn it full-time by proving I've put it work to learn the material.
I hope my story serves as encouragement for people that want to follow their dreams. Finding a job, especially a job you want, is a very difficult process, especially if you didn't spend 4 years of college preparing for it. I can't change what I didn't do (no internship, low GPA), but I stuck with what I thought was possible, no matter how slim the chances may be. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP and MEET PEOPLE.
See you at HBS in 4-5 years. Just kidding.