So there you are...look at you....the COVID MBA done and dusted, stories to tell, and a signed contract in hand to commence your (hopefully non-delayed, non-furloughed, still happening) new job as an IB Associate! As we approach July, many MBA's will find themselves fortunate to be in this position, and I thought it poignant to share with you three reality checks to help you get the most out of your first three months and do so humbly. Why three months - because this is the most critical time for MBA Associates to make their mark and get up the (steeper than it looks) learning curve...actually you could argue six months, but I only wrote three bullets so that's what it is today. What follows is based on my own experience going through an MBA Associate program. This is not intended for incoming Analysts, except the final section
Reality check one: Your Analyst will NOT respect you one iota for a long time
In the proverbial "bank-off" (pun intended), the Analyst 3 will run rings around the MBA Associate 1. Whether in financial modelling, formatting (sometimes) and general expediency and knowledge of work, you will find yourself outmatched by 24 year-old kids. Do you think you are going to walk in the door on day one and start supervising, checking work and directing your Analysts' work traffic? Think again - welcome to your new role as an Analyst 4, embrace it. This is your opportunity to learn from the guys who have been doing this much longer than you. Having the mindset that your analyst is someone from whom you can learn will see you fare better than the other MBA Associates who come in and prefer to sit at 30k feet. Put your time in, be a sponge, and everything will fall into place.
Reality check two: You're not special - sorry
M7 MBA with a 750+ GMAT? Yes...you should be exceedingly proud of that. You sit in rarefied air that many (including the author) could only dream of breathing. However, recognize that when you get in the door, it won't matter where you did your MBA and how many roman numerals sit to the right of your double-barreled surname. Your alma mater will see you promoted to VP no faster than the recently promoted A2A Arizona State kid (nothing against this school btw) sitting at the desk (what, no office!?) to your right.
Reality check three: The work you do, for the most part, will not be what your MBA promised you
Closing deals? Bottles and models? Wheeling and dealing? ... I am not saying this isn't a (very small) part of the job, but nor will be putting into action all those wonderful frameworks they taught you (Porters 5, MECE, Cotters 7 steps for whatever they're for...Consulting anyone?), but let's use an example to illustrate my point. Say you were a pre-MBA architect, building critical housing or infrastructure for an impoverished town who badly needed it. Seeing your plans being built, I could only imagine, would be enormously fulfilling for a number of obvious reasons. Then, you do your MBA and become a banker, and you realize your work involves ... formatting powerpoint until the wee hours, executing confidentiality agreements, setting meetings for seniors who could care less for clicking the mouse themselves, and then trying to work out why you've been yelled out for not using a very specific type of language when emailing a body of work to a senior banker who is actually pretty easy going anyway and doesn't actually care...getting the point? Yeah of course, there's financial modelling (not as much as you think) and a lot of structuring and client interaction, but if you fail to see the broader perspective in what you do, you will be dreadfully unhappy. This is why it is critical you select a group in an industry coverage you actually care about, and if you aren't there now - network and move there...then put up with the grunt work now and the wheeling and dealing will come in six years at director level (five if you're a star). Never get good at something about which you could care less.
Extra because you made it this far: the secret sauce to your first six months
Here it is...you don't have to pay me a dime, you don't have to buy my DVD...the secret sauce to success in the early days of your new career is an unwavering smile and an infectiously positive attitude. That's it! Even if your wife has just announced that morning she's leaving you, on the very same day you found out your whole family was killed in a crash, that smile shouldn't fade (...yeah yeah, you get the idea). If you're intelligent, you'll pick the rest up as you go. In your first six months, you should be trying very hard to get your hands on absolutely every possible deal you can. Sit with Analysts until 3am and make them teach you how to model, never assume you know better. Approach every individual with the mindset that this person has something valuable to share with me, or knows something I don't.