Career Advice from our Network: Part 3

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Good career advice is always welcome.  We sometimes ask for it, often receive it and it varies in its usefulness.  Good career advice, however, can be invaluable and stay with you throughout your career.  We asked our network to share some of the best advice they’ve received. 

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Georgie Banfield

Managing Partner, VC Fund:

"I always find it's useful to look at the senior people in your team and think “do I want to be doing that in 20 years’ time?”.  The moment I saw my learning curve starting to plateau I found it was really important to tell people I wanted a new challenge.  It’s amazing how many opportunities surface from those conversations.  I got my job at my current firm following lunch with a friend who put me in touch with someone they knew and the rest is history – I didn’t even know there was a job on offer, but here I am.  They say it’s not what you know it’s who you know, but I’d say it’s very much both.”

Partner, Private Equity Fund:

“The private equity industry is much broader than the obvious private equity houses, so think outside of the box around other firms or roles that might be of interest e.g. intermediaries, fund of funds, secondary investors, investor relations roles etc.

Firms are also increasingly focussed on diversity, and on recruiting people from different educational backgrounds and experience. There is much more awareness of ‘unconscious bias’, and firms are trying to discourage hiring people who fit the mould of everyone who is already there.

Don’t think of the obvious options.  When I was leaving university and talking to the career service, there were the obvious career choices and I didn’t think beyond the companies that had large graduate training programs.   I would encourage people to think outside the confines of the obvious options because there are other (potentially very interesting) jobs available.  Be broader minded about your options.

If you're looking to get into PE you need to know what it is you are actually doing, and be aware that each firm is so different.  Life at one of the big mega-houses is completely different from being in a venture fund or a midmarket house.  Just to say you want to be in private equity isn’t necessarily meaningful.

Investment Manager, Mid-Market PE Fund:

“People rush to get into Private Equity.  There are clearly financial benefits, and it is known as being more of the elite side of the financial sector and that’s one of the goals people have.  The carry model is one of the main reasons on the financial benefits side that people are attracted to but the reality of that means that it’s a long-term game.  It certainly makes you think about whether it’s something you really want to do for the next 10 years.  But when you're at university, people mash together their version of the truth without finding out what the day-to-day is and the types of different funds.

The main thing I drill into people who ask me my advice is to meet and speak to as many different people as possible and choose the firm that best suits you.  It’s a competitive industry so you’ll end up applying to many different funds.  Don’t choose the biggest brand or the one that you think is most prestigious without doing your diligence as the day-to-day and team dynamics might not be what you want.  What a lot of people tend to forget is that interviews are a two-way process and to use those opportunities to ask questions and figure out if ultimately it is a place you’d like to work.”

Analyst, Mid-Market PE Fund:  

Do your research. It is important to have a strong understanding of the organisation of the fund you want to work for. Every firm has a different culture and different style of investing. Sometimes it is key to know why you are applying to a certain organisation – it might be great on paper but when you look more deeply it might not be the right organisation for you. Reaching out directly to industry professionals is ideal. When you talk to people in funds, they can give you an idea of what they are doing or what you might be doing. They can give you guidance about where to go and tips on how to approach interviews – this can save you a lot of time.