Category Archives: Careers

Bank of America Veteran Associate Program (10 weeks, summer)

Guys, this is a great program, check it out! It models Goldman Sach’s Veteran Program that came out last year. I would definitely try to do this as a pre-MBA internship.

“Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Banking and Markets division has created a Veterans hiring program to provide returning veterans on the job training and experience in the sales, trading, research and banking businesses.  This 10 week program will allow participants to explore new career opportunities in the financial industry. Final placements will be available in the Global Markets, Global Research, Global Treasury Solutions and Global Commercial Banking divisions.”

Qualifications

Education

  • BS/BA degree

Experience

  • At least 1 year of Active duty or in the Military reserves
  • A strong interest in financial services

Qualifications

  • Passion for and the desire to learn more about the markets and finance
  • Quantitative and analytical skills
  • Demonstrated problem solving skills and willingness to ask tough questions
  • Proven leadership, team, communication, and interpersonal skills
  • Demonstrated ability to multi-task and prioritize in a demanding environment
  • Proficiency in Excel and PowerPoint a plus
  • An understanding of accounting, financial modeling, and corporate finance skills is a huge plus

Personal Traits

  • Highly motivated with an exceptional drive for success
  • Adapts easily to constantly changing environment
  • A track record of superior performance in extracurricular and professional activities
  • Assertiveness, initiative, leadership, strong work ethic, team focus
  • Ability to learn quickly and take on new responsibilities
  • Demonstrates self direction and autonomy in a rapidly changing environment

The Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Received

It is better to be average in a great industry than to be a star in a declining industry.

You are not special. A few years ago, veterans clubs existed only at a handful of MBA programs. Today, every top MBA school and most top MBA recruiting companies have veteran recruiting programs. We have become the holy grail of diversity recruiting. Step aside women, minorities, and LGBT. Veterans are the hottest game in town. And guess what? Veterans were already everywhere, they just weren’t organized around an affinity group. So to repeat, you are not special.

So what do you do, you average SOB? Find an industry that is growing and be the best at one thing. What are some growing industries? E-commerce, luxury and retail, mobile apps, mobile anything. Do NOT work for newspapers, venture capital (this will require a larger discussion and separate post), advertising agencies, traditional retailers, etc.

Isn’t specialization the one thing we weren’t supposed to do? In the military, we were general managers. All MBA programs are positioned as “General Management.” And all the top positions go to people with general management backgrounds right? I don’t think this is an either or type of situation. The trend these days is to become very specialized and that will make you rise to the top 15% of the company. Then you can bring out your “General Management” skills, and probably more likely, your political skills.

In conclusion, we all think we are above average, and we probably are when measured against the total population. But we should measure ourselves against the top 10% because those are the people competing for the same jobs, promotions, etc. And when compared against the top 10%, maybe you aren’t that stellar. And that is okay. It’s okay to be average among the highest performers. Just find an industry that is growing, do a great job, and the rest will take care of itself. 

Google Veterans Summit, Spring Break, Second Semester Wrap-Up

1. For all of you interested in tech, I have to advise you to apply to the Google Student Veterans Summit because that is probably the best shot you have at getting into Google. Google is famous for minimum GPA requirement and I think this is one way around it.

2. I loved Spring break and I highly advise that you go on whatever Spring break trips that your school has planned out. It is one of the best ways to learn other people at your MBA program. In fact, try to get on a trip with people that you don’t really know because by your second semester, you get so sick of networking and trying to meet new people, but you have to keep going.

3. Taking a step back from the fray, it is easy to see why people advocate going for consulting and banking recruiting in the fall so you can chill in the Spring while your other peers are busy recruiting. I have recommended doing consulting and/or banking recruiting even if you don’t want to do consulting and/or banking because of the networking skills you gain. You become a pro and if you recruit for other disciplines, you will definitely stand out.

 

Something to think about for you guys entering the class of 2015

The yields this year for banking, consulting, and other traditional industries have been extremely low and very competitive across all top 16 schools. I don’t have any raw figures to show and as you can imagine, no schools publish raw statistics.

Ironically, the career field that did surprisingly well was Sales and Trading. I’m not sure if that is going to translate into anything for fall recruiting this year but part of the reason for S&T’s success was the low level of people even trying to recruit.

And being a veteran helps so much in S&T because a lot of top traders ARE ex-veterans, a lot of special ops-type guys. Just wanted to throw that out there.

You should all start thinking about a pre-MBA summer internship as I think it is very helpful. “Switching careers” isn’t as easy as it normally is during a great economy so you really need to have as much meat on your resume to be successful to switch into any career.

JP Morgan Early Advantage Program Interview & Veterans Networking Events (Update)

Last week, I received a 30 minute interview via phone for the JP Morgan Early Advantage Program and a few days later, I was accepted. It looks like its going to be on July 24 – July 25, with the Credit Suisse event being on July 26 so that will be a full week.

 

Will keep you all posted on what I learn from those events. I haven’t heard of a Bank of America event yet as they have the pre-MBA fellowship pipeline, but Citi has a pre-MBA fellowship event as well as a military networking event in November.

 

Also found an event with Barclays that occurred in November of last year, can’t link directly to the website but here’s the link, click Programs, and then Veterans (Veterans program no longer exists, but I will update this info when it does):

“Event will take place in our New York office on Friday, November 4, 2011

Applicants must RSVP by submitting an updated pdf resume to this address with subject “Veterans Networking Event” by Friday, October 7, 2011

Applicants will be notified of their status by Friday, October 21, 2011.”

Citi Launches “Citi Salutes” Initiative

Financial services firms have a special relationship with veterans as they represent not only a measurable customer base but they are employees as well. The Citi Salutes website is very well designed and addresses veterans as customers as well as future employees. It is a good sign of the evolution of veteran hiring as well as the individualization of firms trying to attract veteran talent. Citi was one of five banks that sponsors Veterans on Wall Street (VOWS), which launched in June 2011. For my earlier post on “The Evolution of the Relationship between Military Veterans and the Finance Industry from 2011-2012,” click here. Citi plans to hire 1,000 vets in 2012, probably mostly in retail banking.

 

Link to more news about Citi Salutes.

Don’t Try to Be Great

I recently read a fantastic op-ed at WSJ titled, “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You,” and it was item # 10 that really reflected a theme that I’ve been trying to beat into the heads of transitioning junior military officers (JMOs) for a while now:

“10. Don’t try to be great. Being great involves luck and other circumstances beyond your control. The less you think about being great, the more likely it is to happen. And if it doesn’t, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being solid.”

This is a great point especially for transitioning JMOs because your platoon leader or company command time in combat was great. It is easy to think that because you have done something great, you will continue to do great things. Let me take a second to define great. When I talk to JMOs, a 20-year career at a Fortune 100 company isn’t considered “great.” There is almost a delusional sense that any JMO can become the CEO of any Fortune 100 company, be the next Steve Jobs, or go win a Pulitzer/Nobel prize within the next 5-10 years. I’ve been trying to beat that out of my friends’ minds, but now I think I have the statistical tools to do so: probability and standard deviation:

Probability: When the weatherman says there is a 50% chance of rain tomorrow, it doesn’t mean that there is a 50% chance that it will rain tomorrow. It means that out of 100 days with similar atmospheric conditions as tomorrow, it will rain 50 days out of 100. So if I said, if you give me $1 million dollars (and that is all the money you have), there is a 70% chance that you will make $1 million dollars off of that and 30% chance of losing everything, that isn’t necessarily a good deal for you, because you could be a millionaire today, but tomorrow you don’t have anything to support your family with. If you look at probability in this light, it should make you more risk averse. The Black Swan talks about this, although this isn’t the central theme to the book.

Standard Deviation: To modify that a little bit for more realistic applications, let’s take the GMAT as an example. What does it mean to do “great” on the GMAT? Does it mean 800? 700? 750? And how are you going to prepare for that score? Are you going to study 1,000 hours? No, why would you? Your approach to the GMAT should be the same as the weather. I’ve put in x amount of hours (most recommend 100 hours), and out of 100 tests, I would usually get 680-720 on the practice exams (although practice exams aren’t a good indicator of actual GMAT score, it is an indication). So if you get a 680, I wouldn’t say you did very poorly and if you got a 720, I would say run with it.  Standard deviation measures how much variation exists from the mean. The better you get at the GMAT, the more you lower your standard deviation. If you can consistently get a 695-705, that is better than a 690-710, which is better than 680-720.

Hard work can lower your standard deviation of success in life, but you will always end up with a range. Nobody ever gets a specific score consistently on anything, i.e. getting a 700 on 20 attempts at the GMAT. Luck and other circumstances will make you a 680, a 720, or anything in between. So JMOs should stop worrying about the end goal – 720 (or 800 for my ambitious friends), and look at what they really want to get out of their next job, or their long term career.

Each job pays you in two currencies: US Dollars and Experience. Everyone needs money, but make sure you get some worthwhile experience as well. When you look back at your life 20 years later, you should feel comfortable being a 680 or a 720 because that is what you have built your life around. Luck might take you to 800 (Steve Jobs success level) or 600 (Mediocre level: stuck in middle management at a Fortune 100 company).

This is obviously much easier said than done and I struggle with this as well, but I think taking this approach to life is at the minimum, more fun and less pressurized.

 

Junior Military Officer (JMO) Recruiting Companies

Since I’ve been getting a lot of questions about JMO recruiting, I think it’s about time I shared my experiences working with Cameron Brooks.

The whole experience is a carefully scripted drama, they need you, you need them, they don’t want you to go to grad school, you are secretly applying to grad schools, etc. The bottom line is, firms like Cameron Brooks get paid (roughly $10,000 according to my sources) per candidate that they successfully source to Corporate America. So from purely an incentives point of view, they are financially incented to make sure that you go to one of the companies that recruit from them.

That being said, I still believe JMO recruiting companies provide significant value. Recently separated or transitioning veterans are no different from recent college grads, probably even worse. Recent college grads can afford to experiment with a few different jobs and career paths until they find the one they want. Transitioning veterans don’t have that luxury. That’s where the JMO recruiting companies come in. They point out a few books you should read and try to give you a general sense of what the major grouping of careers are like: sales, manufacturing, consulting, operations, etc.

In addition, as a veteran candidate, there are no other way you can possibly meet and interview with so many Fortune 500 (more often Fortune 100) companies within a 48 hour span. Companies like Cameron Brooks (CB) have been helping veterans get jobs for a long time and a lot of CB alumni come back to CB to hire other veterans. I really admire this business model as veteran candidates don’t have to actually pay for anything, besides the ticket and hotel to the hiring conference.

On the flip side, I don’t think most JMO recruiters can really articulate why you need or don’t need an MBA. Mostly, they just tell you not to do it for obvious reasons. In my opinion, getting an MBA (or other graduate degree) and getting a job through a JMO recruiter are equally good. It really depends on what you want to do. For example, if you want to get into finance (Wall Street finance, not Johnson and Johnson corporate finance), you definitely need to get a MBA from a top-10/15 business school. Also, some top companies don’t use JMO recruiters – like Amazon, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, etc. Some companies only hire MBAs – McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, etc. You would have to apply directly to them. However, if your ambitions do not lie in entrepreneurship, finance, or a specific company like Amazon or McKinsey, then I wouldn’t even say you really need an MBA.

If all goes well, you find out that you really like the company you are in and you really like the work you are doing, then you can start building a reputation and move up the ranks. You can do an Executive MBA later on in your career. Statistically speaking (or more accurately, anecdotally speaking), the veterans that I have spoken to generally dislike their companies and/or industries. I believe this issue is systemic, and the problem lies with the fact that JMOs typically get more leadership experiences than a typical 25-30 year old would get, and there are few, if any, civilian jobs that can replicate that. Every JMO I have met, MBA or not, have complained about the decrease in executive leadership power. That is because true executive power lies more down the road, in higher positions.

The true issue at hand is veterans not acknowledging the gap between in their capabilities and the lack of jobs that require such capabilities post separation.    

In conclusion, going with a JMO recruiter vs. a MBA post-MBA isn’t going to materially alter your ultimate long-term plan. If anything, you can get a MBA after getting 1-2 years of experience, although this will probably lead into a discussion on how business schools view veterans with corporate experience. The hardest part of the whole transition process is figuring out what you really want to do in life. I’ve been out of the Army for 18 months and I’m still struggling with the “right” answer and my answer is that I think you should get away from it all for a month and do some serious self-reflection. The major issue with the increased op-tempo due to war is that company, battalion, and brigade commanders don’t have enough time to reflect upon what they did well and what they could improve on. Most veterans jump straight into an MBA or a corporate job after separation. I think it takes time to process what you have gone through, to figure out where you want to go, and how to get there.

The Age-Old Question – “Why MBA for Entrepreneurs?” – with a Twist for Veterans

As I reflect upon hitting my eighteenth-month anniversary out of the Army and thinking about post-MBA careers, I have boiled down the whole MBA/Entrepreneur debate into one question:

“Do you want to make the money-making machine or are you content with just making money for the machine?”

I’ve read thousands of websites, talked to hundreds of people, and attended dozens of conferences and the answer is pretty clear to me, at least from a veteran’s perspective. The consensus is that if you have a viable idea that you have seriously considered (have a solid business plan and have had a lot of smart people shoot down your idea, yet you still remain convinced), then you should consider forgoing the MBA completely or using the MBA as a launching pad for your success. From a no-regrets point of view, I think everyone should consider entrepreneurship at least once in their life but veterans specifically should consider four facts:

1)      You can be an entrepreneur without starting your own company, large companies need innovation too. Although, it may be understandably harder to change something you are a part of rather than changing something you create.

2)      The likelihood of failure is great and your chances of getting the dream job post-MBA is significantly more difficult.*

3)      It is unlikely that you have developed a base of knowledge beyond your military specialty. Having a good idea isn’t good enough; you need to know something very specific about the world or body of knowledge. The counterpoint to this argument is embodied in Fred Smith, the founder and CEO of Fedex, started his company based on witnessing the efficiency of the military logistics system during the Vietnam War.

4)      You have less “runway” to experiment than the “typical” MBA student or entrepreneur. Anything can happen in America, so I use the word “typical” loosely, but it is the case that most entrepreneurs and MBA students tend to be on the younger end of the spectrum. Most veterans separating have families to support and are typically older, especially if you have waited for a company command (if you were an officer). For the enlisted, after graduating from college, they are around the same age if not older than junior military officers who separate.

Therefore, my recommendation for aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is to attend and graduate from a top MBA program and compete for a “regular” job through the summer internship and/or typical recruiting process. Think of the MBA as two years to launch and run your business. If it is going exceptionally well, rescind the offer that you accepted.

Also note the fact that most angel investors and venture capital firms like to invest in technology-based startups due to the low cost of starting the company. I wouldn’t consider most veterans exceptionally qualified to start or run a tech startup. I would consider veterans very qualified to run startups that require managing a lot of non-skilled laborers, startups that require a lot of “operational” skills, or running a family business.

At this point, I’m going to categorize veteran entrepreneurs into four categories:

Category MBA Post-MBA
Run or expand family business (non-tech related) Useful Run or expand family business, potentially identify new area to start your own business
Have an idea and want to launch a tech startup Will definitely gain more knowledge by doing something like a General Assembly Summer Program. MBA network still useful, as your startup will have to hire locally through startup community and network. Statistically speaking, you will fail. At that point of time, you can either try again, work for another startup, or work for a “traditional” company. Having the MBA will definitely help in landing a job at a “traditional” company
Have an idea and want to launch a non-tech startup There is so much support and emphasis on tech-related startups in MBA programs, but if you have a great idea, you can certainly compete in the business plan competitions and see what comes of that I think you might have a better chance at launching a non-tech startup, because the very notion of a non-tech startup requires that you generate positive cash flow earlier on. Silly example, but if you wanted to start a vegan baked goods company, investors aren’t going to wait for years for positive net income. However, if you do fail, I see less lateral transfer opportunities compared to someone who failed a tech startup who just joins another tech startup.
No idea, but interested in entrepreneurship I definitely recommend going through the MBA program to figure out what you really want out of life. Are you interested in entrepreneurship because it’s glossy and cool? Do you really think you don’t have a boss? (investors) Etc. I would work for a few years, build up your network, and then consider launching anything. If you’ve proven yourself in an established company, I feel that returning back to industry is a possible option if you fail.

 

Making the money-making machine is hard and rife with failure. However, the siren call of glamour and opportunity at riches will undoubtedly strike at the hearts of many men. I’m not trying to disencourage entrepreneurship; I believe it is vital to economic growth. However, I do believe that most veterans, especially those of the combat-arms branches, tend to have an inflated self-view of themselves which is going to dramatically change as what they were excellent at in the military no longer applies directly in civilian life.

 

I highly recommend that veterans go get their MBA and spend those two years reflecting upon what they want to do in their lives, launching and running their businesses to see how successful they are, building a network of smart people, and/or finally going into their industry of choice for a few years and figure out what they are good at – so good that customers will pay them for their product or service.