Steadily thriving on Wall Street.
Courtesy of Jemimah Orevaoghene - Securities Analyst
Getting an internship in finance is more of a game of tact than it is actual substance. It requires you to be focused and tactical, knowing who you should be talking to and why. That’s not something that you would inherently know if you don’t know someone that’s been in that position before or works in that field. Unfortunately, for most interns who don’t realise this early enough during their ten-week sprint, there’s often a last minute scramble for full-time offers as news of other interns receiving multiple offers begin to spread.
However, being at Yale definitely made that experience easier for me. There were numerous people at my firm that went to Yale and were extremely loyal to their alma mater. I also reached out to people who were first year analysts from my university who demystified notions about how to secure a full-time offer and helped me lay out a plan of what I needed to have accomplished by each week in order to show desks why I deserve to be employed. And last but not least, do not underestimate the importance of just having a good attitude during your internship. The last thing any full-time worker wants to hear is how interns are so tired after two weeks on the job.
Going into my first permanent full-time role, I had anxieties about not being technical enough for the role. Having done an Economics and Global Affairs double major, I was worried about whether I should have done a more STEM focused bachelor’s degree. That’s just because I didn’t know what my role was actually going to entail on a daily basis, and so I began to imagine what skills I was potentially lacking. I didn’t realise that you learn most things while actually on the job, which I thought I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do.
That fear in part originated from the wrong perception that surrounds finance. There is a deliberately constructed narrative about finance being only for those who are exceptionally intelligent. That’s not to say the technicalities don’t get more complex as you progress in your understanding of your role. However, it’s something that is possible to learn which goes against the barrier to entry, especially for minorities, who think this is an area of work that is catered only towards the smart 1% of society.
As an intern or analyst, the best you can do to deal with those types of fears is to simply ask. Having different combinations of analysts and associates on your team absolutely helps because it gives you an opportunity to ask the simple questions that the more senior people don’t necessarily have the time to answer. Currently, I work with an Associate who spent about four years in finance control/federation and knows our business inside out - to the point where she can simply look at a number and tell you that it’s wrong when in fact it is. You find someone like that and you attach yourself to them, asking them the same questions 300 times until it makes sense to you.
Having been a full-time analyst for over a year now, I can also confidently tell you that no one is going to come to you and offer you a handbook of every trick and tool that you need to learn to be successful. You have to plot your own learning trajectory - you have to make sure you get to those meetings, sit in those rooms and write down all the things you don’t understand. You have to find someone knowledgeable to ask about the things you don’t understand and how exactly they affect the firm’s bottom line. You are solely in the driving seat of your own learning curve which includes teaching your manager how to manage you., something most people don’t do.
Your manager hasn’t been with you all your life - they don’t know what skills you’re trying to build nor do they know what skills you have. They don’t know what it is you’re trying to get out of this job outside of a paycheck. Knowing that, I remember having a conversation early on in my career with my manager and made sure he knew my passion and ability to speak in front of people, dating back to UN Day in Ghana International School and then Black Graduation at Yale University. I made him aware of my interest in incorporating that element into my role as well as my desire to analyse huge volumes of data efficiently to the point of condensing it to a single line.
It’s also important to say that there’s no point having weekly catch-ups with your manager just to say how great each other is doing. Those feedback sessions are designed to position you to maximise your potential and prevent you from feeling stuck in your role. If you grab hold of that principle, you won’t find yourself blind sided when it is time for your end of year review
You’re on a high after being introduced to this new life. You’re suddenly living this cosmopolitan lifestyle, meeting people who are part of this new “elite circle” - it literally feels like a movie. By month three, reality begins to hit because you suddenly realise how much you miss your friends from college (university). Those are the people that actually know you because you spent the last three to four years with them. You also realise how long your hours truly are and begin to think the best part about working for a firm like the one I work for is that people know you work there. That’s when relationships and community become pivotal. Studies show that when a person is told to climb up a mountain by themselves they feel a lot more stressed out and nervous compared to when you surround them with people that love and care about them and tell them to climb that same mountain. The celebratory atmosphere that started friendships at the beginning of your role is what is going to help you build intimate relationships that help you get through those tough times. Your brains or connections may have facilitated you getting that job, but community is what will keep you there.
When I was frantically looking for a job as a college student, I felt as though I wasn’t being rewarded for living a life that represented what my faith talks about. In that moment of honest reflection, I recognised how much getting a job had actually become an idol of mine, especially in Yale where a graduate job outside of finance or consulting is perceived as sub-par. I finally reached a point where I remember walking past the 9/11 water pools on my way to an interview and praying to God that if getting this job was not part of His plans for me, then I didn’t want it. Suddenly, this fixation stopped being an idol for me because I knew His plans were bigger than my short-sighted vision for myself. With that growth in confidence and support around me, I have never once had to look for the public spotlight within my firm. The God who sees me is with me and simply because of that, I know I’m not just another face in the crowd. That conviction is what further breeds the boldness to present to partners every Thursday when most analysts don’t know who the partners of their respective businesses are.
If you’re someone with ambitions to do similar things early on in your career, just say yes to opportunities that arise, irrespective of how miniscule they might appear to be. In saying yes to opportunities, you realise just how important relationships including mentorships are. The best mentorships in my opinion are those that form organically. I’ve met various people through different events that I attended and developed relationships with them, wherein they don’t even know that they’re my mentors. The significance of creating those types of relationships is witnessed in the amount of people that vouch for you when you’re trying to take on different levels of responsibility within your firm. You may not be in the room when key personnel decisions are made, but having people put a face and character to your name allows you to progress in your career and achieve targets which you’ve set for yourself.
As I conclude this piece, I want to offer a word of advice that few people are able to enact before they get their first job and as many people are able to grab hold of after they get the job. In choosing your career path, it’s worth thinking about what it is that you actually want to do and why exactly you want to do it. Oftentimes, we can’t even explain why we like the things we like because we’ve attached the world’s definition of success to ours. You can easily be strung along during your entire college (university) experience because you have different meaningless tasks that end up not positioning you to where you need to be after your degree. Everybody keeps telling you “you have to do this” and so you follow suit. I’ve personally witnessed seven of my close friends in my analyst group quit their roles a year in. Why? It’s one thing for you to dream about working at a company like that which I work for and it is another thing to actually work here on a daily basis in a way that allows you to balance all areas of your life.
If you don’t know what exactly your career path is yet, that’s perfectly fine. Take the secure job that offers you the financial and mental freedom to explore that thought process further. The most important thing for you is going to be the relationships that you have and your sense of belief that you’re walking in purpose, getting towards whatever vision of your life you have. Each stage comes with its own problems and that’s ok. Allow yourself to process that at your own pace. In the meantime, collect all the signals that will give you the liberty to do what you ultimately want to do.
As I press on with my second year at Wall Street, I look forward to spending more time empowering others because I have witnessed first-hand how crucial community is. During my first year, I didn't have as much capacity to be there for people as much as I wanted to or knew I should. Now, with a better handle on my job, and not panicking anymore when my boss sends me an email, I can open my eyes and ears more towards new analysts and help them be themselves at work.
Jemimah Orevaoghene - Securities Analyst