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Office Party Etiquette (Part II)

Office Party Etiquette (Part II)

So it appears that Wall Street, at least, is gonna be cutting back on the holiday partying.  Don’t believe that hype – very few people went to the massive, company-wide parties anyway; the real action is at the smaller group parties that were largely funded by the group heads and whatnot.  Went to several bars last night and the first three were all rocking a holiday party of some kind.  So this shit still matters.  Matters big-time.  Picking up where we left off yesterday…

How To Survive A Holiday Party

6.  Avoid admins like you’d avoid a drooling, possibly armed homeless guy on the subway – As I noted yesterday, the holiday party is generally a big deal for the admins, a chance to let their hair down and dance suggestively with people they work with but barely know.  (Don’t interpret this as a disparagement of admins in general, 95% of the ones I’ve worked with were awesome people who generally made life more tolerable in corporate hell.  Their preparation/anticipation level for the annual party was hilarious, though.)  Of course, the junior bankers will invariably all vie for the most attractive assistant, that’s just science.  But those top-shelf assistants have their eyes on a larger prize (also science).  The non-top-shelf, cougarish assistants would love to make boy toys out of some of the junior folks, but they are resistant due to the potential for peer humiliation.  It’s very Darwinian, there’s some circle of life stuff going on with everyone trying to hook up with someone who’s trying to hook up with someone else, sort of like The Real World: Cancun.  (Note: this is all from a male perspective, for the three females who read this, I think the parties were pretty typical borderline-harassment for the female bankers.  Just another day at the office.)

The biggest problem with hooking up with an admin would obviously be the next day ramifications.  What are you gonna do when you wake up next to the woman who tapes your receipts for your expense reports and books your travel?  You want her to start inquiring why, exactly, you need to go to Atlanta for two days?  The common assumption is that they would jump to the conclusion that you’re suddenly dating/marriage track, but that seems unlikely in today’s progressive society.  The awkwardness of bumping into someone on the elevator who you drunkenly bumped body parts with can only be handled by certain individuals, individuals in possession of a steely resolve and a iron facade.  And the ability to take the taunting that their mates are gonna hurl their way.  Just don’t do it.

Life experience:  I know a lad, let’s call him Xmashangover, who once violated rule number one on this list (he started early).  Later that night, as he was propped up in a corner wearing a jaunty Santa hat, an older, silicone-enhanced member of the administrative pool offered to help him find his way home.  Despite having a son older than Xmashangover, she predictably attempted to take advantage of his inebriated state.  In possession of the required steely resolve and iron facade, xmho dabbled (allegedly) briefly in some juvenile form of the black arts.  Ever the gentleman, he offered her an (expired) subway card to get home.  As the story goes, he bumped into her on the elevator immediately upon arriving at work the next afternoon  (It’s cool to go in at like 4:30 pm the day after the party).  He offered a brief “hey, how’s it going?” followed by an immediate return to a scintillating game of Brickbreaker.  And things were back to normal.  Textbook – but you need the resolve to pretend nothing ever happened and the facade to never let her see you sweat.  And a sense of humor about hooking up with someone older than your own mom.

Guidance:  Ask yourself how you would deal with a face-to-face meeting, alone in the elevator with the temporary object of your affection.  If your face is glowing crimson, then just move on.  Steel resolve/iron facade required.

7.  Don’t criticize anyone’s eating/drinking habits –  Some people that you work with are actually weird as shit.  Often you won’t notice it as you probably spend most of your “leisurely” work hours with people you can actually stand.  At a holiday party you are going to see your broad group of colleagues doing some weird things – “vegetarians” eating some foie gras, morons putting campari in perfectly good glasses of red bull and vodka, overly appropriate table manners, etc.  Even if drunk, don’t focus on their shortcomings, just have another glass of wine.

Life experience:  I recall at my first ever holiday part at TARP Bank II, seeing a young vice president eating a pear with a knife and fork.  He must’ve cut the thing into like 800 pieces, like he was preparing it for a baby bird with a weakened digestive system.  I prudently drew attention to this practice by screaming “haha, this fucking guy is eating a pear with a knife and fork!  Haha, what kind of fucking idiot would eat a pair with a knife and fork!  Maybe a fork, that I could see, as it appears to be a part of a pear tart, but what is the knife for!  It’s a cooked pear!  It’s like warm fucking butter, dude!  What’s the knife for, tough guy?!”

Guidance:  Keep your head down and focus on getting the carbs up, you should be eating like you’re about to run a double marathon.  Don’t pay attention to what others are doing at the table.  During the token “senior guy sits at a table with juniors to make small talk for five minutes before moving on to the next table,” chuckle accordingly when needed, but generally just focus on the task at hand.  Ignore the odd or unhygienic practices you might see.

8.  Avoid mistletoe – Should be absent at most parties, given the paranoia that most people feel about swapping saliva irreverently (Europeans excepted).  Stay away from the office manager with the mistletoe belt buckle.  Wait, is it mistletoe belt buckle, or camel toe/pig knuckle?  Just stay away from that guy, to be safe.

Life experience:  None, thankfully.

Guidance:  See above.

9.  Don’t dance, period.  If you feel that you must dance, please keep the “daggering” moves in your quiver for BLVD – Pretty self explanatory, but quite often violated by junior folks taking a shot at one of the more attractive admins (and sometimes the attractive female bankers – it’s somewhat rare, but happens more than i’ve given the impression of here).  Given the prevalence of camera/video phones, be very aware of the fact that you are going to be on YouTube.  Fuck, this is probably important enough to be its own point.

Life experience:  None, thankfully.

Guidance:  Seriously, stay at the bar, far from the dance floor.

10.  Beware of motherfuckers with cameras – Beyond just dancing, there are myriad other ways to look like an ass: invading someone’s personal space with a lecherous grin, trying to make out with someone vastly embarrassing  (could be due to age, looks, social standing, preexisting STDs, etc.), eating a pear with a knife.  One of the admins will likely be responsible for taking “action” photos of the entire event and will strive to get a good shot of pretty much everybody, so be on guard.

Life experience:  There are some pretty stupid-looking party photos of me floating around, but that’s because I generally look pretty stupid when drunk.  And when at holiday parties, I am generally drunk.  Transitive property.  There are also about 7.3 billion pictures of people looking even stupider, so heed my warnings.  Heed!

Guidance:  My advice here is pretty much the same as in any other situation I can think of: go to the bar, order a drink and then stand around with a dour look on your face.  Go for the classic “case of the Mondays” look and the photogs will keep their distance.

Part III is coming Friday,


How To Interview for MBA Jobs (Part I)

How To Interview for MBA Jobs (Part I)

Ah, how quickly times have changed.  I remember when I started this website, our financial system was crashing around us and armageddon was near.  Now, a mere seven months later, the skies are clear, opportunity abounds and today’s MBA classes are again brimming with youthful optimism.  Back in March, I looked forward to being able to help those wayward MBA students who would be scratching and clawing for fulltime employment by relaying the gritty tale of how I managed to secure employment a month after 9/11.  (And after having one of the least successful summer associate experiences ever).  Now, I’m quite certain that, at least on Wall Street, pay will continue on an upward trajectory, with January 2009 bonuses being a mere bump in the road and jobs will be as plentiful as Subway commercials on an NFL Sunday.  So it’s all good – like I said, when they start perking up with some Lambos for VPs, I’m back in the game, too.  But what the hell, I can still give some of my hard-earned sageness out for free.

I’m not going to start at the most basic of levels, ie how do I get on the interview list – if you don’t have that kind of shit lined up tight by now you are probably a dumbass.  My experience is in banking interviews, but I think the process is pretty similar for most service industries or big corporations. (Consulting will be case-based, whatever that is.  Actually if you are into consulting then please go ahead and hit that “x” up in the right hand corner of this page (left hand if using a Mac, and if you are a consultant you probably love Macs.))  So I’m assuming here that all your closed list, open list, bizness is locked down.  If you aren’t on most of the closed lists for your sector of choice, you may want to consider expanding your options (including not for profits and the education sector).

Things To Consider In Advance Of Your Interviews

1.  Know something about your prospective employer – This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t know shit about the company they’re talking to.  In banking, you should figure out 2-3 major deals the firm has worked on and just know some very cursory information about them.  You don’t have to have SDC runs done for the last 5 years and back into their M&A fee schedule, but you should perhaps know if they worked on the $250 billion Exxon – Wal-Mart merger that my old firm used to look at every few months.  Know a couple of big deals and some very basic information about how the stock has done lately – market cap and how high/low it’s gone over the last year.  (Actually this is fairly tricky now as there is all that preferred stock for some of these busto banks so Yahoo! finance might be off by a few billion or so.  Doesn’t really matter, just don’t be like the kid who I asked what Tarp Bank’s market cap was and he responded “a trillion dollars.”  That was fucking stupid.)

My personal experience – Most of the people I ever interviewed did fine in this regard.  A touchy area is “do you have any questions for me?”  Most kids would ask stuff about the CEO and macro implications of this and that.  That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t have shit to do with the job you are trying to get.  Don’t sweat what the CEO is doing when you are going to be a first year associate.  Although some interviewers love that macro stuff, I recommend the old “you’ve worked here for X years, what do you like about the firm and its culture?”  That’s easy, doesn’t require any homework and people will generally give you a very personal and time-consuming response, allowing you to compose yourself and put together one final advertisement of your awesomeness in your closing.

When I was an MBA student, I thought I’d help improve my chances of getting a nice gig by signing up for a few interviews outside of finance.  Who can’t wing a fucking interview?  Apparently, me.  The lady at BCG was unimpressed with my ability to estimate the number of walnuts in Montana or whatever.  (Probably didn’t help that I’d never done one case interview.  Seriously, consulting is retarded.)  I really hit it off with the Booz Allen team, but they were a little surprised that I didn’t have any idea how their major business units were organized (government and management or some shit like that, really basic).  If you can’t put in an hour or so to figure out the company or the business, it’s pretty much a waste of your and their time.

2.  Don’t shitcan your chances before you even start the interview – You might ponder how this is possible – it basically boils down to don’t be a dick or a dumbass.  Sometimes too much exposure to the interview team can be a bad thing – go to the pre-interview events, but don’t hang around too much drinking and talking about stupid tv shows.  You want to be a little bit of a desirable mystery going into that first round interview.  Making idiotic mistakes like misspelling the company’s name on a cover letter (note to self: it’s Siebel, not Seibel and TD Securities is in no way related to JP Morgan) will get you nixed immediately.

My personal experience –  I am nothing if not a realist; I realized early on that (dearly departed) Lehman was my best shot to secure my first gig on Wall Street (this was for summer, but still).  I went to all their events, trotted down to New York and did some informationals, talked to dudes in advance of interviews, exchanged emails with school team captains, etc.  That left little of the aforementioned mystery, however; in fact, all that exposure led me to leave my guard down a few times and reveal myself as something of a dipshit.  I will always remember getting that call from LB saying “no thanks” on making the second round.  I was at a ML dinner and proceeded to knock a glass of red wine on the 325 lb powerlifter from ML.

As a school team member, we would sometimes encounter students who’d wear out their welcome a little bit.  I know everyone’s driven, motivated, etc and wants to prove it, but use some common sense.  Don’t bother the shit out of people who are working an intense full-time job in addition to leading the recruiting process.  Give yourself just enough exposure so that people know your name and have a sense of your strong points.  Make them peel the onion in the interview room to reveal your inner dipshit.

3.  Don’t knock a glass of red wine on a 325 lb powerlifter from ML

Perfect if you are interviewing to be a private investigator or subpoena server
Perfect if you are interviewing to be a private investigator or subpoena server

4.  Take a look at yourself in the mirror before the interview –  Again, this sounds stupid, but you’ll be amazed at the poor dressing decisions people will make.  Also, no brown or green suits.  No brown suits with green pinstripes.  No black suits, unless you are going to work as a contract killer or Johnny Cash impersonator.  No large cufflinks featuring Calvin peeing on a Ford logo.  Don’t bring a diamond-encrusted chalice filled with pimp juice into the interview room.  Think pretty conservative here.  (For the 3 ladies on this site, I don’t have much to offer.  I know business dress for guys is a suit and tie, but for women I’ve seen it range from a halter top with a jacket to a burka, so I’m at a bit of a loss.  None of you 3 are looking for a job anyway.  Oh, hi mom!)

My personal experience – I once wore grey pants with a blue suit jacket to an MBA interview.  In my defense, it was pretty dark in my room when I was getting dressed.  After getting canned from the Street, I flew to the West Coast to talk to a client about a possible gig out there.  I packed my Ferragamo loafers as I was keeping it on the more casual tip.  Except that I only packed one of them – the other was a lace-up.  Both left feet.  So had to buy some new shoes.  You wonder why I’m unemployed – my attention to detail is for shit.  Or needs work.

To be continued – if you have any stories to share, drop in the comments or email me for addition to the next segment on this.


Office Etiquette 101, Lesson #2

Office Etiquette 101, Lesson #2

Okay, let’s get back to the subject at hand.  I was in the process of giving the young-uns sage advice upon how to act in the office (once they get to that exalted spot).  So here’s lesson #2.

How To Not Be Hated By Everyone In Your Office (Lesson Dos)

7.  Know when to not look at your Blackberry – Newbs typically are pretty fired up to get their ‘berries – maybe not so much anymore as everyone and their brother has some kind of phone that is also a camera, television, sewing machine, etc.  But back in the day it was a pretty big event. (When I was getting started on The Street, I got one of the old school assed Blackberries that looked like pagers and showed three lines of text.  And yet somebody figured out a way to play Donkey Kong on that tiny mofo.  Donkey Kong!  Okay, it was a poor facsimile, but a strong effort anyway – a step up from upside down 58008 on your TI calculator.  And those little Chunky bar-sized motherfuckers were awesome, fitting seamlessly on your belt.  The new ones definitely destroy the lines of your outfit, if carried in stylish belt holster.)

The widescreen berry - best ever
The horizontal berry was the best ever

While your Blackberry can sometimes by useful, it should ultimately should be seen as an electronic slave collar, leash or catheter.  You are suddenly at/near work, 24 hours a day.  Which is awesome.  Dinner with your parents who flew in from Ames, IA?  Better have your shit on vibrate so you can bounce to the office if some important analysis is required on Friday night at 9:30 PM for a Saturday internal call.  But that hardly ever happe – actually, it hardly ever doesn’t happen.  There are no excuses once the thing is on your person – 2:00 AM emails should still be read when you are low man/woman on the totem pole.

Aside from all the standard smartphone usefulness, probably the greatest attribute of the Blackberry is its functionality in helping you avoid awkward small talk. Are you stuck on the elevator with someone you either barely know, cannot stand, hooked up with or combo platter?  Whip out the ‘berry, make a disgruntled face while uttering a barely audible mild profanity.  Then start frantically typing.  Continue doing this until said person exits, someone you desire to communicate with enters or the awkwardness melts away from disinterest and lack of eye contact.

Keep in mind that people senior to you – no matter how senior, one day, ten years, it’s all the same in the “business world” – need your undivided attention when they are speaking directly at/to you or are otherwise confined in a room with you.  Seniors frown upon Blackberry use by juniors in their presence; they strongly prefer a grapes/palm frond/averted gaze approach.  So use a little common sense – when stuck on a conference call with the notoriously dickish MD, don’t pound away on your friggin Blackberry.  You will either be eviscerated on the premises (to the delight and amusement of all the other unlucky souls stuck in that office of horrors) or have a virtual knife implanted in the small of your back.  This is not a  great outcome.  If you are really working on something important and have a certifiable need to check your email, then grimace (for all to see), leave your materials at your spot at the table (but take a pen and paper with you) and urgently (yet quietly) exit the room and take care of business in the comforts of your own cubicle.  Check while you’re there – make the most of your momentary freedom.

One exception to any of this is if you are playing Brickbreaker; if you’ve got a strong game going, fuck it.  Once the man starts beating you down, you show him you’ve got 750,845 points and 127 men left.  That will earn you more respect than merely doing a good job and working hard.   In fact, you should always have a game going, it really improves the quality of life on those elevator trips (when you should be shutting the fuck up as per #4).

8.  Be careful with the Bluetooth headset – I have a Bluetooth headset; I wanted to get the full disclosure out of the way upfront, cuz that’s how I roll.  When I put on the Bluetooth, I look like an asswipe.  I realize that.  It’s a sacrifice I have to make sometimes because my SO’s apartment gets ZERO cell phone reception, and certain of my retarded friends insist on calling me rather than text, email, registered mail, courier pigeon, etc.  But at all times I am aware that I look stupid.

One thing you Paduans will quickly notice about the business world is that self awareness is in very short supply.  Most of the folks you will encounter have an image of themselves that’s vastly different than the way they are actually perceived in the world.  Career success and the monetary rewards that go along with that success often have unsavory side effects, such as self-unawareness.  So prepare yourself to deal with a lot of sleeve-rolled-up, headset-wearing nimrods pacing around their office and randomly barking banker-sounding jargon into their headsets, just as they’ve seen done in the movies.  (Wait a second – why would they have Bluetooth headsets in the office?  Wouldn’t they just use one of those telemarketer headsets?  Brace yourself, but some dickbag tech company came up with a Bluetooth headset that also picks up landline calls – it was the biggest development in office douchiness in 2007-8).

You will see a few of those guys.  Don’t be that guy.  Only wear a Bluetooth outdoors and only when absolutely necessary – and take that shit off when you aren’t actively using it.

This guy?  You will never be this guy.  No way.
This guy? You will never be this guy. No way.

9.  Don’t go overboard with speakerphone – You may also wonder, why doesn’t Bluetooth Guy just use his speakerphone?  Because speakerphone has a way of pissing off people very quickly, that’s why.  Let’s run the math – the typical industry group at a bank has probably 110 people or so in some ghettoish common cubicle area  – they will try and spruce it up with a nickname like “the bullpen” or “downtown Baltimore” but don’t believe the hype.  I’m sure other office environments have similar setups.  You will become very, very familiar with all those surrounding colleagues during your career.  I could identify probably 30-40 different people solely by their gait and the sound of their footsteps during my cubist period, I shit you not.  I could also identify about 75 different personal phone conversations just from hearing a snippet of one side of the convo fifteen feet away – “Farsi baby talk?  Neeraj asking parents for a loan til bonus hits.”   My point being, you hear way too much from other people.

So if you are listening to an hour long earnings call on speakerphone, that means 10-15 colleagues are also hearing that shit.  Keep the volume down very low if you’ve got to go that route, or don the dreaded telemarketer headset.  (I never wore one as a matter of principle).  I have seen homicidal rampages ignited by a very loud (and even work-related) speakerphone conversation between two people who were about twenty feet apart, causing thirty people to endure their stupid argument over what multiple to use when they could’ve just quietly discussed at one or another’s desk.  When in doubt, walk over and talk to the person.  Better yet – email!  (I always tried to minimize the actual human interaction to the extent possible – less chance of getting the flu.)

This, on the other hand, might be you - if you're lucky.
You might, on the other hand, be this guy - if you work hard, apply yourself and get very, very lucky.

10.  Carry a pen and notebook with you everywhere you go –  I know you are probably thinking “this old fucker has straight lost his damn mind, pen and paper?”, but this is something that needs to be strictly adhered to.  See, when you are a junior person, people senior to you think of you as a “resource.”  That may sound okay to you, but the type of “resource” they consider you is more a fax machine or coffeemaker than an elite member of  the Army Rangers.  Consider yourself a very basic resource, like say an adding machine – all cogent thought and input comes from the user, the machine itself merely provides an orderly, legible represention of the requested information.

When senior people see you, what you think they think, and what they are actually thinking, can be quite different.

Fiction:  “Say, isn’t that Donald Markson, the bright young man who fought his way from Purdue all the way to Wall Street?  I’m gonna check in and see how he’s doing, just to make sure he’s set up and getting off on the right foot.”

Fact: “Is that fat kid the one who was in my office with those other gimp on that Sears acquires Intel pitch?  What is his name?  Why doesn’t he get a haircut?  Fuck it, I’m gonna have that bushy-headed fucker go through every retail or semi M&A proxy from the last ten years and conduct a synergy analysis as part of my unrequested followup materials package.”

Translation: On your way from your desk to the printer, you can expect 3-4 people to stop you and ask you to do shit for them.  You won’t remember it all, and if you don’t carry around something to write everything down, you will be fucked.  Burning bridges before you even get started is poor strategy.  I recommend a small notebook and a Zebra pen – thank me later.

Damn, I’m rambling again, this is too long.  Gotta break it off, guess there will be a lesson #3 at some point.  Feel free to fire in your own thoughts on office do’s and don’ts.