Progress Update: Evolving Strategy

by rubenharris

This is the second of a series of blog posts sharing some of my post graduate experiences.

In my quest for full employment in the investment banking industry, my strategy has evolved.  As you will recall, my strategy had been:  

1. Use LinkedIn to reach out to someone on the inside in a position to grant me an interview. (e.g. associates, MD’s, etc.).  

2.  Leverage that relationship, get the interview, and get a job or an internship that would provide me with the work experience that I need to be a better candidate for full employment.

I’ve had some ups and downs this week.  The bad news is, the meeting with the managing partner from the middle market investment bank and the call with the regional lending manager at Goldman Sachs got canceled.  The good news is, both of them were rescheduled.  

I also have been having technical difficulties.  My LinkedIstrategy to make friends with total strangers has been curbed by this message:

Invitation Restriction

Your account has been restricted because a significant number of LinkedIn users whom you have invited to your network have indicated that they don’t know you. Use of LinkedIn is subject to the terms of our User Agreement, which you have violated. An example of the violation includes breach of Section 11, LinkedIn User DOs & DON’Ts.

“As a condition to access LinkedIn, you agree to this User Agreement and to strictly observe the following DOs and DON’Ts:

Don’t – Invite people with whom you have no prior relationship to join your network.”

By selecting the checkbox and clicking “OK” you Agree you will comply with all the terms of the User Agreement. If you violate the agreement again, you acknowledge that your account may remain permanently restricted or be closed by LinkedIn.

Suffice it to say, I have to rethink my strategy when it comes to LinkedIn.  

To that end, I began to review the responses I had already received through LinkedIn and I noticed a pattern.  The e-mail format for certain companies were predictable.  So, I began looking at LinkedIn profiles of people in senior management with whom I wanted to speak.  I then followed the format to guess what their e-mail address would be and sent them the following message:

“Mr. _______________

Hope all is well.  The reason I am contacting you today is to ask for your guidance strategies for breaking into the investment banking industry.  Going into this I knew that I would be dependent on the kindness of total strangers.  I am appreciative for what you have done so far.  I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.


Ruben Harris”

The most helpful thing that resulted from this message was a series of e-mail exchanges between myself and a vice president at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.  This led to a referral to a recruiter and a budding mentor relationship.  In my previous blog post I said that I had tackled my relevant work experience, but tackled is probably not the right word.  He advised me not to wait for the recruiter to respond, but to do something about the glaring lack of work experience that jumps off of my resume from the perspective of a potential employer.  He suggested that I target boutique investment banks as they are likely to be more flexible than large firms such as his own.  A boutique investment bank is simply a smaller version of a standard investment bank, usually sticking to deals under a billion dollars, and often far less than that.

First, I needed to generate a list of boutique investment banks to target.  So, I asked everyone I had been speaking to up until this point for some names.  By now, I was fully aware that the season for hiring summer interns was over for this year.  I needed to approach them with another strategy.  

My biggest obstacle was to get my e-mail opened and read.  This meant I needed to choose a subject line carefully.  Then, I needed to generate a favorable response based on the content.  Finally, I had to ask for something other than an internship.

As I debated what that something might be with my father, an idea began to form.  Rather than ask for an internship, what I really need are opportunities to work on a specific project.  Here is the e-mail we came up with last night based on this new strategy:

“Mr. ___________

I am actively seeking opportunities to obtain relevant work experience and specific skills to enhance my resume with the goal of obtaining full time employment in the investment banking industry.  I am a recent graduate seeking to enter the workforce.  However, obtaining work experience is a challenge for most recent graduates from undergraduate programs.  If it would not be too much of an imposition, I would appreciate it if your team would allow me to work on a project as an unpaid volunteer to attain and master the financial techniques required for entry-level investment banking candidates.  I understand that I am asking you to do something out of the ordinary, but I assure you that you will not be disappointed.


Ruben A. Harris

The subject line was: Consider This

The response has been quite favorable.  Everyone feels that this is a novel approach that just might work.  The beauty of this approach is that there is less of a time obligation for my prospective mentors, because I am on a part time basis working on a single deal.  This also allows me to potentially work on other deals with other companies to broaden my exposure to the industry.  I have already generated three leads.  Things are looking up.  I appreciate all the expressions of support and prayers you have shared with me over this last week.  I will keep you posted.

Ruben A. Harris