When I first connected with Aditya Padman while he was an MBA candidate at Texas Christian University (TCU) Neeley School of Business I thought: I believe this international student has a good chance of landing a great job in the U.S. I kept my thoughts to myself though. I did not share my immediate impressions and enthusiasm with Aditya regarding his chances of obtaining U.S employment. I needed to learn more. I have learned not to trust my initial gut instincts when trying to evaluate the chances of international MBAs who want to work in the U.S after graduation, particularly if they are career transitioners.
A detailed evaluation of Aditya’s profile indicated to me that he would have the stamina and smarts to commit to the more mathematically rigorous parts of investment banking, the business focus area he was interested in. I had some initial ideas about what Aditya may want to do. For example, I remember thinking: why not immediately move away from the brand name investment banks and instead focus on lesser-known, quality, smaller investment banking shops? I also remember thinking: would it make sense for Aditya to specialize in a certain type of financial instrument as a way to build more credibility as an MBA job seeker or could this strategy be too limiting and potentially highly risky for an international student seeking H-1B sponsorship? These are examples of important questions I had for Aditya. To my surprise, he did have answers for me. In fact, he had great answers.
Aditya was not your average MBA attempting a career transition with hopes of breaking into the investment banking. As a first year MBA he already understood risk management and seemed to know how to intuitively apply these concepts to design a job search plan that maximized his chances of success.
In the end, it all worked out for Aditya and he currently has the role of Investment Analyst at First Command Financial Services. Aditya is currently on OPT and his firm has applied for his H-1B. Fingers crossed. As an Investment Analyst you may find Aditya conducting due-diligence (including performance monitoring and evaluation) of the mutual fund managers working in all asset classes (equity, bonds, alternatives). He also develops risk monitoring and risk evaluation systems for the investments under the firm’s asset management program. This kind of work is not for the faith at heart. How did Aditya get his job? Through a reference and by building a lot of muscle.
It is my pleasure to share with you my interview with Aditya. Whether you are considering a career in investment banking or seeking to go down a completely different path, Aditya shares with us all great job search strategies that maximize the chances of U.S employment for international students. So international Students: take notice! Without further due, here’s my conversation with Aditya.
Marcelo: When you started your MBA, were you clear regarding which kinds of jobs you wanted to target?
Aditya: Initially, I had targeted investment banking roles. Soon I realized that the chances of getting hired were pretty slim since recruiters only went to top B-schools (Ivy leagues). I started talking to people in the I-banking world to get a good idea about their roles and their experiences. During this time, I understood the work done by them and I since I was looking for analytical roles (which complemented my strengths) I decided to pursue opportunities on the analytical side of investments which included derivatives valuation and risk management.
Marcelo: As an MBA student, how did you know how your profile as a job seeker compared to those who were seeking the same roles you were targeting?
Aditya: I started using LinkedIn extensively to analyze the skill-set necessary for the roles. I also went through hundreds of profiles of people currently working in those roles. I started getting clues regarding the kind of profile that recruiters wanted for a specific role. I started working on those technical skills necessary to compete with similar candidates. I also attended a lot of C-level meetings and conferences hosted by our college and CFA events to understand the skills that employers needed/sought in new potential hires. It became apparent that I needed to showcase my understanding of investments through certificate courses (CFA, FRM ) and I started working towards completing them during my MBA. Clearing the exams while doing my MBA showcased my passion and commitment towards working in the field which I found helpful when standing out among similar profiled job seekers. Talking to executives working in my chosen field helped me get a deeper understanding of the skill-sets sought by them when looking at potential new hires and that was also critical for my success.
Marcelo: Did you ever sleep Aditya? It does not seem like it. Why does the world of investment banking appeal to you?
Aditya: I was always passionate about the financial markets and followed them even when I managing a manufacturing firm and helping it grow two-fold during my tenure. I knew my analytical skills would be useful in finance. I had little exposure to the work done in investment banking/investments but knew that I surely wanted to work in the finance field. This led me to pursue the MBA and seek exposure in the world markets by coming to the US.
Marcelo: Did you ever consider more traditional corporate finance jobs as a backup plan, for example?
Aditya: I was always passionate about finance, specifically investments. I knew I had to work hard to get a role in investments world since I had no prior investments experience and no big school name to back me up. I decided to go all in and never thought about back-up plans. This led me to super-specialize in investments and took relevant course-work. After completing my course-work, I realized that I had gained skill-sets which could be applied to corporate finance roles as well. (Like Modeling Cash Flows is crucial in investments but is equally important in corporate finance). This deep understanding of accounting and Cash Flow modeling (which I mastered to gain a strong footing in investments) actually helped me to ace the corporate finance jobs.
Marcelo: What’s the biggest mistake international students make when job searching in the U.S?
Aditya: Most international students are focused on GPAs. Minute GPA differences aren’t important. Yes, maintain a good GPA but don’t get obsessed with it. Most jobs in the U.S are found through networking. I was passionate about working in investments and this led me to attend a lot of investment conferences. I also met with alumni/industry people over a cup of coffee. Reaching out and understanding their roles made me learn a lot more than what I could learn from college/textbooks. They could see my passion for working in finance/investments and this led them to recommend me to roles in their company and to people they knew were hiring in the industry. Initially, I applied to more than 500+ online job postings and found no success. I re-looked at my strategy and realized that most jobs interviews happen through recommendations from existing employees. The best way to get a ‘real’ interview is mostly through a recommendation or through college recruiting.
Marcelo: Some people say that unless you go to a top 10 MBA program, your odds getting into investment banking are next to none. Do you agree?
Aditya: Most people working in investments need either of 3 things 1) Experience 2) Technical Skills or B-school name 3) Strong Network. One can get a job with just 1 or 2 or 3. It’s important to know where you lack and try to fill all 3 buckets to get a good chance of getting the role.
Marcelo: You did not have much work experience and yet you succeed. How did you convince employers that you could do the job well? I suspect networking was critical to you. Correct?
Aditya: You are spot on Marcelo. Networking and real passion towards finance helped me connect on a personal level to many industry people. I was always up-to-date on latest industry trend (read Wall Street Journal/Bloomberg daily). This helped me connect on a financial level with employers during interviews and we would connect on an intellectual level as we shared the same passion for the financial markets.
Networking was key to my success, but equally as important was for me to honestly assess my profile and figure out ways to improve it so I could stand out among the group of MBAs seeking the same roles I was targeting. The ISEL framework that you introduced to the TCU international MBAs helped me build a structure around my profile and identify my key competitive advantages. I’m glad that myself and my international MBA colleagues from TCU received individualized feedback from you. In the end I did secure my dream job. I’m very thankful.
Marcelo: What’s your international advantage?
Aditya: It is certainly my ability to analyze things on a quantitative basis. Bringing diversity to the group by the virtue of way in which I look at things is also helpful. I also wanted to say that I met with a lot of people who are really helpful towards international students and they guided me in the right direction. They were open to meeting with me and took time off their precious schedule to offer me advice to excel in life. This was really welcoming and heart-warming for me.
Marcelo: This all sounds great. We are all rooting for you Aditya. Everyone: let’s wish Aditya the best of luck with his H-1B application this year.
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