By William Matthew Britten, Business Development Director-Ocorian
This article was initially published in our PE Insight/Out magazine that you can read and download here.
FIND A WAY IN.
Check industry associations for inspiration and information on how to start your career (LPEA Careers Section or LFF). Audit firms offer great structured programs for students and young professionals to gain first-hand insights to kick-start their career. Smaller organisations have a less structured approach, but can often offer a broader spectrum of tasks with fewer specialised teams. As the investment industry in Luxembourg is highly specialised, I would recommend pursuing internships and trainings in as many different departments as possible. Experience with the different gears of the greater machine will allow you to develop a deeper more authentic understanding of the industry as a whole. You will not only gain experience that will compliment your education, but also form connections. An internship is an opportunity to learn the skills and behaviours along with the work values that are required for you to be successful in the workplace.
Research the company you are applying to, the people you will be meeting and which tasks the team performs. Be sure to know the fundamentals, even though in the beginning your attitude will be more important than knowledge. The industry
associations, law firms and Big4 offer a vast amount of free literature and can be used to improve further your understanding of the industry.
UNDERSTAND THE VALUE CHAIN. UNDERSTAND THE PERSPECTIVES AND DRIVERS.
In a fast-growing industry in an ever- changing environment, it happens that one can’t see the forest for the trees. Companies are often too busy administrating themselves and the complex monster they have created. Claiming to be client-focussed without understanding who or what keeps on the lights.
In my first position in client and sales support, I worked closely with all the operational department and key decision- makers. This really helped me understand the entire process and value chain as well as pain points and bottlenecks in both the setup of funds and the decision-making process of organisations.
SHARPEN YOUR PROFILE.
Finding a mentor is rare. Someone senior who can share their experience, someone who actually cares and will support you in getting ahead, even rarer. Yet, it will make all the difference. I was lucky enough to find someone who offered a
very different perspective with a strategic vision and long-term approach towards their career and personal development. When I was asked where I see myself in five or ten years, at the time, I was so engaged with what was in front of me, my response was: “I don’t even know, what I want for lunch!”
Gaining professional experience throughout the value chain, i.e. in back, mid and front office positions, will not only sharpen your profile, but enable you to understand the structure of organisations and each step along the way. In addition, work on developing relevant skills by joining a post-grad program or joining a charter such as the CAIA as early in your career as possible. This will demonstrate your ambition and dedication to study and learn while complementing your practical experience. As the cherry on top, you will also get to show off those sweet additional letters in your email signature and your business card. Personally, I greatly benefitted from regular coaching sessions and mediation trainings. They won’t show up in your
signature or CV, but have an immediate impact in your interpersonal communication and demeanour.
Luxembourg also offers a great self-development infrastructure with a variety of self-development and training organisations such as the LPEA Academy, House of Training or the Luxembourg Lifelong Learning Academy, where a vast array of financial courses are offered.
BE RESILIENT. CARRY ON.
You will encounter bad apples along the way. The treatment of junior staff reflects directly on the personality of those in charge, often poorly. Conflicts due to rivalry, selfishness and envy are not uncommon. Along the way, colleagues
will try to hold you back and wear you down. This can be intimidating and very difficult to deal with. Don’t let emotions get in the way. Maintain a sense of honesty and integrity above all else. Be patient, time is on your side. Gain experience, reflect and learn, good or bad. Often more easier said than done. But in the end you will grow as a person and be stronger than you were before.
GET TO KNOW THE CULTURE.
Be open to new and different cultures. The Grand Duchy has a proud national heritage and is well-known for being a multi-national hub. You will thus be working with an array of people from different backgrounds, so always be tolerant and respectful.
Engage in conversations and connect to stay in touch. Once you have demonstrated your capabilities, don’t be afraid to ask for a reference or even a referral. Everybody knows somebody and will likely have good friends in other companies or business lines. Your next opportunity is just a call or text away. This will ease your way in, when aiming for your first professional role following your internship. Join and follow the community.
Luxembourg offers plenty of networking opportunities such as industry events and after work gatherings.
FIND FRIENDS. BUILD A NETWORK. FORM ALLIANCES.
Connect with likeminded early in both your careers … and support each other on the way to the top. It’s a long and winding road.
ATTITUDE, MIND-SET AND AMBITION.
Stay dynamic and open-minded. Don’t let the old ways hinder you from making your mark. Always look for improvements and solutions to make work and life easier. Lead by example and inspire others. Be an ambassador of the new ways and improvements. Be humble and support. You are not above things, tasks are not beneath you. No matter how fancy your business school was, no matter how hard your way was – you start right here. The more you support your colleagues,
the more time they will have to teach you. So don’t shy away from tasks. Be diligent and put the work in. Don’t be afraid to learn new things or take on new projects. While this can be intimidating at first, you learn and grow with each task tackled as long as you give it your all. Having a positive attitude, being adaptable, being self-motivated and motivated to grow and learn are key values employers look for.
Don’t miss the opportunity to demonstrate that you have what it takes. Don’t underestimate the impact of social media. Gain visibility, both within your own organisation and externally via engagement in working groups. Use platforms like
LinkedIn to connect and learn.
FIND BALANCE. PERFORM SELF-CARE.
A turning point for me was when I realised it was only up to me how much I would let my professional life consume me as a person. Finding balance is key. The industry can be ruthless and will chew you up, if you don’t find a way to deal with the pressure.
PUT THE WORK IN.
Long hours, high pressure and tough deadlines are common companions when working in private equity. You will need to grind, just remember: “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll.” – AC/DC
Private Equity is about creating value and making an impact, ideally a positive impact leading to sustainable long-term growth. Understanding this and applying the same values to your career will help you excel. Just keep in mind, good things take time.
We know of course that time is relative. If you’re willing to work harder and longer, and you ensure this is recognised, you will reach your destination faster.