Sometimes students need gentle prodding

...other times you need to hit them over the head with a brick.

I run a mentoring program and attendence at some of our breakfasts was lagging because many of the students were afraid of their i-banking internship peers getting more hours in the office than them.  So I sent them this note:

STUDENTS, PLEASE TAKE A
MOMENT TO READ AND CONSIDER THIS…

I’ve spoken to a number
of students who are experiencing some issues attending breakfasts because of
work conflicts or just the requirements of their job’s hours. 

I understand this. 
When you joined SEMI back in January, you probably figured that one breakfast a
week that ended at 8:30/9 would be easy to attend.  Then you got to your
internships and not only did you feel the pressure of competition from other
interns, but you feel like the
offer
is looming over you and you don’t want to risk anything. 

This is an interesting
thought exercise in the psychology of market behavior.  Students think that the
way to get an offer is to outwork their peers on the job…  to beat them out in
terms of hours spent.  To not miss any gatherings, getogethers, or meetings. 
So, every student does the same thing… works ridiculous hours an attends
everything.  Because they’re all acting the same way, their ability to actually
differentiate from their peers is minimal, and the cost of this minimal
differentation is great…  lots of hours, lots of
stress.

Is there a better
approach?  What about if you said to your supervisor at your i-banking firm, “I
have the opportunity to go to Blackstone’s offices and meet with some key people
there.  I really feel like making some of these contacts might make me more
valuable to the firm and I’d be happy to make up the hours another day.”   

First off, there’s no
doubt that you would be more valuable to the firm in my mind.  Second, now
you’ve seperated yourself from the pack.  You’ve presented yourself as a
go-getter looking to add value to the firm in several different ways, not just
through hours. 

But is there risk? 
Will you be the only one not going to a meeting?  Showing up at 9:30 one day? 
Will that look bad?  Will you lose your offer?

Maybe if you skipped
out to go to Great Adventure or because you were hungover… but if you approached
your manager and told them exactly what you were doing. absolutely not.  Plus,
the worst that could happen is that they say no.

Actually, that’s not
true.  That’s not the worst that could happen.  The worst that could happen is
that they say no and they’re not happy in your taking interest in talking to
other firms and making professional connections… and that you still actually go
to work for these people who are so closed minded and
unreasonable

You should really be
aiming to work in an environment where you have supervisors that take an active
interest in your professional development and see the benefit of the networking
connections that a visit to Blackstone would bring in.  If they don’t, do you
really want to work for them anyway?  Now is the time when you should be aiming
high, being a little idealistic, and taking these types of “risks” (even though
I don’t think this is very risky.)  Behaving just like everyone else and trying
to be the last one out of the office is something you do when you’re at a place
20 years and you’re trying to protect your reputation or your pension.  Its not
something you do now at this age.  It strikes me that so many of you want to
work in investing, where people get paid for taking risk and only for taking
risk, yet many students I speak with are so paralyzed by fear that they don’t
want to step an inch out of like at their precious internships. 

You’re too young and
have too much potential to start conceding these types of quality of life
issues.  I’ve always strived to work for employers who understood that the more
well rounded and balanced I was, the more valuable I was to the firm…. and they
saw me as more valuable to the firm than the firm being valuable to me.  I was
the capital… I was the product, and they took an active interest in my
development and well being…and happiness, too.  That’s why I had a unique career
path that was different than the strict paths many of you are hanging on for
dear life to.

And then people ask me
how to get into private equity.  You want to know how to get into private
equity?  Take an hour off from your internship tomorrow.  Come to Blackstone (in
business attire) tomorrow morning, and make great friends with [one of the hosts of our breakfast].  Stay in touch with her… try to angle your way into a lunch.  Impress
the hell out of her so you can score some inroads to a fall internship or a
chance to recruit at Blackstone, the #1 Buyout firm in the

US

.  That’s the
way.

But, no, I’ll still
probably only see 10 of you there tomorrow and you’ll sacrifice the rest of the
summer, killing yourself when you didn’t really need to, to get a position you
probably had in the bag anyway without tomorrow morning’s extra hour or two. 
Then, when you’re 25, you’ll be totally burnt out and you’ll meet me at a SEMI
reunion and ask me about getting into private equity or venture capital again. 
Trust me, its very frustrating to watch when students don’t realize that real
success means blazing your own trail on your own
terms.

That’s all I have to
say.  I hope to see more than 8 of you tomorrow.

Charlie