SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 07 January 2020How to Get Experience When You Have No Experience
I wanted to throw my phone against the wall. It was some random Wednesday morning in the middle of Winter Semester of my Junior Year. Wednesdays were my only days to sleep in a little. Why was my alarm going off at the ungodly hour of 7:00 AM? But it wasn’t my alarm. It was some terrible person calling me from a New York number. I shook off my “just woke up” voice and answered the phone.
“Hello, this is Bob (name has been changed), I’m the VP of Wealth Management at ‘The Coolest Bank on Wall Street’ (name has also been changed). Is this Matt?”
I had just walked into the most surreal moment of my life. I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure it wasn’t a dream. There was absolutely no way this call is actually real! I was freaking out as silently as I could. Ok, let me rewind and give you the back-story.
Wall Street. That was the dream. The land of the greenback boogie. Nothing was going to stop me from getting there. I was going to go over, under, around and through anyone to land my dream job on Wall Street.
I was that cool kid who showed up to every class, sat in the front, typed copious notes, studied tenaciously and did everything necessary on paper to make my way to Wall Street. I sat down with countless individuals to perfect my resume and cover letter. I spent hours in the business building working on extracurricular projects to show I had immersed myself in diverse experiences that apparently would better my chances of landing my dream internship. I sat in my girlfriend’s living room for hours, every day for weeks, ignoring her, while I filled out applications and dropped my resume and cover letter to every possible job in Wall Street with every possible company.
Fast forward to that cold Monday morning. My phone rang, I silently freaked out, pinched myself, blah…blah…blah. You see, this was THE bank I would have chosen over any other bank PLUS it was the VP of the department I was dying to be in. This was Plan A. This was the dream. We spoke about NYC, my interests, my work experience and why I wanted to be part of his bank. A supposedly 20-minute call ended up becoming a 1.5-hour call. That’s always a good sign. I was on cloud nine.
Then Bob told me something that would change the course of my life. Years later, I still remember what he said to me, verbatim. “I really like you Matt, so I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve received over a thousand applications. I’m interviewing eight people and choosing one. If I take you on, you will be creating PowerPoints for me all summer and grabbing coffee for me in the morning, but you will have our prestigious name on your resume!” Enter my catch 22.
I was struggling to see the value of spending 18-hour days mastering the art of creating PowerPoints and becoming a guru at ordering the perfect Caramel Macchiato while developing a life-long friendship with the barista at the Starbucks on Wall Street. At the same time, I was struggling to justify turning down my dream offer after all of the blood, sweat, and tears I had poured into landing this opportunity.
Long story short, I said no. I ended up landing an internship with a company that had recently IPO-ed and played an integral part in starting a brand new branch of their business. Brand names may look good on your resume but at the end of the day, experience is what molds you to become a talented force in whatever industry you choose to go into.
This remains one of the greatest decisions I have made in my life and is THE decision that led me to co-found a fast-growing Silicon Valley company where our mission is to give job seekers the tools and power to forge their own career paths by learning through experience! As for the land of the greenback boogie, well, what could have been. Anyways, vacationing on Wall Street seems a lot more fun now than grinding out 18-hour days.
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