DUY NGO – Never Give Up

For those international students who did not have an US undergraduate degree and only came here for Masters (non-MBA) programs with limited work experience, getting a job is a really big challenge. Duy Ngo, a Vietnamese student who recently got a job offer at the Financial Instruments, Structured Products and Real Estate Group (FSR) at PwC New York, proved that he can overcome obstacles. Following is his story.

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A phone rang while I was working in the office. A lady who is a recruiter at PwC on the line talked to me:
“I know you reached out to one of our directors about potential opportunities within our FSR (Financial Instruments, Structured Products and Real Estate) practice. I wanted to see if this is still something you wanted to talk about further, as I manage the campus recruiting for FSR”
I said: “Yes”
She said: “Can you start in January?”
I said: “Yes”
The lady replied: “Let me schedule you an interview in New York office. I will get back to you in the afternoon”.

I flew to New York City, stayed in a hotel in Times Square for a night and waited for the interview in the following day.

I had the interview with one Manager, one Director and one Partner at PwC’s New York office.

I finally got a call from the recruiter again and got an offer to work at PwC.
Getting a job in the US is a long and, sometimes, very hopeless journey. I came to the US about two and a half years ago for a Master’s degree in Finance. I worked for a year in Vietnam as a lecturer and researcher for a university. In the US, I got internships at two private equity firms in Baltimore and Dallas and one investment banking internship in Washington DC. Those internships helped me get attention with many companies, interviews and finally a job at PwC.

To give an advice how to get a job in the United States, I have three tips: persistence, networking and persistent networking. Besides, I want to emphasis on timing and keeping positive attitude!

Networking is the key. I first got an internship at a private equity firm through the introduction of my professor. He sits on the board of a charity organization in Baltimore and was my coach at school in a mentoring program. He knew a person on the board who works in a private equity firm in Dallas. My professor introduced me to him and gave me his business card. Not after three times of cold emails and two introductions from my professor, that person, let’s call him my future boss, agreed to have a 30-minute-meeting with me. During the meeting, I made a good impression and showed that I have a great desire to work in the industry. I also discovered that he plays piano, a common interest between us. We kept in touch with each other but I had not mentioned about job with him.

At that time, I was also in the board of directors of an Investment Society at my university. I had an idea to organize a networking event for finance professionals and students from different schools. Of course, I invited my future boss to attend that event. With help from my connections at the CFA Society in Washington DC, I got connected to a private equity association in the region. I was even connected to the president of the group, whom I still keep very close relationship, and she introduced me a few managing partners at different private equity firms in Baltimore. The CFA Baltimore helped promote the event to its members, and through affiliate investment clubs at other schools in the area, I invited students to attend the event. It was a great success and I made really good impression to my future boss. He later on offered me an internship with his company and an affiliate private equity firm in Baltimore.

Using a similar strategy, I got my second internship. I invited one managing director of an investment bank in Washington DC to attend the event. He did not come but I still followed up and had a meeting with him to talk about the event. He finally accepted me to work with him during the fall semester. I focused on M&A activities in healthcare and life science sector. I was very lucky as he usually takes interns from Georgetown University, a target school in the area.

My last journey is to get a full-time job. By the time I started applying for full-time job in fall 2014, I already had one investment banking and two private equity internships. I absolutely had no contact from banks, or any contact from Big 4. I wanted to work in New York but it was out of my reach. My networks were mostly in Washington DC and Baltimore area. I was confident but also thought about the next best thing: Go back to Vietnam! During that time, I blasted a lot of cold emails, made a lot of cold calls to different companies. Over 2,000 emails and 80 cold calls. As a result, I got quite a lot of interviews but mostly at small and boutique banks. My timing was very late so I recommend you to start early. Big4 and budge bracket investment banks start recruitment very early in August and September. Do not miss that time frame. From my email campaign, I got a super day with PwC. At this point, you know the ending.

My takeaways from my job search are:
1.Be visible: You need to standout in the crowd in the networking events. You should speak up during the session. Organize the event and open the event, people will remember you! Make noise!

2.Offering: People network for a reason: to advance a career, to look for new business partners, or to eat free food (if the event is free). Don’t be the last one! You should have something to offer to other people. By that way, people will keep in touch and exchange contacts with you.
For students: Many people, including me, want to help students to get the first job. Be sincere, be aggressive and show the desire to learn, show your leadership! Someone will help you down the road.

3.Follow up: Most people do not follow-up after networking. You should be creative in the way you follow-up with people. Set time for follow-up coffee meeting. Remember rule #2.

4.Always smile and give good first impression: People always ask you: “How are you?”
Instead of saying: “Fine”. You should say something different “I am doing fantastically as blah blah blah….”. Always give a big smile! 😀

5.Have a story! Always prepare a story to back up for your experience! Lead the conversation during networking. Find the common ground between you and the person you are talking with.
People love your personal story! Be humorous and thoughtful about what is going on.
During the interview, always remember to say “There was a time when I did….”
I did have a question during an interview:
– Tell me a clean joke
– I have 10 minutes, tell me a story!

6.Timing! Timing is very important! Most banks and Big4 will recruit from August to September. Do not miss that deadline. It will be extremely difficult to get a job off cycle and you will not have good training if you come off cycle.

7.Practice to reduce your accent! Generally, people in Wall Street do not want people with accent. It is even more important if you are working in client facing roles. Practice to reduce your accent!

8.Gym! Regardless if you are male or female. Gym is good! 😀 Companies want to hire people with good health and good-looking.

My last point is always maintain positive attitude in every situation. I understand that sometimes life is hard. If life gives you a lemon, make a lemonade! I you have to go back to your country, it is not the end of the world.

Good luck!

P/s: I had a hard time trying to convince Duy to tell his story as he always wants to keep a low profile. Duy has been actively referring talents to PwC to pay it forward!

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