HOA NGUYEN – Life Pushes Us Down, Just Get Back Up

I usually tell my friends that I don’t believe in “short term networking”, a phrase I use to describe random networking efforts. Most of the time you can’t get the job offer just by sending 3 messages to someone on LinkedIn. The ability to build and maintain good long term professional relationships, however, is not the only thing made Hoa Nguyen stand out during her job search. Read the story to learn about how this Cornell College graduate got her job at JP Morgan Chase.

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Hi everyone. My name is Hoa Nguyen and I’m from Vietnam. I recently graduated from Cornell College (a very non-target school in Iowa- middle of nowhere). I am currently interning at a private equity firm and will be joining JP Morgan Chase in September. Toan asked me to share my story and I hope that it will give you more motivation to continue chasing your dream and following your heart.

My background: My school does not have campus recruiting events from top financial firms. In addition, it is a very small college (1,200 students) so we do not have many alumni working at big banks or top financial firms. It was not easy for me to network. After my sophomore year, I worked as an audit intern at KPMG in Hanoi, Vietnam. I enjoyed my experience there but I always want to get more work experience in the U.S. Then, during my junior year, I was invited to JP Morgan Winning Women event after my successful interview. However, I failed in my interview for JPMC’s junior internship program (I felt really dumb about myself, learned why I failed, and know that I will apply for JPMC full-time hiring again). I was also lucky to secure a really good junior internship at an investment consulting in Minnesota. I got this internship through online application (Yeah applying online can get you a job too :-)). Unfortunately, the firm does not sponsor visa so I have to look for another job again. It took me almost a year to get my dream job.

Lessons I learned from my experience:

Unique Selling Points: Find something unique about you, which will make people easily remember you during interviews/networking. People often ask me what I like about the US. Before giving them a serious answer, I often talk about how much I love eating ketchup in the U.S. (sometimes I like it more than fish sauce haha). The Ketchup story often gives my interviewers/network a good laugh 😀

Networking:

  • Networking is about building and maintaining good long-term relationships with professionals in your field. I usually send hand-written thank-you notes or Christmas cards to my network. When I read interesting finance news, I often ask what they think about the news.
  • Networking is about what you can offer to your network. Don’t expect people to help you out first if you do not know exactly what you can offer to them
  • Networking is not about quantity. You do not need to know too many professionals. However, you must know some of them very well and ask for their referrals when the time is right. I know only two professionals after my sophomore year. Then after my junior internship, my boss/co-workers referred me to their industry contacts, which makes it much easier for me to network with those managing directors in finance.

Interview Preparation:

  • Learn as much as possible about the firm and position you are interviewing for. When you answer the question “ Tell me about yourself”, clearly elaborate how the position fits into your long-term career plans. When they ask: “Why do you apply for us”, find unique things about the firm to answer. For example, JP Morgan Chase is unique because they successfully merged commercial banking and investment banking in a way that made sense => I will be very proud to work for a bank like JPMC.
  • Unique Selling Point: During my interview with JPMC, I talked about my interest in workout and how I really want to be part of JPMC’s team for the JPMC Corporate Challenge
  • Interviewing is like dating. You and the interviewer are finding a good match. If you fail, it does not mean that you are not a good candidate. Keep being positive and learn how to make your next date (interview) better

Find a good mentor who can give you reliable advice on job search and interviews, or refer you to his/her industry contacts. I am very lucky to have mentors who I still keep in touch and send them updates on my job search.

Love what you do, do what you love. Perseverance is the key to success. LIFE PUSHES US DOWN, JUST GET BACK UP

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