Over coffee with a soldier

Over coffee with a soldier

He came from modest means, had paid his own way through college by working wherever he could to make money, and had enlisted in the Virginia National Guard. 

A deployment to the Middle East interrupted and extended his college experience. 

Now graduated, and commissioned, he awaits orders to report to Fort SIll in January 2020 to attend the artillery officer basic course.

And he wanted to have coffee with me….

“I am very interested in becoming an investment banker," he said, "and want to know what I can do now and over the next four years to reach that goal.” 

The World had already responded to his question, with all of the cookie cutter solutions along a pathway so widely traveled it has been rendered cliche.

To break into the industry, get an analyst job, plan on working 100 hours a week for three years and then go back to business school to enhance your pedigree.

After more than 25 years in this industry, I have arrived at a point in life where I don’t care too much for cookie cutter solutions. And I have zero tolerance for BS…..

I just want to help young people succeed. Especially young veterans.

And this young soldier is already made of a lot better raw material than 99 percent of his peer group.

So I told him to ask me the question again. “What can I do now and over the next four years to reach my goal of becoming an investment banker?”

Do just what you are doing now….keep meeting over coffee.

Be the very best officer that you can become. Meet as many people as you can. Build your network outside of the military. 

And when you sit down in that interview for investment banking four years from now, say the following. 

“I know it is hard to look at my resume, see my military service, and translate it into a civilian setting. I do not walk in here sporting the “pedigree” many others may display.

“And there isn’t much connection between this position and sending steel down range and placing warheads on foreheads - but let me tell you why I am the best candidate you can hire.

“I have always been a team player -  even in the ultimate team sport. I place the organization’s goals ahead of personal gain, no matter the personal sacrifice.

“I am coachable and mature. I have mastered every task of my profession thus far, and I have the discipline and determination to master this profession as well. 

“I have organized and led groups of people, communicated the commander’s intent, made them focus upon a mission and an objective, and led them to succeed while overcoming daunting odds in the harshest of conditions. 

“I am calm and unflappable in the most stressful environments, able to think clearly and make critical decisions in real time. 

“I have a heightened sense of ethics, but no sense of entitlement. I will earn everything that I get. I am personally accountable for the results, both good and bad.

“I will persevere, overcome, sacrifice and win.

“You are correct. I do not look like the other candidates, I lack the pedigree, and I do not fit the mold. That is why I am the very best decision you will ever make.”

I leaned back, out of breath after ranting on too long. I am sure that vein in my forehead was popping out. What the hell do I know? I have been making mistakes for a quarter of a century.

You don’t have to listen to my opinion, and you can take the safer cookie cutter route.  Just  be sure that pedigreed candidate is “Proficient in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.”

Bob Louthan is the Founder of VeteranCrowd, LLC

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