By Olivia Sleet, Career Centre Researcher
MiFFT 2019 Diana Vargens used her Masters in Finance to transition from a career in energy in her home country of Brazil, to an investment role at the much sought-after International Finance Corporation in Washington DC. She shares her tips on keeping focused, what to expect from the recruitment process and what about her LBS experience she thinks made the difference.
What was your career plan when you chose to join LBS?
My career goal was to work with development finance, preferably in an international organisation. Before joining LBS, I already had a strong interest in development institutions such as IFC, IDB (Intra American Development Bank) and CDC.
If your plan changed during your studies, what made you change your mind?
My plan didn’t exactly change. However, at LBS I broadened my perspective a lot. At school, I had contact with the wide world of Impact Investing, and I realised that Development institutions were not the only place where I could work with social impact. I got to know about Impact Funds and Impact Consulting firms which were also paths that fit my career goals.
What do you think helped you secure your role?
For IFC, motivation is key. They need to know you are very interested in the organisation and the social impact aspect of it. To make sure my motivation didn’t sound “empty” (at interviews and throughout the cover letter), I joined related clubs at school (Impact Consulting, Social Impact), participated in organising events, joined the MIINT Competition and did an unpaid internship at a social impact start-up. Regarding the aspects of the organisation itself, I had a lot of conversations with people that worked for the company so I could get an insider perspective and not only rely on website information. It was hard to have a proper coffee chat since the team in London is very small, but people were available by phone and LinkedIn.
You secured a role in a very sought-after organisation. What do you think made the difference between you and other candidates?
Definitely clear and truly motivation. Also, my background and languages were important since it is an international organisation. It was also important to have a good financial knowledge, which is more than available at LBS; there were a number of case studies and tests during the recruitment journey.
What challenges did you face when searching for and securing your role? How did you overcome them?
I wanted to make sure that I could put all my experience into coherent words, including my motivation and everything I had studied for the role. It’s harder than it seems and it’s very easy to sound confused and not focused. Career Centre professionals were key in helping with mock interviews and CL/CV reviews. I also got a lot of help from peers and even was lucky enough to have a mock interview with a professional who had done the process the previous year (an LBS alumni).
It is also important to practice building simple and fast financial models and solving case studies. I believe this part was simpler because there are many guides available to practice, but it takes time.
Did you encounter any other setbacks during your job search while at LBS? How did you overcome them?
Yes, I applied to many organisations and got many rejections, which can damage your confidence! It was helpful to share this experience with friends and colleagues who were in the same situation, so you realise those setbacks were happening to everyone, even to the best students with great backgrounds.
What was your job search and networking strategy when it came to targeting roles you were interested in?
My target list of companies wasn’t that long, since it was focused on social impact only. I approached a lot of people through LinkedIn (preferably LBS alumni) and email (sometimes they shared their contact details at events) and asked for coffee chats. Also, by participating in organising events and in competitions (such as MIINT), you end up meeting people in a more ‘natural’ way.
What advice would you give to fellow students looking to break into the sector?
I would advise that students get involved as much as they can in events, competitions, clubs, internships that are related to the field. Not only do you get to know a lot of people, but you also have experience and substance that will be super helpful to use as discussion points at interviews and coffee chats.
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