Fuelled by record levels of fundraising over the past few years and a more competitive deal landscape than we have seen for some time, the private equity recruitment market continues to be the busiest it’s been in the past decade. As a result, there are more opportunities than ever before for junior candidates to make the move into private equity.
Historically, private equity funds have favoured individuals with more experience when looking to hire into investment teams and the ‘sweet spot’ to make this transition has traditionally been once you have amassed 2-4 years of experience. This is now closer to 2-3 years and whilst this is only a slight adjustment, one trend we have witnessed is an increasing number of private equity firms hiring individuals with 18-24 months experience. If you’re looking for a career in private equity, there really has never been a better time to make the move.
We spoke with leaders from within the PE industry who have given their top tips for moving into the industry:
- Be heard. Early on into your time as an Associate in private equity your colleagues will want to hear your opinion. Don’t be afraid to speak up and have your own view. This point was mentioned multiple times and should be a key takeaway for juniors entering private equity. There is often more than one solution to a problem and through a collective approach an investment team is more likely to find the right one. Regardless of level your opinion counts and you will be expected to contribute, for those that feel unsure of speaking up, start pushing yourself in group environments to make your opinion known.
- Think about the bigger picture. Instead of simply processing the information made available to you as an advisor, challenge yourself further and spend time thinking about the bigger picture. Take a step back from the situation and think about the why and how of the specific task you are doing and how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together.
- Be responsive to feedback. Seize every opportunity to seek out personal feedback either through peers, colleagues, mentors or individuals already in the industry and actively implement the changes you need to make as a result. This will not only ensure you stay ahead of the learning curve but will contribute immensely to your own professional and personal development.
- Develop your personal brand. Make sure you’re aware of how you are perceived within the business. It’s one thing to be good at your job but investing time back into the culture of the firm will never go unnoticed and could make all the difference when being considered to join a deal. Whilst the technical skills and investor mindset are key to succeeding in private equity, a key part of the job requires you to be able to build relationships both internally and externally.
- Focus your energy. Dedicate time to think about what type of investor you’d like to be. Are you more interested in operational involvement or prefer the financial engineering in investing? Would you like to be a sector specialist or generalist? Work with more mature businesses or entrepreneurial start-ups? Start thinking now about which area could be the most interesting to you and prepare accordingly for interviews.
- It’s never too early! Whereas traditionally funds have favoured individuals with more experience when looking to hire into their teams, in recent years the market has moved in a direction which has made the move more accessible to junior candidates. If you feel that you’re ready to make the move now but hesitating over whether you should spend one more year in banking or consulting, feel confident enough to make that leap now. An additional 12 months spent in a fund is far more valuable experience than an additional 12 months in banking if you see your career on the buy-side.
This all being said, the most important thing when getting ready to make the move is feeling prepared both technically and commercially for these interviews, but ultimately if feel you’re ready only 18 months in, then don’t be afraid to make the jump – you’ll never regret trying.