Launch Your Search

The CFA Society Chicago Professional Development Advisory Group hosted the Launch Your Search program over the course of 4 weekly sessions in September and October. Over thirty participants gathered to develop or enhance the skills necessary to successfully navigate a job search, lessen the associated stress, boost confidence and stand above the competition to get hired faster. The program was conducted by Megan Walls who is a certified executive and career coach who provides professional guidance for all phases of your career: entry, advancement, and change.

Week 1 kicked off with participants learning How to Talk Confidently in an Interview. Individuals reviewed their personal strengths that were determined by taking the GALLUP Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment. Years of research suggest that the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviors. A review of the knowledge and skills you have acquired can provide a basic sense of your abilities, but an awareness and understanding of your natural talents will provide true insights into the core reasons behind your consistent successes.

Each participant’s report listed his or her most dominant strengths from 34 themes that were measured. The strength themes include a broad range from Achiever, Communicator, Developer and Includer, to Learner Maximizer, Relator, and Strategist. Many participants agreed that they have difficulty talking confidently in an interview for various reasons – they’re modest, they feel like they’re bragging, or they don’t think their accomplishments are unique. But, we learned that leveraging these strengths into stories makes it much easier to talk about yourself and articulate your value proposition.

We spent time individually to develop Strength Success Stories based on our Top 5 Themes.The process includes listing a strength and providing an example of how you’ve used it in a business situation.Then a CAR (challenge, action, result) story is crafted on that strength. Having these stories polished and at the ready relieves anxiety, increases confidence and makes you stand out as self-aware in an interview.

An example CAR story:

CHALLENGE: There was no recording keeping system for the sales/orders that came in from the sales representatives.

ACTION: I developed an electronic submission form and organized a two-step process for the sales representatives to use on future orders.

RESULT: Company orders were processed 40% faster.

Week 2 focused on Crafting Your Personal Brand Statement. This one to two sentence statement conveys your uniqueness and competitive advantage to your target audience. It should be easily understood, memorable and benefit driven.  Your statement should answer 3 questions: 1) what value do you provide (describe your expertise); 2) what sets you apart from the competition (your unique attributes – use your strengths learned in the first session), and 3) who is your target audience or what is the position you are seeking? This statement will be the foundation for your marketing material and distinguish you from others in the same industry by creating differentiation in the minds of networking contacts and interviewers. Additionally, it establishes a consistent (versus broad) message, highlights your credibility/expertise and tells an organization why they need you.

Example Personal Brand Statements:

I use my passionate, emphatic approach to build key relationships with customers (sets you apart) that evolve into multi-year contracts (value) for high tech companies selling enterprise software (target audience).

I help small to medium size businesses (target audience) grow strong brands and boost organic growth up to 27% (value) by creating marketing programs that speak to customer needs (sets you apart).

Modernizing Your Resume was the focus during week 3. The group discussed many aspects of resumes, including the differences in today’s resumes, as well as the best ways to get your resume noticed. It’s important to make the best of your resume and grab the attention of your potential employer quickly. Typically, a recruiter or employer will only spend six seconds looking over your resume. With this being the case, the top third of your resume is most important. This section should include the highlights of your strengths, achievements, and value you will bring to an organization. Walls provided this example:

Corporate Finance Executive | Senior Finance Management Professional

Dynamic and resourceful problem solver who mitigate risk and addresses opportunities for profitable growth

Strategic about cost-savings: Eliminated, averted or saved $3M during tenure at XYZ Corp.

Adaptable to fast-paced changing environments: Partnered with cross-functional team to create financial model to calculate weekly one-year cash liquidity positions during financial crisis.

Extensive finance and management skills: Eliminated key man risk in department by creating cross coverage task list and initiating cross training of staff, allowing continuous workflow during absences.

Analytical approach to achieve results: Led development of database to consolidate disparate data sources so bankers could have accurate real-time picture of expenses, saving time and money.

Further, with job applications being submitted online, it’s imperative to have your resume make it past the ATS (applicant tracking system) so your resume makes it to a human being in HR, or better yet, the hiring manager. (In addition to applying online, you should always network into the organization to have someone at the company present you personally.) To pass the screening of an ATS your resume must contain keywords specific to the job! Scour job descriptions in your industry to gather those that best suit the position you’re looking for and incorporate them into your resume.

In addition to keywords, it’s important to use statements that are accomplishment driven. Beyond explaining what you were required to do in your role, you should expand on your successes. Your past experiences should enlighten prospective employers on what value you bring to the organization. Your CAR stories will be helpful in penning your achievements. To make your achievements pop, use powerful verbs in describing how you were effective.

The Powerful Verbs below will be helpful if for example, you:

Saved the Company Time or Money – conserved, consolidated, decreased deducted, diagnosed, lessened, reconciled, reduced

Led a Project – chaired, controlled, coordinated, executed, headed, operated, orchestrated, oversaw, planned, produced, programmed

Supported Customers – advised advocated, arbitrated, coached consulted, educated, fielded, informed, resolved

The final week’s topic was Structure your Job Search Plan, Set Goals & Take Action. In order to jump-start and conduct a successful search you need to be mindful of many factors and be honest about where stand personally in each area. To help you focus your time and effort in the right areas, rank each of the following components on a scale of 1-10:

  • Structured Plan & Goals
  • Time Commitment
  • Networking
  • Resume & Marketing
  • Mindset & Attitude
  • Personal Brand
  • Interview Prep & Skills
  • Self-Awareness

With an understanding of where you need to dedicate time, you can start setting goals for a systematic job search. Think about the strategies you will pursue to move toward this goal and establish specific action items.  Be aware that obstacles will arise along the way so think about how you can best overcome them.  Often times you will require support in various forms so don’t hesitate to ask for help – many people have been through this process and are willing to be of assistance.

Participants gained invaluable job search insights and left armed with many tools to help them throughout the process. Additionally, new networking contacts were made and all benefited from the ideas/support from others in the group.

Should you desire career coaching or help with your job search, you can find information about Megan Wall’s services from her website www.WallsCareerCoach.com, and she can be reached at megan@wallscareercoach.com or 847.490.5776.

Vault Series: Ted Reilly, Chicago Media Angels

CFA Society Chicago hosted its first Vault Series event of the year on July 16th featuring Chicago Media Angels (CMA) Founder and Executive Director Ted Reilly. Chicago Media Angels is an investment group seeking attractive returns through financing content in the media and entertainment industries. Reilly spoke about media as an asset class and shared interesting insights into the group’s sourcing, funding and development of such content in Chicago.

Reilly ended up in the Midwest by way of Notre Dame and began his career with Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management where he held various positions over seven years. During this time, he discovered that his passion was helping entrepreneurs develop their businesses yet his job was convincing them to sell their companies and invest the proceeds.

Reilly left Goldman in 2011 and over the next three years produced a documentary in Uganda about a young medical student. He truly loved the experience and wanted to continue this work but didn’t know how to make a living doing so. With his interest piqued, he immersed himself in the local start up scene and joined Notre Dame’s Angel Fund, Irish Angels, in 2012 to deepen his knowledge about angel investing.

During this period he was searching for mentors when he read an article in Forbes about Steve Jobs. Following his firing from Apple, he sold his shares for $100 million. After his first $50 million investment in another tech company failed, he took his last $50 million to a small startup named Pixar, where he became a billionaire as a film producer. This proved to Reilly there was definitely money to be made in media.

A few years later he presented the notion of investing in movies to Irish Angels and when they weren’t open to the idea, he created Chicago Media Angels. Reilly shared that the biggest realization of angel investing is that you’re looking for Unicorns: Angel Investor = Unicorn Hunter! He said a lot of angel investors just keep trying to make deals work, when in fact they won’t.

There are a number of reasons movie investing is desirable. One of the biggest is the defined negative costs – once financed there isn’t a reliance on future rounds of financing. Adding to that, once a film is made, it can be monetized into perpetuity through various revenue streams. Reilly used Napoleon Dynamite as an example – it was made for $400,000 in 2004 and brought in 48 million at the box office and continues to bring in residuals to this day. In fact, a Napoleon Dynamite doll is being released this summer, some 15 years later.

Chicago Media Angels has grown to 50+ investors and is targeting 100 total. To join it requires a $2,500 annual fee and a $5,000 minimum investment in a deal(s) of your choice. Since hanging their shingle, they have received 3,500 submissions for financing and presented 30 deals to investors. The group views two times budget as an attractive valuation and invests between $250,000 and $1.2 million per deal in low budget independent films.  With the change in technology from film to digital, production costs have come way down.  They prefer movies that are as ready to produce as possible and don’t provide funding until filming starts and distribute the investment throughout filming.  Equity is split 50/50 between producers and investors, and investors receive their money back first.

The cash flow of a film breaks down as follows:

Negative Costs: 1-6 months

Marketing: 6-8 months

Recoupment: 18 months to perpetuity

  • Blue Ray and DVD
  • Theatrical
  • Foreign Release
  • Television
  • TVOD (transactional video on demand) i.e. Apple, Amazon
  • SVOD (subscription video on demand) i.e. Netflix, Hulu

Current CMA investments comprise nine equity financings including six feature films, one episodic pilot (Public Housing Unit), one web series, and one content/technology company. To date CMA Digital Studios has vetted over 300 submissions and whittled those down to five that they will be producing next year.

Reasons to join CMA include: leveraging your network/experience, participation in guest speaker series, access to 12 well-curated investment opportunities annually, full transparency, ability to allocate your own capital, and syndicated risk. Besides Reilly’s assurances of 100% guaranteed fun, there’s the opportunity to impact society – following Hunger Games, there was a 44% increase in female involvement in archery!

Following the presentation, CFA Society Chicago interviewed Reilly for its first ever podcast which will be posted on the CFA Society Chicago website in the coming weeks!

Progressive Networking Luncheon Spring 2018

On May 22nd, thirty-six members of the CFA Society Chicago gathered at Petterino’s to enjoy a progressive networking luncheon. Participants mingled casually prior to taking their seats for the salad course and first round of networking. The sound level rose as individuals each introduced themselves and conversations flowed easily around a myriad of industry related topics. Attendees held a wide range of job titles. Beyond traditional investment management roles, there was a transactional actuary and another whose advisory firm assists small businesses with financial planning and analysis.

Moving tables to the entrée course, I was greeted with another diverse group, this time in terms of nationality (Uruguayan and Israeli) and firm focus (Japanese value stocks). The other individuals were from local firms William Blair and Northern Trust but the discussion was globally-oriented and provided interesting insights around international investing.

The third round of networking took place over a slice of key lime pie and a shared interest in making new connections while exchanging thought provoking ideas and advice. At this point I was feeling pretty good about the new connections I had made and what I had gained from the discussions over the last hour and a half. Suddenly that seemed inconsequential when I met tablemate Haoen, who had graduated from University of Illinois on Saturday with four majors (Mathematics, Statistics, Finance and Accounting) and started an internship on Monday (this was Tuesday).  I was in complete awe, but that wasn’t all, he had already passed all three levels of the CFA exam and was halfway through the 10 CPA exams!! Wow.

The key benefit of the luncheon was having the opportunity to meet and interact with over a dozen fellow financial professionals with experience ranging from entry level to senior executives. The goal of any successful networking event is walking away with new connections and mingling throughout the group. That objective was certainly achieved in a comfortable environment for all, including those who are a bit more apprehensive about working their way through a room to meet and build rapport with others.