The Insider: Breaking out of the analyst ranks

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Want to ensure you move on from analyst to associate? Our banker on the inside advises how it's done.

Being a great analyst is not complicated. You need to get your 'stuff' done and you need to get your 'stuff' done well from day one - no matter what. Even after the months of the training programme, you are, let's face it, pretty clueless and the first several months you will spend finding your feet.

I remember being asked by an MD in my first week out of training to run a 101A on some utility company. 101A? What the hell was that? Turns out it was a standard one-page report from this now defunct research company called Datastream - never heard of it and had no idea where to access it. Thankfully, I had access on my PC - phew, but who knew? I only found out because I asked a second-year analyst - always the best source for answers to your dumb questions. Sure, once you have done it the first time it's easy to do it again, but the requests get more complicated and the timeframes are always narrow so you have to scramble to figure your 'stuff' out and meet the deadlines.

After a few months, you reach the magic point where, almost suddenly, all of the requests become routine - boring even - and then you stop scrambling, and success is about how efficient you are. It's also about how much you anticipate the bosses' needs, how much you actually understand what you are doing; and it's about not making stupid mistakes. Oh yes - and it is definitely all about being an eager bunny. And in there, you have all the late nights, the weekends, the cancelled personal plans, the dumping from not just the associates but the VPs, and the directors and MDs - and you have to take it all wearing a smile.

That's the meritocratic point of view. Can you get there without the above? Possibly, but in my experience it's very hard to bluff your way through. On the flip side, is it possible you won't get there even if you do all of the above? Absolutely. So what is the missing factor that will make the difference? The answer is air cover, a jungle-guide, a mentor, a guardian angel - call it what you will, but it is someone with influence who thinks you are 'good', is willing to take you under their wing and go to bat for you around review time and promotion time. The bigger the big swinging dick they are, the better; because the more important the table thumper, the more likely they are to get their way. And, of course, more than one mentor will only help your case.

But even the backing of mentors is no magic bullet. Two or three years of hard slog pretty much remains the recipe, because that is also what most mentors need to see to believe you worthy of 'adoption'.

Do a great job as an analyst, have the right people pulling for you and you'll make associate. It is that simple; and if you are surprised by that, good luck!

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