Our story begins with a big little lie.
If you were to search for a description of the Undergraduate Division of the Nova Investment Club, you would find that we are “a student-run organization that promotes finance-related activities among the Nova undergraduate student community.”
Our omission? We go beyond finance.
To us, interest in finance is both a prerequisite and a form of bait. It is how we search for common ground. Yet, our goal is to develop ourselves as much as possible using a bottom-up approach that relies on finance as a platform for the exploration of other interests, whether these are finance-related or not.
“What else have we got?”
This is a question that requires thought – a lot of which, in our opinion, is not very abundant. Note that lack of abundance does not imply failure. On the other hand, what it does imply is a much more serious consequence, one which emerges every single year during the Spring Semester.
It is that time of the year: the final-year student wakes up from her or his prolonged slumber, finding her or himself lacking work experience.
“G.P.A.?” Check. “Résumé?” Check. “Extracurricular experience?” Some? “Have I practiced enough?” More or less? “O.K., I think I am ready.” Check?
You ‘think’ or you ‘know’ you are ready? How ‘ready’ are you? How did you prepare for this opportunity?
When it is time to face the music, this is the scenario we come across most frequently. The fact of the matter is that ‘facing the music’ entails a lot of preparation. It demands networking, résumés, motivation letters, case studies, and interviews – but there is much more to than meets the eye.
Would an interviewer want to be stuck in an airport with you? How well do you fit into the culture of the firm? Are you interesting – or, at the very least, interested? These are the same questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis.
“How can we prepare ourselves for the jobs of today and the jobs of the future?”
We have made a conscientious effort to transmit this idea throughout Nova. In fact, it is one of the tasks we set forth at our inception. One of the things we look most forward to is to have the privilege to work with students outside our ‘borders’ that are capable and, above all, willing – and who request our assistance. There is nothing we enjoy more than to feel their trust and your trust in us – to get to know you, and understand you, and try to determine where you stand and where you want to stand.
More often than we would like to, however, we have found ourselves in the company of unfounded and unhelpful frameworks. We have found ourselves face to face with the banality of the student experience.
Too often has this approach failed students – students as capable as those in target schools. Better yet, too often has this approach ‘delayed’ students. After all, ‘delayed’ is all you are when you do not reach or pass an assessment center.
Too often has this approach left students to pick up the pieces of what was once their conviction and their spirit. For every student who is accepted, there are several others finding themselves in need of unnecessary meditation about their self-worth; instead, these students should be seeking to do a post-mortem of their performance.
“What did we do right? What was a waste of time? What did we miss?”
This is not a story of how and where the recruitment process falls short. We are not criticizing it; we are criticizing, however, our ‘box.’ We are criticizing the ill-informed opinion that bland résumés, subject to above-average G.P.A., are a sufficient condition – that they are the way to go. As students, we limit ourselves to what is conventional, to what has worked for others, to not aiming above and outside our own expectations. Whilst there are various parties guilty of this crime, our only goal is to address the things we can change.
First and foremost, we must face reality head-on the moment we enter Nova. From then on, you have two choices: either you decide you are content to be just another average Jane or Joe, or you start working toward your seemingly unattainable goal.
How? Find your areas of interest, particularly through internship programs. Build your own personalized and purposeful path; change it if necessary, but follow it to the very end. Use your journey to discover and develop your niche – your competitive position.
What would you like ‘your thing’ to be? Whatever ‘it’ is, you must immerse yourself in ‘it.’ You must live the experiences and stories you want to tell. You must develop the know-how and skills you want to show. Involve yourself in as many (interesting) initiatives and projects as possible. Read widely.
Most importantly, do not settle – and, respectfully, do yourself a favor: forget Nova. By virtue of the brand equity surrounding some international institutions of higher education, Nova is not and cannot fool itself into thinking that it is the ‘crème de la crème.’ In order to move on, we must truly pinpoint, understand, and accept the very few things we cannot change.
Do not find consolation in the Financial Times’ Business Education Rankings. It is a trap. At best, we are a ‘hidden gem’; our case is that of a whole that is not greater than the sum of its parts. Instead, get to know Nova’s people to understand how and where you can extract value added.
Do not find consolation in domestic comparisons. Instead, find your role models. Find your mentors. Find your partners – those who in their pursuit outside of the box for something else push you to become someone more.
Nova is what you make it: everything else is superfluous. Everything else, every other framework marked by some notion of entitlement, of rights, of normalization of what a student is and what a student ought to be – abandon it.
Even so, do not mistake our view as singular. It is not. This is a story that is applicable to Nova, ourselves, and any other club or society. As a club, you cannot possibly be satisfied with the barest of minimums. You cannot be satisfied with the fact that you are continuing the tradition of previous years. You cannot be okay with ‘O.K.’. As the Portuguese proverb goes: “good is the enemy of great.” Having said that, our outlook is that ‘O.K.’ is the greatest enemy of them all.
In doing the bare minimum, you are merely ensuring some form of short-term safety. By not preparing for the foreseeable unforeseeable, you are effectively backing yourself into a common path whose returns are unknown; in fact, they are more volatile and susceptible to injury when market conditions inevitably change.
Over the course of our existence, it has not been uncommon for others to define who we are, what we do, and what we care about. We, however, like to focus on our defining feature: our intrinsic motivation. What insight we hold as priceless today, we stumbled into by following our curiosity yesterday.
“Is it enough?”
Over the course of our existence, it has not been uncommon for others to complain about the theoretical nature of lectures and classes at Nova; but to live within Nova’s means is to live blindly and without passion. As a club, there is nothing that can keep us from what we want to be good at. We want to be engaged; we want to leap toward opportunities to discover the new among the familiar – without Nova scaffolding.
“Is it enough?”
To us, it never is.
Your time is limited, so do not live trapped within the orbits of other people. Commit yourself to the long haul. Trust your sense of wonderment – trust your work.
That time of the year is every day of the year. Today is no exception.
The Nova Investment Club – Undergraduate Division (NIC-UD) is the finance and investment club of the Nova School of Business and Economics undergraduate student community.
Last modified: 01/10/2017