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How a headhunter helped me double my pay

Here’s a true story.

It was 2005. I was working at Lehman Brothers and had just made VP.

I was doing well, but not great by any means.

I had been there since 1999 and thought I was going to be stuck there.

Given the latest promotion, I decided that I was going to try to monetize my new VP status and see what it could do for me.

A few head hunters had reached out, after all it was 2006.

I started interviewing.

Met 4 different banks, most didn’t want me and the ones that wanted me I didn’t want them.

I got a job offer from JPM for 40% more. I ended up going back to Lehman and having them guarantee me a higher package at the end of year.

Come comp time, Lehman tried to re-negotiate. After all I didn’t have anything in writing.

That’s one of the problems when you stay. You have to trust your home team.

So I found myself in a senior MD’s office in November, with comp time fast approaching being told, “So we are thinking of paying you ‘xyz’, what do you think?”.

But, that’s less than what we agreed to Jim. We ended up having some back and forth.

It was ok in the end. I got a 30% bump. By now it was 2006 and the market was really heating up.

It was time to roll the dice again.

I reached out to a head hunter I knew was known for big packages – that’s key by the way.

You have to do your due diligence – not all head hunters are the same.

Just like in banking, head hunters also have bulge brackets and the also rans.

You have to deal with the best if you want the biggest package.

So I found myself one of the best NY firms and convinced them to sell me.

That’s the other key part – you have to really sell them on yourself.

These guys are your bankers, your sales force out there trying to flog you.

Get it right and it’s worth thousands in the right market.

I remember going to their offices, sitting with them, putting the story together.

Building trust.

These guys start working, four, five months go by.

The phone rings one day, “Hey can you speak now”.

I walk away from the desk, “Sure, what’s going on?”.

The headhunter says, “I have something for you”.

Turns out, my dream firm, the one that had rejected me two, or maybe three times was ready to speak to me.

That started fifteen rounds of interviews. Those were rough.

I got grilled by guys much smarter than me.

One day the MD hiring me called and said, hey lets grab some sushi.

I ended up meeting him on the Upper West Side of New York, where I had recently moved to after getting divorced at age 29 (lets save that story for next time).

We meet up, and he’s got a brown envelope for me.

I was wondering, wow these guys do very elaborate rejection letters.

The MD ends up handing over the envelope.

I open it up.

Inside is an offer letter. The headhunter and I had come through.

What a combination.

I was being bid for 2x last year’s comp.

There wasn’t much to talk about.

When I told management at Lehman Brothers, I think I saw a flash of envy on my bosses face.

The author is one of a group of senior bankers who blog at the site What I Learnt on Wall Street.

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AUTHORWilow Wall Street Insider Comment

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