I learnt just how hard you need to work to develop opportunities when you are studying. Regardless of how small they might seem at the time, they might lead you to significant opportunities where you can prove what you are really worth. I was studying at the American University in Bulgaria, but I completed an exchange semester at the University of Vermont during my sophomore year. I still remember being surprised by how competitive and career-determined some students in the US are, even if they are only in the second year of their studies. It highlighted to me that starting early can really help. I decided to take on any career development opportunity which could be valuable for me in the future, be it student association membership, participation in a conference, trip to a stock exchange or participation in the HOLT Valuation Challenge.
The HOLT Valuation Challenge was one of the most enriching of those opportunities since I had a chance to learn more about a professional investment tool during stage 1 and more importantly I learnt how to apply my knowledge in a real-life valuation of a company during the stage 2. One of my professors (a former employee of Goldman Sachs, IMF, Citi and other financial institutions) saw the video of my valuation presentation and was really impressed by it. He suggested including the link to it on my resume and LinkedIn profile. This 2½-minute valuation presentation can give a great brief overview of what you are capable of to a potential employer. Additionally, if you perform well during the challenge you will receive other valuable opportunities from Project Firefly.
A couple of months after the Valuation Challenge ended, Project Firefly offered me to be their student ambassador at my university. I was happy to accept it and after a month or two of our cooperation, I received an offer to participate in the HOLT debate discussing an Apple share buyback scenario along with two other students from Canada and US. This was a fantastic opportunity to try something new, learn more on the topic and go out of the comfort zone.
During that year I was also participating in other initiatives, including leading the finance club, and studying for my GMAT exam. The HOLT Valuation Challenge experience helped me to organize several completely new projects at my university, including a valuation competition, which brought great connections from the industry, job and internship opportunities and sponsors for the next iterations of this competition. In addition, several weeks after participating in the HOLT debate I was thrilled to receive an offer from Google for a Business Associate Intern position. However, this was not all, a month later, I received an acceptance letter from Bocconi University for an MSc in Finance program.
I believe that this would not be possible without my cooperation with Project Firefly and participation in many of their initiatives. What I can say for sure is that both Google and Bocconi University (as well as other great companies and graduate schools) consider your proactive attitude and leadership skills above most of other qualities, and nothing can prove that you have these skills better than your participation in extracurricular initiatives like the ones provided by Project Firefly and the HOLT Community.