The titles used in venture capital do not necessarily correspond to common investment banking definitions, though they seem to be moving that direction. To muddy the water a little further, each venture capital firms will apply titles differently. An applicant should pay extra attention to the actual job description in venture capital.
Analyst/Associate -- entry level
If you are coming out of college and have little experience in the working world, this is your starting spot in the world of VC. This position is called associate or sometimes analyst, depending on the firm. Be aware that many firms do not hire straight out of undergrad (because hands-on experience is such an important component to the business). Display some entrepreneurial activity in your background and some type-A, oddball experience --a pilot's license, racing a sailboat to Bermuda, running an investment club of students, starting a boxer shorts company, and so forth. Most importantly, you need to be fun, confident, quantitatively skilled and willing to work hard.
Associate/Senior Associate/Principal/V.P. -- partner track
If you have industry experience (e.g., telecommunications, medical devices, consumer products) and/or have your MBA, this is the position you're shooting for. This position is often considered "partner track." An MBA is almost always a prerequisite. The most important attribute is to show good judgment and impeccable schmoozing talents.
Junior Partner/General Partner
This position enables you to make investment decisions. It is only conferred on those who have very deep industry experience or those who have shown they can make such decisions at another firm. The good news is it is not uncommon for serial entrepreneurs and successful industry players to move directly into these positions. Venture capital is a business often entered into later in one's career. A good set of golf clubs is a prerequisite.
Raise your own fund and start a venture capital firm!Figure out your probability of success before you start spending hundreds of hours banging on doors. Look at the numbers. There aren't many positions available, and the ones that exist are hard to find. Why?
- The venture capital industry is small. It is made up of only several hundred small firms (each consisting of between two and 40 people). People rarely leave venture capital once they're in. It's too much fun spending money on the latest ideas, working with highly motivated and intelligent people and the latest ideas, and making lots of money. It's also hard for a venture capitalist to transfer into more regimented careers.
- The old boys network is in full force in this corner of the economy. The portion of partners with degrees from Harvard and Stanford is very high.
- The demand for positions is so great that the openings are often filled through networking and not publicly advertised.