Submitted from a Street of Walls Contributor:
I broke into investment banking against the odds and I’m going to tell you how I did it.
High School: I went to a public high school in the Midwest, graduated Valedictorian of a class out of 100 (nothing special). I did “normal” on my college tests, nothing good enough for Ivy League schools. I ended up attending a large state university in the Big Ten.
College, Sophomore Year: I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I was interested in business but it wasn’t until my sophomore year that I found my true calling.
My sophomore year I read a book that changed the course of my life, I finally figured out what I wanted to do. The book was called “The Fast Track,” it laid out the basics of what an Investment Banker was and I knew right away it was a great fit for me. I was looking for the fast path to success and investment banking was the ideal place to start.
I tried applying for summer internships my sophomore year and had absolutely no luck. I remember having a phone interview with Goldman in Chicago and remembering I knew nothing. I had a lot of learning to do!
College, Junior Year: My junior year I really started to get organized, I needed an internship and it had to be this coming summer since it was my last change before graduation. I networked like crazy emailing alumni, calling family friends, and making “cold calls” into investment banking looking for leads. I must have emailed and called 4 hours a day for 5 months, I was about to go insane.
Finally, after hundreds of phone calls and emails my persistence paid off. I was able to get in contact with one of the senior advisers at this boutique investment bank in NYC. I flew up (on my own dime) and had an informal interview with this senior banker. He told me the summer internship class was already filled two months ago, but without making any promises, he would ask to see if they would accommodate one more.
One week later I heard back, they were adding me to the Investment Banking Summer Analyst program. It was non-paid and lasted 2 months, all the hard work paid off. Nobody at the bank was happy I was there, the other analysts who went through Phone Interviews and Superday looked down to me as I “Networked” my way in.
I worked about 90-100 hours a week for 2 straight months and I loved every minute of it. I was attracted to investment banking because the industry was full of the “cream of the crop”, the best and the brightest, the college elitists.
There were no offers given out, boutiques usually hire on a “need” basis and with the recent recessionary pressure the bank had held off on new hires. I spent the summer in NYC meeting as many Investment Bankers as I could; I built up a solid Rolodex of contacts when I left that summer.
College, Senior Year: Going into my senior year I didn’t have a job but I did have very good work experience. I found out the hard way landing a PAID full-time job was much harder than my PRO BONO internship.
I picked up where I left off my junior year and started networking. The best way to land a job if you are a “Non-core” candidate is if you get an internal referral at the investment bank. I reached out to everyone I knew from the Rolodex I built last summer and tried to cast my net as wide as possible.
All my networking paid off. The Investment Banking recruiting season started in the fall and I had interviews with almost every bulge bracket bank on Wall Street. I interviewed with Goldman, Lehman, Bear Stearns, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche, Barclays and other Middle-market and boutique investment banks. I got the initial interviews by internal referrals and also cold-calling for informational interviews.
All interviews were done first by phone interviews and then followed by Super Day at the Investment Banks. I probably interviewed at over 15 investment banks, it was repetition for me, the more interviews I did the better I got.
Long story short, I ended up getting an offer at one of the large bulge bracket banks listed above. I did well on the phone interview and the bank flew me up to Super Day where everyone liked me and I answered all the questions correctly.
Things have been great since, I jumped to a Hedge Fund after 18 months and love my life. The investment banking hours were grueling but it was definitely worth the experience. I compare my time in investment banking to rushing a Fraternity: best time of my life I never want to do again.
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