2012 End of Year Q&A: Storytelling, Networking, Plans for Next Year, Responding to Criticism, and More

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2012 End of Year Q&ASo we’re at the end of another year, and you know what that means: no, not holiday parties, not New Year’s celebrations, and not even making fun of AJ or consultants (though all of those sound more fun than being buried in snow – my current state).

I’m talking about reader Q&A, which makes its return today.

This time around, we’ll critique a few “stories” from readers, answer the never-ending networking questions that roll in, and I’ll even respond to the usual criticism, complaints, and hateful comments that arrive like clockwork – and give you a preview of what’s coming next year.

Storytelling 101

Your “story” is the most important part of any interview, but 99% of interviewees make the same mistakes over and over again.

In dozens of mock interviews and real interviews, I’ve never heard a spectacular “story” on the first try, though some of them have been decent-to-good.

So we’ll have some fun here and look at everything from “pretty good but needs work” stories to ones that just aren’t working.

Names and identifying details have been altered or removed.

Q: Can you comment on my story? I’m an MBA candidate going for investment banking internships. Here’s the basic outline:

  • The Beginning: Started out in engineering, but wanted something more client-focused so switched to consulting and worked at a large firm for several years, and got to work in both the US and Asia.
  • Finance “Spark”: Over time, I realized that the projects I was most interested in were always finance-related…
  • Growing Interest: So I applied to [Top MBA Program] and got in, and have been learning about finance here ever since.
  • Why You’re Here Today / The Future: I want to combine my client management skills with my finance background and international experience to contribute to US-Asia cross-border deals, eventually becoming an adviser to management teams one day.

A: This story isn’t bad, but you could make it much better with a few tweaks:

  • Finance “Spark”: You need to make this more specific. Give names, numbers, and details. Did you work on due diligence for Microsoft’s $1.5 billion acquisition of a tech start-up? Did you analyze the numbers in a turnaround or restructuring assignment? Pick a single client or project and make that your spark.
  • Growing Interest: Citing the MBA program is OK, but it would be better to include evidence of how you started learning about finance and IB even before that to prove that you didn’t just get interested overnight.
  • Why You’re Here Today / The Future: This is mostly fine, but added specificity would help once again – can you point to an industry you’re most interested in? Can you tie this back to your finance “spark” and say that you want more of that experience, but in a role that’s closer to the deal itself?

Solid effort and I’ve heard much worse stories before, but you still have a ways to go.

Q: What do you think of my story? I’m interviewing for tech PE firms.

  • The Beginning: I went to [Top School] and did an internship at [Large Bank] in their TMT group. Then, afterward I started working full-time in a generalist role at another bank, moved into a Leveraged Finance role, and now I’m back in a TMT role at another bank.
  • PE “Spark”: In one deal I worked on, I got exposed to fundraising for a private company and realized that we could add a lot more value as an investor by working with them over the long-term, helping to build a management team, partnerships, and expand their business.
  • Growing Interest: I started learning more about PE by speaking with friends in the industry, alumni, and going to conferences such as [Conference Name]; I also picked up LBO modeling on my own and have been working on more buyouts and PE-related deals at work.
  • Why You’re Here Today / The Future: I want to combine my tech industry experience with the finance skills I’ve gained and become an investor in tech companies in the long-term; joining your firm is the best way to get there.

A: You’re giving too much information in the beginning, which makes it sound like you were just randomly hopping around jobs.

This is a common problem for anyone with at least 5-10 years of work experience, but you can fix it by streamlining what you say:

  • The Beginning: Only say where you went to school and that you’ve “worked in banking,” with a focus on TMT and tech – leave out Leveraged Finance and the generalist role to make yourself seem more focused.
  • Growing Interest: This is fairly good; you may not want to mention learning LBO modeling on your own if you’ve already been in banking and been in a LevFin group because it might imply you didn’t do much on the job.
  • Why You’re Here Today / The Future: Tying it back to your “spark” and the specifics of that deal would improve this part. Highlighting a specific type of investment, company, or industry within tech that you’re interested in would also make it better.

A good effort, and with a few tweaks it could be great.

Q: What about my story? I’m going for investment banking internships as a university student. Here’s what I have so far:

  • The Beginning: My family owned a business in the telecom sector and they took the company public when I was young, so I heard about business and IPOs from an early age.
  • Finance “Spark”: I read a trading-related book, got interested in finance, and decided to go to the top school for finance in my country.
  • Growing Interest: I joined the school investment club and recently completed a PWM internship, where I learned more about the markets and worked with clients.
  • Why You’re Here Today / The Future: I want to work on deals in the telecom sector and combine my background in the industry with the finance and client management skills I’ve gained.

A: Wow, where to start… there are a couple problems here:

  1. There’s no logical progression from your interest in telecom growing up to the last part of your story – it seems too “random” the way it is right now, almost like a deus ex machina at the end of a film.
  2. This seems more like a trading “story” than a banking “story” because you mention the trading book, the investment club, and PWM internship.
  3. Oh, and you don’t mention where you’re going to school – might want to include that part…

You should change the first 3 parts of your story:

  • The Beginning: I’m from [Place Name] originally and I’m attending [University Name] right now. Growing up, I had always been exposed to business and finance because my family ran a telecom company…
  • Finance “Spark”: Their company went public when I was younger, which made me interested in the IPO process and the bankers that advise on those deals.
  • Growing Interest: I went to [University Name] to develop my interest in finance, and joined the investment club there, focusing on the telecom sector and also valuing any recently public companies. I learned about valuation and financial modeling on my own, and recently completed a PWM internship where I got to work with clients and analyze their portfolios.

This sounds more convincing now that you’ve focused less on the trading side, more on the sector you’re interested in, and talked about skills that are relevant to banking.

Networking, Networking, and More Networking

A few years ago, a friend was visiting me and asked a simple question:

“How can your readers have so many questions about banking? Aren’t there only a set number of questions out there? And haven’t you already answered everything after running this site for years?”

As it turns out, the answer is no. The more questions that are answered, the more questions we receive…

Q: Some people have said that it’s “spam” to cold email people you don’t know, even if they’re alumni or you’re connected in some way. What do you think?

A: There is some truth to this. It’s always better to meet bankers in-person first, if possible.

Even if that means that you have to travel to crash other schools’ information sessions, the investment could easily be worth it – unless you enjoy emailing hundreds of people per week.

Q: I emailed people at [Firm X] / Sent a thank you note / Followed up with them, but they haven’t responded in OVER A WEEK. What’s going on?!! Help me!! Do they not like me?!!!

A: You need to chill out. Professionals in this industry are busy and recruiting at most firms tends to be highly disorganized.

It’s very rare to even get an email response from anyone, about anything, within a week.

Sure, follow-up if you haven’t heard back after a week, but don’t expect them to move quickly. You’re generally at the bottom of the priority list.

Q: Do you think it’s OK if I send a “make the ask” email to an analyst that I met for only 5 minutes at my school’s information session? I haven’t had a chance to set up an informational interview yet.

A: It would be better to speak with him on the phone for 5-10 minutes first or meet in-person again, but it’s not “wrong” to ask for an interview as long as you’ve met him in-person before.

Q: I’m a high schooler at a top prep school, and everyone else here has well-connected parents. How can I level the playing field and compete with them? They’re already guaranteed internships from early on!

A: Wow, this message sort of scares me.

Anyway, why not turn this to your advantage and ask these “wealthy parents” for informational interviews? Sure, their priority will always be their own children, but if you approach them early on and you’re already networking by the time you get to university, you’ll be in good shape.

Q: If a person keeps saying “no,” should I just give up? How do you decide when to quit and move on?

A: The first lesson you learn in sales is that specific objections are the first sign of serious interest from a prospect. The same applies in the job search.

Ask why they are not open to speaking or to offering you an interview – if they just keep saying “no” without citing specific reasons (don’t have the money, don’t need extra help right now, etc.) and don’t even seem open to referring you to other people, move on and walk away.

Q: What are the main differences when networking from IB to PE compared to getting into IB in the first place?

A: The main differences are specificity and headhunters. You need to be much more specific when moving to the buy-side – if you approach a headhunter and say, “I want to move into PE!” he/she will stare at you blankly and go back to pitching other candidates.

You need to go in and say, “I am interested in tech-focused PE funds with between $500M and $1B AUM based in California.”

Headhunters are actually useful now that you have full-time work experience; that said, you should never rely on them because they can only do so much for you, and you’re rarely at the top of their priority list.

Q: Your site has made things too competitive! Now, “everyone” uses it, everyone has the same resume template, and networking no longer “works.” It’s all your fault!

A: I think you’re exaggerating. Yes, maybe the investment banking resume template is widely used now, but if you’re using a resume template to set yourself apart, well, you have some bigger issues.

Here’s a story for you: within the past month I met with 2 readers from non-target schools who were visiting New York, both from completely different parts of the country, and they both told me the same thing: students at information sessions still ask laughably horrendous questions, and most people are still not executing their networking strategies effectively (if you set up an informational interview and then “forget” to show up, you deserve to fail).

Interviews have definitely gotten more competitive but that’s also because there are plenty of resources now, beyond just this site, that weren’t available 10 years ago.

Responding to the Critics

And now to my favorite part of any Q&A feature: responding to the critics, ranging from hateful comments to death threats to snarky responses and passive-aggressive emails.

Q: This site is terrible now that you have so many guest authors! Everything is crap! Why would I want to ever visit again? Everything that was awesome about this site has died!

A: I think you’re being a little over-dramatic. And yes, I get where you’re coming from and I’ve heard it before: you may not like the other writers.

But I’ll respond to this with 3 points:

  1. A lot of my own content isn’t that good. Maybe you’ve forgotten articles like this one on Canada that spawned tons of controversy due to inaccuracies, or others throughout the years that generated a poor response and/or vengeful comments.
  2. Some of the best and most popular articles over the past year were from other writers. Take this one from Thomas on corporate finance, this one on PE strategies, or this one on business school admissions for a few examples. And before you ask, no, I didn’t “secretly write” any of these – they all had very minimal edits from me.
  3. I don’t know everything. Even with interviews, sometimes it’s not possible to get certain types of information (that corporate finance article is a good example of something that would be tough to write via a reader interview).

All that said, yes, I will be publishing fewer guest posts next year because it is a huge amount of work to coordinate, and I don’t think publishing more frequently has necessarily made the site better.

Q: I like the new Breaking Into Wall Street site! But I saw some problems on my account / can’t access certain pages / can’t log in...

A: We spent a lot of time redesigning the site to make it more user-friendly by offering downloads, notes, and comments all in one spot, improving the overall layout and navigation, and highlighting testimonials and schools/firms, and so far most feedback has been positive.

But yes, there are still some issues and “Version 1.0” of anything is never perfect, so please contact us if you’ve had any problems.

Q: You have WAY too much non-banking material here now.

I came here to read about the ins and outs of investment banking, not to learn about all these other areas in finance or get “life coaching” from you.

A: Really? That’s interesting, because I did a survey of 10,000 newsletter readers last year and over 50% said they were more interested in learning about other areas (HFs, PE, S&T, AM, etc.) instead of pure investment banking.

Coverage of IB will continue (more industry groups, deal discussions, etc.) but I don’t want to beat a dead horse and there are already literally hundreds of articles here just on investment banking.

At a certain point, you have to branch out into other areas to continue growing.

Plans for Next Year and Beyond – and Category “Random”

A picture is worth 1,000 words, but a picture PLUS words are worth even more…

Q: So, I really want to learn about this one topic… have you thought about adding it to the site before? Or doing an interview about it?

A: Without even knowing what your idea is, yes, I probably know about it. A few weeks ago, I sat down and went through every single comment and email on the site and used them to generate a list of 421 ideas, by topic and sub-topic.

So they’re all coming. The only question is when – because that’s dependent on who volunteers and who we can find to contribute.

The most fun part of this 50-hour long process was poring over a world map to figure out the remaining regions we have to cover…

Q: What about new courses?! I want new modeling courses!

A: Maybe, but not in the short-term. Right now (next few months) we’re focused on making the existing courses better by… introducing 2 new features that tons of members have asked for over time. I’m not saying what they are until they’re finished, so use your imagination.

I agree that there’s some demand for other areas, but there also has to be enough interest to make it worthwhile to develop the course – I couldn’t justify spending 1,000 man-hours to develop a course that only 50 people sign up for.

Q: Other plans for next year? Surprises? Cost of Capital Season 2? Will you give away free models?

A: Only if they’re Excel models.

But yes, there are a bunch of new projects coming up next year – including one that I haven’t talked about at all so far (and it’s different from the 2 new BIWS features above). Don’t want to ruin the surprise, though…

Q: How are you so productive? Any tips?

A: I’m more productive than the average person, but plenty of people out there are better than me. My #1 tip:

2012-end-year-qa-01-consume-content

Q: You’ve written about how important communication skills and writing are before. How do I improve? Any tips?

A: Yes, here’s exactly what you need to do:

2012-end-year-qa-02-rewriting

Q: You’ve been doing this for years, but you’re still working 70-80 hours per week. What motivates you? Money? Fame? Do you make your own investments?

A: None of the above. I hide in a cave most of the time and purposely keep a low profile, and I barely spend money on anything.

I’ll let Walter White answer the original question for me

2012-end-year-qa-03-empire-

Q: OK, OK, but what about sharing your own story of how you started this site?

Didn’t you send out an email a long time ago asking if we wanted to read it?

A: Yes, I did. And I actually wrote Part 1 of the story of how I started this site, which clocked in at around 8,000 words.

I’m on the fence about publishing it, though, because it’s long and somewhat off topic.

But maybe if there’s enough interest, I’ll change my mind (and write Parts 2 and 3 to complete the “trilogy”)…

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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59 Comments to “2012 End of Year Q&A: Storytelling, Networking, Plans for Next Year, Responding to Criticism, and More”

Comments

  1. Arthur says

    Brian, thank you so much for going through and sticking with the site! Been following this blog for about half a year and will remain. Yes, I’m just a high school student. But I’m sure, just reading and consuming info on this site, will give me everything I need, to be the more “productive” person when it’s possible. Thank You! By the way, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  2. Jay says

    Been following your site for a while now and just recently wrote my “story”. I would like to polish it up before recruiting season starts and would greatly appreciate any input.

    The “Beginning”
    When I first moved to the United States, I lived in NYC for 6 years before moving to [another large city] suburbs. I loved the bustling metropolis of Manhattan.
    Your Finance “Spark”
    My passion for finance really started the summer of my junior year in high school. I attended a summer program where we listened to daily lectures by professors and prominent businessmen and made 3 site visits to NYC.
    Your Growing Interest
    I knew that finance was for me and this lead me to attend [Target School] study Finance. In the past, I have founded and directed a nonprofit organization. While this was a great experience that allowed me to be actively involved in my community, I wanted to do something more relevant to my major.
    So, I did a summer internship at a bank in my city where I explored over 10 departments and shadowed employees. This made me realize that I wanted to pursue something more high paced and quantitative.
    Why You’re Here Today
    I am here today because I want to gain great experience at a boutique bank. I want to apply my knowledge to work on deals that allow me to handle a high level of responsibility.
    A summer internship here will give me a great opportunity to learn about the Analyst job and actively contribute to the deal process and work in teams.
    Your Future
    In the long term, I want to be an investor or adviser for companies, and I see investment banking as the ideal place to gain the skills I would need to do that. Eventually I want to apply my expertise to foreign markets in East Asia; I want to aid in business development there.
    Abbreviated Version
    I am a Finance major from [Target school]. I’ve founded a nonprofit and interned at a bank in my city as well as the Chamber of Commerce. I am interested in complementing by background with investment banking experience because I want to work on major transactions.

    Thanks! Look forward to hearing your comments & happy holidays.

    • says

      I think it sounds good overall – maybe include a bit more on what you’ve done to learn about banking specifically in the “Growing Interest” part. You can add it after the current ending you have.

      I would also include where you’re from originally in “The Beginning” because it will make you stand out. For the last sections, maybe say that you want to combine the responsibility you gained at the local bank with deal work and finance skills and contribute to deals, since a boutique lets you work more closely with management teams.

  3. Brian says

    In the 4-Hour Work Week book near the end, there is a short profile on how you got started and you mention you would only work 4-5 hours per week on writing the blog for your site and 10 hours per week of external consulting work. I understand that could reflect hours of any period, including a short period. Earlier in this article, you mention you work 70-80 hours per week. Just curious – how many hours per week do you actually work on the M&I business?

    • says

      70-80. The book is inaccurate as it’s from 4 years ago and he edited it to make it sound like I dance with mermaids all day and do nothing. You don’t build a business with 20,000+ customers like that.

  4. Positive Carry says

    Brian,

    Been reading this site for 4 years, first as a non-target student, second as a bulge bracket banker and thirdly as a buy side professional. It is safe to say that I wouldn’t be where I am if its wasn’t for this site. I have often thought about the story behind this site – so please publish the articles about the history and origin of this site, which I spent so much time on.

  5. Dan says

    Hey Brian,
    You mention how one might improve at writing but not at oral communication. How might one improve in that arena?

    • says

      Try joining a group like the Toastmasters’ Club where you have to give speeches every so often, get as much constructive feedback as possible, and keep refining the speeches. Oral communication is more about simplicity and delivery rather than content / in-depth explanations. I am actually much worse at oral presentations than writing.

  6. says

    Brian,

    I’m actually really glad you’re hinting at “life coaching” and other productivity topics in your writing. I think it ties directly into the banking lifestyle – it takes a certain mindset and self-discipline to be able to maintain a 100-hour-workweek, whether it’s in finance or in writing, and consuming vs. creating, focused practice, knowing how to spin, being socially aware are all aspects that will help us with any work we do – and especially finance. So, I’d actually like to hear more about it. In regards to consuming vs. creating and productivity in general, there’s a lot of information out there. Is there anything specific you’d recommend we check out?

    ~ Max

    • says

      Also, just dug up my copy of the 4-Hour Workweek and re-read your blurb – wow, did not realize that was you when I first read it years ago! Admittedly, you do point out that you work more than 4 hours. Were you unhappy with Tim’s reduction of your story? What edits would you like to make to it?

      • says

        He just made it sound too easy, but it was also my fault for the way I submitted it originally. Basically I would just an addendum that says, “Yes, if you get lucky and pick the right opportunity and work at it, you can make money to cover living expenses. But to become very good at anything and keep yourself engaged over the long-term, you need to work your ass off. Look at how much Tim works if you don’t believe me!”

        I have a bunch of other problems with the book and am no longer a big fan, but I’ll save those for when I publish my own story.

    • says

      Thanks, I agree, there are many topics covered here and not everything will appeal to everyone, so you have to pick and choose what you read.

      Productivity: I think the single most important concept I learned was in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Focus on important but not urgent tasks, as opposed to urgent and important tasks, which is what most people do). That’s a good one. Maybe also “Do the Work” by Stephen Pressfield.

  7. Alan says

    Hi Brian,

    I have been following (and learning from) your site for the past few years and have a few comments.

    First of all, I want to thank you for the work you have put forth on this site. I am an undergraduate in my junior at a non-target that transferred from a community college. I have landed first round interviews at some of the top BB and boutique investment banks in IBD and S&T for summer analyst positions across the US, and without the information you provide via interviews and personal posts, I may not otherwise have had the necessary tools and information to learn and discover which path in finance I wanted to attain, and may not have been able to structure a skill set and networking plan to put myself in a position to earn an internship where I have sought out.

    In response to people who criticize for posting on other areas of finance, I do not understand why this is an issue. First of all, there are no other websites that describe the recruiting process, on the job details, and lifestyle questions with the depth that you have. I still check LOBS here and there, but they have really slowed down on their content. This allows young people that do not have the resources to learn about career paths and gain personal opinions (like me) to learn enough to make an appropriate decision. Your views on the differences between career paths provide imperative information for career seekers to make decisions on which “track” is best for them in terms of long-term career goals, short-term career goals, exit opportunities, and lifestyle necessities.

    For anyone reading this and aspiring for a career in finance, UTILIZE BIWS. If you know what you want to do by your sophomore year, regardless of where you go to school, you can learn the skills necessary to gain a position at a boutique investment bank early in college, which will set you up for BB recruiting. I live in a city of roughly 90k, and there are still around 5 very small investment banks that students have been able earn or make there own part time unpaid internship positions. Brian, again, thank you for creating a toolkit that is comprehensive and affordable. I come from a low income background and am responsible for my own tuition and living costs during college, and I did everything from collecting recyclables to independent tutoring to gain the skills that may set me up with a great career. With many other programs that are out there, I don’t know how I would have been able to afford them, and I doubt there information is as top notch as yours.

    Anyway, my point is, I wouldn’t change a thing about this website, and I think the way you have made decisions on content is working. You have provided the necessary tools for anyone to achieve a career and finance. Although us non-target kids can be more competitive with your resources, its still pretty amazing how many other applicants I have ran into during networking from both targets and non-targets that are clueless. Thus, you have yet to single-handedly saturate the IB analyst market more than it already is.

    Happy Holidays,

    Alan

  8. Sanat says

    Brian, I’m only marginally interested in investment banking, but I follow this website religiously because of the quality of the content. I have to very enthusiastically say “YES!” to the origin story of this website being published.

    Thanks for the amazing work!

  9. Paul says

    Hey Brian, Happy New Year! Great website – quick networking question. I do know some people or (more commonly) have friends who know people at a lot of firms. However, usually when I ask for referrals or introductions my friends/contacts will say sth like “that would be awkward/weird to do”, “we are not that close”, “we haven’t spoken in ages”, “I don’t really know how to ask”, etc. Do you have any suggestions on how to overcome this barrier? Or how to persuade (at least some of) my contacts/friends that it’s fine to contact people for networking purposes even if you’re not that close? Thanks a lot for your advice.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Not really because some don’t want to make the intro. The only way to go about that is to build the network on your own and try to find generous people who are willing to make intros. Think about what you can give vs what you can get

      • Paul says

        Thanks for your reply Nicole. Could you please elaborate on what you mean with “what you can give”? E.g. what can I actually give? Do you have any examples/stories perhaps? Thank you.

          • Paul says

            I’ve been trying hard to think about this. The only option I came up with so far is paying a referral fee (as recruitment agencies do)? Not sure if most people would accept this from a young job seeker though.

            Anyone reading this with more ideas/experience – please share. Thanks a lot!

          • M&I - Nicole says

            I don’t think paying a referral fee will actually help. You just need to know the right people and contacts and figure out which spots are open. Try to apply for those positions before others know of them.

        • says

          The best way to overcome that is to:

          1. Be as specific as possible i.e. don’t ask “Can you introduce me?” but instead say, “I am looking at consumer retail-focused banking groups on the East Coast – do you know anyone who would be willing to speak with me?”

          2. And then at the end, add, “It’s OK if not and I know you’re busy, but I just wanted to check and see if you know anyone who would be willing to help a student.”

          Point #2 ironically makes them more likely to help you because you’re letting them know that you anticipate a negative response.

          • Paul says

            Brian, thank you for this brilliant piece of advice. This feels like banker PUA! You may want to include it in the relevant article if it isn’t there already.

            Would you suggest to put something similar at the end of informational interview request emails (e.g. “I know that you are busy and I would understand if you are unable to speak.”) – even if this might extend the email to 6 rather then the suggested 5 sentences?

            Also (I couldn’t find information on this here), what do you usually put in the subject line for informational interview emails? “Informational Interview Request”, “Student seeking your advice”, “[name of the firm]“, …? Thank you.

          • says

            Hah I think this point is actually there somewhere in one of the articles or training programs.

            You could add it at the end of informational interview requests, but I don’t know if it will make a big difference there.

            Subject: “Introduction – [University Name] Student / [Position Name] at [Company Name]“

  10. Zay says

    I’ve been interviewing for middle-office/back-office operational roles and have failed all of them. I know it’s frowned upon to go this route however, I’ve been unemployed for sometime and need to work.
    I’m suspecting that because I have a masters degree, this makes me overqualified to go this route. I can’t leave my masters degree off because it will show a big gap in my resume.

    I’ve worked several years at a bulge-bracket bank as a portfolio accountant and trade settlement. Now I have an interview for a small boutique fund admin.
    My story is that I’m looking to work at a smaller firm where I can where many hats, utilize more of my skill-sets, therefore I’ll be able to make a greater impact and there will be more visibility in my role.

    • says

      That sounds like a good story – it’s probably not a great idea to leave off your Master’s degree if that results in a large gap. You’re right that you probably are overqualified, so you may want to actually go for more client or trade-facing positions even though they’re theoretically harder to get into… but see how your strategy at the small fund goes first.

  11. mike says

    I am seeking help with my story, any advice would be appreciated (6months out of non-target undergrad in FLDP program in pharma/biotech looking to get into IB M&A):
    The Beginning: I was a finance and accounting major during undergrad at ____ University (non target). I started managing my own portfolio during my sophomore year, leading me to compete in a portfolio competition winning first place.
    Growing Interest: My interest continued to grow as I completed a summer analyst position with an asset management firm in their $500M growth fund. I was able to gain experience learning about the growth drivers of companies and building financial models. I also participated on roadshows which gave me a stronger understanding of the IPO process.
    Why You’re Here Today / The Future: My strong interest in investing and gaining an in depth understanding of companies led me to seek a career in investment banking. I see myself in the future as a venture capitalist in the biotech industry.

    • says

      I think you need to address why you got into the FLDP program somewhere in there – as it stands, they’ll say, “Great, so why are you working at your current firm?”

      So you need a good answer to that… in the Growing Interest section, probably say that although you liked asset management, you wanted to study the internal workings of a company in more depth… and then while there, you got exposed to a deal or financing or partnership that drove your interest in M&A, so now you want to combine your biotech background with finance and eventually become an adviser / investor to biotech firms.

      Adding something earlier on indicating your interest in this would also help, because then it seems like you didn’t just “suddenly” get interested in M&A while at your current company.

      • mike says

        Brian, thanks for the response I have been on this site for a long time and it is very helpful. To be honest, I took the FLDP position because it was as close to finance as I could get having been unsuccessful in getting an interview for IB during undergrad. My story would be after working in AM, my growing interest in the biotech industry led me to work in the business through a rotational program.
        For my interest in M&A – while managing my portfolio and following the markets, I came across many M&A headlines. As I read more about these deals, I wanted to learn the details of these transactions. Any input on this?

        To share a little experience, I began to leverage InMail from LinkedIn which has been working great and I would recommend this to everyone. I get about 1 response per 5 requests I send out each day that actually agrees to meet up to network. I have been using some of the articles about networking and informationals which helped me to make a pretty good impressions leading to a couple of people asking for my resume – though I’m not sure where that will lead since there is not much lateral openings out there.

        Final question, will talking about my strong interest in biotech limit me if they are hiring for a different sector? Personally I am very open to any industries.

        • says

          Sure that could work, better to be more specific if possible though (specific deal is better than mentioning “M&A headlines”).

          Thanks for sharing that tip on InMail, agreed that it can work well.

          If you’re applying to another sector I would just play down the biotech angle – or if you don’t know what sector they’re hiring for, just say that you wanted to learn about a company’s operations as opposed to emphasizing the biotech aspect.

  12. Rishi says

    I am a straight-A undergrad student at University of Maryland business school (finance major), trying to break into investment banking through a summer internship. LinkedIn just upgraded me to an Executive account for free, which means I get 25 messages I can send to anyone at all (including MD’s at Goldman, etc). Until now, I was focused on firms that recruited at my school and regional boutiques, but armed with this new networking tool, I want to target top firms as well.

    Would people at prominent, brand name investment banks (if any) be receptive to a random message from someone like me? Alternatively, should I use these to contact decision makers at the firms I was previously focused on?

    • says

      Potentially, yes, if you send a good message (concise and memorable). But I would hedge yourself by still contacting decision-makers at firms you were already focused on as well.

    • says

      Not familiar with the area, but maybe say that you’re interested in both the finance/investing side of a company and making sure its operations align with regulations… and you’re good at “conflict mediation” and making sure that everyone’s interests are balanced.

  13. Eve says

    I want to read your life story more than anything:-)

    BTW, I got a second round interview tmrw. (Not banking though, I’m a quant…) I guess your tips on interviews had got me thru the first round, so thank you man:) and wish me good luck as I need plenty…

  14. Luke says

    Hi Brian,

    I was wondering if at any point you might consider putting together some type of course aimed at the Trading side of things?

    Keep up the great work.

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