by Brian DeChesare Comments (50)

Bottle Service, How to Become a Guest Star on Entourage, Buy-Side Lifestyle, and How NOT to Be a Tool When Networking… and More Q&A

Bottle serviceWith summer internships drawing to a close and another round of full-time recruiting about to start, I’m getting a lot of questions on last-minute networking, how to prepare for interviews if you’ve had an internship, and what to do if you’re not getting a full-time offer.

And then there’s the usual bout of bottle service, “lifestyle” and related questions…

Buy-Side Lifestyle

1. I heard that when you get into private equity, you instantly start dating models and everyone from taxi drivers to restaurant chefs begins to worship you. Does anything else cool happen?

Yes. In addition to all that, you also get to become a guest star on Entourage – if you look at some of the party scenes, all the guys in the background are in finance.

2. Can you write a post about bottle service? I’ve heard you get it all the time and it’s the best part about finance.

You go to an overpriced club and pay $400 for alcohol that would cost you $10 elsewhere, then you sit around with your burned out friends talking about how awesome the night is going to be. Then, nothing cool happens and you pass out on the floor of your apartment a few hours later.

3. You’ve said before that you get banking hours at places like KKR and Blackstone, but what about at smaller PE firms like Audax, New Mountain Capital, etc.?

In general, hours at smaller places are better – though still far from 9 to 5 – but you have to be careful because even some of the smaller places have a reputation for working you really hard. Caveat emptor.

4. Do you think buy-side work is more stimulating or more interesting?

There’s less grunt work than in banking (no fixing printers…) but it’s a stretch to say the work is remarkably different. In PE you do a lot of research, due diligence, valuing companies and modeling transactions… sound familiar?

Also similar to banking, the learning curve flattens out after you’ve done a few deals because the process is always the same.

5. Do you get pigeonholed as you advance within the buy-side? For example, if I start out in an energy group in investment bank, am I going to be stuck at energy PE firms for the rest of my career?

It doesn’t always happen, but as you move up your skills will become more and more specialized. Jumping from hedge fund to hedge fund, for example, can be difficult because some funds are focused on extremely narrow skill sets.

So if you haven’t invested in corporate bonds of European alternative energy companies, you might be out of luck if the fund is looking for people who have.

6. Do you think I can get into private equity from undergraduate without investment banking experience? I interned at a local VC firm this past summer.

There are firms that recruit straight out of undergrad, but you need either solid connections at those places, or you have to be at a target school where they come and recruit on-campus.

You also need to convince them that you did “real” work during your internship, and you need to learn basic LBO modeling, how to handle case studies, etc. because they’re bound to come up.

Preparing for Full-Time Recruiting

Here’s what to expect if you’ve had a banking or finance-related internship:

7. I did a banking internship at a boutique this summer, but it wasn’t that technical – what should I expect for full-time interviews?

Your interviews will be very technical and/or they’ll focus exclusively on what you did in your internship. They won’t ask you much in the way of “fit” questions beyond the basics (why banking, walk me through your resume…).

I suggest going over each of your deals, investments, or other projects and writing some notes on the story you want to tell, what you did specifically, and make sure you can back up everything you write on your resume.

For the random technical questions, review all your books, interview guides, and modeling videos, and get friends who have done banking to quiz you.

8. How should I prepare to talk about my banking internship?

Come up with a short 30-second summary to describe what you did at the beginning (Worked at XX bank, focused on XX industries, worked on XX live M&A/IPO/Debt/other deals and helped with valuations and research).

For each deal/project/investment, structure it like a story – “introduce” it by saying what the company did, how big it was in terms of revenue/profit etc. and why it was an interesting client/investment. Then talk about what type of process they wanted to run, or what type of investment you wanted to make, and then the major things that happened along the way (rounds of bidding, what due diligence revealed, etc.).

More on discussing deal experience.

9. I’m not going to receive a full-time offer out of my internship, but a recruiter there offered to “sponsor” me and refer me to other firms – how do I use this to my advantage?

You’re over-thinking this one. Contact her, be very direct, and ask for referrals to other firms. It helps if you’re specific with your requests, so don’t just say, “Tell me about anyone who’s hiring!” – try to narrow it down by geography, industry, or firm size.

How to Network Without Being a Tool

Aside from not being aggressive enough, the single biggest mistake you can make with networking is looking like those nerdy Princeton kids in Harold & Kumar.

10. I have an informational call setup with a recruiter at a middle-market firm. Should I introduce myself by telling her about my 4.0 GPA and other accomplishments?

Sure, that’s a great idea if you want her to think you’re a socially awkward loser.

Use common sense – start by giving your name, where you went to school, and what you’re interested in hearing about – and try to talk about sports, travel, hobbies, etc. rather than asking about “the industry” or trying too hard to seem smart.

11. How should I contact alumni that I haven’t spoken with before?

See above. You definitely need to mention the school connection, in both your subject line for emails and in your first sentence introducing yourself.

Past that, make it a very casual conversation and ask about their background, try to find common interests, and focus on those. The more “off-topic” you can make the conversation, the better.

In emails, just ask to speak to them on the phone for 10 minutes or meet up for coffee and keep it short and very casual – busy people are unlikely to reply to long/complicated requests.

12. How should I handle on-campus information sessions during fall recruiting?

Read this article. Speak to as many people as you can, focusing on the more senior ones, and collect business cards from everyone. Speak for a few minutes (stay away from “business”) and then make up an excuse and say you have to run.

Then, follow-up within a few days and introduce yourself as “the guy/girl who had to run to class” (or whatever excuse you used) so it jogs their memory (hopefully you made a good impression on them as well).

99% of information session attendees fail to get business cards and follow-up, so this is where you can dominate the competition.

Note: I won’t claim credit for the idea above, a reader suggested it in the comments on the informational session article.

13. When do you think it’s appropriate to ask a networking contact to review my resume?

After you’ve spoken at least once. Personally, I don’t think this is that helpful unless you really want input on your resume. If you want to know about internships or jobs, ask about them.

14. Should I develop an “elevator pitch” to use if I run into senior bankers in the morning?

Yes, but don’t over-think it. Try to open with a joke, talk about something that happened that morning, and then briefly say where you work or what you’re doing now.

Finance Failures

With everyone so focused on getting into finance, we often forget what happens if you fail to advance or get laid off on your way up…

15. The article you linked to on laid-off bankers in Buenos Aires made it sound pretty grim – how bad is it if you get laid off as a VP?

It’s not pretty. You’re unlikely to get back into finance at that level unless there’s a massive market rally and everyone starts hiring again.

Most mid-level to senior bankers who get laid off end up going to “industry,” usually after taking a lengthy sabbatical.

16. One of my friends in PE pushed for an investment that ended up being a disaster, and he was forced out. Since it’s such a small community, everyone heard about it and now he can’t find anything else in the industry – is this common?

It’s a risk with anything on the buy-side – if you make a mistake in banking, your semi-colon might be in the wrong spot, but if you make a mistake when investing, you might lose $500 million.

A mistake of that magnitude isn’t common, but yes, you probably couldn’t go back if it were your fault.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Maybe you just don’t know how to, ahem, excuse me, “turn up”. But seriously, are you the quiet, awkward, introverted type?

  2. Hi,

    I am 25 and currently looking for an entry level position as an IB analyst. Making a switch from real estate sales. I have evaluated a lot of deals(commercial and residential) and learned basic real estate economics. Isn’t this common in IB, as far as financial analysis goes? Would that experience help on a resume/cover letter? I also am about to work towards getting a series 79, would that help employers see I am serious about being in the industry as well? I don’t have an undergraduate degree yet but have been accepted into a biz school, not at a top 10 though. What are the odds of me getting in with this type of experience? And would IB firms allow a work/school situation in which they allow me to work and go to school. Maybe just 15-20 hrs a week for schooling. My school has a self paced program which allows me to be flexible with my schedule. Thanks for the advice.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes your exam and your acceptance by a business school may help you. With the above being said, you’ll be competing against people who have had experience in the industry and have degrees from renowned school so it can be challenging to break in. In terms of eligibility, you’ll need to have a proper degree i.e. undergrad (bachelors) or/and masters/MBA to apply for most banks. You’ll probably have to rely on networking

  3. Hi,
    I do realise there might be a higher percentage of male investment bankers than female investment bankers but i was just wondering do female workers get treated equally to their male coworkers or is there still some discrimination in regards to female employees. Do employers ever favour male employees over the female ones? or is it all about how much money you make them

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on your firm, circumstances and people you work with. I can’t answer this question.

  4. Hi, I’m an undergraduate at a state school, and I had some questions regarding my resume. From January 2009 until 4/15/11, I played online poker as my means of supporting myself. Is this something I can parlay onto my resume, or should I leave the “employment gap” and find another way to explain the missing 18 months?

    1. If you’re applying to trading jobs, yes, leave it in, for banking jobs and other more conservative professions leave it out and explain the 18 months another way.

  5. I’m in a dilemma. Is a ~2.5 Cum GPA with a “high” Econ Minor GPA better than a ~3.0 Cum GPA? Or is it the other way round? I’m an Engineer btw.

    1. No, 3.0 overall is better

  6. Maisid90

    I’m a rising junior at a non-target and I have been networking with bulge bracket bankers these days in order to make the cut for i-banking internship next summer. once u talk to ur contact for the first time, its always a good idea to keep in touch with him/her via email so that he/she doesn’t forget u. in other words, one should always continue to follow up on them. my query is Brian how do i follow up on the emails? what do i tell/ask them? i cant be like ‘hey how are you, how’s work going’? It would be great to get some input on this from u Brian. thnx.

    1. See the networking articles under “Recruiting” at the top of the page. Only follow-up with specific questions, advice requests, referral requests, or when it comes time to ask for an interview.

      1. Thnx Brian. It helped. Also, some people haven’t gotten back to me even after I sent them 2 mails in 2 weeks, and I’m now thinking about calling them up, but I don’t have their nos. Do you think the HR departments at their banks can provide me with their nos? If not, then how possibly do you recommend I go about getting their nos?

        1. All you can do is look online or in Bloomberg to get #s, or get them from HR – if that doesn’t work you can’t do much aside from following up via email.

          1. Thanks Brian! Just one more quick question: do people generally get annoyed if you call them – considering you’ve emailed them twice in the last 2 weeks, and haven’t gotten a response from them. I’m ok with calling those who haven’t gotten back, but I’m worried maybe they didnt want to get back. Thnx Brian!

          2. Some people may get annoyed, but some will be more reachable that way. So you might annoy a few people but then get an interview if you call the right person… not a lot of downside with high upside

  7. Hi,

    I am a rising junior and this past summer I had a sales/accounting internship at BASF in China. I am wondering how this would look when I am applying for ibanking internships next summer and how I should spin this to make it look like a better work experience related to banking.


    1. Emphasize long-term projects, client work, and anything related to financial statement analysis… it will help but not as much as a bulge bracket internship

  8. Hey, I’m just wondering what a typical banking analyst is like. Is he cool and fun to hang out with or is he some kind of princeton nerd whose idea of a good time is to watch star trek all day?

    1. It’s a mix of both, but you have to be pretty social and well-adjusted to get the job in the first place… they don’t really take people who can’t hold normal conversations.


    After being a PE associate at a top fund like Blackstone for 4-5 years will you get promoted to being a Partner?

    If, not how long will it take?

    After working as an associate for 4-5 years will the hours get better? if so, by how much?

    How about the hours of a partner?

    After working in PE for 5+ years. what are common exit routes that people in PE take to seek a better work-life balance and to fulfill family relationships? Please give me a few examples.


    1. Haha you’re thinking about it the wrong way.


      It’s not possible to make millions of dollars with no risk, no time commitment, and not working that much… there is always a trade-off.

      Most people either stay in PE, or if they get burned out or don’t get to the top, they move into industry and work at a normal company.

      But in general, people in finance have completely screwed up / non-existent personal lives… so you’re looking in the wrong industry if that’s what you’re after.


        OMG NEVER?? What do you mean working at normal companies? What kind of position would that be and in what kind of company? A name of a kind of company would be helpful. Do you mean like become head of finance of some kind of company?

        1. Ok, you might become Head of Business Development or Finance at Google for example… actually probably not as high-profile as Google, but maybe a lesser-known tech company.

          Keep in mind that most CEOs even at normal companies have very busy schedules…

          Honestly if you want to make a lot of money and be at the top of anything it requires work… no way to get around that.

  10. Valedictorian

    “it’s really 90% about school name and 10% about GPA assuming it’s decent.”

    That contradict some things you wrote about being a stealthy networking ninja and being proactive like Jack Bauer:

    1. No it doesn’t, look at the context… I was talking about the relative importance of each of the school-related factors.

      Let’s say that getting into finance = 1/4 education background, 1/4 networking, 1/4 resume and 1/4 interview skills… in that “education background” category, the name/prestige of your school carries more weight than GPA/courses.

      Obviously you can overcome that with a lot of focused networking.

      But getting a mediocre GPA at Harvard beats a 4.0 and “hard” courses at a community college any day of the week.

  11. do you need a good grasp of statistics to do something M&A related. I have heard about running regression models and such.

    Also, would having these courses help you with recruiting much, or is it really all about GPA, and not about courseload. Thanks

    1. I think I did a regression model exactly once in M&A, and all we did was use some built-in formula… the “statistics” in M&A consists of Mean, Median, Quartile, etc.

      And no, specific courses don’t help that much… it’s really 90% about school name and 10% about GPA assuming it’s decent.

  12. constance

    hi, i am a rising senior and double major in math and econ. I don’t have very well gpa on econ. How do I let people see only my math gpa on resume? also i am wondering, if I do not get a ft, should i take an internship even unpaid?

    1. I would just write “Math GPA” next to your Overall GPA on your resume, or list your Math GPA first if it’s higher.

      And yes, I would take an unpaid internship over nothing at all.

  13. Maybe a post about the book “The 4 Hour Workweek” would be nice and how this applies to the ibanking lifestyle and succeeding in it. However, the book is not exactly supportive of working long hours, so its ironical, but I think there might be applicable principles.

    1. I’m actually appearing in the next edition of the book due out later this year, because it was direct inspiration for this site and all the products/services within.

      But aside from that, it’s very difficult to apply anything within it to i-banking… and bankers are very, very risk averse. The principles are more applicable to getting into the industry than to working in it:

  14. I will be a senior. If I add a double major right now with no intent on completing it, just so I can add another major to my resume, could this be at least marginally helpful in improving the academic portion?

    1. Not really, they mostly care about where you went to school, GPA, and internships… major is not that relevant assuming you know basic finance/accounting.

  15. I’ve been keeping up with your blog for quite some time now and I’ve noticed that a very diverse group of people eventually “discover” that they want to become a banker (former premed students, engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, …).

    That said… do you find it odd that so many people always ask you about exit opportunities in the first place when they’re still trying to break into the industry? This makes me suspect that some people have the wrong mindset going into the game (models & bottles).

    Does this make it difficult to build lasting friendships in banking when everyone is always planning their next move 2-3 years down the road; getting fired in the mist of a meltdown; or leaving the industry altogether to do something completely random and interesting (like you)?

    1. Its true of anything that involves teaching / giving tips… people want to lose weight while eating twinkies and sitting on their asses all day, people want to make money and build a business merely by pressing a red button, etc. so I’m used to it by now.

      You can actually make some good friends in banking, but after that it’s harder because there will be very few people of your level on the buy-side or in any other place you go to – so you need to branch out more and look beyond your office.

  16. Valedictorian

    “It’s not pretty. You’re unlikely to get back into finance at that level unless there’s a massive market rally and everyone starts hiring again.”

    Why? Why can’t VP:s get back in the game? Why do they have a disadvantage against junior bankers getting laid off?

    Naturally, they’ve gained more experience and should therefore be more qualified, right? Or is the recruting obsolete at that level?

    Seems scary if the higher you get in banking, the harder you fall.

    1. The problem is that VPs are mostly for execution – they don’t have relationships as strong as the MDs, so they are easily replaceable.

      Analysts do the work, so you always need some of them… and MDs bring in the business, so you need them too.

      But Associates and VPs are just middle managers – so when a bank wants to cut people, they’re the first to go.

      And it’s difficult to get back because a bank is more likely to promote Associate rather than hiring completely new people who may have been “out of the game” for awhile.

  17. What do you mean exactly when you say that “not being aggressive enough” is the single biggest mistake in networking?

    Also, what would you do to be more “aggressive?”

    1. In school you’re trained to be docile and follow orders, which gets you nowhere when networking. To “be aggressive” you need to learn to not take “no” for an answer (never let someone hang up on you), call people repeatedly until you get through / get an answer, and be very proactive at in-person events…. see this article for an example of how to be persistent and not give up:

  18. I’m going to contact a boutique bank with a good amount of alums from my school. My goal is to secure a fall internship (if they have one). What strategy should I employ in my introductory email? Should I cut to the chase and just ask if they are taking fall interns or try and casually build a relationship and ask about an internship later. Thanks, OK.

    1. Be short and polite – “Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a student at ______. I found your name in our alumni database. I’ve had _____ internships, and now I’m interested in banking. I wanted to contact you to find out more about the recruiting process at your firm and see how I could best position myself for an interview there” etc.

  19. I’m going to have an internship at a Dutch boutique/MM investment bank in January, and it’ll only be for 3 weeks (that’s all the time I have). It’s not even really part of an internship program, I just know someone there, and so I’m really not sure how much work I’ll actually get to do.

    Given all these facts, do you think I’ll still get mostly technical questions? Will my 3-week internship at a dutch boutique/MM elicit the same questions as if I had interned a whole summer at a US IB?

    1. If you’ve had anything that looks like banking experience, yes, expect lots of technical questions. It may not be as much as someone with a full summer internship would get, but they will still have higher expectations of you.

  20. After tomorrow is over, I only have two more weeks at my unpaid internship at a midmarket investment bank. So far, everybody’s only really given my gruntwork to do. I haven’t been a part of any deals at all. They’ve really only had me update presentations, clean up the master contact list, or recreate simple charts on Excel.

    The most meaningful work that I might have done was, on occasion, come up with a list of potential investors for potential sell-side assignments. However, all that really entailed was a Capital IQ search.

    Right now, I’m a rising junior at a target school with a 3.6 GPA. I’m concerned that my lack of any substantial experience will hinder me from getting any internships at bigger banks next summer. How should I go about asking for better work? Again, I’m unpaid! They could at least give me exposure to a model…

    Would you have any other suggestions?

    1. If you’re a rising junior I would not worry too much about this because they don’t expect you to know a ton about modeling etc. yet. I would maybe just casually bring it up with them and say, “By the way, before I leave I wanted to know if there was anything quantitative I could help out with? I’ve had a great experience here, but just wanted to get some exposure in that area.”

  21. “You to an overpriced club and pay $400 for alcohol that would cost you $10 elsewhere, then you sit around with your burned out friends talking about how awesome the night is going to be. Then, nothing cool happens and you pass out on the floor of your apartment a few hours later.”

    Hilarious, and I would imagine pretty accurate. Good job with the Q&A section. This site still manages to answer more questions and cover more fresh info and advice just when I thought almost everything was covered already. Keep the posts coming!

    1. Bottle service is seriously the dumbest concept ever… don’t even get me started.

      1. I suppose bottle service is only good because it is $400. Without the exclusiveness it wouldn’t be fun.

        This video looks more realistic, unlike the absurd AJ video:

      2. Ok, that link didn’t work. The only one I could find still posted online is on myspace:

        1. Haha honestly bottle service is just a huge circle jerk. I’ve seen that video before, those guys are still trying way too hard though not as bad as AJ

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