How do you break into investment banking if you don’t have a 4.0 GPA from an Ivy League school?
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For one, you don’t use the “typical” strategies. You need to think less like the average person breaking in and more like a ninja – like the readers in the video above did. Here’s a summary in text form:
Case Study #1: Recent Immigrant at Non-Target with 0 Finance Experience
Here’s his story:
- Immigrated to US 4 years ago with minimal knowledge of English at the time – nowhere near enough to work in finance.
- Went to an unknown state school with few alumni in finance and no on-campus recruiting.
- Had 0 finance experience when he went to look for internships – just the standard on-campus part-time jobs.
That background definitely puts you at a disadvantage – and you’re even worse off if you’re using the wrong strategies:
- Poor Positioning – From this background you need to spin and make relevant non-work experience seem like work experience – so if you’ve gone through a bulge bracket training workshop that only lasted a few weeks, that needs to be front-and-center anyway.
- Applying Online – This is useless most of the time anyway, but even more so when you’re coming from a non-traditional background.
- Mass Cold-Emails – If you have a blue-chip background and brand names on your resume, maybe they’ll respond… but bankers mostly ignore emails.
Realizing this was not working, he changed his strategy:
- Proper Positioning – Exaggeration is key from this type of background, so he highlighted the workshop experience and minimized his “real” work experience.
- Cold-Calling – By using the scripts and templates in The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit, he got a much better response rate. It’s hard to pitch your story properly over email or online – they’re too impersonal.
- Being Direct with Alumni – If you only have 1 month before internships begin, forget about “getting to know” them and ask for the job. There were only a few alumni in finance from his school, but that actually helped him in this case: he stood out because hardly anyone else ever contacted them.
The result: 2 finance internship offers, plus “soft offers” from others he had contacted while networking.
Case Study #2: Recent Graduate from Non-Target with 3.0 GPA
This reader was even worse off:
- Non-Target State School – No alumni network to tap into, and no banks that recruited on-campus.
- 3.0 GPA – Not terrible, but not good enough to get into banking through the normal channels. Most places don’t pay attention to you if you have under a 3.5.
- Already Graduated – He was out of school for a month before he started seriously looking for jobs. Oops.
So coming from this background, how do you even start recruiting? You apply online to hundreds of banks, of course! And you use other ineffective strategies:
- Not Filtering Your “List” – You need to track your networking efforts, but you also need to target the right firms – big mistake to aim for bulge bracket and middle-market banks with this background.
- Applying Online – It was even more useless here. But it was easy – the barriers to entry are low, so why not just apply to 150 places?
- Doostang – I get a LOT of questions on this one. As this reader found out firsthand, it was useless for investment banking jobs because he got a 0% hit rate from the dozens of applications he submitted.
Doostang might work well if you’re coming from more of a “blue-chip” background – but if you don’t have brand-name schools and company names on your resume, you’re at a big disadvantage.
Just look at their “Success Stories” page: Dartmouth, Stanford, Yale… what about the unknown state schools?
They’re not there – because applying online only works if you look “impressive” on paper.
Realizing all of the above, this reader signed up for Breaking Into Wall Street and for the Investment Banking Networking Toolkit when we released them in April and changed his strategy accordingly:
- Regional Boutiques – You need to filter your list with this type of background – start out somewhere local, and then make the lateral move when you want to move up.
- Cold-Calling MDs – He got a 50% response rate from Managing Directors at local boutiques – and no one outright rejected him. Going to the MDs first was a smart strategy, because they decide who gets interviews and offers.
- My Calling Scripts – Yes, yes, this one is tongue-in-cheek. But here’s the quick takeaway: if something works, use it. Too often you try to re-invent the wheel, but with networking and cold-calling, use what has gotten other people interviews and offers.
The result: 2 summer internship offers. I emailed him the other day to check in and learned that he’s now a full-time investment banking analyst at the firm he worked at over the summer.
How to Ninja Your Way In
It’s not difficult, but you do need to think outside-the-box and do things differently from the average person with perfect grades at an Ivy League school.