by Brian DeChesare Comments (91)

You Just Got a Full-Time Investment Banking Offer – Now, What Do You Do Before You Start?

horseback_archeryYou’ve been through interviews with 27 different banks.

17 Superdays.

You’ve talked to so many bankers that you don’t even remember half their names.

But now you’ve finally landed the offer, and you’re about to sign on the dotted line.

So what do you do between now and when you start working?

School vs. Free Time

First: what do you actually HAVE to do in the next 6-9 months?

If you absolutely need to finish classes or get additional credits to graduate or finish your program, you don’t have much choice in the matter: you need to do it.

Banks don’t like people who flunk out or fail to graduate at the last-minute.

Likewise, if you’re already working and you’re set to start on a specific date, or you’re set to finish your current job on a certain date, then you don’t have much say: your timing is already set.

But you may be graduating early, or you may not have much work to do for your last term / semester / quarter – in which case the possibilities become a lot more interesting.

What NOT to Do

This is not going to be some article filled with fluff that says everything is a good option.

I think a lot of crap is a total waste of time and should be avoided if you value your life and your last remaining free time at all.

If you’ve been reading this site for a long time, you’ll be able to guess some of the items on the “waste of time” list – but I love bashing the CFA at every chance I get, so let’s go through the list anyway and add in some new items.

Starting Early

First, do not start early. The following logic initially sounds appealing:

“If I start early, I can get a leg up over all my competition, be better prepared than everyone else, and ensure that I get top bonus in my first year!”

I could write about 100 reasons why this is a stupid idea and why you shouldn’t do it, but here are the top 4:

  1. You’re treated like an intern or even worse if you start early – so you’re not more “prepared,” you just get better at picking up dry cleaning and getting coffee.
  2. You’re not going to get a stub bonus in most cases, nor will you be guaranteed a higher bonus at the end of your first 18 months. In fact, you’ll get the same bonus as everyone else.
  3. You won’t be “recognized” as a 2nd year or viewed differently from anyone else when all the new 1st years start in the summer.
  4. There are hundreds of better things you could do with your time – just keep reading.

The only good argument for starting early is to network internally – there is some validity to that, but it’s still not a good enough reason to do it.


Ok, so you have 6-9 months of free time before you start working 100 hours a week. And you already have a solid full-time job lined up.

So the next logical step is to spend 500 hours studying for an exam that will do nothing for you in terms of banking / PE, right?

Yes, MAYBE the CFA will help with hedge funds or things outside banking/PE, but you need to think about the opportunity cost here.

You have limited time, and even if you’re worth $500 trillion you cannot generate more hours in the day. You get 24 of them regardless of whether your net worth is $1 dollar or $500 billion dollars.

With the 500 hours you spend studying for the CFA, you could do about 10 things that will be far more helpful for business school, buy-side recruiting, and boosting your resume – and, oh yeah, actually having fun and doing something outside the library.

Boosting Your GPA

This is a stupid idea for 2 reasons:

  1. How much can you really boost your GPA with only 1 semester / quarter left?
  2. Even if you boost it from, say, a 3.4 to a 3.5, it won’t matter much for buy-side recruiting or business school.

Yes, they still look at GPA but you need to think about the opportunity cost once again.

Let’s say you can spend 6 months and miraculously boost your GPA from 3.4 to 3.6.

Which do you think will be more useful: a GPA that’s 0.2 higher, or 6 months spent abroad doing volunteer work and learning another language?

So please forget about your GPA.

Part-Time Work / Working in Retail / Waiting Tables

I don’t even know how this one could cross your mind, but I’ve gotten emails and comments about this before so I had to address it here.

So you’re about to start a job where you’ll make $100K+ per year right out of school, and the first thing on your mind… is spending 6 months on a $10/hour job?

Even if you desperately need money in the short-term, there are better options than sitting around working at Best Buy or at your local gym.


I put this one in quotes because I’m referring to a specific type of “travel”: going on a whirlwind tour of 30 countries in the span of 6 months and trying to see and do everything possible.

Yes, I’ve done this type of trip before – but I only do it once every 5 years or so and only when there’s a good reason.

If you’re moving to a different city every week you’ll get tired very quickly, and you won’t remember anything that happened… take a whirlwind tour of Europe, and I guarantee all you’ll remember is Amsterdam.

Yes, you could get into some interesting adventures and yes, it could help you stand out in interviews, but there are better ways to go somewhere else, have a good time, and not want to kill yourself when you wake up each day.

The other big issue with “travel” is money: even if you have a lot saved up from internships and previous jobs, flying around constantly and staying in hotels gets expensive, even if you fly coach and stay in 3-star places.

Hanging Out

“Just relax – you’ll never have so much free time again!”



  1. It gets boring after about a week. Don’t believe me? Head to the beach and just sit there doing nothing for a week. Tell me when you get bored… oh wait, you’re already back, guess that wasn’t fun for too long.
  2. You do want to have fun with your time off, but you also want to do something productive – both to maintain your sanity and to look better for recruiting purposes in the future.

If you’re the type of person who made it into banking in the first place, you’ll be bored out of your mind doing nothing for an extended period of time.

Even Forbes agrees: early retirees die earlier than those who remain active.

Ok, So Tell Me What to Do!

First, let’s think about what you actually want to get out of this free time between now and when you start working:

1. Fun

I won’t dispute this one: you can take sabbaticals and breaks later on in your career, but you won’t have this much free time ever again.

So you need to take advantage of it – yes, models and bottles are fun the first time around but there’s way more interesting stuff to do outside your own backyard.

2. Business School / Future Recruiting Boost

One problem you’ll face when applying to business school as an ex-banker is your lack of outside-work activities: it’s hard to compete with the 40-hour per week guy when you were pulling 100 regularly.

Free time before you start working gives you a perfect chance to fix this: you can spin even minor things into sounding major and stand out by having experiences that no one else has.

Plus, even in buy-side recruiting these types of adventures are sure to come up. I once had a Partner at a PE firm spend 30 minutes in an “interview” asking me about living in Japan – do something interesting and you’ll reap the rewards for a long time.

3. At Least Some Constructive Activity

This ties in with #2 above, but there’s more to it than that: you really will go crazy if you just sit on the beach all day and go drinking at night.

I did this for a few weeks after I left banking, but then I got bored – which explains everything on this site and related sites since then.

You don’t need to “work” 40 hours a week but you do need some type of mental activity to stay engaged.

The Problem With All This

You might look at all of this and say, “Of course! Why wouldn’t I follow everything you just said above?”

The problem is that you’ll be inclined to go to extremes. Some people will just want to hang out for 6 months, while others will want to study for the CFA, GMAT, take 15 training seminars, and start a side business too.

Both of these are flawed plans – so I’m going to give you a formula that spells out exactly what you need to do.

The Formula

Here it is:

  1. Go abroad to live there (as opposed to just “traveling”).
  2. Once you get there, find one “fun” activity. Spend half your time here.
  3. …and then find one “mental” or “work” activity. Spend half your time here.

So why is this the optimal formula for fun, getting something productive out of this time, and boosting your admissions chances later on?

Going Abroad

Sorry, but “I spent 6 months in Iowa” just doesn’t sound as cool as “I went to Mongolia and learned horseback archery, Genghis Khan-style.”

Bankers tend to be very well-traveled and this is a great discussion topic for networking purposes – plus, you’ll grow and develop a lot more overseas than you will by staying in your own country.

The more exotic the location the better – just make sure you don’t end up with bullet holes in your torso by accidentally venturing into a war zone.

Staying in one or two places also lets you save on expenses and actually get to know your new home rather than just going to the tourist destinations.

Keep in mind that the cost of living elsewhere is often much, much less than staying in a country like the US or the UK with obscenely high living expenses – $1,000/month lets you live well in other parts of the world outside the “developed” countries.

“Fun” Activity

This should preferably be something physical – a new sport, volunteer work if it involves using your hands and actual exercise, or even something like music.

It’s easy to skip out on the “physical” part of the equation, but you will go insane / get grossly out of shape if you do this.

“Work” Activity

This doesn’t need to be traditional “work” – it might be learning a language, studying for the GMAT, doing volunteer teaching, or anything else.

You could spend some time learning modeling and Excel if you want, but that’s not enough to take up 6 months of time – just make it one of your activities if you decide to do this.

And if you really need cash, teaching English overseas can pay much better than minimum wage jobs if you can stand doing it.

Personally I can only take it for about 5 minutes before I want to kill myself (which makes you wonder how I can possibly survive in Asia with everyone asking me to fix their English mistakes, but we’ll save that story for another day).

Example Itineraries

Now to some examples of how you could spend this time before work to do something constructive, have fun, and boost your networking / b-school admissions / buy-side recruiting chances.

Destination: Brazil

You get there and decide to relocate to Sao Paulo, where you start learning Brazilian Ju-Jutsu as well as Portuguese at a language school there.

You party until dawn every other night, but you still have a few spare hours each week to brush up on your Excel skills, so you spend your first 3 months learning Excel and basic modeling, then spend your spare time over the next 3 months preparing to take the GMAT right before you start working.

Result: Now you have something cool to talk about in interviews and on business school apps, you had a great time there, and you might even be able to transfer to Brazil and work there in the future.

Destination: Thailand

I don’t have a great relationship with Thailand, but everyone except me seems to love it, so I guess it has to be mentioned here.

You arrive in Thailand and head to Chiang Mai to volunteer at an elephant camp (!) and teach English part-time while going to a Thai cooking school there.

You’re not sure about business school, so you don’t worry about the GMAT for now – and you did an i-banking internship so you don’t need to learn much modeling.

Result: Come on, who else will have something this ridiculous to write about or talk about in interviews? The night life in Chiang Mai is quieter than Bangkok, but hey it’s still Thailand.

Other Possibilities

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit in your room hanging out with your friends at home. Yes, it can be fun for awhile but you’re not going to remember it in 10 years, and it won’t help you stand out in the future.

But write “Volunteer at Thai elephant camp” on your resume, and I guarantee that will come up in every single interview over the next 5-10 years.

But I’m Afraid to Do Anything This Crazy!

Then you may want to re-consider going into finance – because you will be getting exposed to crazy people and crazy situations all the time.

You might get called away to go travel on an hour’s notice, and it won’t look good if you say, “Sorry, MD, I’d rather stay in the office and learn Excel.”

The best way to describe banker culture is “Work hard, play hard” – and you will not fit in if you’re constantly staring at Excel and never hanging out / getting into adventures.

This is just a reality check – I’m sure some people succeed without having this mindset, but fitting in socially and having everyone else like you is really, really important and something that gets overlooked all the time.

So get out of your house, go somewhere else, and come back with some good stories.

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. Hello – thanks so much for this article. I did a summer in IB at a bulge bracket and then got an offer at a growth equity/private equity firm for full time. The program at Insight Venture Partners is a structured 2 year analyst program, so I was wondering if it’s also a bad idea to try to negotiate the salary for them, as they offered a very similar package to what I’d be getting in investment banking. Any advice would be much appreciated!

    1. I would not recommend negotiating for salary in an entry-level role (unless they are paying far below market rates).

  2. Hi Brian – I love this article and was wondering what are some of the activities that I could do to improve my communication skills and allow me to have more interactions with groups of human beings before I start in July as a 1st yr M&A analyst? I noticed that I tend to be not very succinct and to the point when I am communicating/talking to other people and also am a bit nervous … which I know is bad for this line of work.

    Do you have any advice? I start in mid June.

    Thanks a lot in advance!

    1. Join a student group, join Toastmasters, practice giving short speeches, get a communications or speaking coach, join an online community where people give practice speeches, volunteer for a leadership position, organize an event…

      1. Not sure if my reply was successfully posted.. Anyways, I am gonna ask again: have you posted anything on BIWS that’s related to restructuring financial modeling? I noticed that there is a restructuring technical guide for interviews but is there anything else I could use for modeling prep? The reason I asked is because I will get some exposure to restructuring as a 1st yr analyst so wanted to prep myself first before starting this summer. How would you recommend me to go about it? What materials to use etc?

        Thanks a lot Brian!!


  3. FinallyFT

    I was a Summer Associate and just earned a FT return offer at a BB bank. I’ve heard from others that there’s no room for salary negotiation for full-time return offers. Are there any other areas where incoming Associates have historically sweetened their contracts (e.g. vacation days, etc.)?

    1. It’s very rare to be able to negotiate anything at a large bank. I wouldn’t even try, unless you have some kind of spectacular background or highly unusual circumstances (e.g., your father is the CEO of a Fortune 50 company that is a major client of the bank).

  4. Hi Brian,
    I got a full-time analyst offer in a middle-market investment bank. So I got 1 month break after leaving my previous employer – a boutique IB, for 2 years.

    I wanted to find out what I can do to prepare myself for the new job. I signup all your modeling course and networking courses but I don’t have 6-8 month break.

    Any suggestions you have for me to do in the next 1 month so that I can hit the ground and run better later? Any modeling course you recommend me to redo again or I should take initiatives to hang out with my future co-works?


    1. Congrats! I would probably split your time between co-worker networking and maybe doing the Excel course and a few of the case studies in the Fundamentals course. The valuation one on Jazz and the M&A one on Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse should both be helpful for IB roles.

  5. Does anyone have an idea about whether if there is an accelerated full-time interview process in Hong Kong and its general timeline?


    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think there might be and the deadline maybe before October but I am not 100% sure

  6. Hello,

    I was wondering, with the whole push for traveling, is there an advantage that I’ve lived in an “exotic” country for most of my life? Or is it harder for internationals (I’m not American, but I’m just currently studying at an American University) to break into the field? Or is this not really a factor that’s considered?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      If you have a work visa in the States, yes it can be a plus. Otherwise, employers may have to sponsor you and some employers may not have the resources to do so

      1. I’m looking to (hopefully) get hired by the BB firms. Does not having a work visa (the fact that they would have to sponsor me for it) weigh adversely against me? Also, how willing are banks to request green cards for internationals?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          To clarify how this site works: we attempt to answer comments and questions free of charge, when possible, in the interest of serving this community. You have asked a significant number of lengthy questions, and it costs us staff time to respond to your questions – as a result, there is a limit on what we can answer for free in response to these types of in-depth questions. We also have customers of our courses and coaching clients who pay for more access and support because they have in-depth questions that require answers.
          While we balance that with the “free” side of the site so that this community remains useful even if you have not signed up for anything, again, there is only so much we can answer for free.

          On your questions: if I am interpreting what you said correctly:
          1) If you need visa sponsorship, it can be challenging. Yes, it’s possible to get in, but I’d consider other locations outside of the US.

          Again, if you require more in-depth responses, please sign up for one of our courses and/or coaching services and we can provide services that are more suitable for your needs there. This is about all we can help with via brief comments on the site.

  7. Hi,

    I was fortunate enough to land a FT offer with a bulge bracket this past fall and graduated a semester early. I didn’t know what to do with my time and I came across this article. After reading it, I took the jump and went to Thailand and worked on an elephant camp for a couple months. I just got back and I have to say it was the best decision of my life. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve been a long time lurker of your site and wanted to post and thank you for all the advice and articles! I wouldn’t have made the jump without this article!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your message. It is great to hear from readers like you who’ve benefited from our suggestions. Keep us posted!

  8. I was able to land a ft bb offer without any significant banking experience (didn’t summer anywhere). Because I have about six weeks of training before I start, I wanted to know if it would be necessary to take a modeling/excel course beforehand given my lack of experience. Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations! It is not necessary, thought it would certainly help and complement your 6-week training if you want to get a headstart. If you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend you to sign up on our mailing list for the free tutorials so you have a better understanding of what our training entails. Our Fundamentals course is tailored for people like you who haven’t had significant banking experience:

  9. Hi,

    What if I cannot go out of the states due to my visa/green card situation, what would you suggest for someone who has 6 months before starting FT in July? I was thinking about taking a 2-3 month GMAT course while working part-time as I need cash. Should I take the course 3 months before I start, or immediately and get it out of the way before April? Thanks so much for the article and all the advice – much appreciated!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think it matters too much as long as you have sufficient time to prepare for the course.

  10. I have a full time offer lined up with a boutique consulting firm but will have 2.5 months over the summer before I start. I was interested in traveling like you outlined above, but I also have an offer to do an internship in the trading division at a BB. This would be my first finance experience so I’m a bit torn. Would the finance experience plus BB prestige be worth forgoing travel? I was interested in finance as a career but think consulting might be a better fit – but still not sure due to the lack of finance experience. I guess I’m just unsure about how much insight and how much work experience I would get in 1 summer internship at a BB.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d do the summer internship. And I’d ask the consulting firm to extend your start date so you can take some time off between roles to travel. I’d try to do all!

  11. Thank your Brian for this article~

    Assume I will start my grad job in 2015 June and I will graduate at 2015 January. I wanna ask what do you think of these 4 plans:

    1. Move to France and learn French at a university and understand more about wine culture and history of Europe for 6 months (I really wanna work in France in future, but I am not sure if Investment banks will allocate me over there given Asian focus for business development)

    2. Go to US and work in Walt Disney World/Disneyland for something finance related, e.g. Real Estate Finance/Treasury. (I have an experience of working in similar theme park, but not finance related)

    3. Find an off-cycle internship in Investment banks at US/UK (not sure if they will hire a candidate not living in US/UK due to visa issues)

    4. be an volunteer in some developing European countries (not sure where can I find these types of opportunities and how can I cover my expenses)

    1. M&I - Nicole

      1. If your priority is to travel the world and you really want to go to Europe, I’d suggest you to do so now before you start working. Once you start working it will be harder to take time off to travel, especially in your first year.
      2. This can be potentially interesting if you want to move to a corporate though I don’t know how useful it will be for IB related roles, unless you’re working on internal M&A
      3. Yes this will be useful if you can get an off-cycle internship and want to work in IBD
      4. If your priority is to volunteer and give back, this may be the choice though I’d choose 1 over 4 because most of these opportunities don’t cover expenses.

      I’d choose 1 or 3. If I can’t get an internship (3), I’d most definitely choose 1.

  12. Deangelo

    Dear M & I,

    I was wondering, is it true that if you land a SA position as a junior, as long as you don’t mess up big time, a full time return offer is basically yours to lose? Thanks.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily. It depends on the firm and the number of FT roles available

  13. Hi Brian,

    The market is really bad now and there has been a lot of talk about firms rescinding incoming analysts’ offers. I was wondering, during this 9-month period, if there is anything one needs to do with the future employer? Like shooting an email to catch up or asking for an informational call?

    This might be a stupid question, but being out of contact with the future employer for months makes me nervous and I just wanted to make sure I am doing everything I am supposed to do.

    Thank you so much for your help as always!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think there is much you can do if they were to rescind your offer because its not about you but about the firm’s hiring needs.

      However, you can always follow up with a call and see how things are and let them know how excited you are about joining them

  14. Hi Bri,
    I found your post veeery helpful, as always. In fact, I had all of this options in my mind but couldn’t make it as clear as you did.
    The one option that I didn’t see was starting your own company (with other people to follow after you leave). If my plan is IB-PE-MBA (already got an IB FT offer), do you think this might be helpful?
    I have an online business idea, the only problem is the time constrain, but I thought that if I’m going to spend thousands of dollars to volunteer-study abroad I might use that same money in my own start-up and have an original story for getting into PE or MBA.
    Anyway, the idea of going to Africa/Asia/Brazil is extremely seducing and worry/stress free.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say you should figure out what you want. If you want to start your own company, start it now. If you’re in IB, I think you might not have the time to do so. However, if you can really manage your time well (and if your group doesn’t require much work–rare but may be possible if you’re very lucky) you can work on your startup in your free time. If you want to go travel, do it now. You can also start your own company traveling – just need to budget your money and time better. Sorry can’t be of much help because I think you need to figure out your constraints and what you want in life. If you don’t want stress, don’t do IB or startup.

      1. Thanks, Nicole!
        I have 6 months before starting in IB, so I will see where my instinct takes me…
        Also, I have to write my thesis in the meantime!

  15. Are first year salaries ALWAYS non-negotiable? I got a full-time from a BB in Houston, and a full-time from a BB in LA. Exact same base salary + relocation bonus. However, LA is much more expensive than Houston. Is this something I should approach HR about or just leave it? I know in other industries you can negotiate, but I think it could be a terrible idea here.

    Thank you!

    1. Do not attempt to negotiate first-year salary with a bulge bracket bank. It will not work and they will get pissed.

  16. I’ve been reading this website for a while and it’s been really helpful, even though things sometimes work a little different in my country, the Netherlands. Now there’s a more or less similar situation I’m in, except the full-time offer is an internship starting in December this year and I’m probably graduating (Master Finance) somewhere this summer (we don’t have ‘fixed’ graduation dates as in the US, just setting my own thesis deadline). The internship is at a BB in the Amsterdam office, and this was the earliest spot available and being already graduated was no problem at all, so I accepted it. Of course I hope to receive a full-time offer when the internship ends (end of February), but I cannot count on that for now. The thing is that, if everything goes according to plan, I will have roughly 3 months of ‘free’ time from September until the internship starts. The 2 options I’m considering are:
    1. the above (volunteer work in China or something like that), which sounds really attractive to me at the moment.
    2. Look for another internship in IB/M&A (or maybe a different field), to be able to compare different companies before finding a full-time job. Taking into account that all those internships here are for 3 months minimum, this would imply being an intern for 6 months straight (from Sept until Feb).

    Which one would you recommend in this case, given that I don’t have any IB internship experience yet? Of course I could also opt for no. 1 and if necessary do another internship after the one in the winter, but then it’ll still take a long time before I’ll have a full-time contract and I do need one eventually :-). So, in short: 2 internships or 1 internship and a volunteering abroad experience? Thank you!

    1. I would do 1 internship and a volunteer abroad experience

  17. Could you do another post on this subject regarding what to do for the 6-9 months before starting a job in sales & trading?


    1. It is not much different maybe just learn more about the markets

  18. I’m a big fan, first time poster. I just accepted a full time offer at a top middle-market. I definitely want to travel before I start. The problem is that I only have one month free (graduate in mid May, start in mid June). What would you recommend? Is that enough time to live in another country for a bit, or should I do something else?


    1. 1 month is not much time but you could still do it if it’s somewhere more familiar like UK/Australia/NZ where language is not an issue. Otherwise maybe think about volunteer work or a short program or class at a university.

  19. Thank you for the article. Amazing reading as always.

    I have a question regarding offers as well:

    Lets say you interned at one of the bulge bracket banks, and you received an offer. How can you shop around this offer? Shopping around might help me get a better firm, or department. How exactly do I do this?

    Thank you

    1. Contact your friends at other banks and see who’s hiring… or go to HR directly and say you have an offer elsewhere but are interested in them if they can get you an accelerated interview process.

  20. Hi Brian,

    I will do an internship with a global BB this summer, but the thing is, I can graduate from school as early as Sep(or Oct) this year. Suppose I can earn my return offer after the internship, would you still recommend waiting till next Sep to begin my full-time?

    Seems I will miss this year’s full-time training anyway, and I suspect that’s why people will still treat me like an intern? And actually if you are the only “intern” in your group, what will be the difference in terms of deal exposure between you and a fresh, formal “1st year analyst”?

    That bonus thing could be a real pain though.. But at least I can catch up with next Jan/Feb’s PE recruitment before my summer classmates have ever returned for full-time? In effect I will have the same grounding as this year’s full-time from a buy-side perspective?

    BTW, how hard is it to let your MD allow you begin early, given he likes you and has extended you a return offer? Suppose Greece doesn’t explode..


    1. Your best option here is to ask them to let you start early. I wouldn’t recommend taking a year and doing nothing in the interim. Being an intern isn’t really an issue, you won’t get as much “real” work as real 1st year analysts, but other than that it’s similar.

      I really doubt they would let you start full-time in Sept / Oct. – I would ask for a January start date instead as a lot of people actually start midway through the year.

  21. I am from London and as for it is part of Europe, I was wondering what language would be more helpful to give me leverage? I am interested in both Spanish and Arabic and I love both cities so I have no preference. I would be interested in working in the M&A in IB so which country do you believe has more exposure? I know your from the USA and you may not be able to relate to Europe but if you could tell me which one gets more exposure in the USA because I actually wouldn’t mind working there?

    1. I wouldn’t think about which one is more “useful” – honestly, you need to be BETTER than native speaker-level to ever use them for business purposes. Spanish is probably more widely used simply because it’s widely used in South America and other regions – while Arabic is also widespread, there is not as much deal activity in the Middle East, except for maybe Dubai.

  22. curious, when you say you shouldn’t start early in this article, what do you mean? is it only pertaining to once you get an offer or doing it before the end of college? for example, say you do IB internships before the summer before senior year, are you arguing to not go that pathway? if so, what do you suggest doing? btw i’m asking because i’m a freshman in college and i just supposed that doing IB internships in successive summers would look good to land a real offer by the end of senior year.

    1. I’m talking about graduating in December and going to work full-time in January.

      Internships are necessary and you have around a 0% chance of getting a full-time offer without them.

  23. George-senior finance major


    Thanks for all the advice you’ve provided, just to let you know I was able to land 3 IB offers while having a relatively low GPA, came from an anon-target school, and had 0 family connections in finance. I decided to go to a well-known boutique with better deal-flow and hands-on experience than the 2 other large banking institutions.

    Looking forward, if I decide to move to the buy-side after 2-3 years of banking am I kissing my post-MBA options of returning to banking good-bye? In other words, if you move over to PE is it pretty unheard of moving back into banking after your MBA if you’re struggling to find another PE job?


    1. Hi George,

      Would you mind sharing you “strategy”?

      Thank you in advance.

    2. I would think it depends specifically on what you’re doing buy-side (deal exp, skill set) and how long you’re out of could help or hurt you. I doubt it will ruin all hopes. Can I ask, what makes you want to go to buy-side then back up the banking ladder?

      The only thing I can think of is that you’re either a masochist, or cannot stand a small/quiet work environment or small group feel of buy-side even at a bigger firm. Banking-PE-MBA is pretty much the most solid career path in finance, I don’t see it limiting any options. Unless maybe you go Boutique-Unknown-Tier 3. Just my thoughts…

      1. George-senior finance major

        Well I’d love to stay in PE if I can get over to it, just I’m fully aware of how competitive it is even if you go to a solid MBA program and have banking and PE experience. The Boutique is well known regionally with a very large PE arm as well.

    3. Congrats on the offers.

      It is very unusual to move from PE back to banking – it’s not impossible, but you will face a lot of suspicion from bankers if you try to make a move like this. It’s easiest if you want to move into a group like FIG, LevFin, etc. where there’s a lot of common ground between PE and banking.

  24. Before your FT starts, you want to spend at least a month preparing staying up late staring at a computer screen.

    1. lol, how could I have forgotten about that one. You may want to build up your tolerance to cocaine as well…

    2. Get used to ordering more food than you need. Try ordering one of everything in a Chinese delivery takeout menu with other soon-to-be FT analysts.

  25. I recently had a first round phone interview and afterwards realized there were a lot of other things I wish I had a chance to say or explain. Is there anyway I can get these points across or is my chance to sell myself completely over (unless I get 2nd round)?

    Is there any way I can call and sell myself further without coming across as desperate? For example, I didn’t have a chance to explain why my gpa is low which would be helpful. This would likely make or break, as it has with other firms.

    1. There’s nothing you can do now – if you contact them to try to explain further it will just sound desperate. Just keep this in mind for the future and make sure you bring up everything when you speak initially.

  26. How do you actually suggest going abroad to live in a foreign country (say you only speak English) for a few months? It sounds much easier said than done. Where do you live, what do you actually spend your time doing when you get there? I’ve been to London, Italy, and Buenos Aires before and can’t imagine what I would do there alone for more than a couple of days…

    1. You get out of your comfort zone and go and meet people. In all of those countries you mentioned there are English speakers… look on Facebook for events in each city, go to them, and meet people there. Then, look up language schools or other programs there, or ask the staff at your hotel to help you find things to do.

      Its pretty much paint-by-numbers for me by now…

  27. IB canfdidate

    Hellow Brian;

    Let me ask you something.
    During the last year I’ve been in Spain. I did a Master Degree and I worked as a Analyst to biggest Spanish Bank.
    I decided to come back to my country as the economy over here is really better than over there, and everybody knows that for our grow in our career, the company and department that we’re working must also grow, otherwise, you get stucked. I decided to come back because I was also a little bit home sick.
    I started to make contacts since Spain, and when I get some interviews I decided to come.
    I made a really good interview for M&A analyst position at a bulge bracket here. Including I was interviewed by other analysts, some of than younger than me. It’s been a week and until now I got no contact back. How can I contact the team to see if is something going on? if I’m still on? I really want that position, but I don’t what to do besides of wait.

    thank you man.

    1. Just email or call and say, “I enjoyed speaking with you and wanted to follow-up and check on my interview status at your firm.”

  28. Is it acceptable to follow up with bankers who you haven’t actually talked to in person to just get your name our there? For example, some banks provide students with a list of contacts for all the bankers at the info sessions. Usually there’s not enough time to talk individually to each of the bankers.

    1. Sure, I guess you could but make sure you ask something specific rather than just saying, “Hi, I’m writing just to make sure you see my name written somewhere.”

  29. I have been talking to tiny boutiques in NYC that have expressed interest in interviewing me once they figure out if they need an analyst. If they want me to come to NYC for a final round will they pay for the trip? I’ve heard that sometimes they don’t have budgets for travel/interviews so they can’t afford, thus making you pay. I have already spent enough money making networking trips out there and probably can’t afford another. If they don’t pay, how could you ask them to?

    1. If they can’t pay, you usually can’t do much to change their minds – I would ask family or close friends to borrow the money temporarily.

      I suppose you could try saying, “I’d really like to go, but I can’t afford the trip right now” but a small boutique might just say, “Ok, too bad” because they are disorganized compared to larger banks.

  30. I had an IB internship over the summer and am have not received any analyst offers yet, though I haven’t given up. My overall plan was to use IB as a stepping stone to PE, but I was just thinking maybe I could potentially find a small middle-market shop that could use an analyst. I would then move over to a more reputable place (or IB) after a year or two.

    How do you go about getting into a small PE shop? I assume their situation will be that they have enough flow that they need extra help but not enough to justify paying for an associate. Since there are thousands of these I could thereotically email all of them, but what should I do?

    1. Focus on ones in your area, and any that you have something in common with (e.g. shared industry background). Don’t even bother emailing them: get the phone numbers of the ones you’re interested in and get on the phone. Also consider alumni if you have access to a good alumni database and go through them as well, using the same criteria.

  31. Ain’t nothing wrong with sitting on the beach and drinking beer…quite awesome, I say.

    But you’re right about not wanting to do that EVERY day…

    1. I prefer hard alcohol over beer, but it is quite nice.

  32. It’s funny that you mention Brazil and Jiu Jitsu.

    Is it just me or do finance people LOVE Mixed Martial Arts? My jiu jitsu class has become a hot networking spot and Mixed Martial Arts is like the only thing on my interests section.

    1. It helps bankers take out their frustration!

  33. A depressing article!

    I’d love to see something with the title “you didn’t just get a full-time offer – now what to do about it”

    Redouble networking efforts?
    Delay graduation and grab a second major?
    Graduate on-time and attempt to re-do recruiting as a fresh graduate?
    Give up?

    1. So traveling and doing fun things is depressing? I’m not sure what would be “fun” then.

      If you didn’t get a full-time offer, basically you need to keep plugging away… networking, consider delaying your graduation, maybe a few other things, will see about writing this soon.

      1. The thought of more successful peers worrying solely about traveling & fun is depressing to a person with only a black hole to look forward to come May!

  34. Hey, could you write a seperate article focused on the travel aspect of banking?

    1. There is not much to say – it’s nothing like consulting where you’re always on the road. At most, you might get pulled away every 1-2 months for a business trip, but it’s highly dependent on your group.

      The travel is never “fun” – it’s basically get there, go to meeting, get on plane back.

  35. Great advice. I really want to study abroad or spend some time overseas and really get to know another culture/country. I always thought it would be the best way to travel and go on an adventure before I have no life anymore, but always considered it for personal enjoyment. I never realized how great it will be for my professional goals, interviews, and overall coming off as a more interesting, well traveled person.

    I never understood how some people get into banking with NO personality, whether its kids at school that somehow landed internships (family?), or even some bankers I talk to on the phone that can barely carry on conversation (at least they have the excuse of being burnt out).

    1. Totally agree with you. Talked to quite a few bankers lately who seemed like they are some kind of machine or so. Awefull.

    2. That’s a good question – I dunno, most of the bankers I knew were at least somewhat interesting. Some of the older ones were burned out / bitter though.

  36. Cool article! I’m just wondering, is drinking absolutely necessary in banking? I can’t drink due to religious reasons, and I’ve heard that I’d have a hard time in banking because of it.

    1. Personally, I have a friend in banking that does not drink for religious reasons, and he is quite successful. He has a great personality and is a networking ninja though. But, I would understand it being more difficult, and that is just one case.

    2. It’s not absolutely necessary, but you should still make an effort to go out even if you can’t drink. Just go and say hi to people, tell them you can’t drink for medical reasons.

      1. Curious to know why you’d tell them it’s for medical reasons. Is it bad or awkward to be religious on the street?

        1. It’s just not something I would share with anyone. Same goes for politics or anything else that might offend people or make them feel awkward.

        2. I’d prefer to say I do not drink because of conviction, which is actually the case. I guess that is ok as well?

          1. You’ll come off as holier than thou’ or they could look down on you for whatever reason.

            Just say it’s for medical reasons and move on.

    3. ReligiousBanker

      I interned in investment banking over the summer and I’ll be starting full time next year. I don’t drink either because of religious reasons, but it should in no way stop you from having fun. I frequently visited bars and clubs with friends in NYC just so that I wasn’t left out. Everyone was very very respectful of my decision, and as long as you’re a fun person to hang out with, it really doesn’t matter. The only people who have tried to entice me are the people of the same religion who DO drink. My advice to you: be open and adventurous (you don’t have to break any religious rules to do so)

  37. Hey what happend to Buenos Aires? :D

    1. I thought about it, but decided to go with Brazil instead since we’ve mentioned BsAs so much before. :)

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