Why You Can’t Network Your Way Into Investment Banking – and What to Do About It

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I got to thinking about this very question the other day…

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I looked through my inbox recently and realized something:

  • 5% of my emails fell into the “What should I do with my life?” category.
  • 4% were related to GPA rounding.
  • 1% had to do with models and bottles and/or prestige. It’s ok, I just ignore these.

So what about the remaining 90%?

Networking.

How to call people, how to send emails, when to call/email, what questions to ask, how to follow-up, how to find the names, how to set up in-person meetings, how to rock your information sessions, and how to “make the ask.”

I looked through my networking-related emails and went through my interviews with readers who successfully broke in, all to answer 2 key questions:

  1. Why can’t you network your way into investment banking?
  2. What should you do about it?

I realized there are only 2 reasons why you can’t network your way into finance:

  1. You’re not persistent enough.
  2. You’re doing it the wrong way.

Persistence

Sylvester Stallone went through FIFTEEN HUNDRED rejections before landing his first job as a minor thug in a B-movie.

And then it took him years more to get the first Rocky movie made.

Oh, and he had to sell his dog to get it done.

I can inspire you with stories like these, but we’re not all like Sylvester Stallone.

The real world is not like The Matrix, and I can’t just hop out of the computer screen, give you a red pill, and then jump into your body to place all the calls and send all the emails for you.

So you’ll have to do some of the work on your own.

Doing It the Wrong Way

But the good news is that I can tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong with your networking efforts – and how to fix it.

The Top 4 Networking Mistakes You’re Making

  1. Trying Too Hard to Impress
  2. Overlooking Names & Contact Information
  3. Using the Wrong Channel(s)
  4. Not Asking for What You Want!

Trying Too Hard to Impress

You might be tempted to bring up your 4.0 GPA, your tough classes, or the shelves of awards you have when you’re speaking with recruiters.

Or maybe you’ll talk about your personal portfolio and how you earned a 95% return in 1 year while the rest of the market plunged 50%.

These are both great ideas – if you want to fall flat on your face.

You’re not going to “impress” bankers unless you’re a CEO with 20+ years of experience and you’ve taken 3 companies public for $10 billion total. And even then, would you walk into a party and introduce yourself by saying that?

Your best bet is to talk about what makes you interesting rather than what makes you impressive.

Your study abroad trip to China… how you learned guitar in Spain… your wine collection… your recent ski trip.

Bankers are surrounded by talk of the market, business, and “prestige” all day – so the last thing they want to hear is more of the same.

The more “normal” your conversations are, the more effective you’ll be.

Overlooking Names & Contact Information

The two most common ways to find names and contact information are going through alumni and through friends/family.

And these methods work – IF you happen to go to a “target school,” or your father is President of JP Morgan Asia.

The other downfall is that everyone knows about these methods – which means that they can actually be less effective even if you go to a top school.

You need to act more like a ninja and start going to other schools’ career fairs, talking to your professors (at all levels), going through online resources like Capital IQ / Factset that most students don’t have access to, and showing up at organizations’ meetings even if you’re NOT a member.

When I spoke with readers who networked into banking, even the most successful ones all had one comment in common:

“I wish I spread my net wider! I totally forgot about [Alumni from Undergraduate/Summer Program] / [Finance Professors] / [People at my Church/Mosque/Synagogue...] / [Insert More Sources Here]“

Using the Wrong Channel(s)

When you first start contacting bankers, you’ll be tempted to email them or do everything online via social networks like LinkedIn.

It’s “comfortable” – and also ineffective.

You can’t make a good “first impression” via email – the other person needs to hear your voice or meet you in-person.

So the phone trumps email – and in-person meetings trump the phone by about 100x.

Email and the phone do have their place in networking: you can’t go from not knowing someone at all to suddenly showing up at their office.

But every time you email or call someone, ask yourself the following:

“Will this lead to an in-person meeting? Am I doing this to be productive, or am I doing it to be active?

If you use the wrong channels, you’ll be very active but you won’t be very productive – and you won’t get results.

Not Asking for What You Want!

There’s this myth that you have to go through a mating ritual before you actually request anything – whether it’s getting more referrals, asking for advice, or asking for an interview.

You need to meet with someone in-person 5 times, follow-up twice each week, and send monthly updates before you even think about “making the ask,” right?

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Make a great first impression in your first call or in-person meeting.
  2. Follow-up and ask for what you want.

If you’re networking well in-advance of recruiting season, sure, follow-up every few months so they remember who you are…

But if it’s close to recruiting season just follow-up and make your request:

“Thanks for speaking with me last week. With recruiting season approaching, I just wanted to follow-up and ask how I could best position myself for an interview with your firm.”

Don’t overestimate the competition – 90% of prospective bankers never even network in the first place, and of the 10% that actually do some networking, 90% are afraid to be assertive and actually ask for what they want.

Common Sense?

I thought these strategies were common sense because this is what I always do when meeting new people.

But my inbox told me otherwise: I kept getting the same networking questions over and over again.

The Solution?

Back when I released Breaking Into Wall Street, I created sample cold-calls, informational interviews, and email templates to help you network effectively.

I came up this idea at 3 AM one night a week before the launch, and expected it to remain a bonus item available to early customers – The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit.

But then two things happened:

  1. My volume of networking-related email increased – and I kept getting requests to sign up for this bonus package.
  2. Early customers had great success using the strategies in this program to win offers – even from backgrounds that are supposedly hard to break in from, like a recent immigrant and a student who had already graduated without having had any internships.

Solution, Part 2

I decided to expand the toolkit and add even more scripts, email templates, and tutorials for finding names and conducting informational interviews and cold-calls.

Oh, and a few other things too:

  1. Contact information for 10,000 banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds organized by region.
  2. Video tutorials and email templates/walkthroughs for information sessions, weekend trips, and co-worker networking… and a quiz so you can test your knowledge with dozens of questions on all these topics.

Coming Up Next

I’m going to share more of these strategies, give you a simple 5-step process you can use to plan all your networking efforts, and show you how to become a Networking Ninja so that you can win interviews and land offers.

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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107 Comments to “Why You Can’t Network Your Way Into Investment Banking – and What to Do About It”

Comments

  1. MegaJ says

    Hi Brian,

    One more nice post, kudos. After our last discussion – I have made it a point to talk/network/cold call on a regular basis – if nothing to improve my communication skills & confidence.

    Well – my emails have been so far going good – but I am clearly committing mistake #4 – not asking what I want. In some cases, alumni/contact have themselves initiated, asked and offered for help.

    My approach is to ask for informational interview mostly with alumnus and then scheduling a 20-30 min call. Up to the call part is good – but what next?
    Secondly, most of the call remains like an informational interview only. Can you suggest how to steer it to be straight to the point.

    Thirdly, there is no fixed recruiting season in India – but clearly markets are expected to improve in next 2-3 quarters – how do i maintain conversation for next 6-9 months. Just asking ‘How are you doing?’ over an email sounds stupid and I might not have an update to communicate to them.

    Thanks once again.

    • says

      I would make the calls shorter – maybe 10-15 minutes instead. Start by asking about their background, then at the end say you have to go and ask them for referrals, ask if you can ask for advice, suggest meeting in-person at some future date. You don’t necessarily want to ask for an interview right then and there, but you can mention something about how to stand out in the recruiting process.

      Don’t worry about following up on some arbitrary schedule – maybe send them an update once every few months to remind them who you are, but if you really have absolutely nothing to say, then don’t worry about it. As long as you make a good first impression and follow up maybe once, they will remember you.

  2. Z. says

    Brian,

    I’ve successfully used your pointers to network my way into receiving an IB job offer and want to thank you for it. Of course, the tutorials on Breakingintowallstreet was a contributing factor!

    Here is where I need your advice again-

    The new offer is in a less developed Asian country but the opportunity will definitely guarantee exposure to the biggest m&a deals in this country, with a good regional brand name. But this means leaving my current role in a boutique IB in a more developed country but poor deal flow and a heavier focus on IPOs rather than m&as.

    Will this be a good career decision in choosing better deal exposure over location? I hear that it is easier to transfer m&a skills cross border relative to IPO work that has more localized regulations/processes. Really appreciate your advice! It is a life changing decision for me.

    Thks.

    • says

      I think that’s definitely a good idea. I would agree that IPOs are more specialized by region – the only drawback to that offer is that depending on which country it’s in, you may have difficulty moving back to, say, NYC or London, but that’s true of any region outside those 2 cities.

      I would definitely go for it as M&A deal experience anywhere trumps doing IPOs all the time.

  3. James says

    Thanks for all your hard work on this site.

    The sample question you mentioned in the video regarding GPA is exactly my situation. I have around a 3.44, can I round that up to a 3.5? Thanks.

    • says

      What he said – you’re doomed. :)

      Honestly I think it’s fine – some people argue that you’re “lying” by doing this but your GPA changes by the time they do background checks anyway and this would not trigger any flags.

      I’ve seen people get away with far worse stuff than this.

  4. HFHoperful says

    Brian,

    I’ve made many of the networking mistakes that you discussed in the video. I managed to talk to a few alums through the phone. I asked questions regarding their background, how to break in, etc. Only 2 of the alums I talked to have offered to help. What can I do to get back in the game? I don’t want to lose that connection I’ve made with the alums. Do I ask them more questions?

    • says

      I would actually ask them for help instead of just asking “more questions.” Actually go back and say you want referrals, or that you’re interested in interviewing with their firm and want to know how best to do it. You can set up another brief call or meeting with them if you want – depends what you’ve said before, but ironically asking people for help often makes them feel more indebted to you.

  5. Leo says

    Hi Brian,
    I am interested in interview with one boutique (A) firm that I found in my school’s recruiter database. However, I checked my alumni contact list and realized that only alumni, which was the MD for that boutique’s IBD, had left for another boutique (B) recently. Do you think I can still target this firm (A)? If so, what would be the best way to do it? Should I just cold call some bankers in this boutique (A) and introduce myself?

    • says

      If there’s no one there that you know anymore, then yes, I would just cold-call them to introduce yourself.

      I think you should definitely still apply, even if you have to cold-call rather than going through alumni.

      • Leo says

        Thanks for the answer. I have cold-called a few firms. They just give me a email address and ask me to send my resume and cover letter through the email. Would this make any difference compare to just apply online? Is there something I should ask or talk about during calling rather than just say “I want to talk the job opportunity at your firm”?

        • says

          If they just give you an email address, that’s a useless response – if that happens I would call back and try to speak with a different, more helpful person there instead. It does help a bit more vs. applying online, but getting to speak to someone real and getting an individual’s address instead helps a lot more.

  6. soph says

    Great post. 90% of getting into IB is networking, so im not surprised thats what all your emails are about. and to stress it further, many of us here are college students, new to the industry, etc, and we have little experience with the most important part of getting a job in IB, i.e. looking good..i mean networking. We dont have a developed set of contacts, each person we meet is a new contact and its difficult to juggle x, y, and z while making networking a top priority. I find I actually have to write down lots of information about all my contacts, so I can flip through, remember everything I need to know and when I should contact them next and why. Organization is key too, its not all about quantity (assuming quality).

    Thanks for keeping up the good work with the site. I recently asked you a few questions about internships I was interested, what I should focus on, what is worth my time, and sure enough, I landed a HOT job for this year that will help me break into the industry. im still underclassman in undergrad, but working my way up fast! Im gaining the experience and have a strong resume, so now networking is KEY! Literally all that I need to focus on if I want a job in IB. You have helped me out so much, thanks again.

  7. Zack says

    Is there a way for me to purchase just The Networking Ninja Toolkit? Is it possible to purchase any of the modules separately?

    Thanks !

    • says

      Yes, those options will be available. Details on the Toolkit will be available next week, and soon you will be able to get each of the BIWS modules separately as well.

      Currently we’re still in “launch” mode but you’ll have those options soon.

  8. TheMB says

    Hi Brian, thanks for another interesting and sophiticating article.

    Now it is my time to come up with a couple of questions:

    I’m a German student currently in Brazil on a year abroad and I will return to Germany in June/July of 2010. I’m looking to make an internship at an IB in Frankfurt after I have returned (mainly boutiques as I am lacking the network in BBs), but as I am quite distant from Frankfurt at the moment, it seems not possible for me to attend any kind of interview. How common is intern recruiting just based on phone interviews? (I k now, NY and FF are probably different in this, but just a general approach)

    Other question: I’d like to make an internship here in Brazil in development banking, seems like a project finance branche is superior to any other DB branche conerning breaking into I-banking later on.

    Thanks for your answers.

    • says

      You could still do it over the phone, but it’s harder and your efforts won’t be as effective. I would strongly suggest scheduling some type of in-person trip back to Germany for a few days to a week if you want to go through interviews / do a networking “weekend trip.”

      I think Project Finance is probably more relevant than other DB branches, though I’m admittedly not an expert on the topic – in Brazil that seems like the best bet if there’s not much in terms of local IB/boutique options available to you.

  9. Leo says

    Hi Brian,
    Persistent is definitely the key! I graduated in June and have been doing networking since Aug. I was really starting to doubt all my efforts and have confidence in networking less and less. However, I still kept doing networking everyday, sending cold-emails to alumnus to ask for information interviews. Three days ago, I sent a email to one alumni, and he replied within 5 mins and asked for my resume because they are reviewing applications for first year analyst currently. I got called for interviewed yesterday. So yea, it is really just about persistency. For those ppl out there still hoping to break into finance, keep doing networking with the right way, and you will get what you want.

    • says

      Congrats on the interview. Networking is very, very random which is why you need to keep doing it over a long period of time – results are unpredictable.

  10. Fishingnet says

    Hi Brian,

    As usual a very informative article on networking. Will the same techniques work when you want to transition from a regional boutique into a bulge bracket bank? I currently work in the M&A division of an Indian boutique and want to break into the wall-street firms out here. But since wall street firms have smaller teams in India (under 30), breaking into them is slightly difficult. Techniques like offering to intern for free isn’t an option for me either. What would be the perfect strategy in such cases?

  11. Jason says

    Not everyone is open to networking and sharing contact information with others. How can I rank people based on how likely they are to share networking information?

    • says

      There’s no way to tell in advance – you have to contact them and see what happens. In general junior bankers are more approachable, but you never know – some MDs like to help people while others are hard to talk to.

  12. N says

    Lots of people I had informational interviews with told me to email them questions about anything anytime. But I got no reply when I emailed them questions (first & second email, still nothing). Is that just a courtesy for them to say so or what? My friend in IBD said people receive hundreds of emails per day, so they’re really inundated. But those are the ones that I’d want to ask to pass along my resume, so have to stay on their radar. If this keeps happening, should I assume they’re not interested in helping out?

    • says

      Sometimes people just get busy, forget what’s going on, etc. – can’t take it personally. If they don’t get back via email, just call them and ask your questions directly.

  13. B says

    Hi Brian,
    I’d want to ask your opinion on this. A contact agreed to forward my resume 10 days ago, but I haven’t heard back from her or HR. So just sent a follow-up email and got an out-of-office reply that she is on vacation ’till the third week of September (why now???) and will have limited access to the internet. This is pretty bad b/c selections are made this month for interviews next month. I just remember that I know one director in another group (though not as close), should I ask him to forward mine as well? If yes, besides the usual content of the request email do I need to mention that someone else has already passed it along? (I have no idea whether she actually passed it along or not). What should I do in this case?
    Thank you!

    • says

      Yes I would ask the Director in the other group – just say you spoke to the other person but she left for vacation so you’re reaching out to see if the Director can help w/ forwarding your resume instead

  14. John says

    Hi M&I,

    I think I may have screwed up a networking attempt. I am a sophomore looking for a S&T internship and I contacted a top MD at a BB in S&T.

    I started the conversation by thanking him and asking him what things I can be doing as a sophomore to better prepare myself for recruiting. He gave me a bunch of pointers, and we also talked about some interesting books he recommended along with some books I read over the summer.

    Do you think it was a bad move for me to ask him for advice, without asking about his background and interests? The conversation was definitely not focused on him. I also never made a mini-ask, but he did say that I should keep in contact.

    Anything I can do to remedy the situation? Do you think I should try to schedule another phone interview after 3 weeks and focus some questions on him?

    I wish I read your article prior to doing this.

    Thanks!

    John

    • says

      You didn’t really screw up, but you could have handled it better. I would ask for a follow-up call in a few weeks and ask more about his background and for the mini-ask at the end.

  15. Ginny says

    hi,

    this may be a stupid question, but when you meet for a informative interview, do you dress business casual or do you put on a suit?

  16. A says

    Hi Brian,

    I am currently a junior at a Top 5 school interested in securing an i-banking internship next summer. However I am currently studying abroad in China and as a result am not on campus for all the recruiting events (most of the BBs recruit pretty heavily at my school and almost all hold info sessions for internships at some point in the fall). I am pretty concerned about how this will affect me since I am not there to network, and consequently could be overlooked for interviews since I am not meeting face-to-face with the recruiters.

    What would you suggest I do? Should I try cold-emailing the recruiters explaining my situation? If so, how would I even go about finding out which recruiters come to my school? Also, if I were to email, what exactly should I say (I don’t want my email to be regarded as annoying or “empty”) and should I attach a resume to the email? Any advice would be much appreciated! :)

      • A says

        Hi Brian,

        Thanks for the reply.

        I’ve managed to get the contact information for some of the recruiters from the BBs. My question is — in my email, should I request an informational interview with them? I’m hesitant because I’m not quite sure what I could talk about with HR/recruiters other than the standard questions that you can find easily online in the FAQ section. I don’t want to set up a phone conversation only to have it last two minutes or have it be filled with “dumb” questions. What kind of questions should I direct at them? Since they work in HR I cant exactly ask them about their experiences in investment banking, how they got there, etc — basically a lot of the questions that are generally asked in informational interviews.

        What do you suggest I do?

        • says

          Just ask about the recruiting process or ask them for referrals to newly hired bankers you should speak with. If you take the effort to talk to them they’ll be more than happy to refer you, especially if you set up a call.

  17. Mark says

    You guys must know how much of this applies to the non-finance world. Such a great site. You know how many lawyers and PhDs there are simply because they didn’t have a site like this to consult before making the leap? Kudos.

    Second – Rahm Emanuel, not a typical IB background, but that was where he made his money. Do you chalk that up to an outlier or textbook networking success? I can imagine what the obvious answers may be, leveraging a position in campaign finance for Bill Clinton and the connections, but he doesn’t have a related education and his experience doesn’t necessarily automatically translate into IB success and he seems to have started at the top. Is there anything to his story that mere mortals could apply to successfully breaking in?

    • says

      Honestly I have no idea – I didn’t even remember who Rahm Emanuel was at first because I have lived outside the US for years and never read the news / follow politics. To learn more about breaking in, you can read all the networking articles under Recruiting at the top of the page.

  18. Byrn says

    Hi Brian,

    Is it acceptable to ask for meeting in-person when I contact a banker for the first time (alumni or referral rather than strangers)? It seems that the most effective way generally would be meet in-person and follow up with request immediately. because a connection of taking on the phone once doesn’t sound strong enough, maybe needs more follow up and longer relation maintenance. What do you think :)

    • says

      You could try that but you will get a better response if you speak on the phone first to show the other person that you know something.

      • A says

        lol…

        I heard that the average GPA of Brown, however, is a 3.61.
        I could probably get a 3.8 in that school.
        Is a 3.8-3.9 at Brown University considered at par with a 3.5 at Wharton/Harvard?

        • says

          Honestly I don’t know the specifics – you can still get in there but it’s much less of a target school than the others you mentioned

  19. Kevin says

    Ok so I have managed to set to gain several phone conversations and a few informational interviews, but I always have trouble with what questions to ask to keep conversation flowing, besides that standard:

    -Learning more about their background.
    -Recruitment process.
    -Advice and Tips.

    What questions should I be asking?

    • says

      You have to latch on to what they say in conversations and use that to keep the conversation going, just like in real life with strangers… “Oh you worked there before banking, what was that like?” “What made you interested in going to work there?” “Was that a really popular choice when you were recruiting?” Just take 1 point they mention and ask questions around it like that.

  20. Ann says

    Thanks for this helpful artcle.
    In networking for a good internship, how would I contact alumni?
    Is it better to find an summer internship my sophmore year going to junior year or my junior year going to my senior year?
    Also, How can I network with people who work at the top firms?

    Thanks

  21. Steve says

    I have an informational interview over the phone with an executive director of PWM at a BB on Thursday. I’m a sophomore and already have an internship lined up for this summer at another bank. Would it be advisable to hint that I would love to be considered for a position at their bank in the future?

  22. Faris says

    So I just found out that I didn’t get a potential summer consulting internship at Deloitte. I just finished my first year, going onto my second. Am I ruined? I’m trying to get a head start on competition come third and fourth year. What do you think I should do???

    • says

      Not the end of the world you still have a lot of time, just try to do something productive this summer that you can spin into sounding good.

      • Faris says

        I’m thinking about doing day-trading on my own throughout the summer, just out of wanting to have some experience with that. I don’t think that can be spun into anything that could look good, unless I do something spectacularly amazing. Am I right??

        • says

          Again, it’s better than nothing or doing something not at all related to finance. As long as you can explain what you did and sound intelligent about stocks it helps.

  23. JK says

    Have you met anyone who has a networking story in Singapore? I’m a little skeptical about whether some of the networking tactics will work here, given how aggressive they are (but in all fairness, I have not tried to put them to use as yet). Any insight if things should be done differently in Singapore, or it remains largely the same?

    • says

      I do know people who have networked in Singapore (and other parts of Asia). Don’t have an interview at the moment but will see if we can run one. Overall it probably doesn’t work as well there, but you still need to at least try it.

      • JK says

        Thanks, I’m a full time in PWM (in Singapore) now. Let’s see if any of the networking gets me anywhere, will certainly keep you updated!

  24. Anik says

    Ok…so I have a question..when cold calling who are most likely to help a candidate more…the analysts,associates or the VP,MD’s etc.

    • says

      Usually junior bankers are more approachable but they have less power… vice versa for senior bankers so best to approach a mix of both

  25. Nick says

    I am wondering how important it is for me to network. I will be a junior next year at a target school, economics major, 3.7 GPA and have an internship in finance this summer. Is networking pretty much just to get the initial interview, or could it help you all the way through? I am wondering if it is really worth spending a bunch of time networking, or if I should focus my time on learning more about the principles of finance and accounting?

  26. A says

    With your help, I have been able to effectively network and obtain information interviews. Many thanks. However, I’m having a little trouble with the mini-ask; I have no problem asking, but I do not know where to take it. I have asked for referrals from people who are willing to provide the info and follow up in the future, but either they do not know the appropriate people or are unable to for situational reasons.

    I understand the eventual goal is the position myself for an interview and land a job. I have asked for opportunities to follow up, referrals for people in closely related divisions (e.g. M&A person for someone in ECM, DCM, recruiters), events, etc, but most have fallen through. Fortunately, I feel that I have at least made a connection with the person.

    Referencing your other articles,
    – How do I move up the tottempole? Is it appropriate to ask an associate for his/her MD’s contact? (Obviously possible from your reading some of the success stories, but not sure how to go about it)

    – How do I create a buzz in the office? Is it appropriate to ask someone for the contact of someone else in their team/other teams?

    What are some things I can ask for to make progress?
    How do I know I am making progress? If I keep asking for referrals from people, I meet more people, which is great and my name difusses across regions of the bank, but is there something that I should be striving for besides having links into the firm? (I don’t mean to sound so Machiavellian, but rather result-oriented.)
    Thanks again for your time and insights

    • A says

      apologies for the long post – you probably will have to scroll on your bb to read this. maybe not if you have an iphone

    • says

      Yes ask associates for VP or MD’s contact information. Yes try to contact other people on the team. In addition to referrals, also ask for advice, give updates, ask about what they’ve been up to, what they think of an offer, etc. A lot of this is covered in the Networking Ninja Toolkit – this is really just intended to be a quick introduction and a few pointers on how networking works.

  27. Jenny says

    Hi Brian,
    I am a student from UC Davis who will finish all classes required in March 2012. Commencement will occur in June 2012.
    If I apply this year for a I-banking internship next summer, am I still eligible to apply?
    I have no finance internship experience at all.

      • Jenny says

        OK. Should I delay my graduation? What are the chances of getting into a full-time position without internship experience?
        I am in the US on a F-1 visa and I am a British citizen. Should I leave for 1 quarter and do a finance internship in Europe? Then I will resume my study in Spring quarter and finish in Fall 2012.

        • says

          Chances are low without internship experience. So I would delay graduation. Yes, a finance internship in Europe or anywhere really would be helpful.

  28. Dhillon says

    Hi Brian,

    What is easier to break into Investment Management ( PWM or Asset Management ) or Investment Banking?

  29. M&A Guy says

    Hey guys…thanks so much for your great info.

    I just graduated from a non-target school (top 50) with a 3.5 in Economics and a minor in Mathematics. I had 2 internships: bulge bracket summer and boutique PE academic-year. I am also fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. I realize competition is stiff and sometimes feel inadequate. Should I even bother trying for bulge brackets or do you recommend focusing on smaller shops? Your advice is sincerely appreciated!

  30. mergerman says

    Hi Brian,

    I’ve worked at two products that Ibankers user for deal origination/data analysis, and i’ve also moved recently into relationship management, so i do have some analytical and client facing skills. I also have a huge list of contacts as they are all listed where i work since i do meet with these MD’s, VP’s, associates, etc.

    The thing is, i’m in NYC. I want to be in HK but i don’t have many contacts and the ones i do have, i’ve already reached out to. My Chinese is limited to speaking on a slightly better than average level.

    Should i start leveraging the contact list i have and reach out to these people? If i’m targeting firms, should i start low and work my way up or directly target the higher level MD’s/VP’s. I’ve done a lot of searching on IB Analyst jobs in HK and i’ve applied to all of the ones that don’t require mandarin as i can’t read or write well.

    Thanks in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Try to fly down to HK when you can. Ask your contacts in NY if they can introduce you to any bankers in HK.

      No, always target MDs who have the ability to hire you. 100X more effective

      If you don’t speak Mando, you might find it difficult to find a coverage/ECM/PE role here because these roles require their team to cover Chinese clients. If you don’t speak fluent (native level) Mandarin, I’d say don’t bother – and can you honestly fit into that culture too?

      However, I’d suggest you to look at roles that don’t require local language skills say in convertible bonds desk (Capital markets), Southeast Asia coverage/ECM (but these might be based in Singapore), Equity Syndicate (ECM), or boutique firms/funds.

      These roles are not common, but keep on. That’s why I suggest you to network. If you’re good, you might be able to convince someone to hire you even if he/she wasn’t intending to hire!

      http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/networking-investment-banking-jobs/

  31. Mergerman says

    Well I do speak both mandarin and canto alright as it is my second language, english being my first. I cant read or write well. Culture wise I’m fine and I’ve been there before. I can learn the financials terms if I study but it will be years before I can read and write comparably to my speaking level.

  32. Jack says

    Hi Brian,

    I’ve started making efforts towards networking – Using sites such as LinkedIn, CapitalIQ etc.

    I’m unsure on who exactly I should be looking to contact – New Analysts, Recruiters etc?

    What criteria makes someone an ideal contact?

    Thanks.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Someone who has the power to hire you (if you want a job) – think MD, D. If you want scoop of what life there is like, contact analysts/associates.

  33. says

    Hi, I am in the middle of the recruitment process for a graduate position in Trading at HSBC in London. I have a strong track record but no relevant working exp. However, i have a few contacts at HSBC, one of which is a co-head of the department that I am applying to, he’s a friend of my dad, but not that close. I sent him several emails to introduce myself, some are very long, some are very short, but I still got no replies. So basically I’m being ignore, but the guy does actually reply to my dad… Should I keep emailing him even though its sort of bothering him … or should I find a way to hunt him down in front of HSBC building and hopefully can talk to him for a few mins?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Send one email to introduce yourself. Short, brief, precise. By sending several emails (long ones are a no-no) even though he has never responded to you, you might be “bugging” him and can be viewed as “annoying.” You need to have some tact – there is a fine line between being “persistent” and “annoying people”.

      No, don’t keep on emailing him. Give him a call. Better yet, ask your dad to talk to him. If not, he might not necessarily want to help. You might be better off looking for new leads unless you are sure you can convince him by talking to him in person

      • says

        I guess I would just gna drop him the last email. Do you think this sounds ok ?
        ‘Dear Mr Lake,
        I hope you have had a great weekend.
        My name is Leo…….. I am sure that you are very busy but this would only take 2 minutes of your time.
        As I am in the middle of the recruitment process at HSBC for a graduate position in Trading, it would be much appreciated if you don’t mind referring me to a trader at Global Markets. i just wanted to learn about his/her experience so as to best position myself for the role that I am applying to.
        I look forwards to hearing from you.
        Yours sincerely,
        Leo’

        And one thing that Im a bit afraid is that I send emails to him using gmail. does the mail system in banks normally filters out generic email domains like gmail?
        Many thanks !!!

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Leo, have you read my prior response to you? If not, can you please re-read it? I said- No, don’t keep on emailing him. Give him a call. Better yet, ask your dad to talk to him. If not, he might not necessarily want to help. You might be better off looking for new leads unless you are sure you can convince him by talking to him in person. If you don’t listen to people’s previous response & re-ask the same question, you will a. annoy the person b. get the same response or no response at all.

          • says

            Hi Nicole,
            Sry but I did email him again.
            However, it turned out that he was on a business trip for a couple of weeks and he returned today and responded my email within abt 3 hours. I managed to get an appointment with the guy this Thursday. Im now kinda nervous and not sure how to begin the story with and how to get to the point that I need a job. Any advices are much appreciated. Thanks so much for your help !

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Glad to hear that he responded. Weird that he didn’t respond to your prior emails but responded to your most recent one. I can’t coach you how to talk to him via the comment section. Just be yourself. Tell him why you want that job (not just a job). What you think you can do to add value. Be sweet, precise and convincing. Good luck!

  34. J says

    Brian,

    I am currently a junior at a top tier school (not an Ivy). One of my parents friends, John Smith (for the purpose of this question) who I am rather close with, is head of equity trading at one of the large banks. I have sent John my resume, which he has passed off to HR. HR contacted me that day asking me to fill out a summer analyst application. John has expressed his interest in helping me in anyway possible. My question is how much say do head employees have over the hiring process of interns in their department and should I aggressively follow up with HR?

    Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      A lot of say though it also depends on hiring needs. Follow up but don’t need to be aggressive. If HR doesn’t get back to you, speak to John. But never pester people

  35. IBdreamin says

    Brian,
    Thanks for all the information on this site. What do you think about if I just sent a postal resume and cover letter and followed up with an email (that includes my resume) with like 50 different managing directors at each BB?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Sure, just make sure your cover letter and resume stand out. If you’re going to do this, send them good stuff!

      • IBdreamin says

        Is there a limit on how senior of an employee I should target? Would it be inappropriate to target anyone above Sr. Managing Director (e.g. Executive Director, Partner, C-suite exec, or department head). I guess in short, should I just target MD’s and Sr. MD’s and maybe some VPs?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          MDs, Sr MDs, Ds and VPs work. But I’d suggest you to have stellar pitch, resume,cover letter & email before you contact them

  36. Mike says

    Hi, I want to break into investment banking and I am requesting advice about my hiring chances?
    My situation:
    -Age- 34 /American/
    -Education: B.S. Audio Engineering/Entertainment Business focus.(10 yrs ago)
    -Work experience: Apple Software QA Analyst, Technical Consultant jobs in Tokyo,Japan.
    -Fluent Japanese
    -Built my personal stock portfolio of $30K in short time.

    If I complete IB online courses,resume prep/interview guides, and use some IB people I have met as recommendations; what are my chances of getting an interview/ job offer chances?

    I have read and heard that there were people that got in with no finance degree/finance work experience. They just had the passion, and used the knowledge of completed courses to get in.

    I am willing to start even at the most entry level job of IB. Are internships only for under/grads students? What are my chances and options?

    Thank you.

  37. J says

    Hi.

    First I want to thank you for having these fantastic IB resource for us. I have just subscribed to the Networking Ninja tool kit and I find it to be very helpful.

    I have a few questions I’d like to ask.

    1.
    I go to NYU(Not stern, but econ major). Is my school a target? although our school is not in ivyleague, at career center, every BBs and PEs recruit at our school, except Morgan Stanley.

    2.
    I’m a junior, I have a GPA of low 3s and I have two internship experiences in a foreign country. One IB(not BB or American) and one PE(Third largest in my country in terms of AUM but not American).I don’t hold US passport by the way. Do you think there is a chance that I could get myself a BB SA internship position? or are the chances to slim and so I should be targeting regional boutiques and look to move to BB after my career starts?

    2.5
    What are my ‘target’ companies? BB? sub-BB (Barclays, Nomura, UBS, BNP, RBS) or Boutiques.

    3. Apart from Networking extensively and improving my grade, what else should I be doing to improve my chances to break into Wall st?

    4. After the interview deadline which I believe is late December, are there still opportunities for internships after December?
    If there are, does this only count for boutiques or does this include BBs and sub-BBs.

    5. I know I’m not a strong candidate but I have to play the cards dealt to me. If you were in my position, what career path would you persue? (Eventually I want to become a partner at BB, PE, HF). Short-term and long-term ?

    I thank you in advance for your advice and help and I really look foward to hear from you.

    • J says

      As desperate as I am, I’d love to have you answer all questions from 1 – 5.
      It is ineed an amazing job you guys and M&I are doing and I really do appreciate your work.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      1. Yes
      2. I don’t know how you interview so its hard to tell. It may be difficult for you pass the first round if your GPA is of low 3s. I’d suggest you to network a lot and cast your net wide (including regional boutiques).
      3. Perfect your pitch.
      4. Yes, may be harder. I think it is more applicable to boutiques because their recruitment process is probably less “structured”
      5. I’d figure out what your strengths/weaknesses are and apply to roles that suit you

  38. John says

    Not sure if this has been asked/answered before, but, do the same rules for cold emailing apply to BB, as there is more structure? You can’t cold call since we won’t know that unless they respond to our emails.

    I understand for smaller firms it might be easier but how does one transition into a BB IBD if we attend a non-target and don’t have any alumni to contact? Thanks!

  39. Anna says

    Hi M&I,

    Great Article! Just want to ask, last week I had an interview for a trading position and the guy said there were only research positions available, so the interviewer gave me emails and phone numbers of his buddies in the industries. His buddies I have never met before, so I should email them right instead of calling to ask for an interview? These buddies are head traders, so they are busy even after trading hours. Thank you.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d email them and say that you were referred to them by XX. I’d then ask them for coffee to chat re positions at their firm. Email them perhaps after market hours when they’re less busy though

  40. Johnny says

    Ok, so this is gonna be a long one…

    I’ve been out of college for a year now and have been working as a financial analyst for the City of LA (Contractor/Consultant) since graduation (I got the consultant position due to nepotism) but the problem is that I really want to break into investment banking (M&A). It seems like I’m going to have a rough time breaking in let alone getting interviews, so could any of you give me some solid advice on what I should do? Let me give you a basic run down of my profile, both negatives and positives:

    First with the bad:

    – Non-target school (UC system)
    – 4 year GPA 3.3, Major GPA 3.7
    – Non-relevant work experience (Sure I work as an FA for the city with 1 year of exp, but it’s not investment banking)
    – No investment banking internships
    – Already graduated

    Now with the good:

    – Economics undergraduate
    – Studied abroad in Italy
    – Volunteer in local political campaigns (current)
    – Bi-lingual (Italian)
    – President/Founder/ of my university Chess Club
    – Treasurer for the Fraternity I belong to (Please “Extend The Helping Hand” for any brothers out there!)

    I do have some explanations for the bad; the reason why I didn’t complete any investment banking internships is because before and during college I wanted to be an economist. I did complete an internship as an economic research assistant working for a small business development center, we focused on providing industry-specific economic research and business expertise for smaller start-up companies both within and outside of the U.S. (Primarily in developing countries outside of the U.S.). Most of the work revolved around gathering relevant economic data within the tech industry for the lead economist for publications and presentations. It wasn’t until my last quarter of college that I started getting interested into the world of investment banking, which is why I decided to work as a financial analyst (The closest position I could get in finance was with the city since I have a family member who is a consultant for the city of LA).

    As far as my lower GPA is concerned I had to help take care of my sick grandmother, plus work a part-time job to help pay my own bills. Put some pressure on my academics but I made sure to at least keep my major GPA up.

    Do any of you have any good advice? I’m currently trying to get out of my current work as a consultant for the city now that I have a year of experience, and I’ve been interviewing for financial analyst positions with various companies in the private sector.

    Should I just wait and try as hard as I can to get into a top MBA program and then try my chances at getting internships during that time, or should I still try to get in as an analyst into middle-market/boutique banks? (Pretty sure BB is out of the question right now)

    I’ve also heard of the New York School of Finance program from you guys that offers a guaranteed Investment Banking Internship for a hefty fee of 7k-14k, not sure if that would be a worthwhile investment at this point.

    Would pursuing the CFA help at all? (I’ve heard it doesn’t, but maybe I’m wrong)

    Or am I pretty much doomed to never get into investment banking, which makes me feel hopeless about it all. I know for a 100% certainty that this is the career I want to do, I’ve done research on top of research about the job for the better part of 2 years now.

    Any advice would be great guys, thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Johnny, thanks for your comment. We attempt to answer comments and questions free of charge, when possible, in the interest of serving this community. However, it costs us staff time to respond to length questions – as a result, there is a limit on what we can answer for free in response to these types of in-depth questions.

      In your case:
      – Yes getting into a top MBA can help you, but only a target MBA. If you can get into a middle market/boutique that would be useful, but I think an MBA maybe a better bet
      – Yes if you want experience on your resume and can afford the program, NYSF can potentially help you.
      – If you want to break into banking, no. However, CFA is useful for buy side roles.

      • Johnny says

        Thank you for the advice, sorry about the lengthy comment but your advice certainly helps.

        I most likely will get a corporate finance position as a financial analyst for a company and then try to get into a target MBA program in a couple of years.

        I will still try to network my tail off and dig through your articles on tips on getting into boutiques/middle-market banks, but I think my chances are honestly pretty close to zero due to zero IB experience. If I can find some time to get into the NYSF program that may be a way for me to spin my story and at least get a position at a boutique.

        Thank you!

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