by Brian DeChesare Comments (492)

You Didn’t Get Any Investment Banking Summer Internship Offers. Now What Do You Do?

you_didnt_get_any_investment_banking_summer_internship_offersSummer internship recruiting is over.

Bankers have come to your campus, conducted interviews, finished recruiting, and now they’re back to their pitch books.

But you don’t have any offers.

What now?

No Summer Offers vs. No Full-Time Offers

There are 3 main differences:

  • Timing: You have more time to find your Plan B with full-time recruiting – sometimes a year vs. only a few months with summer internships.
  • Options: You have more options if you come out of full-time recruiting empty-handed: delaying graduation, going for a Master’s program, moving to Thailand…
  • Seriousness: While the lack of a good junior year internship will hurt you, it’s less of an emergency than having no post-graduation plans.

Worst-Case Scenario

You find no real internship, so you become a life guard or work in retail for the summer.

Which means that you don’t have to work 100 hours per week, you won’t get horribly out of shape, and hey, you might actually have fun for a few months.

So it’s not that bad.

But it also won’t put you in a good position for future internships, or for full-time recruiting.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to avoid this scenario – even if it’s the last-minute and you don’t appear to have options.

What Went Wrong… Does It Matter?

If you didn’t get a full-time offer, you need to look at what went wrong to plan your next steps: Was it your resume? Your (lack of) networking? Your interview skills?

You can still do this if you’re applying for summer internships… but it’s not as helpful.

A few problems can prevent you from getting summer internships:

  1. Your GPA, especially at more competitive schools.
  2. Lack of networking or lack of networking-in-advance.
  3. Interview skills / resume or too much preparation.

The first 2 are difficult to “fix” on 2-3 months’ notice.

And even if you can “fix” these 2 problems – or even #3 – you can’t get a second chance to prove yourself.

So don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis.

What NOT To Do

We’ll start with what not to do, because that’s easier to define.

Nothing

I’ve run across some people who just expect an internship to fall into their laps even if the magic 8-ball points to “no.”

While miracles are possible, don’t hold your breath: the harder you work the more your “luck” will improve.

Study for the CFA / Get Other Certifications

You probably already know my views on the CFA, but just in case

While studying is a better use of time than doing nothing, that’s like saying that death via the electric chair is better than drowning: you’re dead either way, but one is slightly less terrifying.

The problem with studying or getting certifications over the summer is that you can’t write anything on your resume under “Work Experience” to describe what you did – so you’ll have a big gap on there.

All you’ll get is another 1-2 lines at the bottom of your resume: not a great reward for 500 hours of study time.

If you’re really set on doing these over the summer, you could still do them – but only if you treat them as a side project and you spend the bulk of your time on something that you can actually list as “Work Experience.”

Back Office

If you’re in your 1st or 2nd year in university, the back office isn’t as terrible as some would have you believe – if you can get a middle or back-office role at a well-known bank, that’s much better than a summer spent at Best Buy.

This one gets less attractive if you’re looking for junior year internships, because a back office internship won’t turn heads if you’re trying to move to front-office banking in full-time recruiting.

Filling the Gap: Possible Solutions

So how do you fill the gap, find something worthwhile to do over the summer, and make sure you don’t have a gaping void on your resume?

Delaying Graduation… Again

This is certainly one option – and if you have your heart set on a bulge bracket investment banking summer internship you might want to give it another shot.

But it doesn’t solve our original problem here – what you should do this summer.

So don’t make any decisions until you have summer plans in place – and keep pursuing Plan B options on the side.

If nothing works out, delaying graduation may actually hurt you because banks will say, “So, what did you do last summer? How have you improved since we saw you last time?”

Options Within Finance

If investment banking doesn’t work out, your next best option is something else in finance – sales & trading, prop trading, wealth management, public finance, or corporate finance – to give a few examples.

The only issue here is that many of these also finish summer recruiting the same time that investment banking groups do – so if you didn’t get into investment banking at Morgan Stanley and it’s March, your chances of getting an S&T summer internship there aren’t much better.

The further away you move from large investment banks, the easier it gets to find something else in finance at the last-minute: I’ve been conducting dozens of interviews with readers, and many of them pulled this off against all odds.

How do you find these options?

The same way you find a normal summer internship: job postings at your school (if they exist), alumni networking, and cold-calling, with a focus on smaller places.

Outside of Finance

These options are a notch below the finance ones, but they still beat studying for the CFA or working at Best Buy by a long shot.

In this category, you might think about marketing, sales, or accounting-type roles at “normal” companies, Big 4 firms, or anything else that’s out there.

I’m not going to “rank” any of these because it’s impossible to quantify and because “ranking” is one of my least favorite topics (just after the CFA and GPA rounding).

Just like a lawyer, accountant, or engineer trying to break into finance, you want to get experience that can be spun into sounding relevant.

So if you do accounting at a Big 4 firm, working with financial services companies or helping out with due diligence on transactions is better than auditing Wal-Mart’s 10-K.

At F500 companies it’s still hard to get something at the last-minute, but overall competition is far less than in investment banking.

Keep At It But Adjust Your Focus

You should be doing this no matter what option you decide to pursue – it’s still worth spending at least a few hours per week cold-calling banks and emailing alumni just to see if anything turns up.

If it’s May and you still have nothing, you shouldn’t decide to suddenly spend 80 hours per week cold-calling – at that stage, no amount of effort will produce miracles.

But if you still have a few months left, continuing to network is always worth it.

Go Off the Beaten Path

This is a great idea if you have some time before you start your full-time investment banking job, but it’s not so great if you’re looking for a solid internship.

Banks are biased toward anyone with previous corporate finance experience – so if you’ve done something that looks completely unrelated they’ll be suspicious of you.

If you really want to start your own surf shop or you want to spend the summer climbing mountains, go ahead – but be aware that it’s not much better than the “doing nothing” option in the eyes of investment banks.

This is stupid and unfair because you often do more work and get more responsibility with these options, but that’s just how banks work.

The one exception here: if you can spin this experience into sounding relevant to finance, it may be a good idea. Certain fellowships, study abroad programs, and research opportunities may qualify.

Brand Name vs. Quality Experience

One issue that comes up with all these options is the the brand name of a firm vs. your experience.

Some people think it’s all about brand name, while others say it’s more about the experience you get.

If you’re interested in investment banking (or private equity, or hedge funds…) then you should think about it like this:

For summer internships, brand name within the same role matters more than your exact experience.

So a front-office internship at a boutique will still beat a back-office internship at Goldman Sachs.

But a front-office internship at Goldman would beat a front-office internship at a boutique, even if you work on a dozen deals at the boutique and learn advanced modeling and all you do at GS is fetch coffee for people.

It’s just the way things work: bankers scan resumes very quickly and have a strong bias for brand names and anything that reads “Investment Banking Analyst.”

Attack!

So, what’s your plan of attack?

First, figure out how much time you have left before internships begin and what the lowest-hanging fruit is: Have you already done a lot of networking in one industry? Do you have good contacts at one firm, or are there a lot of alumni in one field of finance?

Then, start reaching out to your contacts in other fields while you continue to spend at least a few hours per week calling and emailing bankers. You can up this if you have a few months left.

If you’re not getting good results, keep broadening your search to consider anything that’s even tangentially related to finance.

And if nothing works out, find something else cool to do and spin it into sounding relevant to finance.

Or you could just work at Best Buy.

(Kidding, don’t do that).

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. Hi Brian,

    After a long recruiting cycle, I ended up with SA offers from Brown Brothers Harriman in NYC (PE arm), Citi in NYC (ER), and Financial Technology Partners in either NYC/SF (IB). All three companies hire back for FT analysts.

    I am not sure about which internship offer to take, as each offer is clearly very different and would set me on a different career path. I am also not sure of which is most valuable for my resume in terms of FT recruiting: the BB brand name, IB experience, or PE experience. I think I want to gain as much exposure to deal executions, transactions, and modeling & valuation experience as possible this summer.

    I would appreciate any advice on which of my current options will set me up best for FT recruiting in IB. Ultimately, I would like to work at the job that offers me the most exit opportunities and diversity of career options.

    1. We responded to your other comment on the other article.

  2. Dear Mr. DeChesare,

    I am a first year student interested in the investment banking industry. I am reading blogs like yours since I am 15. It is hard to get an internship in my first year obviously but I still want to gain experience in finance to position myself best for recruitment next summer. I already applied to spring week programmes of banks but I am still looking for some opportunities in the summer. A lot of people are recommending to apply for small boutique banks/PE/VE but that doesn´t really help since there is not a lot of detailed information in the internet. I would really appreciate it if you could actually name me names of such firms (maybe you know some specific how accepted first year students in the past).

    Thank you in advance for your time and help. I really appreciate it.

    Yours faithfully,
    Christian

    1. Honestly, you have to do the research yourself and find firms in your local area. For example, if you live in Milwaukee, you could search using these terms:

      “milwaukee investment banks”

      And then you get these types of results:

      http://clearygull.com/
      http://www.promontorypointcapital.com/
      https://www.ziegler.com/
      http://gracematthews.com/home.htm
      https://www.tkomiller.com/

      There are so many UK-based examples here too… start here:

      http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-internship-to-investment-banking-networking/

  3. ibresearch

    What do you think of working at the IMF, Federal Reserve or Bank of Canada? For a 3rd year summer internship if IB doesn’t work out.

    1. ibresearch

      Focus on Regulation or Interventilation tools

      1. ibresearch

        government intervention tools**

    2. It’s a decent option, but not as good as working at a small PE/VC firm or in a Big 4 valuation (or other independent valuation) group.

  4. I wanted to study master in finance.its a one year program. But i dont know if i should start the school in january or fall for getting summer internships ?

    1. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a one-year program, as you’ll probably have to do a school-year internship, but a January start date would make it easier to do a summer internship, assuming there’s a break in the middle of the year.

  5. Hey,

    I’m currently a junior going to Indiana University, and I’m looking to land an IB internship for Summer 2017. I’m focusing on the boutiques, since my resume isn’t the strongest and I’ve only had an internship at the corporate office of a commercial bank. My questions are 1. Will this internship help me at all in landing an internship at a boutique? 2. Should I pursue an internship in the Manila through a cousin who is at Citibank?

    1. 1) Yes, it will help.

      2) Are you asking about Manila as in the capital of the Philippines? You could aim for an internship there if you want, but you’re generally better off working in major financial centers in developed countries.

  6. I am a rising junior from a non-target school looking to get a summer 2017 IB internship in New York. I have done some networking and am continuing to do so; however, my only internship experience to date is my current one with an insurance company in their commercial lines underwriting department. From everything I’ve read it seems like I’m facing a steep uphill battle. Any suggestions on what I should do to improve my chances or am I not likely to secure an internship in my current position?

    1. You can still win an internship, but you might have to target smaller banks to have a good shot at it. You might also want to consider school-year internships or something similar, so you could get more relevant experience at a smaller bank like that and then move to a larger one for a summer internship.

  7. Hi! I was wondering, how easy or difficult would it be for me to switch to investment banking full time if I have a corporate lending/banking summer internship at a bulge bracket as a junior? (versus a potential no name/small IB internship)

    1. The problem is that it’s tough to win full-time IB roles without previous IB internships these days. It might be possible if you get lucky and find a group that still has full-time hiring needs, but otherwise it might be better to start out in corporate banking and then move over once you’re working full-time there. Going to a smaller IB would be easier, but still might be tougher than moving over after you start working.

      1. If I do ultimately want to try to do PE pre-MBA, would you say that it is possible to do so by first going through corporate banking, or would it be better to go through a smaller IB first? I’m tempted to take a smaller IB offer for my junior year internship because everyone says previous IB experience will help a lot for full time recruiting at BBs, and I’m not sure how much modeling or deal/transaction work I would get to do in corporate banking. However, I realize full time recruiting is no guarantee – though a lot of my friends have done so successfully.

        Thanks!

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I’d go through a smaller IB first because the work is more relevant. Corporate banking can help, but if you have the option to choose between the two I’d go with a smaller IB.

          1. so you don’t agree with Brian? sorry, just trying to clarify things.

  8. Hello! I am a second year student at non-target school in Dubai in major of business finance with low grades so far (it is going up this semester and hopefully it would be better next year) . I applied for summer internships in IB but got no results, networking is not helping as well, people just ignore me (may be because of my non-traditional background, I am from Kazakhstan)
    I have passion to investments and wish to challenge myself with high pressure work environment, but I know that my chances to break into investment banking are very limited. How do you think what industry I should focus on? consulting or wealth management?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say wealth management given your passion for investments.

  9. Hello,
    My dream is to go into S&T, I am an economics major from a target school and I feel pretty discouraged because of my lack of support and help from the career center in the econ department. I go to university of Michigan and I am always competing with business majors who have a great knowledge of finance, know how to pitch stocks and have the great career center as a resource.
    So, what should I do. I am a junior with no summer internship, I have had 3 sales and trading interviews with top investment banks but I have no gotten them.
    Should I apply to a bridge program? Masters program?
    Preferably ones in Finance that would help with sales and trading.
    If so, do you have any that you recommend?
    If those aren’t a good idea, what internship could I do this summer that would really give me a headstart in a possible career of sales and trading

    1. I would think about something related to the public markets, like private wealth management or asset management or even prop trading, and apply to smaller firms where networking is required to get in. Then, try to leverage that internship into an S&T role down the line… if that doesn’t work, perhaps think about a Master’s program or delaying your graduation, depending on how close you got to an S&T offer in the process.

  10. Hi Brian and Nicole,

    Hope you are well. Its a really tough time to get into IBD now and the only offer I’ve gotten is for Equity Research roles. Would it be easy for me to jump from Equity Research to IBD in the future?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am not sure about “easy”, but people do move from ER to IBD so yes you can make the move down the line, assuming you make the right connections etc.

  11. Naseem Mansuri

    i wanna do the summer training for 45 days in MBA program

  12. Hi there. I am from a target school in continental Europe graduating next June. I completed a 6 month internship in a no-name London based M&A boutique and will probably be working in another boutique whilst finishing my last semester of uni in my city.

    I am in a difficult situation because I did not get any FT offers and tried to switch apps to summer too late. Now I have 2 options:

    1. Do an Msc, I should have done this in the first place and apply to internship. Now I would have to do another no-name boutique summer internship. Next year I would apply to FT again. Ideally, I would get into a top English school.

    2. Spend a year doing off cycles in boutiques after graduating and try to get into a Analyst programme at some point.

    I think that my main problem is lack of interview skills… (I have had 35 interviews over the past 14 months) What is everyone’s opinion on what should I do? Any comments will be appreciated! Tx

    1. First, I would say you need to go back to previous interviewers and see what went wrong / how you can improve your interview skills… more school and internships are irrelevant if you can’t improve your interview skills.

      Assuming you can improve, I would say you’re better off doing off-cycle internships at boutiques and moving into a top bank from there. I’m not sure what an Msc would really give you if you already have a good school and internship experience on your CV.

      1. Thanks for your input Brian. I agree with your comment… A master is the lazy option that would give me another shot but I don’t feel like getting a £35k loan knowing that I am already prepared for a FT job.

        I will chase interviewers to get some feedback and try to improve my insufficient interview skills. I read your article about how to get feedback – so following your advice there should allow me to get some honest replies and work to improve the stuff that can be improved.

        BTW I had never commented before but have been following this site for several years now. Thank you for the awesome job you and your team do with this site – There is nothing out there that can be compared to M&I: very close to reality, up to date advice and the right mindset transmitted through all articles/resources.

  13. I don’t have a finance internship but I have done a project on Valuations where I actually used multiples like EV, EBITDA and also made use of company comparables approach. Does relevant project work count for either IB or other finance roles/ companies?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes this experience can potentially help, especially if you don’t have any deal/IB experience.

  14. Hello, I am trying to re-apply to internship. Last year, I was a junior and applied to several investment banking internship positions. However, I took a semester off because of family issue. I am applying to internship again this year. Should I make another account to apply to internships or it is okay to use the same account from last year? I wonder if it looks bad that I apply to same position with same account or not. Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It is ok with the same account as long as you can show that your application has improved since you last applied.

  15. Hello
    I wanted to ask, I am currently doing a masters program in a top european business school to increase my chances of getting a job. What I wanted to ask is, should I apply for internship roles or full time analyst roles in Tier 1 and Tier 2 banks as I have no previous internship experience. I do not want M&A, but rather, equity research, fixed income, DCM/ECM, etc… Even though I have a strong school name, the competition in my class consists of nearly everyone having internship experience and so I do feel undersized and don’t know how to proceed as I can’t apply for both full time and internship.
    Also, as I don’t mind working on 4-5 different fields including asset management and wealth management, which is the best to apply to in terms of less competition or easier to get in?

    Thank You

    1. M&I - Nicole

      If you are graduating in May 2016 I am not 100% sure if you can apply for internship roles because banks usually take 1st years as summer associates in Masters. However, if banks are willing to take you on as an intern, I’d apply for an internship since you have no prior experience. Otherwise I’d still try for full time roles and see how that goes. In terms of less competition, I’d say asset management and private wealth management may be “easier” vs. investment banking, sales and trading as well as equity research. These links may give you a better idea:
      http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/associate-portfolio-manager-jobs/
      http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-banking/

  16. Hi,

    I am studying at a top target in the UK. I’m in my final year. I couldn’t land any IB BB internships so instead did an equity research internship and followed it up by a front office internship at a boutique PE in Mumbai. My second year grades were not good (lower 2nd). Also, I cannot pursue a Master’s due to financial reasons. Should I apply for a summer internship or should I directly start applying to graduate schemes at top BB’s ?

    Thank You!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d start applying to graduate schemes and see how that goes. Perhaps you can focus on boutiques, and then BBs. Make sure you make good use of your alumni connection.

  17. Hi!

    I am now entering my last year in Uni. Last year I did not get any internship in IBD. In order to find an internship I am between the following 2 options:

    A) Go for a masters and reapply for a summer internship
    B) Apply for a graduate off cycle internship.

    In particular, do you believe that it is easier to secure an internship offer through the off cycle internships? On the one hand the competition is much less than that of summer internships but on the other hand I guess that the available positions are also less.

    Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say A is probably best if you are going to a target school, but yes B has less competition though availability is probably less

  18. Hi–great article. I’m currently going through FT recruiting after not being able to secure a return offer because I lacked interest in the current group I was in. I want to move from corporate banking to investment banking. I wanted to know what are some thoughts on reaching out to the IB group on their FT opportunities (I have several contacts). I’m a bit hesitant because the groups, at least on the director level, do interact with each other. Would appreciate some opinions. Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No worries about people interacting with each other. In your situation, people would understand why you’re networking and I think it maybe a good idea to reach out to the IB group sooner rather than later especially if you’re going through FT recruiting now.

  19. I’m expected to work in Accounting Big 4 TAS internship in Asia this summer. I’m becoming Junior this fall and concerned if it’d be valuable for my future IB internship/full time recruiting? Would you rather recommend an IB summer intern at a small regional IB firm even though I have little knowledge required in IB?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it can potentially be useful. http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/breaking-into-investment-banking-accountant/ If you can get an internship at a regional IB I may take such offer instead of the big 4 one.

      1. Thank you for your reply. My biggest concern of working at a regional IB is that because I barely know anything about Ib nor know how to do valuation things, I might just give bad impressions to regional IB, which may potentially lead to bad referrals.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          No, I wouldn’t worry about this. If they gave you an offer they should know your background etc. I would try your best and see how this goes! Some people get into IB without any experience/knowledge of the sector so you’re not the only one here!

  20. Britany

    Would working at an Life Insurance company my junior year summer help with FT recruiting? I didn’t get an IB internship unfortunately.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am not 100% sure how relevant working at a life insurance company is to IB, but you can potentially spin the valuation/analytical work you do in the internship for FT recruiting. If you can gain some sort of exposure to bankers through work/personal connections during the summer, this may help.

  21. Hey m&i,
    I am currently 19 and this fall i will be studying finance in the uk 1st year. My aim in the long term is to work at Long short hedge fund or private equity. However, this summer i have the opportunity to have a prop trading internship. Would putting the intrn on my resume be a problem for banks and funds to hire me becAuse of the different skillset?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No, I’d still list your internship on your resume because it is useful (the experience is transferrable).

  22. Bob Jenson

    I got an internship offer from both a valuation advisory firm (small), and an offer from a GIANT venture capital fund (Sequoia/NEA/Atlas Venture).

    If I want to go into IB recruiting next year, which would better set me up to do that?

    Essentially……Valuation Avisory to IB, or Venture Capital to IB?

    My intuition is that Valuation Advisory is directly relevant to investment banking (doing valuations of companies), but given the prestige of the venture capital firm I’d be able to network with many former bankers.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d go to that VC fund. Yes it may not be directly relevant to IB but I’d say experience at the fund is invaluable and you can always choose to apply for IB roles next year or other VC roles. While valuation advisory is more relevant to IB, I’d choose the VC fund given what you wrote and the experience

  23. Try companies such as Capital Placement- They offer internships with some Bulge Bracket firms, as well as some boutiques in London, India, Dubai. It might be a good last resort option.

    They charge fee by the way for their programmes, so it is definitely not a first choice!

  24. Benjamin

    Hello. I am currently a 2nd year undergraduate student. I got an offer from Citi ICG summer internship program, but I will be probably assigned to the commercial banking division. I really want to get into the IB industry. Thus, I am wondering if I should go and look for small IB boutique internships or stick to this summer internship as Citi has a good brand name. Thanks.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d see if a boutique has roles available for you in the meantime. If not, I’d go with the Citi ICG internship since the brand name can potentially help you.

    2. Hey Benjamin! Is this for the ICG program in Hong Kong?? I got the offer and I am wondering what it is like! Can you tell me a little how your summer internship went at Citi?

      1. Benjamin

        HI! Which division are you allocated to?

        1. Did you end up taking the ICG program at Citi? If so, which division did you eventually end up?

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