by Brian DeChesare Comments (113)

How to Break Into Investment Banking as a Career-Changer in a Part-Time, Non-Target MBA Program

How to Break Into Investment Banking as a Career-Changer in a Part-Time, Non-Target MBA Program

No clever introductions for this one because this story already has more twists and turns than 24 or Lost – so let’s get right into it.


Q: Walk us through your resume.

A: I came from a liberal arts background as an undergraduate, and worked in commercial property management after I graduated.

After a few years I got interested in investment banking, but by that point I had already been out of school for awhile and I didn’t have much of a quantitative background, so I decided that going back to business school was my best bet.

I went to a well-known, though not “target,” program – you would know the school if I mentioned it here, but not many large banks actively recruited there.

To make things even worse, I was enrolled in the part-time program there – so I only had access to the career center and its resources in my last few terms.

Q: So I’m guessing you had to do a lot of networking. Can you tell us about what your overall approach was?

A: Sure. Before I even started networking, I wanted to make sure I had my “story” right, so I spent a lot of time on that.

My basic “story”: I came from a background where I had to work with tenants constantly and develop relationships with lots of different people – which is a critical skill if you want to make it to the top in investment banking.

I said that in the long-term, I wanted to be a trusted advisor to CEOs and other executives, and that I saw investment banking as a way to leverage my previous background to get there.

This story worked very well for Associate-level interviews – they want to see more evidence of leadership and client relationship skills because they’re grooming you to make it to the top one day.

In terms of networking, I ignored bulge bracket banks for the most part and focused on middle-market and boutique banks because they were much more receptive to someone like me.

I didn’t focus that much on the “results” per se – I was genuinely interested in getting to know people in the industry and learning more all the time, which made a huge difference.

Too many people go into the process only looking forward to the outcome, which makes it hard to stay motivated and actually make a good impression on everyone you meet.

Overcoming Roadblocks

Q: Ok, so you have your “story” laid out and you’re in the right mindset. How did you decide who to contact each week? What did you say, and to whom did you say it?

A: I focused on 2nd and 3rd year Associates, as well as some 1st Year VPs – I wanted people who had been there long enough to actually have influence over the hiring process.

These types of people were also more likely to be staffers – and to therefore have even more influence on hiring decisions.

I sent around 2-3 emails per day, pretty much every single day – I was pretty direct and told them explicitly I was interested in moving into investment banking or moving to their firm specifically, and that I wanted to get their thoughts on how best to position myself.

I would always request either a call or a meeting in the initial email, and would then spend most of the time asking about the other person’s background.

Q: What kind of resistance did you face because of your background? Was the part-time MBA program an issue, or was your non-finance background a bigger problem?

A: I was always very upfront about attending the part-time MBA program, and it was never an issue. When it came time for full-time recruiting, I already had an internship by then so no one looked at me differently.

My non-finance background was more of a problem – in every meeting I had they always said, “So why do you want to move into finance, and why now?”

By this point I had gotten really, really good at telling my “story” and answering these objections before they even came up, so that wasn’t much trouble after the first few informational interviews.

Q: What tactics were most effective in going from meetings and phone calls to actual interviews? Did you have to do anything differently at the MBA-level?

A: Not really – it was mostly just continuous pressure that led to interviews at most places. I kept emailing people and saying, “Just wanted to reiterate my interest in your firm, and re-visit our conversation.”

You can’t take it personally when you don’t get a response – a lot of people purposely ignore you just to assess how serious you are.

The (Partial) Results

Q: Ok, so you’re networking extensively… how did you end up with an internship?

A: Continuous pressure – I was speaking with a local bank and kept contacting them to say I was interested. I could tell they wanted an intern but weren’t 100% certain they actually wanted to hire one – those types of leads are often better to go after vs. places that have no clue what they want.

Q: And how well did you do in full-time recruiting with this internship under your belt?

A: I mentioned it was a really, really bad year, right? I interviewed with a lot of banks but came away with no full-time offers at well-known banks that year – even though I had done a ton of networking and actually had an investment banking internship.

Q: A lot of people would have probably given up or set their sights on a different field at this point. What did you do?

A: I decided to postpone my official graduation date by a year – just to keep myself “in school” – and I kept networking and ended up with an offer at a local boutique.

But it was quite a bit different from a large bank, and the learning opportunities were uneven – we spent a lot of time chasing after lower-probability deals.

The other problem was that it was unpaid – I received no base salary, and was paid only when deals closed.

That’s fine if you’re an MD with millions of dollars in savings, dozens of different clients, and you expect deals to close – but it was a huge issue when you’re just starting out and need to pay the bills.

M&I Note: One of the advantages of a part-time MBA program is that you can more easily move around your graduation date.

Moving Into Industry?

Q: Ok, so you’re at this small firm where the work you’re doing is not quite what you expected and where you’re not getting paid. What then?

A: I had to leave because of the lack of any base salary. I had worked on several deals and at least had something substantial to talk about in interviews now, so I felt that it had served its purpose.

One of the MDs was from a larger firm, and brought in a lot of deals – I worked with him a few times, so I got decent experience in the time I was there.

After leaving, I went to a local company “in industry” and became Director of Finance there.

Q: Most people would say that going FROM investment banking back TO industry is the kiss of death and that you can’t move back into finance if you’ve done that. What were you thinking?

A: I took the job because it was a management-level role and because it allowed me to interact with the CEO pretty much every day.

I knew I could leverage it for investment banking interviews in the future because now I could say, “I understand both finance AND how company executives in a particular industry think.”

It allowed me to go into investment banking interviews and say 2 things:

  1. I can get inside the heads of CEOs in this industry because I know exactly how they think.
  2. Other people are coming in from the Ivory Tower, but I have real-world experience related to investment banking.

Q: Right, but did banks actually take you seriously? Most people in finance view “industry” in a very negative way.

A: You need to get creative. Any experience is better than sitting on your butt doing nothing.

Believe it or not, this industry experience actually helped me more than my investment banking internships because I applied to matching industry groups, and it helped me stand out vs. everyone else.

Sure, in a perfect world we’d all work at Goldman Sachs – but things rarely go as planned, and you need to improvise and spin what you have into sounding relevant when that happens.

Back Into Banking?

Q: Ok, so you’re at this local company as Director of Finance for a few months now. How did you move back into banking after you had already left for industry?

A: It’s not as difficult as you might think, at least if you do it the right way. Here’s what I did:

  1. I considered A LOT of other options, like startup banks, public finance firms, and more – if nothing worked out in banking, I wanted a Plan B, C, and D.
  2. I never stopped networking – I continued talking to everyone and browsing my business school’s job board even after I had been through 2 other jobs by this point.
  3. I focused on highly relevant groups – investment banking industry groups that matched my background when I was Director of Finance at the local company. I made sure I wasn’t just applying for the sake of applying – I knew that I’d have to be more targeted given my history.

Q: How did you change around your resume in light of everything you had done – and how did you get it in the hands of bankers?

A: I re-wrote my entire resume to “bankify” it and to add more meaty material, focusing on what I had done at the boutique and also as Director of Finance at the local firm. It looked significantly better than when I had only had the internship from the year before.

I got interviews at a bulge bracket bank and at a well-known middle-market / boutique firm by applying to off-campus postings on my school’s job board.

I also noticed that I had spoken with a guy at the middle market / boutique firm a year ago when he was at a different bank, so I called him up again, told him I was interested in interviewing there, and got his thoughts on the company.

Q: Had you had any contact with him since you spoke with him a year ago?

A: Nope. I contacted lots of others I had last spoken with 2-3 years ago as well – obviously after that length of time you can’t go and request an in-depth conversation, but if you’re friendly and casually reach out to people, good things will happen.

A lot of people think you need to stay in touch with 500 industry contacts 24/7 and that the sky will fall if you don’t – but so few people ever bother networking that simply by reaching out at all you put yourself in an elite group.

Don’t obsess over details and individual words in emails… as long as you’re networking at all, you’re well ahead of most people.

M&I Note: Never, ever, ever overestimate the competition

Associate-Level Interviews

Q: Ok, so you have 2 solid leads and interviews lined up at both the bulge bracket and the boutique / middle-market bank. What were interviews like, and how were they different from what an Analyst might face?

A: The interviews themselves were not dramatically different – it was the usual set of phone interviews, followed by in-person rounds later on, with technical and “fit” questions similar to what you normally see.

The bulge bracket featured a case study in their interview process, where I had to talk about how to analyze a company in a dying industry and how to establish what kind of cash flows they might achieve should they expand into more lucrative markets.

Overall the interviews were no more technical than what anyone else interviewing for entry-level positions might get, but they do expect you to be more polished at the MBA-level.

There was also more thought required – a lot of the questions were not standard “Walk me through a DCF”-type questions, but were about specific companies or more unusual scenarios.

Q: So how did the interviews go?

A: With the well-known boutique / middle-market bank, everything just clicked and I fit in with the team from the start, so I got an offer there. I came very close at the bulge bracket bank, but lost out to other candidates in the final round.

Q: Did you try to negotiate your salary or bonus at all?

A: No, because I felt the offer they gave me was in-line with the market as a whole, and that negotiating it might have damaged some of the goodwill – the relationship kind, not the accounting kind – that I had built up throughout the interview process.

I’m not even sure that it’s possible to negotiate much with well-established banks, at least for Analyst or Associate positions.

Future Plans & Final Thoughts

Q: You went through quite an ordeal to get into a well-known investment bank. Are you planning to stay there, or will you try to hop into PE as soon as you can?

A: At this point, I’m planning to stay here – for two reasons:

  1. My whole pitch was that I wanted to be a trusted advisor to companies and executives. I had to believe that for it to be believable, and I still do want to do that.
  2. Getting into PE is a fairly well-defined path, and it’s hard for anyone who hasn’t been an investment banking analyst.

If I got tired of banking at some point, I would probably look at opportunities within industry instead – I already have the experience and could easily go back to that.

While the life of an MD may not be all peachy, it would also be hard to leave if I got there one day.

For Associate-level interviews, you need to show that you’re committed to the industry for the long-term or else no one will take you seriously.

Q: You were very successful breaking into investment banking, even though your story had more than its fair share of twists and turns. Looking back on it, is there anything you would have done differently? Any advice for readers?

A: I made two main mistakes with networking:

  1. My tracking tool was very poor. I should have tracked the “temperature” of each lead to see whether each person was “warm” and to properly prioritize my efforts. I also should have included an agenda for each person with an idea of how he/she could be helpful – Referrals? Advice? Interviews?
  2. I failed to explore all avenues for networking – I completely neglected undergraduate alumni, professors, and people at my church, for example. While you could argue those are lower probability to begin with, all it takes is one.

My only other advice is to enjoy the networking process itself. If you don’t like talking to people, you’re never going to make it in the industry – as an investment banker you spend a lot of time emailing and calling people, even as an Analyst.

Have fun with it, and keep in mind that no matter how screwed you seem or how many “fatal” moves you make, you never lose unless you give up – just re-read my own story if you want a reminder of 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. Avatar
    Wesley Bronson

    Hello, couple of questions. 1) How did the person in the article obtain a Director of Finance position with just property management experience and a couple months in IB? usually people who jump off that quickly start at entry level in corporate. 2) I have been in strategic corporate finance for a few years post graduation from a semi target. My plan is to get into a top MBA program, but my super low undergrad gpa (3.4) concerns me for two reasons, one being admissions to a top MBA program will be an uphill battle and two being if I gain entry to a top program, IB positions will still care about my undergrad gpa. I am wondering if I should complete a one year MSF just to alleviate some concerns about my GPA prior to starting an MBA. Thoughts?

    1. So, this interview is from *a long time ago* – almost 11 years ago – and so I don’t remember all the details of what he did. My best guesses are:

      1) I think he could do this because it was a small company, i.e., far away from the Fortune 500 or anything similar.

      2) Yes, banks will still care about your undergrad GPA a bit, but it matters far less than the quality of your MBA program, work experience, and so on. I would not do an MSF program just to get a higher GPA. And 3.4 is not really that low for MBA programs as long as you have solid experience and recommendations otherwise.

  2. I am a 37-year old, working in the plastics/CPG industry and my career has progressed from conventional engineering path to program management function. I developed an interest in finance several years after I finished my MS. My personal circumstances didn’t allow me to start MBA (Full Time /Wk./Part Time) until recently. I started Weekend MBA this year at Duke, which is a target school for IB recruiting. While I was waiting for my personal circumstances to allow for enrolling in MBA program, I used the time to complete CFA level 1, and currently working towards Level 2 exam for the next summer. Furthermore, I contributed on Seeking Alpha for almost 3 years about the misunderstood equity market opportunities. During my networking with IB professionals from my school alma matter, coincidentally I networked with associates who cover the sector I have worked on.
    One common feedback I have received is considering how structured and regimented IB recruiting is, it is imperative I do an internship to break-into IB. I’m not sure if internship will be a possibility as I anticipate numerous challenges with that at present.
    Other suggestion given to me is may be I should pursue Equity Research as recruiting in ER is not as structured/regimented and I can easily demonstrated my strong value add to that team.
    My first preference certainly remains IB with ER as second preference. Given my personal circumstances, and challenges associated how should I strategize my efforts for IB jobs.

    1. Yes, you absolutely need an IB internship to win a full-time offer in the field out of an MBA program. So if you can’t do that, you’ll have to consider other fields with less structured recruiting where you might be able to get in with a good amount of networking (ER, maybe, corporate development, some asset management firms, etc.).

  3. Hi Brian,

    Loving the posts and hoping for some help. I graduated with a BS Biology from UC San Diego in 2015. I have two years sales and one year global market development/strategy experience at a large biotech but interested in moving to IB and then ultimately to PE. I have no prior finance experience.

    My questions are should I pursue an MBA or MSF? Would it have to be a target school with an internship to match? Would it help to get some experience/projects with my corporate finance team or do I need to get out and start over?

    Thanks in advance

    1. At this point, you will probably need an MBA because your experience may not be seen as close enough to finance, and you have already been out of school for 3-4 years. It should ideally be a target school with a pre-MBA internship or some type of other relevant experience before you start (such as working in the corporate finance team). You can theoretically get in without going to a target MBA program, but it’s much harder at that level because there are fewer Associate roles at banks.

  4. It’s a long shot but I currently am 22 years old and a broker for schwab. I went to northern az university and got a 3.4… will networking even help me break in?

    The only thing I got going for me is my uncle was an IB for credit Suisse for 18 years and was the head of operations in the west coast. How can I leverage him?

    1. No, probably not, because your current job, non-target university, and GPA will all count against you. Your best bet is to consider a Master’s in Finance degree at a top school and use that to gain prestige/access to recruiters/a better alumni network. Combine it with an internship before/during the program and then use that to get in. You can ask your uncle for help/referrals, but he can only do so much if he’s not currently at the bank. You should contact him and ask for those, but be prepared to hear variants of what I just wrote.

  5. Hi Brian, great article.

    I’m considering applying to entry-level IB roles during this recruiting season. I am a systems engineering student with a business minor from a target school with a mediocre GPA (3.2) in the US. I’ve only had one finance internship – summer 2018 at a middle-level investment bank in NY – where I was in a somewhat unrelated role to the IB division (programmer for S&T equities group, building algorithms/models for data analysis of trades). I am going into my last year at university for 2018-2019, but I am skeptical of my chances to land an IB role anywhere:

    – I have no work experience/internships in IB
    – I have only one finance-related internship
    – My academics are mediocre in a non-finance major
    – I have no finance-related extracurriculars/activities I can show off on my resume

    I am considering pursuing an MBA out of undergrad to help my chances. This would give me more time to pursue internships in IB and build experience/relevant coursework. I feel I would only pursue grad school though if I felt my chances in IB were slim to none without it. What are your thoughts? Thanks!

    1. I would strongly recommend against an MBA straight out of undergrad. The MBA is useful if you’ve had several years of full-time work experience and you want to move into IB at the Associate level.

      In your case, you’re better off with a Master’s in Finance degree because you need to boost your GPA, gain more work experience, and get another shot at recruiting:

      Your chances of getting into IB without an MSF are not great due to the issues you mentioned. Recruiting has changed a lot over time, and you need to start extremely early, win internships early on, and earn a higher GPA to have a good shot at IB roles.

      1. Thanks for the response! Which role would I be looking to move into after an MSF? Would that be associate or analyst level?

  6. Hi Brian,
    Great site! I am 39 and just finished my MBA in a local top school in Singapore. I recently got interested in IB.

    My pre-MBA work experience is a computer programmer in variety of industries of telecom, semiconductor and brokerage (in that reverse chronological order) for 8 years.

    My internships during MBA were with a healthcare company, a VC investing in tech and finally an Asian-focused macro hedge fund with US$300MM AUM, where I generated daily interest rates swap curves with statistical analysis for traders.

    How relevant are my internships to break into IB?

    I read somewhere in a comments section of one of your IB articles that to break into IB without experience in finance you need an internship in IB, which means it’s difficult for me to break into IB now if my internships are not relevant (although GS is hiring for IBD off-cycle intership for people within 12 mos of post-graduation so I qualify).

    What do you recommend me do now?

    Thanks a lot.

    1. It will be quite difficult for you to get into the industry at this point because you’ve already finished your MBA and have not completed IB internships (and 90% of Associate-level recruiting is out of MBA target schools). And you have a lot of experience for an Associate (so they might know what to do with you). Your best bet might be to target local tech/TMT boutique banks (because of your background) and see if you can get some interest from them. Singapore is a small market vs. other financial centers, so that works against you as well. Take a look at some of our more recent MBA articles for more ideas/stories/examples.

      1. Avatar
        Will Sumekar

        What do you mean I have a lot of experience and they might know what to do with me?

        1. Banks want people with specific amounts of work experience for each role. For example, if you have worked for 5 years, you’re over-qualified for an entry-level Analyst position. Banks won’t hire you because they know you won’t put up with crazy hours, insane co-workers, etc. At the Associate level, it’s tough to get in if you already have 15+ years of work experience. They mostly want people with a few years of work experience and then an MBA, and sometimes they go for people from slightly different backgrounds, but it’s an uphill battle.

  7. Thank you for your story and motivations upon your article. I have a question whether I’m too late to even try to enter IB field at Wallstreet or not with my current condition. I graduated from UC,Irvine on 2016 June with Criminology, Law, and Society major. I studied for LSAT but because of my LOW GPA(2.88) I gave it up. Although I did two internships during undergraduate years in Korea and California, these companies were neither well kwon corp nor paid-intern . (In other words, these internship experiences are not “valuable enough”) After graduation, I spent 3 months to study LSAT, which I eventually stopped. Then I worked at a education company in South Korea since Jan 2017.

    Attending non-targeted undergraduate school with low GPA, tragic job experiences, no specific certificates related to finance, and my age(turning 25 on Nov) make me think that I am far out of league–which is actually very true considering other candidates who aimed for the job since highschool.
    I want to know my best option and stop waisting my time if I have a chance…
    These miserable facts made me to think that only way to break into IB filed is to attend best MBA program and aim from there. So I am planning to get CFA, FRM, AICPA and get a position in mid/low IB job for about 2-3 years before applying to MBA.

    Do you think people like me who are too late with low undergraduate history and poor job/intern experiences can enter wall street IB field within 7 years from now?

    What are the most important and critical factor that I need to develop/improve/achieve to enter top 10 MBA with my current situation?? perhaps better job experience after getting those finance related certificates??

    Am I too late with not enough chances to even try for it??

    Thank you very much for your time.

    1. Please see these articles:

      You are unlikely to win entry-level IB roles at this stage, so your options are:

      1) Find a closely related role, such as corporate finance, real estate brokerage, or valuation/advisory at a Big 4 firm and use one of those, perhaps combined with a Master’s degree, to get in.

      2) Do something similar, but go for an MBA at a top school, which might be necessary if your work experience goes on beyond ~3 years or so.

      I’d urge you to question why you want to do IB in the first place. If the answer is just “more money/prestige,” then there are better options, such as starting a side business, investing on your own, etc.

  8. Avatar
    Houman Ghayouri

    Hi Brian, thank you for taking the time and writing this insightful article. I was hoping you could comment on my current situation. I have an undergrad in Mechanical Engineering with some experience in that field. I recently finished my MBA at a top school in Canada and now it’s been six months since my graduation (June 2017) and I still can’t get an interview in IB. I’m networking heavily and meeting with bunch of Mid-Market firms but I’m afraid that its going to be late for me to land a job soon. It definitely doesn’t look good that I’ve been out of school for six months without a job. At the meantime I’m prepping for CFA level 1 and keep applying for jobs in IB-M&A and other Finance jobs. can you give me some high level advise pls!!!

    1. What did you do before/during business school? Typically the path to IB after an MBA involves IB internships before/during business school. If you haven’t done those, it will be incredibly difficult. At this point, it might be smarter to go for corporate finance roles at normal companies, Big 4 firms, or independent valuation firms, and then eventually move over from there.

  9. Brian,
    Great information here. These real-life stories are very helpful!
    To the tune of this story, I will be 32 when I graduate from a local mid/top-tier professional (aka part-time) MBA program in Houston. By that time I will have been utilizing my mechanical engineering degree from a top-tier school at an oil & gas manufacturing company as an R&D engineer and in product management for 10 years since college. I have also obtained my professional engineering license. After reading through your website and from where my interests have grown, I aspire to go to into PE (focusing on energy sector in Houston) for the same reasons you discuss in your “Why Private Equity?” article, especially the part about wanting to be exposed to the operations of companies and understand all aspects rather than just the financial ones.
    What is the most realistic path forward to fulfill my aspirations? I understand this probably involves IB to get a solid foundation prior to PE.
    Having a plan and course of action over the next couple years would be hugely beneficial!
    Thank you for your time!

    1. You need to get some type of pre-MBA internship so it looks like your experience is more relevant, and then leverage that internship + a lot of networking into an IB role, and then use that to move into PE. There’s an outside chance you could get into PE directly from business school (maybe if you apply for operational roles), but I don’t think it’s likely if you have 10+ years of engineering experience and nothing in finance.

  10. I currently work in strategy for a large health plan. I have a doctorate of pharmacy degree. 7+ years of management + directorship. I’d like to get into IB. I’ve recently been admitted to Cornell EMBA Americas and Darden EMBA. Do you think I could leverage these programs into an IB role?

    1. Potentially, yes, but you would probably need some type of finance experience first. If you can’t take time off to do that, you might have better luck going for roles at VC funds that do healthcare or corporate finance at healthcare companies.

      1. That’s an interesting perspective which program do you think will give me the best chance?

        1. Any program where lots of VC firms or healthcare companies recruit on-campus (look at placement stats and ask current students).

  11. Hi Brian – Truly appreciate your article here. Feel like it’s exactly in line with my personal situation. I’m 29. My background is in mgmt consulting. I’m currently attending the part-time MBA program at Georgetown (although I have access to full-time resources), and I’m very late to the game in that I decided to move into i-banking. I also have no experience in finance beyond what I’ve learned in class. I’m looking to land an internship this summer. It seems pretty apparent that I’d have to network heavily, especially by cold calls considering how late I am. However any guidance on what types of banks I should target to increase my conversion rate? Or are the odds stacked to heavily against me?

    1. This summer, as in a few months from now? I’d say it’s almost impossible unless you have a great card to play, such as in this story:

      Otherwise, maybe try cold calling and cold emailing local PE firms and asking about MBA internships (sometimes they’re more receptive than banks are to the idea).

      But, honestly, it’s a pretty steep uphill battle to get into IB from an MBA program if you’re starting at the last minute:

      You almost always need some type of pre-MBA internship, extensive networking, or something else beforehand.

  12. Brian– appreciate your article here. I am 27 and have worked in the financial services industry since I graduated from my Masters program (M.A. in Management) in 2014. For the first 2 1/2 years or so, I worked for a first tier broker-dealer and have recently transitioned into wealth management with a very well-known private bank. In my tenure with the new firm, I have realized the IB is where I would like to be long term. What recommendations might you have to make that transition successfully? I have a B.A. from Villanova and my M.A. is from Wake Forest. I also hold the Series 7 and 63 licenses. I am currently networking with alumni from both of my alma mater’s. What makes me slightly nervous is the closing door on consideration for associate or analyst IB programs given my age. It is easy to jump from IB back to wealth management but not vice versa. Thanks in advance for your comments.

    1. Realistically, you would probably need an MBA to get into a pure IB role at this stage. Another option would be to go for non-IB roles in finance, such as corporate finance, real estate, or lending. But it would be very difficult to get into IB with several years of FT work experience in wealth management or private banking – you have to move over early or the door closes.

  13. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for sharing yet another great interview.

    I’m at a crossroads right now and probably one of the most difficult decisions.

    I recently moved a country and getting a foot in the door is something I prioritized .
    I have 6 ½ yrs of experience in Private banking where I worked with Bulge bracket banks but my experience consists of mainly back office job (My 5 yr stint with a big bank was quite critical).
    I do not wish to re-start my career here in a retail bank (that’s the only opportunity I’m getting). I seriously want to consider myself in getting into Investment Banking. After reading your articles I believe for me the best way it to get do Part time MBA,but my question is while I stand a chance in getting an internship with any investment bank? Also I have already done MBA in my home country but it holds no value here . I was also considering to do CFA but to break in Investment banking you don’t need a CFA. What do you recommend in my position ? Really appreciate all your articles !
    Thank you!

    1. If you want to get into IB, you would probably need to do a top MBA at this point (and maybe don’t even mention your previous MBA). Or consider options outside of pure IB roles, such as corporate finance, real estate, lending roles, etc. A CFA wouldn’t help in this case.

  14. I am graduating from the university of maryland with a 3.6 finance/biochemistry dual degree. My passion is for the buy-side and a career in banking. I thought my unique majors might stand out as unique and open up some more specific roles, but after lots of interviews (most unsuccessful) I accepted an offer as a financial consultant in Baltimore to try to gain some experience. Any advice on the best way to move to a bank (networking, MBA, magic lamp)?

    1. Yes, mostly networking – try to move to a valuation firm or Big 4 firm (in the valuation/internal banking group) first as an initial step, and then use that to get into IB. Or potentially you could aim for a boutique bank and then move from there to a larger bank.

  15. I’ve recently graduated and currently have a contract with a big bank.

    I’m planning on doing a post grad in Finance at a target (Oxbridge, LSE etc) after 2-3 years… does it make a difference whether or not the programme is a full or part time course? Full time means I’ll have to quit working for a year while part time means I could still work. However I know that full time lets me have more networking opportunities, I believe?

    If it means anything my ideal aim is something in trading/wealth management etc.

    Also after this would it be worth considering an MBA at London Business School? (They seem to consider the rep your previous uni… my undergrad wasn’t a target).

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I am not 100% sure if going full time will give you more networking opportunities, because you can also make use of the campus recruiting resources as a part time student. If you already have an MBA at LBS, I am not 100% sure why you’d need a post grad degree.

  16. I am an English teacher in Malaysia and I am doing CFA now. I guess I will finish all the levels when I am 30 years old. Will my education working experience and age be an issue when I apply for a position of Research Analyst with an investment bank by the time? I am quite scared that my efforts in doing CFA will go down the drain. Please provide me with an answer. Thank you so much. :)

    1. *I have passed CFA level two.

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you haven’t had any experience in finance (specifically valuation/investment experience) I believe it can be challenging if you apply for RA roles. I’d connect with as many people as you can in the industry, and try to gain some sort of experience to get your foot in the door. Having the CFA (even if you’re just taking the exam) when you network with people can help because it demonstrates your passion and commitment to the industry (for ER, buy-side, not IB)

      1. So age won’t be the limiting factor and the key thing now is to network as much as I can. Thank you so much for you reply and I really appreciate it. Wish you the best of luck in everything.

        *I apologise for the duplicated message. It was my mistake.

  17. Me
    – 10yrs experience
    – VP level – BB Retail Bank – Finance
    – CPA (regional acct firm), CFA level 1 passed
    – Worked in various industries before bank
    – MBA right after college, coach

    I’m thinking EMBA, Columba, NYU, Wharton, etc (yes, it is allowed)

    What are my chances getting into IB?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      50/50. It would help if you have the relevant deal and client experience. At your level, they may expect you to source deals so if you can demonstrate this ability this helps

      1. Thanks. Do they recruit associate level from EMBA?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          That I’m not sure, you may have to check with the firm. I believe most EMBA are VP+

  18. Hi M&I,

    I’m at a crossroads right now, and I decided to seek out some valuable advice on this post, because Brian’s story resonates with mine a bit.

    So I went to a top 20 undergrad semi-target in the US, had some real estate finance internships, and worked for a year in the US for a financial information firm (bloomberg, capIQ, etc.), before being forcibly moved to the London office due to losing the H1B work visa lottery (I’m an EU citizen)

    Now I’ve been here a year, and really want to break into Banking. Recently, I got into LSE’s Master of Finance Part-time program, and am unsure of how to proceed. I’m wondering, if I don’t have relevant banking internships, will this part-time program be worth it? How much will LSE’s name help me, and is it absolutely necessary for me to have an internship for full-time recruiting? Should I just forget about the masters, grind it out for a few more years and do a MBA instead?

    Also, I understand I would only be eligible for Analyst positions with a masters. Will banks ignore me if I already have 2 years of full-time experience and am taking a part-time masters, because they consider me too “old”?

    Thanks a lot for your time, really appreciate it!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes this part-time program can potentially help. LSE has a great name and I think it will help you out quite a lot. I think MF can give you the opportunity to take on a part-time role in finance which maybe beneficial to you. No, I don’t think you’ll be considered as old.

  19. I have worked for two yeas in a one of the top tier banks in the world.However my experiences are not relevant to the investment banking area. What do you advise me to do in order to break into the investment banking industry? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps going back to a target business school or obtaining your masters in finance there may help you

  20. Hi! Big fan of your website here! An international student from malaysia and currently in my final year at a UK semi-target, done internships in consulting and corporate finance in my home country. However, am currently considering doing a masters at a target in the UK to try and break into IBD at a BB in London post-masters but as this was a last minute plan all that I am able to land this summer is an internship at a BB in Malaysia for a role in asset management+marketing, but more focused on marketing though. Would you reckon that I still take up this internship considering its brand name? Or I will be better off not to since it is not related to IBD?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes if you have time I’d take this internship because of its brand name unless you have other opportunities on hand. You can also leverage this opportunity for other roles and masters at target universities. You can also develop a network of people who can help you break into IB so I would go for it

  21. Awesome website. Thanks for all of the great information. I am and American citizen, 31 years old, and about 8 months away from graduating with a BBA in finance (3.85 GPA) from a non-target school. I am making a career change from a professional tennis coach. I have decent international experience (China and Australia), and can speak Mandarin. I can spin my China job as an operations manager position, which I held for about three years. I have also made some pretty good personal investments, with my best making over 320% (NOK). Do I have any chance to get into banking? If so, what route do you suggest I take?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You have a 40/60 chance of breaking into the industry since you’ll be competing against many who have had experience in the industry, from target schools and are younger than you. The best route is to network and aim for third tier banks. Otherwise, you may want to look at corporate finance roles in corporates too

  22. Hi! I am doing an internship in trade finance sales team (completely different from sales and trading) at a top BB. Do you think I can leverage it to get a job in IB in some way? Consider that I am already in my last year master degree, however in my country usually students do internships even in the year after the post graduate degree

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’m not 100% sure, but I think the most important thing is for you to start networking with bankers in your bank and start the conversation! I think you can leverage your network and spin the communication and sales skills you learned to break into banking. With the above being said, you’ll have to demonstrate your knowledge of valuation and investing (and the markets) if you want to break into S&T

  23. Hi. I’ve been reading this site for quite some time. A big fan from Malaysia here.

    I have been wanting to break into IBD but for my background (third class engineering degree) i think its very difficult to get in. I’ve thought of networking but there are not many IB here, let alone MM/boutique banks. So I decided to go for the MBA route, however,

    – study abroad is not an option
    – Top MBA schools like LSE, Oxbridge, etc do not have their campus here in Malaysia.
    – The option I got is MBA from University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus), a non target school.

    How would you recommend me to break into IBD? Is MBA from Nottingham any good or would I better off networking?

    Warmest regards

    1. Abit of my background:

      – Age 28
      – Third class engineering
      – 3-4 years working experience (2jobs)
      – Been in leader role in both my job
      1) Production (Engineering job)
      2) Mortgage Sales (Finance? job)

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Networking is a better bet. I’d also consider Singapore if you can because Singapore probably has more opportunities than Malaysia

  24. Hi, in terms of networking, my dad has who is in the business has got some contacts. I have finally got some influential ppl in the industry who have kinda agreed informally to me joining in. However, I am quite unsure as to how networking actually works to get a job. Usually, is it a formal offer or just a foot in the door for an interview? I am afraid that I will be subjected to the strict and tough 4 stage interviews for the management associate program. Although, if I do get a chance, it is a huge opportunity.

    Just curious as I have gone through back door internships at bulge bracket firms before without an interview or even a look at my cv. Internships to my knowledge are easier and almost an instant entry through networking. However, not really sure if that is applicable for jobs espc for entry level analyst. THank you

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Usually, is it a formal offer or just a foot in the door for an interview?

      In quite a few cases it is just a foot in the door but this can make or break you because many people don’t even have the chance

      In your case I’m not sure you’ll have to ask your contact

  25. One more, an acquitance I met back during my study in Singapore has just started his own PE firm in Indonesia. What should I say to ask him for a job in his firm without previous IB experience? Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Tell him why you want PE and convince him …

      1. Thank you Nicole. One more, is working as a treasury analyst in a commercial bank is considered as relevant experience in trading (hedge fund or any trading job)? Thank you.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Not really…

          1. How about trading in a commercial bank’s treasury? More to FICC trading.

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            That might work. I really depends on your experience and what they’re looking for

  26. Hi,
    I am from Indonesia. I just graduated last year and I am currently working in one of a US global bank based in here. I am planning to move to IB. One of my dad’s friend’s son is the head of fixed income division in BNP Paribas here. I do not know him and his dad. What kind bonding techniques would you recommend when I contact this person? Thank you.

    1. I mean what would you recommend to position myself in the conversation and what to say?

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        What do you want to achieve?

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d recommend you to do some “background check” on that person before you contact him. I’d then contact him citing your connection and ask for an informational interview.

      1. Thank you Nicole

  27. Dear Brian,

    I’ve been browsing around your website for a few months, and i have some questions i’d like to ask you.

    Having taken an unusual career path to break into IB, I wish you could tell me your opinion about the opportunities offered to me.

    Currently in my 5th year of Medical Studies in Paris ( Top 1 Medical University in France ), I’d like to reoriente myself towards the Biotech, Healthcare or pharmaceutics specialized IB.

    I think I’ll finish my Medical Studies and apply to a Financiel MSc or an MBA.

    What English or American universities would be appropriate for me to apply to ?
    Will be able to me apply to an MBA after only 4 yeards as resident in the Medical Field ?
    What would the opportunities be for me in M&A, ECM or PE ?
    What kind of bank / boutique shoud I apply with this background ?
    When Should I apply, after a hopefully 3 ou 6 months internship ? As an Analyst ? As an Associate ?

    Would the carrer progression within the firm be faster having a PhD and a Msc or MBA ?

    What are the Banks / Boutique with the best Healthcare Teams ( USA & EMEA ) ?



    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Can’t help w the first two questions cause we don’t teach people to get into grad school

      Perhaps you should look at IB industries/IB firms/PE groups that focus on healthcare. I’m not quite sure how relevant our background is to other industry groups/ECM

      Not sure how the system is France works; I’d suggest you to apply for internships while in school to get your foot in the door

      Your career progression w/i the firm depends on your performance in the firm, not whether you have an MBA/PhD etc or not.

      Re banks w the best healthcare teams, I think readers who have access to Dealogic can answer your question – can’t pull the league table up on my end

  28. Is it worth doing an Executive MBA at a school like LBS (Dubai stream) if you want to get a job in Private Equity / Investment Banking.

    1. Maybe – usually they value traditional MBAs more but that’s starting to change, check w/ students there first.

  29. What would you think if I have 5 years of full time experience, with latest 2 years working in a well known data provider with above average modeling skills (using MS Excel and its own formulas), finished the CFA, working in the IB team (clients are Investment Bankers but still not “REAL” IB experience), and got referrals from my clients but still get blocked by the HR for an interview? Do I still need a MBA from a target university for an associate position?

    1. No, just go for a smaller bank or network more aggressively… go around HR, they are useless, go straight to bankers.

  30. hey man.. at what age you were able to get in?

  31. Ok. First off, great website and this is a great post. My situation is similar to the one discussed. I am pursuing my MAB at a non target school (GW) and hoping to break into IB. I am 27 and hope to complete the MBA in next two years. I completed my undegrad in 2005 (B.S. in Econ). I am currently doing finance at a Defense Firm. My question is, do I have a shot? Obviously Networking is key and there are alums who are/have in IB.

    1. Potentially yes but you have an uphill battle coming from a non-target school.

  32. Is there a “Polite” way to ask for referrals?
    I find it extremely difficult to get referrals, especially in Asian offices.
    Employers in China/Japan seems to be thinking
    I need asian offices cuz US office arent cutting us internationals much slack thanks to the TARP Foreign Hire Restrictions. Speaking of it, any tips for internationals?
    Please dont think we’re stealing your jobs :(
    We’ll use all we earn in US anyway! :)

    1. Tips on international applicants are coming soon. For politely asking for referrals, I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to, but if you’re contacting someone for the first time I would just ask at the end of the conversation “By the way, do you know of anyone else who would be a good match and would be willing to speak with me?”

      If you’re emailing them, I would probably only ask on the 2nd or 3rd contact – just say “I know you’re really busy, but if you know anyone else who has a similar background to me I’d appreciate it if you could put me in touch.”

  33. I am in a similar spot as the guy in your story, and I also made it into a boutique no name for investment banking. However, I really really want to do private equity at a upper middle fund or above. I would say around 1 billion minimum or more under management.

    Can I do this from my boutique or should I lateral first?

    1. $1 Billion+ is hard from a no-name boutique – better-known boutique or MM bank at the very least would help, so I would consider lateraling.

  34. If you take a job at a technology-focused boutique IB, are you more pigeon-holed than other industry groups? Is it harder to move to other boutiques? Can you still go into PE or just VC? Is it a good time to go into tech? I don’t really care about what industry I do, but I want to make sure it leaves options open.

    1. You generally get more specialized as you move up. PE/VC are possible, but for PE you are more likely to go to a tech PE fund, or within banking you’re more likely to go to a tech group. I think it’s a fine time to work in tech, but keep in mind that no matter what you do you get more specialized as you move up.

  35. I have always wondered how exactly to network your way into IB. Say you follow the guy’s advice and start contacting 2nd and 3rd year associates. Sounds good but the reality is that these people are so busy that if they don’t know you, your chances of receiving a positive reply are infinitely close to zero. I imagine that they can even get annoyed if you are too pushy. I guess your best shot would then be to connect with analysts and mention who recommended that you contact associates for more info etc. Analysts tend to be more responsive to people with no previous IB experience.

    What’s your opinion on that ?

    1. You should read the other networking articles and videos on this site.

      Some people are not helpful, but many of them are – having a shared background is very helpful and will boost your response rate, as it did for this reader (notice how everyone he contacted was an alum).

  36. how bad is a 3.5 for junior SA recruiting in an econ major? if i manage to get interviews ( i have boutique experience, lots of leadership & go to an Ivy) how much grilling should i expect for that

      1. nevermind, got rejected from every OCR elite boutique/consulting firm/BB so i guess interview grilling isnt my biggest concern. my experience (IB, live deal experience, head of a business that generates >$20k/month in revenue, etc) shouldn’t be an issue, and neither is my school. I’m guessing that GPA is a big red mark on my resume, even after networking with a person at nearly every one of these firms – besides get it up to 3.6 for FT am I basically screwed?

        1. 3.6 vs. 3.5 makes a marginal difference at best. You should probably have someone look over your resume, because my guess is that something relatively simple might have stopped you from getting interviews.

  37. is an internship at Blackstone M&A good enough for college freshman or should I aim for the private equity group; i go to target and have 3.7

    1. I’m not sure if this is a joke but either one is good.

  38. Really like these stories. Hope that more are coming.

    Just one question to ask. I’ve bought the module excellence with Excel and am about to start a seasonal internship with a bb in equity research. I understand that most of them covered in the course apply to research but are there any other skills I should acquaint myself with? (not limit to Excel) I heard that for research analysts, VBA is quite important. Is that true?


    1. I don’t think you need VBA, especially if this is just an internship. Maybe learn the basics if you really want, but aside from that just focus on the key accounting / valuation / modeling skills you’ll need for the research internship.

      1. Thanks!

        Another questions is that when I declined an offer from a regional boutique, they actually asked where I will be going which many people told me not to reveal. Will that be a big matter if I told them or should I just ignore the enquiry email?

        1. It doesn’t really matter – telling them where you’re going to be working is fine. I think it would actually be worse to ignore it should you ever want to go back there or contact them again.

  39. These articles are great. Keep them coming

  40. Recently I had several 1st rounds with different groups/offices (e.g TMT, M&A/SF/ NY…etc for the same bank. (The interviews were all in the career center) For the selection process, do they end up discussing candidates with another?

    1. Sometimes yes, sometimes no – depends on the bank. Different groups may do that but different regions are less likely to do so.

  41. is Master in Finance from the Imperial College a target school ? or shd i go for LSE ?

    1. I would go for LSE

  42. Though I haven’t had any IBD experience, through networking I may have a potential opportunity at a small PE shop. The person at the PE firm is asking for a work sample of any kind (excel, ppt, etc) to see what I have done before. Of course, as my luck would have it, when my computer crashed I lost all of my files from college and don’t have anything substantial to present. Do you recommend I explain the situation or try to put something together and send that in instead??

    1. Long time reader, first time poster, big fan of the site.

      Question – how do we know that these stories / case studies are true?

      1. You think I would publish fake stories after writing hundreds of articles on this site over 3 years and building up trust with thousands of readers?

        Beyond the fact that everything comes from interviews with readers (see here: there’s also the fact that I could never make up a story like this given all the details.

        I’m a bit disappointed with the response, though, so I probably won’t be doing as many of these as I had planned.

        1. A lot of prospective interviewees may be laid off…or maybe they may not know about the site yet.

        2. Avatar
          Positive Carry

          More of this kind of articles please. It shows real life cases and many of them overcome the prejudices one may have from reading a lot of articles and forums on WSO on what’s possible and what’s not.

          Seems to me that a lot of “kiss of death” & “point of no return”-rules may in fact be broken – and successful.

    2. Put something together and send that instead.

  43. I’ve heard much talk about the importance of using vacation time to take a break from the long hours of banking. As I join a full-time analyst program in the summer, I’m wondering how do you know when it is an appropriate time to take leave. I worry about not wanting to miss out on work to get ahead, while others are still contributing.

    1. Usually after your 1st year is standard for vacation time

  44. can i apply for intern when i am finished my undergrad but enroled in masters ?

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