by Brian DeChesare Comments (159)

How to Break Into Private Equity Right Out of Undergraduate with No Investment Banking or Private Equity Internships

How to Break Into Private Equity Right Out of Undergraduate with No Investment Banking or Private Equity Internships

NOTE: Before you get your hopes up from this story, realize that it was written in 2010 and describes events that took place in 2009-2010 (a LONG time ago). Today, this same type of move would be almost impossible because you now need a sequence of internships to win a role in investment banking or private equity.

“Last-minute” networking won’t work as well anymore. And “taking a trip to Europe” right before you start looking for a job is a terrible idea that would sink your chances of winning an offer.

You can still learn a few useful networking tactics from this story, but you should NOT assume that you can do the same thing in today’s recruiting environment.

If you’re under the age of 35, please read the message above closely – before you get distracted by your phone.

One common question I get is, “Should I start in private equity rather than doing 2-3 years of banking first? And if so, how exactly do I break into private equity or hedge funds right out of undergraduate?

The first question is trickier to answer, but we’ve covered the trade-offs in our coverage of investment banking vs private equity.

I have an easy answer for you on the second one: read this interview with a reader who broke into private equity right out of undergraduate, without any prior investment banking or private equity internships:


Q: Why don’t you start by walking us through your background and what you were up against when it came time for full-time recruiting?

A: Sure. I was from a “target school,” so I certainly had an advantage in that banks actually recruited there. However, I was also at a big disadvantage because:

  • My GPA was not spectacular and as a result most banks didn’t even look at me.
  • I had no investment banking or private equity summer internships.
  • My school had no Economics or Finance concentration, so on paper I didn’t look qualified.

I only got 1 summer internship first-round interview, and when it came time for full-time recruiting I applied to over 100 jobs and only got 2 first-round interviews – neither of which led anywhere.

Q: Wow. So what did you do during your junior year summer if you couldn’t find an investment banking internship?

A: I found an internship at a small VC firm, outside the US in another region of the world – I had some family and friends there, so effectively I got it through my own connections.

Q: Ok, that sounds pretty good. I mean, a VC internship is certainly better than nothing… did bankers just not care about it?

A: Pretty much. I couldn’t write “Investment Banking Summer Analyst” on my resume, so bankers didn’t take me seriously – and to make things even worse, it wasn’t even a brand-name firm.

I tried to spin it as best I could, but banks wanted people who had done banking before.

Q: So no internships and then no full-time offers… what was your next move?

A: Studying abroad in Europe for the next semester, of course!

I was out of the country for the next few months on a study-abroad program, after full-time recruiting was over – so I was set to graduate and come back to the US with nothing at all lined up.

Networking: Top-Down, Business Cards and… Business Cards?

Q: Ok, so I’m guessing that you had to do a lot of networking in this situation. Had you done much before you left for the study-abroad program?

A: I had been going to some informational interviews, and I went to a bunch of recruiting events at my school. I knew that I had to be aggressive with getting business cards and following up with people, so I collected around 40 cards and always wrote about the people I met in my cover letters.

But that didn’t work too well, since I only got 2 full-time interviews.

Q: Ok. So you went off to Europe while taking a break from recruiting.

How did you get back into the swing of things, and did you do any networking before you arrived back in the US?

A: I took some time off at the start of the year, and then in the winter I started ramping up my networking efforts once again.

I created an Excel file of anyone even remotely related to investment banking and started emailing them asking for advice. I also continued applying for jobs, but overall it was hard to get anyone on the phone when I was on the other side of the world.

Q: So you have your list of names in Excel, and you’re doing some networking while in Europe… or at least trying to. Where did you get these names from?

A: At first it was just friends and family – I started with those I knew best, and took it from there.

The response rate from friends and family was not spectacular, so when I came back to the US in the summer I started moving toward my alumni networking instead.

A lot of alumni were “nice,” but many of those contacts didn’t go anywhere either, so I continued using both sources throughout the process.

Q: Let’s talk about that transition back to the US. What did you do after you arrived back from your trip to Europe?

A: I woke up every day and just sat on the computer and called people all day long. It was a mix of cold-calling, reaching out via email and going through referrals.

I was constantly going downtown (M&I Note: This was not downtown Manhattan – it was another, smaller financial center) and talking to people in equity research, investment banking, private wealth management, and institutional asset management – I was at the point where I didn’t care what I got in finance, as long as I could find something relevant.

Networking Tactics: Nuts & Bolts

Q: So you used a combination of informational interviews and cold-calls and to spread your net wide when reaching out to your contacts.

Now let’s talk about your tactics – what did you actually say to alumni when emailing them?

A: Most of the time I just asked for advice – “I’m so-and-so and graduated from ________ recently, I’m looking for a job in __________ now and wanted to get your advice on what I should be doing.”

When we met in-person, some people were very direct – they would just say, “OK, so what do you want me to do exactly?” whereas with others it was more of a relationship and they seemed interested in getting to know me.

Q: OK, so you asked them for advice and met with many of them in-person… what about follow-up? I get a lot of questions about how to follow-up and how often to do it. What was your approach?

A: I just emailed everyone after meeting or speaking with them the first time – but I didn’t stay in touch with every single person I met on an ongoing basis.

My approach was simple: if I needed to stay in touch with people, I did – otherwise I didn’t feel obligated to send anything.

Some people were more open than others, had more contacts to share, or had more advice for me… so I gravitated toward them and sent follow-up questions and requests when I had them.

When I finally landed my offer, I also emailed everyone responsible and thanked them for everything.

Q: You also mentioned cold-calling. Can you walk us through what you did there?

A: It was a devastating process, and I hit rock-bottom multiple times.

I focused my cold-calling efforts on Equity Research Analystssince they don’t get contacted as much as investment bankers do, cold-calling was more effective.

I created a list of around 50 research analysts in my city by looking online and searching for the appropriate industries, and just started calling the firms and asking to speak directly to the analysts.

If I called 50, I found that 45 would not pick up at all, 5 would agree to speak with me and then 1 would agree to meet in-person. One of them actually asked me to create a sample research report for him and deliver it for our meeting!

The odds are definitely against you when you’re cold-calling, and there’s not much you can do about it – aside from getting the basics right, it’s all about brute force.

Q: You mentioned speaking with the analysts themselves, but how did you actually get in touch with them? Most people have trouble getting past the gatekeepers when cold-calling.

A: If I didn’t have their direct contact information, I would call HR and ask to be put in touch with someone in equity research close to my age, or from my school.

This would probably not work as well in investment banking since more people apply each year – but it was effective for equity research, asset management, and private wealth management.

Whither Private Equity?

Q: So you were doing a ton of networking, thinking about all these different industries – and ultimately you won that offer in private equity.

But you haven’t mentioned private equity at all yet – how did it happen? Did you just wake up one morning with an offer letter under your pillow?

A: I wish. I had truly hit rock-bottom 2.5 months before getting the offer, and no longer felt like talking to anyone or doing any networking. But then I got lucky and suddenly all my efforts paid off.

The 200th person I contacted while networking – a commercial banker – had given me some advice and put me in touch with a few other people.

Then one night he went to dinner with another friend of his, a Director in the Private Equity group of an investment bank – and he mentioned my name to the Director and said I was a good guy.

I got the intro because I had done so much networking and met so many people that my contacts started doing the work for me.

Q: Wow. So you just got referred to a private equity interview like that – what was the process like? Were you competing against “normal” people as well?

A: Yup. The interview process took about 2 months, and the whole time I was competing against experienced bankers and equity research guys who wanted to move into PE as well.

Most of the interviews were behavioral, and by this point I had gotten really good at those. For a lot of questions I didn’t even have to think before responding – I had been through so many interviews and informational interviews that the process was just mechanical.

Q: Right, that’s definitely another advantage of networking. But I’m sure they had some concerns about you since you had no full-time work experience – what were the biggest obstacles you faced?

A: The whole time, they liked my personality but doubted whether or not I could do the work.

I was up against investment bankers and equity research associates, so they had a lot less to prove than I did.

But I continued to perform well, and eventually we got to a point where they had to make a decision and give an offer to one of the remaining candidates.

Q: So what did this final challenge consist of? Moving boulders uphill? Catching fish with your bare hands? Opening a gateway to a parallel universe?

A: It was much simpler: they wanted me to spend 3 hours writing a 1-page memo recommending either Coke or Pepsi for investment.

I didn’t get a “formal” case study with an LBO model and valuation, or anything like that – I did use some numbers in my analysis, but it was qualitative and more about coherently presenting the merits and risks of an investment.

I submitted it over the weekend, and found out about my offer on Monday.

Q: That’s amazing. So how did you beat all these experienced bankers for the job?

A: I found that enthusiasm and excitement were the most underrated factors.

A lot of the guys I was competing against were clearly burned out and not enthusiastic at all about getting another job in finance – and that’s where I beat them.

People like to obsess over technical skills and trivia about obscure tax laws, but when you start working you’ll forget all that and you’ll have to look it up anyway… and financial modeling is not rocket science, you can pick it up as you go along.

Q: So you went from sub-par grades, no summer internships, no full-time offers, and no longer even being a student to a full-time private equity offer. Anything you would have done differently?

A: I wasted time applying online early on. While it “feels” productive since you’re sending documents and clicking buttons, you’re being active rather than productive.

I should have done all the in-person networking I did in later months much sooner.

Having good grades and solid internships certainly helps, and if mine had been better I would have had an easier time – but networking is actually more important than either of those, because hardly anyone does it.

Students especially like to sit in their comfort zones, sit around applying online, and trying to get perfect grades when they should be out there pounding the pavement from day 1.

Q: Awesome, thanks for your time and good luck with your PE offer.

A: Sure thing, anytime.

NOTE: Before you get your hopes up from this story, realize that it was written in 2010 and describes events that took place in 2009-2010 (a LONG time ago). Today, this same type of move would be almost impossible because you now need a sequence of internships to win a role in investment banking or private equity.

“Last-minute” networking won’t work as well anymore. And “taking a trip to Europe” right before you start looking for a job is a terrible idea that would sink your chances of winning an offer.

You can still learn a few useful networking tactics from this story, but you should NOT assume that you can do the same thing in today’s recruiting environment.

If you’re under the age of 35, please read the message above closely – before you get distracted by your phone.

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
    Abhishek Bapat

    Hi Brian,

    I am currently working as a Senior Associate (Strategy) for a Start-up that is focused on Sustainable technologies (Focus on Renewable Energy such as Solar) in India. My role involves a bit of market research to building financial models for investment purposes. I have previous experience of working as an Investment banking analyst for 1.5 years in a boutique investment bank in India.

    I have done my MS in Mechanical Engineering and also passed CFA Level 2.

    The rationale behind doing a Strategy role was to gain a sector specific operational understanding.

    I would like to understand from you how would a mid-market PE fund (Renewable/Infra) based in EU/USA look at my back ground? (Please ignore the Visa requirements, etc I am a British citizen)


    1. It would be a tough sell because most PE firms want current bankers from name-brand banks (see our PE recruiting articles). You might be able to win an offer at a more operationally-focused firm or a newer firm that focuses on renewables and isn’t yet well-established. But most PE firms tend to undervalue strategy, consulting, and other qualitative roles, even though they’re arguable more relevant.

  2. Brian,

    I am heading into my senior year at a non target school. I am currently lagging in relevant internships and I want to go into IB. I was just offered a small unpaid PE internship for this upcoming fall semester. I feel like this would be a good resume booster but the work load does not seem too beneficial. My job is to research possible companies for the firm to acquire. Should I accept it anyways since I can put down I worked at a PE firm during the school year instead of doing nothing?


    1. Let me clarify a little. By research I mean spend a few hours a night just looking up firms in certain types of industries. I’m not doing any financial work or research.
      What do you think?

      1. The answer is still yes because all that matters is being able to write the word “Private Equity” on your resume. You can learn the skills on your own.

  3. Avatar

    Hey Brian,

    I am heading into FT recruiting in the fall and I know that there are very few finance positions. I am currently interning in my junior summer at a major PE firm (think BX, KKR, Apollo etc.) in a front office division (think PE, REPE) but in Asia. I’m at a major target US school (think HYPS) with a 3.9ish GPA but want to work in the US for full-time. What are the chances like? What divisions in finance DO recruit in the fall in the US, if any?

    1. It is tough to make this kind of move because most places want to recruit exclusively from the summer intern pool. If you want to move elsewhere, it’s better to target the large banks rather than PE firms (and I strongly recommend against starting out at the Analyst level in PE anyway). You’ll have to do a ton of networking at the last minute to pull this off, which is also tough if you’re in Asia. See:

  4. Hi Brian,

    Do you have the contact of this person? I too am trying to break into the finance industry and I have more questions for him about his networking strategies

    1. This interview was ancient (see the note at the top and bottom… 2010), so I don’t have working contact information anymore. I added the note because this interview is not representative of the current market environment in 2017 (it would be virtually impossible to do this today).

  5. Lol I appreciate the note you added to the beginning and end.

    1. Too many delusional comments lead to more cynical warnings…

  6. Just the article I was looking for, this site has been a huge help!

    I’m about to attempt something similar to this. I have two years as a business analyst in a well-known European tech startup, an MSc in Business from a target university, but no finance experience (though statement analysis, FCF and a lot of other finance-related stuff were covered in the MSc), and I’m aiming to break in to finance.

    I have a high-up contact in a big PE firm (family friend), but I’m not certain how to approach him about this, exactly. What should I be asking him for? Introductions within the firm (or other PE), who to talk to about getting an interview, or just general advice?

    He’s in a high enough position to have some sway, but I know from experience that that alone won’t cut it. Ideally I’d like to get as close as possible to interview through him, but I’m not sure of the limits of that.

    Any advice for how to leverage this contact?


    1. Please keep in mind that this story was from 2010. Today (2016), the same type of move would be nearly impossible (I added a note explaining why at the end of the article).

      You can still reach out directly and ask your contact for his advice for getting into the industry. If you have no prior finance experience, you don’t have a realistic chance at breaking in directly, nor is it a good idea to ask him directly about internships/jobs. It’s better to start by asking for advice and demonstrating that you’ve done a good amount of research on his firm first.

      1. Thanks for the reply!

        That’s a shame, so would that apply to IB as well, or just PE?

        I’ll reach out anyway and see what advice he can give me, or if he can point me in the right direction.


        1. It is tough to do either one without prior internships. The market has changed dramatically, and even *with* multiple prior internships, it can be incredibly tough to get in.

  7. As a new grad myself this is my favorite “breaking into the industry” article so far. Thank you so much for posting and thanks to the interviewee for sharing!

  8. I’m a college junior and I’m wondering if I should take an internship with a small PE firm? I don’t think I can turn it into a full time offer but should I still consider it? Does it look better having PE on my resume if I’m trying to get into IB? Thanks.

    1. Yes, it always helps for IB roles later on. Do a search for similar stories on this site.

  9. I’m a senior in a target school. Last Summer I interned in BB equity research but now i realise i want to go into pe. How should I position myself for ib and pe recruiting?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d focus on breaking into IB first. PE usually prefers people with IB experience. For PE recruiting, please read For IB recruiting, please read:

  10. Hi Brian,

    I am graduating high school this year and will be attending a target school for private equity and investment banking firms in the fall. I was wondering what you would recommend for an internship this summer. I know I do not need to start in finance yet, but I would like to start as soon as possible. I live in New York City and was wondering if you had any idea of what I should do this summer.

    Thank you,


  11. Hello,

    I have an upcoming interview for a middle-market private equity firm as a college undergraduate….I’m just curious as to what kind of questions may come up. Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d check out this article for more information:

  12. Hi,

    I managed to land a job as an analyst at a small PE fund fresh from graduate school, with no experience whatsoever. However, after going through close to a year in the position, I feel that i have stopped learning, as the company has not been performing very well and there hasn’t been much to do lately; I find myself sitting around doing nothing alot nowadays.

    My question is, should I be looking for another role? or wait another year to make the “2 year mark”? One problem might be that most jobs in good firms for a PE analyst role calls for 2 years of experience – usually in IB or consulting. Is this criteria usually more lenient if I came straight from a PE firm?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I may start looking now and prepare for your move in 2-years. Not necessarily. I believe you’ll still need to demonstrate solid modeling skills.

  13. Hello,

    What sort of tasks should I be asking for? I m currently interning at a boutique PE firm but I have just been doing grunt work. I would like to know what pertains to a PE internship.



    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It really depends on the firm to be honest. You may be able to get on some deals, do interesting valuation analyses. Other times you may be doing administrative / grunt work. When you first start, grunt work happens to most but it’s useful to have that experience on your resume

  14. Hi Brian,

    I’m interning with a middle market PE firm in Atlanta this summer. As it’s a smaller firm, their internship program is slightly less structured than others. While I’ve accepted the offer, the MD said that we would sit down and figure out my pay rate when I begin. He wants to give me the “market rate,” so I was wondering if you had any knowledge of the status quo for middle market PE internships.


  15. Avatar

    Hi Brian/Nicole
    After doing a back-office internship at Fidelity and a M&A internship at Lazard (both regional) in Europe, I now got an offer for an internship at a local private equity firm(1/2 billion AuM). My question is whether I have to try to get an internship at a bigger PE firm(both local and London) or would this be inpolite/impossible from non-target with low GPA? Time is not an issue. Ultimate goal is top regional PE.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If time is not an issue, then I’d take this internship and use the experience to move into a larger firm if that is your goal.

  16. I may have an opportunity to break into a small private equity firm in NYC right after undergraduate. Will it be easy to move into a larger PE firm like Blackstone or Carlye? Or should I stick to finding a job at a larger financial institution to make that move?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It would be best if you can work for a BB in their IBD but small PE firm works if you can gain responsibility and deal experience

  17. If you got an offer to get into a boutique PE firm right out of undergraduate, but the PE firm is very new and/or small, would this prevent you from getting into KKR, Blackstone or similar later on, or could you secure positions at much larger PE firms still?

    I know everything is technically possible, but is it rarely or typically feasible to start at boutiques and find yourself at one of the mammoths (if that happens to be your goal)?

    1. You could still end up there, it just takes longer and it gets harder to do the longer you stay at the small firm. I don’t think it’s common to move to the biggest funds (definitely less common than moving from a boutique bank to a bulge bracket bank), but it is plausible/possible.

  18. HI
    Do you need an MBA to move up the ladder in PE or no. I know in banking you don’t really need one to move up as long as you perform well. What about private equity?

    1. It depends on the firm – some care about it and some don’t. A lot of smaller places will not care as much.

  19. How is a private equity internship weighted in entry level Investment Banking interviews if you are from a non-target state school? Could it discount target school bias in hiring?


    1. It can help a lot, but still won’t offset the school completely.

  20. Yo,

    I’m a somewhat unique candidate from a rapidly improving nontarget (It IS a Top 10 program in my original discipline with the school as a whole being very well regarded in the Big 4/Hedge Fund world and rapidly rising in the rankings). I originally was planning on becoming a Foreign Service Officer but then decided at the end of my junior year that I didn’t want to get paid kibbles and bits for my unique skillset. Statwise I matriculated through a highly competitive dual degree ba/ma program with a 3.8 undergrad GPA in international econ, 3.93 major gpa, 3.75 MA GPA Econ/Finance/Statistics (Would be much higher if I didn’t get into a fiery battle over QE and neoliberalism with a well regarded “fair trader” economist-professor. Live and Learn). I’ve taken MBA level fin/actq, BIWS modeling fundamentals,can analyze big data w/ stata or sas,bloomberg proficiency and finished the 5 year program in 4 despite recurring health issues. I just turned 23, Strong differentiators in terms of language with fleunt Chinese (I’m white, not ABC), good albeit not perfect internships (Intl. F300 Biz development in HK, Shanghai based MM Buyside ER – I wasted my soph/junior summers going on the FSO path),loads of international living/study experience (particularly China) and professional customer service/P2P skills (6-7 year part time high end luxury industry job).I managed to parlay the latter into a Networking jackpot and have been in contact with around 5 MM/1 Neo-Mega fund PE founder types.

    They have all been really enthusiastic about my future, but I felt that it would be rude for me to inquire about a job without first developing a strong personal relationship with them. They know that I am very interested in PE, but I was still “going through the motions” the past 2 years finishing up my education. Do you think that I have a chance at getting an opportunity @ one of the MM firms now that I’ve used this same time period to develop a personal relationship with them? I’ve noticed that they have a habit of keeping me around when they want to talk about the global economy/M&A/industry trends while their spouses talk about their shopping sprees.

    Thanks in Advance!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, it is awesome that you’ve developed a personal relationship with them – I’d strengthen it and try your best to get an offer. It’s a great sign that they’re keeping you around to talk global economy!

  21. Hi,

    I’m going into my junior year of college with an interesting background. I’ve worked in a start-up company, wealth management, and this summer I’ve been working as a commodities merchant/trader.

    I’m extremely interested in private equity, and think I can competitively leverage my background to get around the so-called required I-banking prerequisite.

    How would you suggest I position myself for the all-important junior year internship? Is it too early to go to PE companies and try to use my background to my advantage?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It maybe best if you have had experience on the sell-side, though you can always go to PE companies and ask for internship opportunities. If that doesn’t work out, at least you’d have built a solid network and can then try again next year.

  22. Avatar
    Chris Mehrotra


    I wanted to thank you for all the articles you guys have published. It’s definitely helped me and also been great motivation to keep on trucking.

    This story was definitely inspirational because I feel like we were in a pretty similar boat. In retrospect, this wasn’t the smartest decision by any means but I got sponsored to play video games for a professional organization my junior year of college. I decided a month or so ago to leave the field and to begin a career in Financial Services.

    So, at this point I have 5 years of experience for a professional team, my Engineering degree from a very well known school, and a lot of books and case studies that I’ve studied recently. But on paper, there’s really no concrete experience.

    I’m really good at talking to people so I’m definitely pursuing the networking route adamantly. I was also considering trying to sneak my way into an internship that’s aimed towards current undergrads or getting an Administrative/Executive Assistant position at a Hedge Fund or PE firm. Do you have any suggestions/knowledge on people who’ve tried that and how it worked out for them?

    Thanks a lot for everything,


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for visiting our site! I think getting an internship is the best bet.

      Breaking in as an executive assistant is an interesting route – may work for you; you’ll have to demonstrate your interest in the markets and your skills. I know one girl who broke into IB (Equity Syndicate) as an executive assistant. However, a lot of equity syndicate work is administrative work so what she did was a good transition to that role.

      1. Alrighty. Thanks for the response Nicole

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole


  23. Hi,

    your posts has been really enlightening. I’m sort of like in the same situation, graduating next year with a sort of sub par GPA, and with little networks. Do you have any suggestions on what i can do to improve my situation?

  24. Hello I hope you are doing well,

    I had a similar question to Logan above. Is it possible to put me in touch with this individual who broke in?

    I understand he highly values his anonymity and if you could let him know that I will not disclose anything. Also let him know that I would like to reach out because I have had a tough time breaking into Investment Banking, much less Private Equity, and am in a very similar situation to him. So his advice at this point in my career would be quite useful.

  25. Ok,thanks.So do i stand a chance to get into IB then?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Slim chance but you can always try because I may be wrong!

  26. Hi
    I am doing articles with a big 4 firm and contemplating on gaining corporate finance experience within the training period before i become a CA. I also intend on doing the CFA afterwards…my goal is to ultimately end up in Private Equity. Is it possible after my articles, well i know nothing is impossible, but do i stand a good chance given the small recruitments at PE firms and the competition.

    Please advice…

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It can be challenging if you don’t have IB experience but you can always try!

  27. Hi,

    I graduated last May from a target school. I didn’t do well in school (just under 3.0 GPA), and didn’t have any IB/PE internships (though I had 2 in finance: wealth management and research). I did a temp position at a Fortune 500 company’s accounting dept. for 7 months as soon as I graduated. Now I’m interning at a middle market PE firm with a good name. I want to break into IB/PE for full-time after the 3 month internship but not sure which one I should pursue more actively. I know PE is more for people who have banking experience but would prefer to jump right into PE regardless. Would I be wasting my time, and instead should just leverage my PE internship into IB? Also, considering options in Asia, would I have a hard time if I only speak Mandarin but don’t read or write it?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Can you try to get a full time job from the MM PE firm you are interning at? If you have solid work experience where you are at now, I think it will be easier for you to jump into PE (FT role). Most PE firms only take people w 2 years of IB experience (think star analysts), so you having PE experience already is quite good. I don’t think your GPA matters that much now that you’re interning at the PE firm already. There is a risk that if you want to move firms or can’t get a FT offer where you are at, people will want to see 2 years of IB experience

      PE in China – Tough if you only speak Mandarin unless you know the Chinese culture well and can interact with Chinese clients. At the junior level, I think some firms would prefer someone w reading/writing skills though you can compensate for that it other areas.. You know what? I think you might want to check out our coaching service – I think you’d benefit from it. :)

      Good luck!

  28. Hi

    If someone has venture capital, pre b-school then is it common to top pvt equity firms like kkr,blackstone,etc.

    1. sorry for the mistake…i meant that if someone has VC experience pre bschool..then is it common to move to top pvt equity funds post b school

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        From what I’ve gathered, I don’t think it is too common. Skill sets are slightly different

        Why don’t you want to stay in VC? I think that is a question PE guys would ask

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Depends on what you did at the VC and how you pitch your story & present yourself. I think having VC on your resume might help (if you know how to spin it & have the valuation experience), though having PE on your resume is better.

      1. Thanks.

        1. Isn’t it that PE guys make comparatively more money than VCs..then why would a PE guy aspire to move to VC…

          1. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            I think it depends on your performance and your skills.

  29. Hi,

    I am a graduate student studying engineering management at Dartmouth. I have an engineering background from a university in Hong Kong. It seems very hard to break into investment banking these days, and even harder for PE and VC firms. I have applied for tens of internships and got rejected by all of them. I have no relevant internship experiences. My GPA is moderate. Do you have any suggestions how I can secure a summer internship?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Sorry to hear re. your rejections. Keep your chin up! Network extensively and land yourself an internship. Join an investment club at Dartmouth.

    I’d love to break into Equity Research. I can craft a pretty good story that ties my college internships (I had 5!), activities, interests, and current job (I graduated in May) into Equity Research, and am fairly certain that given an interview I can “sell myself” into a job. The problem, obviously, is getting that interview in the first place.

    I’ve been reading analyst reports and some of them I’ve found truly fascinating. Would it be too forwards of me to email the analysts directly and ask for advice? Would it be a better idea to call them? I saw above that ER doesn’t get as many out-of-the-blue calls as i-banking.

    Thanks! Great site.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No. Not too forward. However, do present yourself well and keep things brief and succinct when you email the analysts. Email them first. I wouldn’t suggest calling them first in this instance if you just want to build a relationship w them to better understand what they do. If they don’t respond to your email, I’d then follow-up with a brief phone call.

      1. Great, thanks! Again, superb site. WSO is barbaric.

      2. FYI already received a few promising responses. Now to turn a cold-email into a warm discussion.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Good luck!

  31. Wow, this is a great story. Thanks for your tips! I have a similar situation (not as bad, actually) but I possess similar determination, diligence, and salesmanship. I hope that once I succeed, I can submit my story here as well.

  32. Hey great article! Thanks for the help.
    Also, when this PE guy mentionned to get offline and to actually meet people in person, what does he recommend?
    I live in a city that has approx. 8-10 IBs so it really isn’t a big city. I found one CFA event when I can potentially network and I’ve driven myself nuts but it’s all I can find. Is it recommended to actually show up to these places in person? (i doubt it!)
    Do you have any suggestions to meeting these people, whether informally or formally.
    I am no longer a student and I have just moved to this city so my network here is pretty small.
    Any thoughts?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes show up at these events to network. However, you should go to events tailored to PE guys. I think CFA is more tailored towards people on the buyside/research. I’m not from your hometown so I don’t know of the events your community offer but go to the events/places financiers frequent

    2. Yeah, CFA events are filled with people like me and not PE people.

      1. So do you guys know where I can find these networking events for IB?

        Also, i’ve started cold calling. If I get a hold of the MD and send them my resume but they refer me to the recruiters, is there a way to get their attention as opposed to simply being redirected back to the recruiters?
        I know MDs have enough power to hire analysts so I’d rather get them to do so directly. I feel like recruiters are a dead-end.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Depends on which city you are in. Senior bankers usually congregate at certain bars/members-only club/places; perhaps you can check out those places. Again these places depends on which city you are based in. I can only offer you suggestions in HK.

          Yes, make a case of why you want IB bad, and what you can do for them:

          The above article outlines the gist of what you shd show when you get a hold of MDs

  33. Hey Brian,

    I am a first year commerce student at a non-target school and my goal is to end up in investment banking in around 4-8 years. Consequently, I have minimal finance background besides all the research I have been doing. Right now, I am trying to network my way in into a summer internship for next year in PE, hedge funds, VC, equity research…
    I am aware it is a little early as full-time recruiting season has not begun, but I want some contacts to call when it occurs. How should my cold calls sound like and how should my emails look like to best position myself for an internship? Although you have that article on what one does as a summer intern student, I can’t find an article on M&A to actually get the internship.
    Lastly, I have read all about how bankers have to like your personality. What are the generic kind of personalities that bankers seem to like besides having enthusiasm?

    Kind regards,


  34. Avatar

    Hi M&I,

    this is a great article about persistence.

    I graduated 4 years ago, returned to my home country for 2 years of military service. Then I spent 1-2 years running my internet start-up, which didn’t work out quite well. I am now planning to break into finance.

    I was from a target school but had only one S&T internship at a boutique bank. Have sent out feelers to people in the industry, but most banks seem to be only keen on hiring fresh graduates. Also it is now summer and most of these entry level positions have already been filled up.

    In view of such timing and my situation, what would be your advice for trying to break into the industry? Gun for entry level analyst positions? Boutiques? Or niche PE shops?

    1. Your only chance is at boutiques that still happen to be hiring people… otherwise it’s off-cycle if you apply in June and nearly impossible at large banks if you graduated 4 years ago.

  35. Avatar

    here’s my story:
    graduated from Oxbridge in 2010, an Ivy two years ago where my grades were “eh” for banking standards (had a lot of stuff going on, ability wasnt the problem). no ibanking internships. i have an informational interview with a partner at a large cap PE firm in the united kingdom (referred by an alum). do i have any chance of leveraging this into an interview for an pre-mba analyst position? my future plans are mba and grad school (PhD or MD)…

    1. Sure, you just have to play it the right away… if you impress him and sound like you know what you’re talking about it could easily lead to real interviews.

  36. The article is very inspiring. Back in the fall, I applied to BBs through referral, but it didn’t go anywhere since I’m at a non-target and spots were filled pretty early on. I also emailed some boutiques, some of which only recruit experienced analysts. I didn’t let the leads die, and actually met them when I was in the city though. I’m still searching, so just wondering how to reach out again to these contacts at BBs & boutiques and see if they know any place that is looking for analysts. I find this the most awkward of all. Thanks in advance!

    1. Just contact them again and say directly what you’re looking for – maybe give an update on yourself if you can say something positive as well.

  37. Thanks M&I. Just another quick question. I understand that in Europe the “GSs” in the PE industry are probably Blackstone and KKR. How is it there in the USA? How would you rank Carlyle in terms of “prestige” in the PE field? Thanks.

    1. I don’t rank anything but Carlyle is in the same category

  38. Hi:

    I graduated 6 months ago. I have been trying to get a HF job but it’s impossible. I rejected last year an M&A Morgan Stanley offer to try to break into HF from year 1, and have been networking, applying online where possible, emailing, cold calling, but it is impossible. The HF industry is secretive, no websites, no graduate programmes, nobody knows what each HF does…

    So I have applied – just in case – for graduate programmes at PEs and M&A at BBs next year, because that’s the right place for graduates apparently (not HFs :-((( ). Right now I have an exploding analyst offer from GS Europe M&A (most likely TMT but not sure yet, will start to work post summer 2011) and an offer from Carlyle, regional European office, buyout analyst or real estate buyout analyst (not sure yet), starting to work asap.

    What would you do? I am thinking seriously of going to GS, making less money, getting a few years of a good brand on my CV, then trying to apply to HFs again (maybe recruiters will hunt me in a few years, is that the way they hire at HFs?). I think that going to PE Carlyle directly (although it pays better than GS) would mean specialising more than at GS which in turn means less chances to go to HF industry someday in the future. Or would you go to buyside (Carlyle)?

    Any opinion will be apreciated. Thanks.

    Abdul, Casablanca.

    1. PS: Do you think that Carlyle is a good brand and would help on my CV as much as GS?

      1. It helps but overall GS is better-known worldwide (even normal people know the name, whereas they do not know Carlyle)

    2. I would do GS for the reasons you stated

      1. I finally took Carlyle. Better life + more money in the short term. I am completely sure that I want to do HF stuff, but HFs have no websites and no grad programs, so I don’t know how do they hire juniors (do they?). Buyout specialisation has nothing to do with the kind of HFs I am interested in, so at Carlyle I won’t be accumulating any professional goodwill. Maybe I should not start with Carlyle and start figuring out how to get a proper HF job. Regards.

  39. Brian,

    This is somewhat offtopic – but when is it more effective to cold-email vs. cold-call firms? I know of a PE firm that’s pretty top heavy (particularly in a region of interest), so I could see a possible spot for an analyst/associate. I’ve got a decent resume that’s relevant (but less traditional compared to the 2-3yr IB analyst). Would it make sense then to send a cold-email with a resume than to potentially call and have them just say ‘no, there’s no opportunities’? At the very least, I’d like to make a contact/get advice, even if there’s no opps at the moment.



    1. I would do both. Honestly I think calls are almost always more effective than email, but if you want to email your resume go ahead… and then follow-up with a call.

      1. Thanks Brian. I also forgot to ask, if let’s say there’s a couple guys to choose from to cold-email and it gets ignored by the one I choose to talk/reach out to. Is it then weird for me to reach out to his other colleagues to get a response? Emails/calls may get ignored because they have a million things to do besides contact me… but would they talk between themselves and say ‘this person isn’t taking the hint we’re too busy’ or they won’t think twice about this?

        1. No, just reach out anyway… don’t go crazy e.g. contact 30 people there but talking to a few is fine.

  40. hi,

    I was it harder for girls to get into IB? The IB field seems to be dominated by men, are companies reluctant to hire girls when both candidate share similar background?

    1. Fewer females are interested… girls actually have a higher chance of getting in because male bankers often prefer to hire female analysts/associates.

      1. Really?! Why is that, would you be so kind to explain this for me. Thanks again~

        1. Because bankers see so many other males each day that sometimes they just want variety/diversity in the office and will say yes to females even if they’re not as well-qualified.

  41. Hi there, Great Article!

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. I am actually down here in Australia. But after completing only one year of uni, I applied for summer internship at small private investment firm (mix of VC & PE).

    Having finished my exams, I started the usual online email blitz to get any job. Then a opportunity on our uni’s website appeared for this firm, and I sent my details through, but I called up the company many times until I got to speak to the decision maker. He hadn’t looked at the Resumes yet (typical), but while on the phone asked me to elaborate about myself, and offered me an interview without looking at my Resume.

    I landed the summer internship and got offered a part-time job while I started by second-year.

    Talking to people is essential, not just clicking buttons!

      1. Hi M&I,

        I find this post particularly interesting because I find myself in a similar situation. I’m from a non-target school (UC San Diego) with an OK GPA (3.75) and I have held two seperate internship possitions in Private Wealth Management (UBS & Amerirprise).

        I have been trying to expand my field of experience into either PE or IB, and recently I filled out an application at PE firm in San Diego that posted on my school’s recruitment website. I feel that my resume is competitive, but would like to gain an edge and stand out.

        If I were to call in and request to speak with a point of contact that is in charge of the recruitment process, what would be an appropriate way to express my interest in the possition?

        This seems somewhat obvious, but to call and simply say that I want to express my continued interest in the possition doesn’t seem entirely appropriate.

        Any suggestions?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes just tell them you submitted your resume and express your interest in the position.

  42. Hi

    Im pretty much in the same boat as you were, no internships, no work experience in any banking/finance field. but im in my last semester in bachelor double majoring in Finance and Economics. I am planning to start my postgraduate in finance as soon as i finish, and also thinking of doing a CFA at the same time.

    I really loved this article, because it gave me some hope of making it, even if i dont have the best grades or the impressive internships in my CV.

    Im just wondering, i live in a small town and there is only around 30-50 financial firms around, so i dont get much choice or chances, but my question is should i email/call them, or should i just kind of show up to their office and talk to them there. all im looking for is work experience even if its unpaid. what do you think, and if i do, then how or what should i say when i do go?

    Thank you so much for your time


    1. I would not show up in-person – the phone is your best bet for an initial introduction. You can review the article on unpaid internships / jobs for some guidance:

  43. Hi M&I,

    Thanks for the great post… just a question, what is Boston College considered as – target/semi-target/non-target?


    1. I don’t know it very well but I would say semi-target or non-target – not sure offhand how many banks recruit there / what positions they recruit for.

      1. Sorry, I should have added this in the previous post:

        I have seen UBS, Barcap, and Citi do on campus interviews for IBD. I know a student who got an offer from Morgan Stanley and Moelis, but I am unsure if those were from on campus recruiting. I don’t think Goldman holds interviews here although they do visit every now and then. If they do accept students, its only into S&T, never IBD.

        Would that classify BC as a semi-target? Thanks!

        1. It sounds like at least a semi-target if those banks recruit there

  44. Avatar
    PPE, Brasenose

    Hello Brian,

    I recently submitted several speculative applications to Mid-Cap Private Equity firms in London for an unpaid internship straight out of Undergraduate School (PPE at Brasenose College, Oxford).

    Just as I was about to hit the phones and follow up, a Partner at one of the firms has emailed me this morning explaining that he would ‘be more than happy to have a chat over a coffee and give me an outline of the PE market’.

    Now, to me, this sounds like an informal offer of help, a lifeline if you will!

    I fully intend to mold this chat into an interview and will react accordingly, but would you have any advice on how to effectively do this? I fear that I may run the risk of appearing to take advantage of his kind gesture?

    1. I would just chat with him for a few minutes, show that you know something about the market, and maybe at the end you can ask for referrals or if he can introduce you to anyone else you should speak with.

      If you don’t want to be too forward, you can ask about interviewing at his firm or about positions there later on when you follow-up via phone or email.

  45. Brian,

    Just curious… when did the interviewee get his job? Was it quite recent (1-2 mos ago?) I’m just wondering if lateral hires are still happening right now. (it sounds like an analyst/associate position that was also open to junior bankers).

    1. Q3 2009 – not sure whether it’s still going on right now, usually lateral hires open up around the middle of the year as people leave

  46. Brian, Should I quit my job and dedicate all my time to nail down potential internships? Do you think it ‘s close to the end of the battle?
    Or I should wait more signals to leverage my decision? Thank you

    1. I would not quit your full-time job without something else lined up. You ca follow-up with your MD if you haven’t heard back in a few days. They will either keep emailing you or set up a time to speak on the phone

  47. Hi Brain,
    Should I follow up the MD in the form of email. Or should I wait here till next week? What they will get back to me based on your guess.
    A informal phone interview? Should I prepare anything?

    a little bit paranoid here…

  48. I want to use a PE firm internship to secure my future IB job, during my current MBA study.

    But If the MD in PE firm asks me whether I am serious considering to land an opportunity in this PE firm upon my graduation?

    What should I say?

    1. Just say yes you’re serious… you don’t want to seem uncommitted

      1. But what if the PE MD is introduced by one of my important clients. I just don’t want to jeopardize all the relationships when I eat my words.

        1. Well, you certainly can’t say, “Yes I want this internship but no I’m not serious and don’t want to actually be here long-term.” So I would pick one and decide what’s more important, your relationship or this internship

  49. Avatar

    Hi Brian. This is a student-level question.

    How math-genius does one need to be, in order to work in an investment bank?

    Some say all you need to know is how to do the basic 4 arithmetics and excel will take care of the rest.

    Others say you need to be an Olympiad winner.

    I’m suspect it depends on which department one sets step into but would like some enlightening.

    How math savvy must one be to work in IB, S&T or AM?

    1. None. 0. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. Only exception is if you’re a quant at a very technical hedge fund. For IB, S&T, and AM the math is mostly trivial… you just need to be quick with numbers and thinking on your feet, at least with S&T.

  50. Where does Jefferies stand in your eyes? It’s been doing well this year

    1. I don’t really comment on specific banks but they have been rising due to the acquisition of that healthcare team from UBS

  51. Im finishing up my junior year at a non-target university and I have a 3.8 cumulative gpa (Finance). Ive got an internship at the Central Finance office with the govt but its not i-banking related. There are no investment banks in my area and I cannot afford to spend the summer in a state that has one. Should I still be cold calling this summer and what types of things should I be asking for? Just try to get to know people? Or should I wait until Im a little closer to graduation and can move?

    Any advice is appreciated on what I should spend my time this summer doing apart from my current internship.

    1. You should still do some networking this summer… find alumni or go through friends and call them, ask about their careers, and leave a good impression on them, then follow-up aggressively for full-time recruiting.

  52. btw, I am a sophomore looking for summer internships…

  53. My father owns a small real estate company and I have been working there for about 2 years now. In my cover letter and cold-colds, I want to address the experience I have gained and the feedback I have received from there. In the cover letter and/or in a even a cold-call should I state that it is my father’s company? I was planning on not mentioning that it was indeed my father’s company unless they were to ask for a reference or ask a question that would directly prompt me to answer that it was, but I don’t want to get dinged for not mentioning it in the first place.


    1. Don’t say it’s your father’s company, that makes it sound like nepotism even if it isn’t.

  54. Basically, I know the interview should be total verbally .But, is this an acceptable way that I use some diagrams or pictures to aid my communication ,with the aim of impressing recruiters?

    1. No, this is a really bad idea unless it’s something directly related to finance such as a detailed financial model you created for something.

  55. I was reading through your IB Q&A guides and was wondering if a interviewer asks me (a prospective analyst) what my career plans are or if I am planning on jumping into PE after IB, what should I say? Honestly, I am looking to jump into PE after a 2 years in ib but should I say that? I don’t really want to say I don’t know or I am not certain.

    Thanks! Your guides are a great help!

    1. A simialr question bother me as well:
      What if you interned at a PE a year ago and interview at IB right now?
      How do you prove you won’t go to PE after 2 year service at IB?

      1. Just give evidence of you honoring similar commitments in the past

    2. Don’t say PE specifically… just say you want to do something in finance, but you’re not sure yet whether it will be on the investing or advising side. Don’t make it sound like you’re certain you’ll do 2 years and then jump to PE.

  56. Hi Brain,
    I am currently looking for a pre-MBA internship right before entering the B-School this Sep.
    But some insiders told me banking would not take so-called pre-MBA internship seriously , they only focus on the on-campus recruiting events to get student in.
    I am really want to do a pre-MBA with the attempt to better secure my real internship opportunities once I get in B-School at Sep.

    Is there any way to attract firm’s attention given the condition that the recruiter was not willing to help you for pre-MBA internships ?
    Cold call MD?

    1. Sorry but I don’t understand your question – cold-calling can certainly work, and you can’t rely on recruiters for those types of pre-MBA internships.

      1. Can an MD make a hire decision alone just for Pre-MBA?

  57. This article does a good job of describing the drag of networking. I really enjoy in person communication, and find it very easy to talk with people, but I tend to find it hard to make the turn in conversation and actually ask someone, “What job can you create for me?”. I’m currently a sophomore from a highly ranked business school, but banks do not recruit here. I don’t have any finance related work experience, so I can really relate to the struggle of getting legitimate attention this article references.

    All in all:
    1.) Enjoyed the article/ inspired by it.
    2.) What can I say to the professionals I network with other than, “I’m this, this, and that, what advice can you offer me?” that will more directly imply that I’m looking for employment from them?
    3.) Lastly, would you please speak to this “reader who broke into PE”, and consider getting me in touch with him somehow!!! THANK YOU

    1. I would just ask them at the end of the conversation, “By the way, how could I best position myself to interview at your firm?” and be very direct with it. Might seem frightening at first but it gets easy after time.

      I will ask this reader but I have to warn you that he’s very protective of his anonymity because he’s now working at a large firm – the only way I’ve been able to even do these interviews is under the condition of anonymity, so I’ll ask but no guarantees.

      1. Appreciate it. Tell him a straight shooter.

  58. Wholeheartedly agree with the article. In networking, all it takes is that one “grand slam” to give you the all-important chance. I had a very similar experience last year where I sent one cold email to a private equity firm over the summer and that led to a string of informational and formal interviews with 15 of their associates and VPs/MDs. At the time, I didn’t even have any relevant experience (only tech consulting and IT jobs) nor a major in econ/finance so that was definitely my lucky break. Now I have a summer offer lined up from them as the only undergrad summer analyst at the shop!

    1. No way, it must have been the contents of that 1 cold email!

      (Kidding… the above comment shows how persistence matters more than specifically what you say)

      1. Actually, I agree. The cold email that I sent was just a short, almost-generic, inquiry about internships, ie. whether they take in undergrad interns, etc. because i’m interested in the industry and their geography. Didn’t even attach a resume/fancy cover letter (they asked for it after they decide to give me an interview), just a couple of sentences expressing my intent to learn more about the company and whether they are hiring. It just happened that HR was kind enough to forward it to one of the VPs and arranged an informational interview for me because I was in town. Turns out they liked the initiative that I showed. All it took was 5 min tops, but way too many people don’t do it because they are somehow afraid to ask people for anything.

  59. I’m trying to decide the group at the boutique I will be starting at. They are known for their presence in the communication and media industry, most recent work with wireless tower companies. I was wondering if it is a good idea to join this group, even though the industry is struggling.

    1. If they’re known for their work in a specific industry, it’s still a good idea to join… struggling industries can actually be interesting because deal types are different.

  60. Avatar
    Positive Carry

    Loving your Q&A-sessions, and hence, love you.

    1. I’ll take that as a compliment…

  61. Given my 3.0 GPA, non-target school UC San Diego, 2 side jobs with about 20 hours of working per week, no real finance experience, I am strictly going after 1 or 2 person show shops.

    I cold-call them and tell who I am, how I found them on LinkedIn, ask if there is any possible unpaid summer internship.

    Most of time, this yields an end product of an email with my resume and cover letter.

    Couple days later, I call to follow, and this leads to possible scheduling of a phone interview.

    Again I email and ask for a possible time.

    Most of time, never get anything back…

    Any suggestions? Also, should I be very upfront and talk only about job opportunities? I feel like I am giving wrong messages to people from time to time, but at same time, if I go around, I feel like I am just talking about general ib industry and going nowhere.

    I was thinking that one way to boost my chance is to do some research and write a sample report, and elaborate on this.

    1. Honestly cold-calling is 99% about stupid persistence. You have to keep calling the same place over and over for months to make an impact and get them to take you seriously.

      I would still directly ask for jobs – otherwise you’re not sending the right signals. You could write a sample report, but make sure it’s actually good (run it by friends and such).

      Other than that, a better GPA and school name would help but there’s not much you can do about those now – so I would go for the report and be persistent with calling people every few days until you get an answer (see all the other networking case studies on this site).

      1. Sorry for an off-topic question, but are you planning on writing a 2010 analyst bonuses prediction? If so, when can we expect one?


        1. Yes, probably at the end of April.

        2. Did you do a post on confirmed ’09 bonuses (I know you did a prediction)? I’ve heard some numbers from friends in the industry, but just checking whether you put numbers up on M&I. Also, I’ve noticed you do bonus posts based on the calendar year – don’t Analysts’ “years” normally go July to July, i.e. when they start full-time through 12 months later?


          There is no clear answer on the second question, as no one has ever been able to confirm how bonuses are actually calculated.

        4. Ah ok. Guess I missed it – isn’t in the core content.

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