by Brian DeChesare Comments (154)

Unknown State School with No Finance Background to Investment Banking: How to Make the Leap

Unknown State School with No Finance Background to Investment Banking: How to Make the Leap

Is this site dedicated to Ivy League graduates with perfect grades?

No! Of course not.

At least, I hope not.

We do get plenty of readers from “elite universities,” but many readers have also broken into the finance industry from unknown schools – often with lower GPAs and less-impressive work experience.

Today’s story is in the second category: A reader at an unknown state school who used aggressive cold-calling and cold-emailing tactics to win an offer at a boutique investment bank:

Origin Story: From Accounting to Merchant Banking to Rescinded Offers to Full-Time Offers

Q: Can you walk us through your story?

A: I became interested in finance my freshman year, but I had no background in the industry and no relevant internships.

I was at an unknown state school with no on-campus recruiting, and hardly anyone went into investment banking.

My first step was getting an accounting internship after my freshman year – but I told the MDs there that I was actually interested in investment banking, and they gave me referrals to local boutiques and merchant banks in the area.

I saw a few ads for merchant banks on my school’s website, but rather than applying online, I called them directly and told them I was interested.

I made it into a 3-step process:

  1. Saturday – I spent most of the day researching boutique and local firms online, including a review of their transactions.
  2. Monday/Tuesday – I cold called each bank to ask about positions and indicate my interest. Then, if I actually connected with a real person, I submitted my resume.
  3. Tuesday/Wednesday – I called back the next day to follow up and make sure they had received it.

I aimed to email at least five banks per day.

I kept calling until I received a response, and sometimes it took many, many tries to get through.

Eventually, I landed an offer at a local bank in the summer following my junior year.

I went through full-time recruiting after that, won an offer at a well-known boutique, had it rescinded because of “economic conditions,” and eventually won another full-time offer.

Q: Wow, that sounds like quite the journey.

Coming from that kind of background, you must have faced many “objections” in your recruiting efforts.

Why did bankers say “No,” and how did you overcome these negative responses?

A: There were three main “objections”:

  1. “You’re from a no-name school – why should I hire you over the guy from Princeton or Wharton?”
  2. “You have a pretty good (3.8) GPA – but what does that mean coming from your school? That’s equivalent to a 2.0 at an Ivy League school, right?”
  3. “Why didn’t you go to a better school? You seem like a smart guy, and I’m sure you could have at least gotten into a better-known state school.”

To overcome objection #1, I pointed out that it’s the person who does the work – not the school.

There are plenty of people from top schools who are privileged and unmotivated, but I was hungry to get in – and they could tell.

To answer questions about my GPA, I pointed out that I was also working 30 hours per week and paying for rent and my tuition – so I was working harder than many other students and still earning good grades.

For objection #3, I said that I couldn’t afford a “good school.”

I didn’t come from a privileged background and I had to pay for my education by myself, so I went to the best place I could, given my budget constraints.

Q: OK, but how well did that story resonate with everyone?

Some people in finance are not receptive if you don’t come from a wealthy background.

A: Most people accepted the story.

I did run into a few people with Ivy League undergrad or MBA backgrounds who couldn’t understand the concept of poor or middle-class family, but most people “got it.”

Q: You must have found a high percentage of “nice” bankers; that’s amazing.

How did you approach firms differently, given your background?

A: I was a lot more persistent, for one thing.

I never stopped at just speaking to HR or to an administrative person – I’d always try to speak with at least an Associate or VP, and if they didn’t call me back, I would call back two days later to get someone else on the phone.

I made sure every phone call resulted in either:

  1. Speaking with a real person; or
  2. Getting a real banker’s name and email address.

Q: What was your response rate when you were contacting these firms?

A: It started out at close to 0%, which was odd because my cold-calling skills were fairly solid.

I thought the problem might be my resume, so I went through your resume editing service, and my response rate improved significantly.

By the end, I was getting responses from around 50-75% of banks.

Thanks!

Q: No problem; I can’t take all the credit for that one, though.

How did you find the contact information for bankers in the first place?

When you cold call firms, sometimes they’re reluctant to give you anyone’s contact information or put you in touch with bankers.

A: If I couldn’t find it on the website, I called the secretary or assistant to ask about it and said, “Who can I speak to regarding recruiting / employment here?”

Sometimes they would transfer me, and sometimes they wouldn’t.

If I got transferred to voicemail, I would immediately hang up, call back, say I got disconnected, and then ask for the person’s real contact information.

The gatekeeper was more likely to give me the first and last name of the person in charge of recruiting on my second try.

Since I said, “I got disconnected,” they assumed it was a problem on their end.

I also did this to figure out the company’s email format.

To make it seem like an innocuous request, I asked for the secretary’s email address first.

I didn’t care about his/her address, but I used it to determine the email format of the company (e.g., firstname.lastname@company.com or firstname_lastname@company.com).

I then used that format with the first and last name that the secretary had just given me, and I emailed people directly like that.

I also got a few referrals from the alumni database. Hardly anyone was in IB, but a few alumni over the decades had entered the industry.

In those cases, I emailed the alumni first and pointed out where I found them.

Sometimes I also did simple Google searches – “@ubs.com,” for example, would give me contact information for anyone who put their address online.

Finally, I looked through old job postings on Doostang and Monster.com, and I wrote down names of firms I wasn’t familiar with.

On Doostang, I looked through users’ profiles to find firm names as well – this approach gave me names that weren’t listed in any boutique database online.

NOTE: Today, LinkedIn is far more effective for finding firm names and individual bankers at firms. This reader did not use it because this story took place before LinkedIn was as widely used as it is today.

You will not get great response rates if you contact people through LinkedIn – email is always better – but it is a great place to find people.

Q: OK, so you found the contact information like that, and then called and emailed everyone.

Did you do anything to make yourself stand out or get their attention more effectively?

A: In my initial emails, I made myself sound more experienced than I actually was.

I said that I had been in the market before, so it seemed like I wasn’t just an undergrad looking to break in.

I always wrote something like:

“I’ve worked at ABC and XYZ firms before in DEF industry, and I’m interested in learning more about opportunities at your firm.”

I didn’t want to sound like too much of a student, and I wanted to avoid listing my school’s name anywhere since I knew it would count against me.

Q: How did you follow up with these local/smaller firms ?

A: After I emailed a firm with my resume, I waited two days to follow up with a phone call.

Then I’d wait a few more days and email them, call again, and if there was still no response, I would email them to suggest a date and time for a call.

If I still didn’t get a response after four separate follow-up attempts within a week, I would wait for 10-14 days and try again with a series of follow-up calls and emails within a week.

Some banks didn’t respond at all, and some did – there was no real pattern, and it was more of a numbers game than anything else.

Q: You were quite successful in your recruiting efforts.

Is there anything you would have done differently, looking back on it now?

A: I would have started earlier.

Even if you don’t know 100% whether or not you want to do banking, it always helps to start building relationships early.

Outside of recruiting, I would have focused more on “fit” questions rather than spending all my time on the technical ones.

While you do have to answer the technical questions reasonably well, bankers care more about them if it’s your second or third internship; they’re not necessarily going to grill you on advanced/obscure concepts if it’s your first time at a bank.

I found myself well-prepared on the technical side, but stumbling when it came to basic “fit” questions, such as “Tell me your strengths and weaknesses.”

Finally, lower your expectations.

If you expect everyone to say “No,” or you expect the worst in interviews, then even a slightly better outcome is a success.

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Q: Sounds good.

Any parting advice for students still looking for internships or jobs, or for anyone who’s out of work right now?

A: Keep at it. If you don’t get something right now, don’t give up until you have something lined up.

A friend of mine was about to graduate without any job offers, but then he went around and started offering to work for free.

That allowed him to be far more competitive, and he won several unpaid opportunities that could turn into paid options later on.

Also, look at my own story – I had my offer rescinded, but then I went around and continued to recruit until I found something else.

You just never know, and giving up too soon is a huge mistake – especially when you’re dealing with small firms that recruit year-round.

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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Comments

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  1. Hello,

    I am finishing my studies from the University of British Columbia in Psychology and Economics. I am interested in Analyst roles in Capital Markets. Is there any advice you would give me in terms of getting a job? I have been applying but not hearing back.

    1. I would start by reading these articles to understand the recruiting environment and what banks want to see in candidates:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/how-to-get-into-investment-banking/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-university-student-high-school-student/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/vancouver-investment-banking/

      If you don’t have multiple finance internships, you won’t be competitive for IB roles, especially in Canada.

  2. Hey

    I am looking to break into investment banking. I have done Bachelors of Science (completed in 2012) and followed it up with MBA in Finance (completed in 2018) from a non-target school. I also worked on my CPA and have that now. I am 28 with about 3 years of experience. How should I go about landing an investment banking job in US?

    1. It will be almost impossible to transition from India, which I’m assuming is your location, to the US if you’ve already finished an MBA and have significant work experience in India. The most realistic way to do this would be to work at a large multinational company and then ask for a transfer. Otherwise, you’re not going to get a work visa if you try to make the move independently.

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-india/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/startup-investment-banks-india/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/india-big-4-transaction-services/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-india/

  3. Avatar
    Worried Graduate

    Hello,
    I recently graduated with a BSc(Hons) in Politics and International Relations from a British University that tends to have a good number of graduates that go into investment banking (Top 10 University in league tables).
    Sadly due to extenuating circumstances, I graduated with a 2:2 as opposed to a 2:1. I do not have banking internships either. Is it likely that I will get accepted into banking internships now/ Graduate scheme considering the above?
    I am fully aware that my 2:2 puts me at a disadvantage, thus am tempted to do a Masters in International Relations to make up for my 2:2 as I am confident that I shall be able to achieve a 2:1/1st. Would this help get my foot in the door in Investment banking, or do I need a masters in Finance/ Economics? (Am applying for I.Relations as I do not think any reputable university would accept me for a finance masters).

    Additionally, any advice/ links on how to get an internship in Investment banking would be greatly beneficial and most appreciated.

  4. Good evening,
    I am in my senior year looking for some advice. I attend a top 100 business school ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek. Majoring in finance and minoring in economics and have solid GPA. My problem is that do not have any banking experience and I do not now how I should start pursuing an IB position. I have quite a few outstanding applications for full time roles and internships but no offers have came in yet. My question is what should I do next? There is no limit to the effort I am willing to put in but I am not sure where to focus my efforts. I would consider getting an MBA if it helped my chances significantly. And what should I do in the meantime before getting an MBA to help me build a competitive resume. Many thanks.

    P.S. Thank you for supplying such an informative resource.

  5. I am about to graduate from high school and am eager to get my feet wet in the investment banking world. Is it realistic that a firm would give me an internship or entry level position at this point?

    1. No. There are some opportunities in the UK, but not the US in most cases.

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-spring-weeks/

  6. I’m an International Relations major (Economics minor) from an unknown school as I couldn’t afford any better, and I recently started thinking about breaking into investment banking. Will firms take me seriously with this major? Should I do my Masters degree in Finance to help prove myself? Or should I just forget about a life in Finance? I’ve also been taking online courses in finance related stuff and I have an Associates degree in Management.

    1. Major matters less than your work experience… if you have the time to get finance internships, you can get in. If not, consider an MSF.

  7. Hello M&I !!
    I am from India and I’m interested very much in investment banking.
    Is studying in a reputed business school an advantage? as I’m not from those.

    1. ….Yes? Studying at a top school is always an advantage. What is your question?

  8. Hi, I am in a somewhat similar situation as what a previous person (Cory) recently said, I graduated with a degree in Business Economics with an accounting emphasis (which was the main program the university had) last year in 2015, but it wasn’t until my last year when I took a finance course that I realized it was actually finance that is what I am interested in pursuing. I know now that accounting is different from finance, but what skillsets from accounting can I leverage to break into finance? How should I spin it in a resume or interview?

    Some more on my background, I have completed an internship in finance before college (where I was exposed to ratio analysis, put together an investment fund, and made a recommendation to sell a stock), While trying to figure out what I wanted to after college, I also completed marketing internships.

    I’m located on the west coast, specifically in San Francisco. I took a part time job that sidetracked my job search for a while, and have been looking for internships in investment banking that could help me develop the skillsets necessary in finance, but the opportunities I have found on job search sites have been very few, and only for the next summer. Because of my current financial circumstances, I’m not really considering an MBA and I’m hesitant in applying for unpaid internships. However, if I were to consider an unpaid internship, how long should I have one for before I should or could I look into full time positions?

    Although I know my chances are slim, I have been also applying to bulge bracket internships. I want to become more proactive and look for experience and develop the interest in the markets/finance industry that I can gain as soon as possible, so in the meantime, what are some things I should I look for? Should I look into volunteering?

    Currently I am looking into networking but I don’t know yet how to approach that and cold-calling. In addition, I am also considering off cycle internships that are abroad. Some questions I have regarding off cycle internships include: if they are abroad, does that mean I should set aside money for housing and what are other things to consider?

    Do you think I have a chance or should I look into other options within finance (i.e asset/wealth management)? What do you suggest my course of actions should be? Thank you for this website!

    1. Please see: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/audit-to-investment-banking/

      I would strongly recommend going for internships at smaller PE firms instead and following the examples here:

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

      If that doesn’t work, get the most relevant job you can at a Big 4 firm or something else accounting/finance-related.

  9. Hi, I graduated with my an International Business degree last year. It wasn’t until the end of my senior year did I start to enjoy the Finance classes and want to pursue a banking career. After I graduated, I took some time off to do some traveling. Now that I am back, I am still very interested in Finance. I have no experience with internships or jobs relating to the field. With the exception of the Finance classes I took in school, I certainly don’t know enough to have a coherent coversation with someone in banking. I did attempt to structure a commercial real estate deal when I returned home. I procured capital from investors, financing, jumped through all the legal hoops to get all my ducks in a row. Perhaps that can be of value? I believe IB can offer similar challenges that I am after as it marries my interest in critical thinking and quantitative analysis. Not to mention the huge network that it can offer. Deal making was exciting to me. Being involved in putting together deals is super exciting to me. I’ve scoured your site. Can I learn this info from the courses you offer? Combined with my constant reading up of articles and continuing to absorb all the tips on your site, would this offer sufficient knowledge to start engaging in interviews? Thanks so much in advance. The site you’ve put together is amazing

    1. My recommendation would be to focus on real estate, win some type of commercial real estate role, and go from there. Getting into investment banking without prior internships in today’s environment (2016) will be almost impossible. Maybe you could cold call your way in, but it would still be quite tough if you graduated a while ago.

      1. If I could get into a post-grad internship of some kind, what are your thoughts on that? I have a few strong ins with some banks. If I could talk them into giving me an internship, would that provide me with a solid platform that would then allow me to springboard into a full time IB role?

        Thanks again.

        1. Sure, if you know people you could reach out and ask. But it depends on what the available internships are. CRE beats a lot of internships because you’re actually working with clients on deals – whereas a lot of “investment banking internships” are actually not client-facing.

  10. Avatar
    Irish Lad

    Hey,

    So I’m from Non-target Uni from Ireland (that being said it is the top university in the country). I was just curious if doing any additional online courses would benefit me from websites such as Coursera? Especially since I’m not studying an economics based course? Would recruiters be impressed if but such online degrees from reputable Colleges? Currently I’m going into my 2nd year of University.

    1. Online courses help you develop the skills and demonstrate interest, but they’re not a substitute for university because of the lack of accreditation. So your best option is usually to transfer to a target school or do a Master’s in Finance program at one (the LSE option is common for candidates in Ireland/the UK/Europe who want a better school).

  11. Avatar
    Gregory Aviles

    I am a freshman at Iona college who has no financial background could you help suggest where I should get my foot in the door please give me advice.

  12. Hi sir
    Im Vikram(from India), im in the first year of my graduation but not in a good college. (Have to change however in second year.)
    (Im really not in good mood now….alot financial problems since I entered high school)
    So which type of interships should I try to find and where because im in first year and as need money and want to get some experience
    No one really showing any path and im clueless.

  13. Hi, I am a current junior right now I am from an “unknown” school. My major is economics/finance. It’s a more unknown school in NC- I had the chance to go to UNC, I almost transferred there last year because I know it looks better to employers and MBA programs, but I love living at the beach and felt I would be miserable elsewhere.

    I have an upcoming phone interview for a summer analyst internship at a very prominent bank that could potentially lead to a job in IB… I had a preliminary interview before the first interview- apparently to see if I had market knowledge and interest in finance because my resume has no previous experience.

    I know that a lack of internships and experience (besides schools) doesn’t make me an “ideal” candidate, but I have yet to make a “B” at school and I’m involved in many clubs, have held leadership roles in all of them, and have been a supervisor to over 200 employees (some older than I am). The main thing though, is I have no experience at all (my clubs are not finance related). I am very unsure how to prepare and I know I had a preliminary interview because I am not “ivy leauge”. Do you think this hurts my chances? Is there a way to contact you through email and discuss? I could send you my resume, I included my linkedin above, but anything would help at all.

    I have spent a ton of time researching, I am just not sure if what I’m researching is a waste of my time. Please help!!!!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it, especially since you already have a phone interview set up. This means that they have liked your background enough to give you a chance. I’d focus on refining your pitch – why you want to do banking – and improve on your presentation skills to others.

  14. Hello, my name is Thomas and I am a sophomore at an Ivy League school (I decided to omit the name of the institution in fear that this post would not make it to the message board). I graduated from high school in 2012 and decided to take some time off from school and work. I attended an electrical training program in Long Island, NY and, upon graduation, I was awarded the title of ‘Electrician’s Apprentice’. Anyways, I worked ~2 years as an electrician and ultimately decided to go back to school in the spring of 2014. I enrolled at a local state school, studied business with a concentration in finance, and developed an interest in investment banking. I forgot how I first heard of investment banking, but I remember it catching my attention. Somewhere in-between researching what an investment bank is and what an investment banker does, I discovered the so-called ‘target schools’ of Wall Street, the lucrative nature of the business, and the importance of a network. I was immediately hooked to becoming an investment banker. I quickly turned my efforts to getting excellent grades in school, joining clubs, and getting my feet wet with any internship I could find. I joined three economics/finance related clubs, established a financial management club, and became an accounting intern in the non-profit sector. To make a long story short, I transferred out of the no-name state school with a 4.0 GPA, a college essay that I have been told is a “masterpiece”, 2 excellent letters of recommendation, life/working experience as an electrician, finance experience as an accounting intern, and was lucky enough to be accepted by arguably the best school in the country. I started this fall and must say that I absolutely hate it, I’m miserable. I worked my tail off to get here and I want nothing more than to get out. The academics are extremely demanding, far more rigorous than I had expected; the student body is very competitive; teachers conduct lecture at lightning speed; and assigned homework and problem-sets as well as tests and quizzes are designed almost in a way for students to fail. Not to mention tuition is 50k per year and I need three years to graduate! I’ll be taking on 150k in debt to finance my undergraduate education. I’m at a crossroads between staying here or returning to my old school. I don’t know what to do. I do not want to waste my time at a school I do not want to attend. Although my old school has no Wall Street name recognition, I could try to network my way into a summer analyst internship at a boutique bank. What do you think? Also, I can graduate sooner at my old school (approximately a year to a year and a half sooner), save $120k in student loan debt (which is continually accruing interest until I graduate), be a much happier, person and graduate with honors or possibly as valedictorian. Please let me know what you think. ANY advice will be GREATLY appreciated! I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you!

  15. Avatar
    James Freeman

    Here it goes-

    I just turned 45. I started buying houses when I was 18. I always self managed 4-6 houses between the ages of 23-37. I’ve sold cars, originated mortgage loans including hard money. I’ve been a real estate agent, mostly so I could buy for myself as I didn’t care for flaky buyers or sellers. I’ve structured and managed a portfolio of hard money seconds mortgages at title companies and funded them with my own money. I caught the biggest ride in real estate history in Las Vegas. It was about time since I had been buying , flipping or holding since 1989. In 1999 I started trading stocks and options for my own account. I’ve had accounts with Brown and Company, Schwab, Datek, Ameritrade, Etrade and more. I have millions of dollars of trades verifiable from 1999- 2012. By the summer of 2005 I was a self made millionaire with 1.1M net worth, having dropped out of high school in the 9th grade. I took particular pride in having a million dollars and never graduated high school nor took a college course. I’ve tried everything with stocks and options one could imagine. I lost everything by 2009, went to college to obtain a BSBA in Finance, and at times slept in my old 100k 2005 BMW 760i car before finally selling it. I graduate next September and want to trade for a firm, or do M&A.

  16. Do you think this is a good idea to break into BB IB from back office? Is it better to apply eg. for operations in BB or to front office in 2nd tier bank?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say front office in a 2nd tier bank.

  17. If you do unpaid work, how do you prove that you’ve done it if there is no financial/tax record of its completion?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Recommendations from your employer can help

  18. Avatar
    Phillip

    I am a year 12 high school student in Adelaide Australia and I want to break into investment banking in New York City, next year I will be attending an unknown school in Adelaide as I cannot afford anywhere else. I will be completing a double degree in Law and finance and I plan to then go on to get my honours in finance at a more regarded university in Australia. As I am disadvantaged due to my education I am concerned about my chances of gaining a job in NYC in 6 – 7 years time. I presume that the principles outlined in the banker blueprint are still applicable to my situation however it would be greatly appreciated if you could suggest any ways in which I can gain a competitive advantage over my future competition especially as I am not from America.
    Thank you very much for your time,
    Regards

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your comment. I’d try your best to work for a bank in Australia that has an office in America. I’d work in Australia for a few years and ask to be transferred to America assuming you do well. Otherwise, I’d suggest that you save up and try to get into a target grad school in America; this way, you can get a job in the States after graduation and look for a role that suits you during that time.

  19. Hi Brian,
    I will be graduating this year with a banking and finance degree from University of London. It is a kind of distance education degree (I am from India). Before that I was enrolled in Electronics engg which I left after 5 semesters to work on my startup since 2011. Now I want to utilize my finance degree. How should I go about trying to land a job in US/ UK in Investment banking (my end goal is hedge fund-L/S equity) ? Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Can you tap into your alumni network at UCL and participate in on campus recruiting? This will most definitely increase your chances.

      1. I can look into alumni contacts but there is no on-campus recruiting for distance education students.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          In this case yes I’d look into alumni contacts.

  20. Avatar
    Anyiti Nanyama

    This person is the real deal.

  21. I was able to get a phone conversation with a Managing Director at a small boutique investment firm dealing with biosciences and technology. It took around 10 emails over the span of several months. He seemed busy, but questioned my education, which is a Bachelors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I have also taken finance courses, and he asked me about why I didn’t do a duo degree in Finance/Econ with Bio… Regardless, he seemed a little on the fence about why I wanted to work there. He also started explaining how the culture was harsh, people get treated horribly, long hours, etc. But at the end, he asked me to give him the places I’ve emailed to see if he knew anyone and could get in contact with them for me for a recommendation. I’m willing to do that, but I also know that bankers are social butterflies. If theres a chance that he could speak well of me, there’s also a chance that he could sabotage my intent on getting in! I might be seriously overthinking this opportunity, but there isn’t much in our conversation that made me think he wanted to help. It would be a little more accurate to say that he was trying to tell me all the horrors of working in the industry. What do I do?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think he’s trying to help by letting you know of the industry’s downside. Perhaps he doesn’t like his job too much, or perhaps he’s seen people leave too often. If you trust him, then it doesn’t hurt to give him the places you emailed and see if he can help. However, since he hasn’t worked with you before, I’m not quite sure how he can give you a recommendation to be honest. Best to ask him for a referral, and perhaps you can be generic and told him say 2-3 banks you’ve emailed and leave out the rest. See how that goes first. With the above being said, he’s still spending time helping you so I’d be respectful and thankful of his time regardless. I don’t think he, assuming he has no ill will toward you, has an intention to sabotage you, though I can understand your concern.

  22. Hey everyone at M&I,
    I am interested in applying for an analyst position preferably in NY but since I am doing a BSc. in Architecture in Italy and I am from Greece I was thinking of adding the fact that I managed to gather $1m from investors and invested it in real estate making 23% in gross profits for the investors. How do I go about showing that sort of thing though? I would really appreciate some help.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You can do so on your resume. Mention “Sourced XX million from investors – list what kind; invested in XX project, generating XX% in gross profits in XX time period” Of course you can elaborate on the above but this should be the guideline

  23. Hello, I am 34 years old and will complete a double major in international business and accounting (BS) in 1.5 years. I would like to get into IB, but am concerned about being too far behind. Do you think 35/36 is too old to start a career in finance?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You maybe slightly older than the average https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/age-investment-banking/; you may want to try finance roles within corporates…

  24. First I just want to say thank you to everyone for taking the time to respond to all the questions. So far they have helped provide unique incite and inspired me to dig deep and work harder. I have a few myself I hope you can answer as well.
    I am currently a senior in high school with a 3.4 GPA. I plan on attending a 2 year junior college, to save on cost, and then plan on transferring to a state flagship (most likely U of U because I live in Utah.) I am going to try and find Internships in finance through cold calling and networking as soon as I enter college, using tips from people I have met as well as from websites like this one. I also plan on working hard, doing my research, and staying involved as much as possible to help my chances on finding unique and valuable opportunities.
    Looking at my plan, is there anything anyone recommends I change or do differently? What internships look good on a resume? Last but not least, would I benefit more from transferring or even looking for internships in a different state like California that may have more opportunities?
    Thanks in advance! I appreciate and welcome any responses.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I think transferring can potentially help and increase your chances.

      Internships that look good on your resume are front-office related roles I’d say, but if you can’t get that working at a boutique or a fund will help.

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-summer-internship-recruiting/

  25. I’m currently a freshman at a community college. I want to go into finance to be an investment banker so I want to a school that has a undergrad finance program like NYU for example. Even though I started at a community college is it still possible for me to break into finance?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes you may want to transfer to a school like Stern as you’ve said.

  26. I found this post by googling for IB opportunities for people with no finance background, so I thought I’d share my story and ask for comments.

    In 2009, I acquired a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations in the most prestigious college in Brazil. I have since worked briefly in a couple different companies, and in 2011 I landed my current job in a multinational telco. I have worked in various departments in the company, including a little over a year in the Finance department and nearly 2 years in Sales. Meanwhile, I also registered for an Executive MBA at a renowned institution, which I will conclude next January.

    At work, I have performed above expectations and therefore have been promoted every year up to the topmost position before manager. My next logical step would be to become a manager before Summer next year, but I have instead decided to get into IB. I think the most logical way to bridge the gap between my current résumé and my intended job would be an MBA, so I’m applying to some of the top-20 B-schools in the US.

    Assuming I’m accepted to at least one of these, what are my real chances of getting into IB after finishing the MBA? From my understanding, having my first-year Summer internship in a financial institution would be paramount to this plan’s success.

    Finally, should I go for an MA in Economics instead? Or should I apply for a dual MBA/MA degree?

    I’d really appreciate any comments on my plan. Thank you in advance!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Assuming you get into the top 5 MBA programs and follow our advice on the site, I think you have a pretty good chance of landing an IB internship. And I’d prefer an MBA to a MA. Not necessary to get a dual degree

  27. I just began my junior year at Rutgers University in NJ majoring in finance and have a 3.7 at this time.I haven’t had any internships so far and only recently got interested in IB(started out in engineering, switched to finance), what would be the best course of action for me ?

    My school is definitely non target which leaves me with networking and Cold calling, and the alumni network is just okay but not exceptional. To have any chance at an internship for next summer, when should i begin cold calling ? Is now a good time to start ?

    I will probably get the interview guide and networking ninja toolkit soon, but looking at my ‘story’ so far, what are my chances ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network a lot – https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/networking-investment-banking-jobs/

      Yes now is a good time to start.

      Your chances are 50/50.

  28. I am currently at a non target school but have just secured a decent finance internship this fall at a major corporation as a sophomore. I was just wondering what my next few steps would be if my ultimate goal after college is to get into ibanking. I was also thinking of transferring by the beginning of my jr. year, what are your thoughts on UofM (Ross)? Thank you, great site!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congrats on your internship! Do really well on your internship, start networking in fall, and try your best to land an internship in IBD your junior year. Transferring may help especially since banks tend to go to targets for info session and you want to take advantage of that. Umich is a semi target I’d say and some banks recruit there. One thing is check the GPA policy with schools. Starting from scratch and getting a good GPA at a new target school may not be easy especially if you’re busy with recruiting at the same time.

  29. Wow, I am so happy I found this article. Motivates me to get cold calling tonight!
    I am currently going into my Junior year at a no-name school. I am double majoring in finance and international economics, and have had internships in mutual fund accounting for a fortune 500 asset management firm, life insurance sales for NW mutual, and worked as a Critical Thinking Professor’s assistant. I will spend next semester in Spain studying abroad (possibly getting an internship with AXA in spain) and have a poor 3.4GPA.
    I am wondering 2 things: 1) will studying abroad look good to ibanking recruiters? 2) would it be in my best interests to transfer from my no-name, to a better nontarget as an upperclassmen(almost transferred to university of arizona, but didnt because of tuition).
    Thanks, I definitely will be seeking your resume services in the future.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1) Not really, unless you study at a target abroad
      2) Yes, it maybe even better if you could transfer to a target/semi target

  30. Hi, would you be able to help me read over my resume and correct it a bit?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, we offer resume editing services. Perhaps you can check out the page!

  31. I was recently accepted to UVA (non McIntire), NYU (non Stern), Emory (non Goizueta), Vanderbilt and Boston College (non CSOM). I was wondering which school would give me the best opportunity to break into IBD in NYC. If it matters, I do have relevant banking experience with internships at boutique firms. In terms of costs, UVA and Vanderbilt gave me significant scholarships while at NYU, Emory and BC I would have to pay nearly full tuition. Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say NYU may be the best bet given its location and network. UVA isn’t a bad choice either, but I wouldn’t say its a target school.

  32. I am in a five year Master in Accountancy at a top 10 business school at a state university. I only have a 3.3 GPA, but I have internship experience at a Big 4 accounting firm (audit) and a Fortune 50 company doing internal cost allocation. What are my chances at getting a banking internship off that? And in general, does non-banking experience at big companies make up for a low GPA for banking internships?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You can increase your chances by (1) going back to a target MBA (2) look for Accounting roles in banks versus front office roles; right now you’ll be competing with many candidates who have had banking experience and you’ll have to find a way to differentiate yourself. No, but if you have strong GMAT scores, this may make up for your low GPA.

  33. Coming from University of Maryland(Not sure if non target or semi target?), would banks look poorly on around a 3.0 GPA even in engineering?, or will they realize the difficulty and not brush me off the way they probably would with an easier major? I am trying to decide whether or not to start cold emailing or wait until my GPA is better before trying to make connections/apply for internships. I am aiming only for boutiques.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think it always helps to start networking sooner rather than later so I’d suggest you to start doing so now. In terms of your GPA, its best if you can increase it to a 3.5, which is most banks’ official cut-off. Regardless of your major, 3.5 is generally the “norm.”

  34. This article was extremely informative and I’m falling in love with this website! As someone who’s also looking into investment banking, I was wondering if I could get some thoughts on my situation. My sophomore/junior summer in did an internship in China working with M&A at a big name firm. This summer, I wanted to stay in the US, but I ended up taking a commercial banking internship (again, a big name firm). Do you think it’d be possible to move from commercial to IB with some good internal networking? What can I do to strengthen my candidacy? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It is possible though it would be best if you could demonstrate your knowledge of IB, be it through your clubs at school or any case studies/classes you have taken that is related to IB. Networking would also help.

  35. Would you recommend the same strategy for full time IB positions for someone currently working less than a year out of undergrad in FP&A?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Since you haven’t had experience or network in banking (I presume), yes I’d recommend a similar strategy. Since you’ve been working less than one year, you’ll still be considered relatively fresh.

  36. i graduated in my 2012 from SUNY school. I only had experience with the marketing department. but i know there are some alumni are working in the IB or wealth management field were graduated from my school. but since i am already graduated, what will be the better way for me.

    1. Contact the alumni anyway and start speaking with them… worth a shot even if you’ve already graduated.

  37. Hi, these case studies often show how a non-target student can get the offer if he/she is determined enough. My question is, how much do ivy league students have to go out of their ways to network?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Probably not as much as students from non targets because most banks recruit at Ivy Leagues. Quite a lot of Ivy League alumns work in finance and they tend to recruit people from their alma mater

  38. Hi, I am doing MBA from a school ranked between 30 and 40. Currently I am doing internship in Finance after completing my 1st year of MBA. However, I have no prior background in Finnace. I want to get into IB after MBA. Please advise how to go about it.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network a lot. Join an investment club. Know your pitch – why IB, why you (What are your strengths and weaknesses?)

  39. I know you are against online applications for Bulge Bracket banks, but what about at smaller boutiques. If a regional bank with 50 or so employees has an online application on their website would you recommend submitting my application through that or should I still cold call and ask about internships?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d still call to increase your chances

  40. I am currently in high school. I wish to get into investment banking. Is there anything I can do starting now? I will be attending a private university and majoring in finance. What years should I start getting internships etc. My last question is it possible to start out as an analyst at a boutique and transfer to a larger bank or even get a job from a large bank coming from a decent private school? (university of San Diego)? Thank you and look forward to responses.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Best to intern in your sophomore/junior year. Unless your university is a target, I don’t think it will make a big difference.

  41. Would UVA be considered a target school?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Somewhat

  42. Excellent article.

    I’ve got a totally different background (Teaching) and future career goals (Biz Development for Oil&Gas), but nonetheless there’s a ton of useful advice for anyone going the non-traditional route.

    I might just subscribe if you keep putting out gems like this.

  43. Hello,

    Great article, I found it very interesting and motivational! I go to a large public University (non target) and am currently a sophomore. I recently switched my major from Pre-Med to Economics and Business (Finance). I have a 3.65 after organic chemistry took its toll and have many medicinal EC’s (medical research, volunteering, shadowing) but no Business EC’s except for an internship with a small yet well known Real Estate Investment firm.

    I just secured an internship with Morgan Stanley for this summer in one of their Financial Advising Firms. My main goal is to break into Investment banking. Would a Financial advising internship or Real Estate Investment internship hold any weight or benefit as I enter recruiting next fall for an Investment banking internship (Maybe even within Morgan Stanley)? Also I do not live in Silicon Vally or anywhere near Wall Street. I live near Portland, Oregon to be exact. How would you recommend finding local investment banks as I have had profound difficulty doing so?

    Thank you so much.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes.

      I’d recommend moving to NY if you want to be in IB.

  44. and is it normal to feel intimidated by the large enviroment of these financial institutions ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Maybe depending on your background. You’ll get used to it

  45. Im a undergrad studying finance at small college in Staten Island , New York . Do you think I would be considered for any unpaid internships in the city or should I start local ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It depends on what your goals are. I’d try out NYC

  46. Hi, im at a less prestigious university and am aiming to work within the financial sector. I am studying an Economics and Finance degree which includes a one year placement. I am also considering doing a masters after. What recommendations/advice can you offer me to better my chances of getting a respectable job in the financial sector? Also, you mention about cold calling above, what exactly is the reason for this?

    Many thanks,
    Adam

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network as much as you can. Read up about the industry. Know why you want to break into banking. Know the language – act like you already are a banker and know your stuff
      Because you can develop your own network and meet people when you cold call. Or else it would be hard to break in from a state school

  47. Hi M&I,

    I’m currently a rising sophomore at a non-target school with a 3.4 GPA (confident I can raise it to above a 3.5 by the end of the school year).

    Should I even bother trying to land an investment banking internship at a regional boutique with no prior internship experience and minimal finance knowledge (will have taken one finance course by the end of sophomore year) or should I just try to get a finance related internship with meaningful experience the summer of my sophomore year?

    Which will help me better secure a SA position at BB during the summer of my junior year? (with the help of excessive networking of course)

    Thank You.

    1. Try for a school-year internship and for something over the summer and those will both help.

      1. Okay, will do. Thank you for replying! I appreciate it. Amazing site. Keep it up.

  48. Hi,
    Just wondering, how did you explain your interest in finance with no finance background?

    1. I believe he had done a lot of self-study / research etc.

  49. Avatar
    Aaron Lee

    Hello, I emailed an alumni that I spoke before about referrals. I emailed him about 1.5 week ago, but have yet to hear a response. How should I phrase my email asking him again about the referrals without annoying him? Thanks and have a good day.

    1. I would just call him and ask quickly, if he ignored the first email he will probably ignore this one.

  50. Hey,

    I currently go to Binghamton University, and I was wondering how hard it would be for me to break into one of these IB firms coming from this college. I have internship expiernece dealing with business, however, nothing really directly related to IB.Any Info would help thanks!

    1. Hard because no banks recruit there – move to a better school or network like mad like this person did

  51. Thanks for all the tips. I was wondering as a rising senior with no finance background, if i cold called banks beginning of school year for a fulltime position, would that ruin my chances searching a summer one if I’m unable to get full-time? thanks for your time.

    1. Not necessarily but you should probably not even apply for full-time positions without having had a finance internship of some kind first.

  52. One more question.

    Since I am so late in the game, should I just say to the MD that I want you to obtain an investment banking analyst position at your firm? Or should I say something like I was wondering if I can meet you in person to obtain additional infomoration about your company, etc.?

    1. I would just ask directly since it’s late

  53. Thanks a lot for all the tips on this website. I am a non-target student with a 3.6 GPA, 4.0 Major GPA. I made about 15 cold calls to boutiques firms, and cold e-mailed another 35 or so. I never got a chance to talk to a MD, the person who picks up the phone always tells me that he/she is busy. Only 2 MDs replied my cold e-mails and told me they are current hiring. I am current a senior and am going to graduate in May. I had Wealth Management internship at UBS previously. I also had a couple accounting internships. I am really discouraged since I never got a chance to talk to a MD.
    I have a few questions:
    At this point, between cold emails and cold calls, which one is a better option(you mentioned somewhere cold calls are better at this stage. However, Wallstreetoasis said, in general, cold emails are more effective)?
    Is there a way that’s going to improve my chance to actually speak with a MD rather than a receptionist?

    Thank you very much.

    1. If you look at some of the other interviews under Recruiting you will get a sense for what else you could do to get around gatekeepers. Calling is almost always better, most people get hundreds of emails a day and ignore most of them. In-person > calling > email.

  54. Brian,

    He talks about following-up 2 days after submitting his resume to make sure it was received, answer any questions, try to strengthen his bond, etc.

    I was wondering what your advice is for the substance of content when staying in touch beyond this initial follow-up. Thanks.

    1. Just keep it very brief and literally ask if they received the resume, if they have any updates, and so on – for info interviews you can ask more about the person’s background or personal updates but with cold-calling it is more random since you lack that connection.

  55. Hi, first time to leave a comment. Love your articles, very well written and practical.
    Question:
    I went to a top 3 Canadian university with a 3.2 GPA. I did math and economics. Graduated May this year. Trying to get an analyst/research analyst assistant position. Only had a sales intern, national IB competition, CFA level 1. Still tackling on networking. Really considering taking a 5k training+intern program for 6 weeks starting in early Jan. 2011. The intern will be with boutique firms.
    Would you think the program is almost the best bet for me right now?

    Thanks!!

    1. Yes but only if you’ve exhausted hundreds of leads networking and haven’t gotten anywhere yet. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/buy-your-way-into-investment-banking/

  56. Thanks a lot for all the tips on the topic. I really appreciate it. I am going to try to keep cold calling for next few months. I just wish I knew this website a year ago:)

  57. I made 6 cold calls so far. They all told me they either have the positions filled already or I can only apply through the website. Is there anything else I can do here?

    1. I made a few additional calls. I am doing everything you guys suggested so far. Am I too late to the game at this point? I am going to keep calling for the next few days. If I don’t hear anything from any of the firms, should I study for my CPA or CFA level 1 exam and try to get an audit job or portfolio management analyst position and try grad school in a few years(apply for associate internship in IBD a few years from now)? Or should I spend my time keep calling as many firms as possible in the next few months before my graduation?

      1. Again, you have to be persistent – cold-calling is not something to expect results from in a few days. I would pursue one of those other jobs for now but still spend 30 minutes to an hour per day cold-calling firms in the background.

    2. You have to be persistent – if you look at the case studies here, many people kept calling back repeatedly over weeks and months and checking back. Also expand the firms you’re calling – you need dozens rather than just 6.

  58. I looked up lots of phone numbers during the thanksgiving break. Could you please give me some cold call tips? How can I start a conversation if I get the chance to talk to one of the HR people? Thank you very much.

  59. Great article. I am current a senior at a non-target school with 3.56 GPA(Fin and Acct. major, 4.0 Finance GPA). I had an accounting internship at Princeton University, and I current intern at UBS Wealth Management under CFPs. The people there are pretty impress with me and referred me to graduate program at UBS. Someone at UBS knows the HR person at Blackrock also helped me to send my resume there for their graduate program. I dropped out from engineering school when I was young(now I am 25), and now I go to a small private school. I recently got rejected from BOA Merril(one of my roommates works at their HR department submitted a resume to her boss). I also got rejected from Deloitte(I was going to get into Big 4 Acct firm, then apply for one of those target school in a few years to get into IB) after 2nd interview. I live very close to Princeton and I am only 40 min. from NYC. Here are some of my questions. How much impact does Wealth Management branch manager’s recommendation would have on IB or PE graduate program? Should I cold call Goldman or Blackrock(I am not far away from them). Most of the firms around me are large firms, would I have a slim chance to get into one of those top firms if I didn’t attend one of the target schools?

    1. Wealth management recommendation does not have much impact unless they know the other people well. And yes cold-call anyone you can but focus on smaller places – your chances are low at huge firms unless you went to a top school.

  60. I have no choice but to apply for SA positions online since I am abroad. What are my options in terms of networking and should I focus my applications on my study abroad country instead?

    1. You can still network if you’re in a different country…. see what someone did here: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-internship-china/ It really depends where you’re studying and where you’re from but yes, focusing on just the country you’re in might make sense.

  61. Avatar
    Aleksandra

    I think there is one point missing here– you DO have to apply online–whether you want it or not because in the end even if you network with someone and they get an interview, you still need to make sure they have your information before the deadline. Am I right?

    1. Yes if you mean “apply online” as in “send it through your school’s official system that exists because banks actually read applications from there since it’s a target school.” If you apply blindly online without going through your school’s system, that has limited effectiveness.

  62. When is the best month/ time of year to start looking for internships if you’re from a non-target?

    1. As early as possible… ideally sometime in the fall well before summer internship recruiting begins in Dec./Jan. so you have time to network.

  63. This story kind of resonated with me. It’s the summer after my junior year (at a large state school, went here for financial reasons) and I will be interning at an asset management firm for the next 10 months. I’ve got a 3.5 gpa, 1600 SAT, decent activities/leadership/etc, however, this internship will be my only notable and relevant work experience. The city and state that my school is in has a moderate amount of banks, mostly midsize (think Houlihan, Lazard) and my school is the best in the area. However, there is not much national clout behind the name. Do I have a decent chance at banking with the big boys, or are the HYS kids going to beat me out?

    1. It really depends on how much networking you do. If you get to know a lot of people at a lot of banks, you will get interviews there; if not, then you won’t. As mentioned in the article, some bankers care a lot about your school’s name but most don’t care as long as you’re qualified.

  64. Hey M&I,
    I did what you suggested and contacted the MD. What she told me was she hasn’t made up her mind yet about my qualifications compared to other applicants and will contact when she finally decides. It sounds like I’m not totally out or in yet. Do you have any suggestion to improve my chance at this point?
    Thanks a lot for your advice.

    1. There’s not much you can do now other than to follow-up periodically and make sure you stay on her radar

  65. M&I,
    Thanks for the reply.
    Yes, I emailed her yesterday saying that I’m happy n excited to work for them this summer, since she told me to give her my decision by late March. During the conversation last month, she mentioned that they have interns coming every summer. So, I think they have some sort of internship program. The problem is I just don’t know what is implied in her reply to my email asking when I can start as she said “still thinking, and will let me know when she decides”. So confusing.
    But yeah, I will definitely try to give them a deadline to see where the problem lies.

  66. Hey M&I,
    I actually got a question. I had an internship interview (sort of ’cause it wasn’t very technical or fit ) with a boutique last month (probably unpaid). At the end of the phone conversation, the MD told me to let her know my decision at the end of this month to work things out. So I assume that I got the opportunity (she didn’t specifically say I was accepted or anything like that). I told her my decision that I’m very happy to intern at the firm this summer yesterday and asked for the start date and stuff. But she replied and said “still thinking about it and will let me know right when she decides”. What does that “still thinking ’bout it” mean? Is that about just the start-date or about me being offered to work at the boutique? This is tricky and I’m a bit worried ’cause if she was just tryin’ to avoid telling me that I can’t work, then I would have to start cold-calling/emailing other boutiques all over again n it’s kinda late now.
    How do I handle this? What do you think?
    Thanks a lot.

    1. That sounds very strange. I would call her back and say, “I appreciate the offer and am very excited to work for you – however, I do need to respond to a couple other opportunities, so I need to have a definitive answer within the next week.” It sounds like they’re interested but not sure if they actually need to hire someone, so I would try to get them to decide by giving them a deadline.

  67. Wow, what a powerful story! This is a great article that boosted my morale.
    I am looking forward do start my cold calling sessions.
    M&I.com keep up the great work and articles!!!!

  68. Hey random question. I might be interested in a career in IB. this summer (im going into my junior year) I am doing an internship at Northwestern Mutual up in MA, how would that help in next years internship recruiting process?

    1. It’s marginally helpful (better than being a pool boy for example), but less helpful than something like banking, private equity, etc.

  69. Avatar
    skotumk

    Great article & advice!

    “Sometimes I also just did simple Google searches – “@ubs.com,” for example, would give me contact information for anyone there who put their address online.”

    — Not sure if this works anymore, tried this personally. I think google blocks these types of searches on purpose to stop spam crawlers…

    But will certainly give “call back got disconnected” strategy a try! =)

    1. Try Yahoo!

  70. Very nice article…I’m really happy for him!

    :-)

  71. Audit Accountant v. Tax Accountant:

    M&I… which of the two accounting backgrounds above do you think mirrors the work of a financial analyst more closely? Do you think that either one works more closely with bankers?

    1. Neither one is particularly close, but audit accountant is probably closer because you do more financial statement analysis whereas tax is more niche.

  72. I’ll be working at a top prop trading firm full-time this fall (DRW, SIG, Jane St, CTC, etc)

    I’m still interested in eventually going into IBD or PE in the future, even if the money/bonus is lower. how are top prop shops viewed by the BBs or PE firms? and say if i worked for 2-3 years as a trader at a top prop firm, will i still be starting as an analyst at a BB or an associate?

    thanks!

    1. Could go either way there… generally the top places are respected, but bankers are distinctly biased against traders. I think your level would depend on the economy and how that firm is doing – you’re more likely to be an Associate at a smaller bank vs. if you went to a BB following your years at the prop shop.

  73. Avatar
    fudgepudge

    i think this should be the make or break factor

    “Then I got into a pattern where I would spend most of Saturday researching boutiques and local firms online, look at transactions they had done, and then cold-call them on Monday and Tuesday of each week. I’d try to email at least 5 banks per day.

    I just kept calling until I got a response – sometimes it took many, many tries to get through.”

    1. As with nearly anything else in life, if you want it badly enough you will find a way to get it.

      I don’t believe anyone who says, “I can’t do…” until they have spent 5,000 hours on it and tried every single strategy/approach/company out there.

      “I can’t do” really means “I don’t want it badly enough.”

  74. Avatar
    non-target IB analyst

    I went to a small private school that had no on campus recruiting. I would echo most of the above comments–the key is to make as many friends and contacts as you can in the process. I hesitate to share my secret, but I will anyway for discussion purposes since it wasn’t mentioned above. I happened to go to school near a large city, and banks happened to recruit at a fairly prestigious school down the road, so I managed to get a hold of their recruiting calendar and then called banks to seek permission to show up at their info sessions. Pretty much no bank said “no” to me showing up although I would say there were two outcomes either:

    1) the recruiting team gave me a swift “no” since I wasn’t from the school (these people were the super elitest types that just couldn’t get over the credentials, as mentioned above) or

    2) it ended up working really well as the recruiting team was impressed by my initiative; in fact I’d say in certain cases I had a leg up since HR sometimes alerted them that so-and-so from a non-target kid might show up, so I was already on their radar and they were looking for me after the info session

    Even in the most successful case it can be impossible to get on the interview schedule on-campus depending on the school/system, but even if that was the case, the firm would agree to interview me if I traveled to New York

    If every non-target kid did this, it obviously wouldn’t work in the long run, but it worked for me and I though I’d throw it out there.

    What I would like to hear about is M&I’s thoughts on PE/buy-side ops for non-target undergrad kids. I’ve been ranked at the top of my analyst class every year and have a lot of credibility inside my firm, but I’ve found that PE shops almost never go for kids who went to non-target schools no matter how good their analyst performance was. I suspect it’s a suppply/demand thing (why take a chance on a non-target when you’ve got a ton of good ivy leaguers who were in the same class). I also feel that certain b-schools still place a lot of emphasis on your undergrad school…

    1. I would never have asked permission first, I just show up. But then, I piss off a lot of people so who knows hahaha.

      Yeah, PE is tough without a good name. It’s a prestige-driven industry and you usually need a solid name to get into the top places.. exceptions apply, but it is so much smaller than IBD that it’s tough without a great school. Which is why people often go back to b-school to get into PE.

  75. Another great read for us non-target school grads!

    Kind of related qustion:
    I recently graduated (high Gpa but non-target) and accepted an offer for an internship at a pharmaceutical startup for the summer since I really had no other options at the time (figured the ground up exposure and B2B sales would be good experience i could spin later on). Then today I was contaced by a local boutique I-bank that i had cold emailed and he wanted to schedule an interview. I told him my situation and that i would like to keep in touch, what would be the best way to follow up on this and try to position myself for this fall? I was thinking of trying to meet up sometime this summer but i feel like an informational interview might be a little weird for the situation. Thanks!

    1. Just tell him in the fall when you’re ready to interview… maybe just send a quick update email over the summer but keep it very casual until you’re ready to speak to him and interview for real.

  76. Is a Hedge Fund internship better than a Consulting internship or vice versa if I am unable to obtain an i-banking/pe internship for the summer? Should I try cold-calling boutiques instead? (I’m planning for summer analyst recruiting this upcoming winter)

    1. It depends on what you want to do. For IBD, hedge funds are probably better… consulting might be better if you’re not 100% certain yet.

      You could still try cold-calling at this late stage but it will be tough since most firms are no longer actively hiring.

      1. I’m hoping to get into IBD. I forgot to mention that the consulting position deals with sourcing potential M&A opportunities to emerging growth companies.
        Do you think I can somehow spin that in my story and would that be better than the hedge fund internship?

        1. Consulting might be better in that case.

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