Weekend Trips: The Best Way to Break Into Investment Banking?
And no, I’m not referring to weekend ski trips, a 3-day gambling spree in Monaco, or your feeble attempt to ask your MD for a vacation 2 months after you started.
These are the weekend trips where you travel to financial centers, meet dozens of bankers in a short period of time, and apply the 80/20 rule to networking.
They might not be as fun as hitting the slopes, but they’re one of the best ways to break into finance – if you play your cards right.
Why Weekend Trips?
In-person meetings are more effective than calls or emails – bankers are bombarded with dozens (hundreds?) of emails each day, and everything blurs together after awhile.
But they’re much more likely to remember people they’ve met in real life, especially when sifting through resumes at 3 AM.
Weekend trips are also more efficient than normal cold-calling or informational interviews, because you can meet dozens of bankers in the span of 2-3 days.
You can get office tours on the spot, and casual meetings can easily turn into real interviews – especially when recruiting season approaches.
So if you don’t have a 4.0 GPA at Harvard and 3 internships at Goldman Sachs, weekend trips need to be part of your strategy.
What is a Weekend Trip, Exactly?
First, you plan to be in a financial center like New York, London, or Hong Kong for 2-3 days, usually on Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Saturday.
You could go for an entire week, but that is difficult to plan and you probably won’t have enough contacts to make it worthwhile.
Once you have the dates, you email bankers to set up meetings, trying to meet with at least 5 per day.
Then, you fly in and stay at a friend’s place or a hotel, meet everyone you’ve emailed, and go through the same informational interviews you know and love – only in-person this time.
At the end of each interview, you casually suggest a visit to the office or say that it would be great to meet other people there.
Follow-up afterward but keep it brief and direct – you want to schedule weekend trips close to recruiting season.
Weekend trips work at both the analyst and associate levels, but they’re usually more effective for current students.
Now, let’s answer your questions and concerns before jumping into this in more detail.
Wait, This Sounds Expensive!
Yes, it will cost money – but think about what it would cost you not to do it: a $100K+ job plus even higher pay in the future.
Plus, you can minimize expenses by staying with friends rather than at the Ritz-Carlton, or by getting a budget hotel if you don’t know anyone in the city.
In Europe there are discount airlines like Ryanair, so airfare is less of an issue there; it can be more expensive in the US and Asia, but if you plan this correctly you can still spend $1,000 or less for a 2-day trip.
Even if it costs $2,000, that’s still a 50x ROI assuming a very low $30K bonus in your first year.
I Don’t Have Time!
Translation: you have the wrong priorities.
Think about how much time you spend on Internet surfing, TV watching, and joining groups just to have a laundry list on your resume.
A single weekend trip represents a 2-3 day investment of time plus maybe another day to set up everything beforehand.
That is not enough to seriously impact your grades or activities, and guess what: even if it does, networking is way more important anyway.
Networking Doesn’t Work in Other Countries!
Yes, there may be some truth to networking being less effective outside the US, but more often than not this is just an excuse to do nothing.
Let’s say you spend 2-3 hours finding contact information for 10 bankers and emailing them to set up meetings.
You later find out that in your country, no one ever networks and a robot processes all applications sent to the bank, making all decisions based on the numbers and names on your CV.
If that outlandish scenario is true, all you’ve lost is 2-3 hours; and if it’s slightly untrue, you’ve now introduced yourself to 10 bankers and have boosted your chances – even if your weekend trip never happens.
Some regions may be more traditional with recruiting, but you lose very little by planning for weekend trips anyway.
How to Plan and Conduct Weekend Trips
One trip is probably enough if you haven’t networked like crazy, but you could also go for 2 trips and spread them further apart.
If you’re doing 1 trip, make it slightly before recruiting begins – this would be August / September for full-time recruiting and December / January for summer internships; for 2 trips, do 1 right before recruiting and the other one 2-3 months before recruiting.
Dates change depending on the year and what region you’re in, so you should check the application deadlines in advance.
Email bankers 3-4 weeks before your trip and let them know about your planned travel – just like with informational interviews, propose a specific date, time, and place (at or near their office) to meet.
Don’t buy your tickets or make reservations yet; wait and do that depending on the responses you get.
Bankers you’ve already spoken to or exchanged emails with are better to contact because they already know you – it’s a bit odd to email someone out of the blue and say, “Hey I’m going to be in Manhattan next week, let’s meet up… since you’re an alum!”
In that situation, you should suggest a quick call first so you can introduce yourself, and then bring up your trip at the end.
Aim to set up 5-10 meetings per day – 50% of bankers will cancel on you due to last-minute emergencies, so plan for the worst-case scenario.
When you’re proposing these meetings, keep in mind physical locations and schedule everything in blocks – you don’t want to be running back-and-forth between Midtown and Downtown.
Also make sure you have a backup list of other bankers you could meet with, in case you get more last-minute cancellations than expected.
Allot at least 30 minutes between your meetings – that gives you time for transportation and a buffer in case things go on longer than expected.
Make sure you take a smartphone or another device that lets you read email on-the-go, because you will need to check email constantly.
I mentioned above that you should plan for Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Saturday – I left out Sunday because that’s the hardest day to catch bankers, especially more senior ones.
When the Day Comes…
Follow-up with everyone a day or two before your trip to confirm that you’re still set to meet; if there are cancellations, go to your backup list.
The interviews themselves will be very similar to standard informational interviews, but they may be more in-depth since they’re in-person; they could also turn into real interviews depending on the banker and how close it is to recruiting season.
You can ask the same types of questions as in informational interviews, but you might end up discussing business more than pleasure since you’re on their home turf.
The difference is what happens at the end: instead of just making a “mini-ask,” casually suggest a visit to their office or meeting others there.
If they like you, they may even suggest it first; if they seem unwilling to take you on a tour, you can just brush it off as a joke.
But if it works, you will gain a huge advantage because everyone at that office will know who you are – and that advantage may even carry over to real interviews when bankers decide who gets offers.
Going back to our eternal theme of not overestimating the competition, remember that 99% of applicants will never even take the time to make a single weekend trip.
So even if you don’t wear the right clothes, you’re late to meetings, and half of your contacts cancel on you, that still puts you ahead of 99% of other aspiring bankers.
What About Other Meetings?
What happens if you get invited to an office tour but you have other, conflicting meetings lined up?
Email your other contacts to say you’re running late or ask if they can meet the next day instead.
That may not look great, but you need to leap at opportunities when they come – and few opportunities beat the ability to meet everyone at the office before you apply there.
You don’t want to camp out at the office for 5 hours, but an extra 30-60 minutes is well worth it.
Follow-up is less important because you’ve already met in-person, everyone at the office will have met you (hopefully), and weekend trips happen right before application deadlines anyway.
Write a quick email to the key bankers you met with and pose the same question in the informational interview guide: how to best position yourself for an interview.
That’s just to remind them that you’ve met in-person before – but they shouldn’t need much reminding in the first place.
If you still have time, go and email alumni and anyone you’ve already networked with and schedule your first weekend trip.
See what the responses are like, and then follow everything I’ve outlined above.
And if it’s too late, just keep this strategy in mind for next year or for when you get to business school.
I spent hours looking for information online and came up with almost nothing – everything above was compiled via personal experiences and reader interviews.
The one other article on the topic is from Careers-in-Finance, right here.
And not to be blatantly self-promotional, but yes, there is also an entire module in The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit with even more detail on weekend trips and sample schedules/emails.
If you have anything else good, do share.
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