by Brian DeChesare Comments (128)

Networking Into Investment Banking: It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Networking Into Investment Banking: It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint“Help! I’m a senior who just started my job search and I really, really want to work in investment banking. I have no finance experience and go to a non-target school. I also only got interested a few weeks ago. Can I work at Goldman Sachs?”

I’ve been getting a lot of emails similar to the above recently.  While I hate to ruin your hopes of getting into the field, the reality is you are at a pretty big disadvantage if you get started late in the process.

I know this firsthand because I got started quite late myself.

But you’re at an even bigger disadvantage if you rush and try to compete with everyone else who has had previous finance experience, vying for spots at the top names.

The Usual Story

The usual story is simple: banks come to campus to hold recruiting events and you see all your friends running off to the presentations – so you go and do the same.  And even if you hadn’t been interested in banking or finance before, suddenly you get interested and wonder how you can break in.

Sometimes this happens later in your career.  I receive a lot of email from working professionals in other fields like accounting, marketing and engineering who suddenly realize they want to work in finance – or at least something faster-paced than what they currently do.

Or sometimes MBA students realize, after missing the all-important banking internship their first year, that they really do want to do finance after all.

The Usual Problems

Regardless of how you got here, your problems shared by everyone else in your position: others have had a head start in the field and you’ve been left (relatively) behind.

Even if you’re more interested and capable than the next guy, you won’t have the quality or quantity of contacts in the field that he will.  And you won’t have that all-important “finance experience.”

Recruiters will also find it more difficult to believe that your interest is sincere if you only became interested in the last few months.

The Solution?

If you are starting late and need to get in, what can you do?

Well, you could make an all-out, last-minute effort to cold-call and cold-email every bank you can get a hold of and hope you get lucky.

And you could reach out to 50 alumni, friends and acquaintances each day in an effort to get in and take advantage of the fall recruiting season.

But none of that sounds particularly fun (not that recruiting is fun in the first place…).

So the less obvious but better solution is to not make breaking in a last-minute, all-out effort but rather a long-term goal that you work on each week, and make sure you do it consistently.

It’s better to consistently contact 10-15 people in the industry each week rather than 100 per week… and then get tired of it in week 2 and never start again.

Wait, Are You Sure?

This might seem counter-intuitive: if you have less time, shouldn’t you work harder?

It turns out that it’s actually counter-productive and you’ll get tired of trying to cold-call 50 firms per day on top of balancing real life, work, and classes.

And while most major banks recruit mainly in the fall, regional boutiques and other smaller firms – which you should be focusing on anyway – have more flexible hiring schedules, which means you could get lucky at any point in the year.

In short, regardless of whether you’re a freshman, a senior, an MBA or a mid-career professional who’s switching fields, breaking into banking is a marathon, not a sprint.


There are a few constraints – if you’re in college, for example, you may need to line something up by graduation.  But even if you start “late,” at the beginning of your final year, that still gives you almost an entire year to break in.

Even if you only reach out to 10 alumni or acquaintances in a week, that’s still over 500 in a year – which should be more than enough to get at least one interview.

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. Gordon James

    Hi Brian and team,
    You have no idea how helpful this site has been. I am a sophomore and I was wondering when is it too early to start networking for a junior year internship or when will be the best date to start networking for an internship?

    1. Internship recruiting now starts 1 year in advance of internships, so you need to get started ASAP:

  2. Hello Nicole and the rest of M&I,
    Thanks for all the insights. If I go to a target school near a major city, have stellar grades in three hardcore majors, have a bunch of leadership experiences, and have had internships in consulting, ibanking (boutique), and entreprenurship, have done research at a top business school as an undergrad, is it possible to break into IBD penultimate year internship without networking?
    I know it sounds naive but I’m just wondering. I just discovered I want to do IBD 4 months ago and I have 2 months left before recruiting, will I still have enough time to prep?

    1. Yes, it might be possible, but you should still probably contact at least a few alumni. You don’t necessarily need to go through a hardcore effort with that profile, but some networking always helps.

      1. Thanks a lot for the quick reply! Really helped.
        I am applying to a BB’s accelerated internship recruitment but don’t know anyone there, if I don’t get in this first round am I still eligible for regular recruiting later? Will that hurt my chances?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I’d suggest that you confirm with HR. I am not 100% sure if you can reapply again if you don’t get in the first round. We recommend that candidates submit their best application, even if it means it maybe a bit later. If you believe you can submit your best materials in the first round, I’d go ahead. Otherwise I may wait till you’re ready.

  3. Hi,

    I am currently a senor in a five-year Master of Accountancy program (3 semesters until I graduate). I am doing a financial analysis internship at an advertising agency in the due diligence process of being bought out by a PE firm. I am about 60 pages into the Vault Guide for Ibanking, and I want to really hit it hard networking with alumni and friends in banking, but I dont feel like I know my stuff well enough to have phone conversations yet. Should I keep studying a bit more and then start networking? Or should I just go for it, and possibly not know some of the topics covered? Which is better?

    1. No, just start networking, and learn the rest as you go.

  4. Hi,

    I am now in my college senior year and have already got an investment banking offer. But I would like to know more people in the industry and in PE. How can I network? I don’t have too many questions to ask them for now so there’s no point on doing more informational interviews? Any advice?


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can still network with professionals in the industry. Just tell them you have an offer and you’d like to expand your contacts to people in IB and PE. Tell them you’d be interested in hearing their views on the industry and that you’d appreciate any tips/pointers from them. I wouldn’t go out of your way to set up informational interviews but I’d ask to grab coffee if you’re in their area to understand more about what they do

  5. Hi,

    Say I’m a rising junior and I’m sure IB is what I want to go into. I’m working for a PE firm this summer and am trying to network for an internship at a top IB firm before senior year. Is it worth it to talk to non-IB people (wealth management, etc). Better said – is it more important to go for the field you want or the letter head at first? After all, it’s only your first job…


    1. M&I - Nicole

      It can be worthwhile though it is not directly relevant. I’d focus on speaking with people in PE & IB first. Remember you have to be focused and effective when it comes to networking. I’d go for the field you want first and if that doesn’t work out, go for plan B.

  6. Hi Brian and team,

    Thanks a lot for all of your help. Love the site. I just wanted to get some advice. I go to non target, previous WM internship and now another finance internship with Morningstar. Rising Jr. Just started emailing bankers and applying, reached about 70 so far. A lot just forwarded my resume and some told me to stay in touch. How do you go about staying in touch with the ones who just forward the resume? With the ones who want to stay in touch? Follow up and meet with them in person? And also, I dont have much time to cold call during the week. Would cold calling on saturday be okay, assuming that the bankers are most likely working? I appreciate any help I can get with this.


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I would stay in touch by asking them out for brief coffees (around their office building) if you’re close to where they work. It is through networking and frequent contact that random opportunities in IB come up. It may be a bit awkward to cold call on Saturdays though some bankers (mostly junior level) may be indeed at work. Some may be lucky enough to get Saturday off though. Since you want to reach the senior level who makes all the hiring decision, I’d suggest you to call during weekdays because chances they’re in the office during weekdays are higher.

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