by Brian DeChesare Comments (564)

You Didn’t Get Any Investment Banking Summer Internship Offers. Now What Do You Do?

you_didnt_get_any_investment_banking_summer_internship_offersSummer internship recruiting is over.

Bankers have come to your campus, conducted interviews, finished recruiting, and now they’re back to their pitch books.

But you don’t have any offers.

What now?

No Summer Offers vs. No Full-Time Offers

There are 3 main differences:

  • Timing: You have more time to find your Plan B with full-time recruiting – sometimes a year vs. only a few months with summer internships.
  • Options: You have more options if you come out of full-time recruiting empty-handed: delaying graduation, going for a Master’s program, moving to Thailand…
  • Seriousness: While the lack of a good junior year internship will hurt you, it’s less of an emergency than having no post-graduation plans.

Worst-Case Scenario

You find no real internship, so you become a life guard or work in retail for the summer.

Which means that you don’t have to work 100 hours per week, you won’t get horribly out of shape, and hey, you might actually have fun for a few months.

So it’s not that bad.

But it also won’t put you in a good position for future internships, or for full-time recruiting.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to avoid this scenario – even if it’s the last-minute and you don’t appear to have options.

What Went Wrong… Does It Matter?

If you didn’t get a full-time offer, you need to look at what went wrong to plan your next steps: Was it your resume? Your (lack of) networking? Your interview skills?

You can still do this if you’re applying for summer internships… but it’s not as helpful.

A few problems can prevent you from getting summer internships:

  1. Your GPA, especially at more competitive schools.
  2. Lack of networking or lack of networking-in-advance.
  3. Interview skills / resume or too much preparation.

The first 2 are difficult to “fix” on 2-3 months’ notice.

And even if you can “fix” these 2 problems – or even #3 – you can’t get a second chance to prove yourself.

So don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis.

What NOT To Do

We’ll start with what not to do, because that’s easier to define.

Nothing

I’ve run across some people who just expect an internship to fall into their laps even if the magic 8-ball points to “no.”

While miracles are possible, don’t hold your breath: the harder you work the more your “luck” will improve.

Study for the CFA / Get Other Certifications

You probably already know my views on the CFA, but just in case

While studying is a better use of time than doing nothing, that’s like saying that death via the electric chair is better than drowning: you’re dead either way, but one is slightly less terrifying.

The problem with studying or getting certifications over the summer is that you can’t write anything on your resume under “Work Experience” to describe what you did – so you’ll have a big gap on there.

All you’ll get is another 1-2 lines at the bottom of your resume: not a great reward for 500 hours of study time.

If you’re really set on doing these over the summer, you could still do them – but only if you treat them as a side project and you spend the bulk of your time on something that you can actually list as “Work Experience.”

Back Office

If you’re in your 1st or 2nd year in university, the back office isn’t as terrible as some would have you believe – if you can get a middle or back-office role at a well-known bank, that’s much better than a summer spent at Best Buy.

This one gets less attractive if you’re looking for junior year internships, because a back office internship won’t turn heads if you’re trying to move to front-office banking in full-time recruiting.

Filling the Gap: Possible Solutions

So how do you fill the gap, find something worthwhile to do over the summer, and make sure you don’t have a gaping void on your resume?

Delaying Graduation… Again

This is certainly one option – and if you have your heart set on a bulge bracket investment banking summer internship you might want to give it another shot.

But it doesn’t solve our original problem here – what you should do this summer.

So don’t make any decisions until you have summer plans in place – and keep pursuing Plan B options on the side.

If nothing works out, delaying graduation may actually hurt you because banks will say, “So, what did you do last summer? How have you improved since we saw you last time?”

Options Within Finance

If investment banking doesn’t work out, your next best option is something else in finance – fixed income trading, prop trading, wealth management, public finance, or corporate finance – to give a few examples.

The only issue here is that many of these also finish summer recruiting the same time that investment banking groups do – so if you didn’t get into investment banking at Morgan Stanley and it’s March, your chances of getting an S&T summer internship there aren’t much better.

The further away you move from large investment banks, the easier it gets to find something else in finance at the last-minute: I’ve been conducting dozens of interviews with readers, and many of them pulled this off against all odds.

How do you find these options?

The same way you find a normal summer internship: job postings at your school (if they exist), alumni networking, and cold-calling, with a focus on smaller places.

Outside of Finance

These options are a notch below the finance ones, but they still beat studying for the CFA or working at Best Buy by a long shot.

In this category, you might think about marketing, sales, or accounting-type roles at “normal” companies, Big 4 firms, or anything else that’s out there.

I’m not going to “rank” any of these because it’s impossible to quantify and because “ranking” is one of my least favorite topics (just after the CFA and GPA rounding).

Just like a lawyer, accountant, or engineer trying to break into finance, you want to get experience that can be spun into sounding relevant.

So if you do accounting at a Big 4 firm, working with financial services companies or helping out with due diligence on transactions is better than auditing Wal-Mart’s 10-K.

At F500 companies it’s still hard to get something at the last-minute, but overall competition is far less than in investment banking.

Keep At It But Adjust Your Focus

You should be doing this no matter what option you decide to pursue – it’s still worth spending at least a few hours per week cold-calling banks and emailing alumni just to see if anything turns up.

If it’s May and you still have nothing, you shouldn’t decide to suddenly spend 80 hours per week cold-calling – at that stage, no amount of effort will produce miracles.

But if you still have a few months left, continuing to network is always worth it.

Go Off the Beaten Path

This is a great idea if you have some time before you start your full-time investment banking job, but it’s not so great if you’re looking for a solid internship.

Banks are biased toward anyone with previous corporate finance experience – so if you’ve done something that looks completely unrelated they’ll be suspicious of you.

If you really want to start your own surf shop or you want to spend the summer climbing mountains, go ahead – but be aware that it’s not much better than the “doing nothing” option in the eyes of investment banks.

This is stupid and unfair because you often do more work and get more responsibility with these options, but that’s just how banks work.

The one exception here: if you can spin this experience into sounding relevant to finance, it may be a good idea. Certain fellowships, study abroad programs, and research opportunities may qualify.

Brand Name vs. Quality Experience

One issue that comes up with all these options is the the brand name of a firm vs. your experience.

Some people think it’s all about brand name, while others say it’s more about the experience you get.

If you’re interested in investment banking (or private equity, or hedge funds…) then you should think about it like this:

For summer internships, brand name within the same role matters more than your exact experience.

So a front-office internship at a boutique will still beat a back-office internship at Goldman Sachs.

But a front-office internship at Goldman would beat a front-office internship at a boutique, even if you work on a dozen deals at the boutique and learn advanced modeling and all you do at GS is fetch coffee for people.

It’s just the way things work: bankers scan resumes very quickly and have a strong bias for brand names and anything that reads “Investment Banking Analyst.”

Attack!

So, what’s your plan of attack?

First, figure out how much time you have left before internships begin and what the lowest-hanging fruit is: Have you already done a lot of networking in one industry? Do you have good contacts at one firm, or are there a lot of alumni in one field of finance?

Then, start reaching out to your contacts in other fields while you continue to spend at least a few hours per week calling and emailing bankers. You can up this if you have a few months left.

If you’re not getting good results, keep broadening your search to consider anything that’s even tangentially related to finance.

And if nothing works out, find something else cool to do and spin it into sounding relevant to finance.

Or you could just work at Best Buy.

(Kidding, don’t do that).

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. I go to a semi-target, and I am currently recruiting right now (August 2019) for 2020 SA roles, I started a little bit late (maybe even too late). I wanna know how I can play my cards right and get a SA role and if I am too late I wanna know what I can do to eventually end up in IB.

    1. Maybe focus on smaller banks that are still recruiting for 2020 summer internships at this stage. Another good bet is to try regional offices of larger banks, since intern quality sometimes varies a lot more outside NY. See:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/last-minute-investment-banking-recruiting/

      If that doesn’t work, think about related roles like corporate finance at a normal company, Big 4, independent valuation firm, etc. and then make a lateral move from there.

  2. Hey Brian,

    What advice do you have for someone in this position, but with regard to starting FT recruiting. I am someone who wasn’t able to get a junior year summer internship, but still looking to start full time recruiting in the summer and fall. Any tips besides networking and cold calling?

    1. It depends on your full profile (university, GPA/test scores, previous internships, networking done so far), but in general, if you haven’t had many finance-related internships, I would recommend skipping IB for now and going for related roles such as corporate finance, corporate banking, valuation firms, Big 4, etc. because it tends to be easier to win those roles, and you can then make a lateral move into IB from there.

      If you have had some relevant internships, you could give it a shot if you’re willing to do a crazy amount of networking very quickly. There is a good example here:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/last-minute-investment-banking-recruiting/

      1. Hey Brian,

        I received an offer for a Corporate Banking SA 2020 position at a respected boutique structured under it’s capital markets group. Since I am a transfer student this will be like my sophomore summer, so I would not be eligible to accept a full time offer here. I was hoping to complete this internship then return for a junior yr internship in IB in 2021, however, given the timing I now realize that I can’t (I would have to recruit for IB before completing my CB internship and they would be upset I’m not able to accept a full time offer after 2020 summer) So if I accept this CB internship it will ruin my chances of recruiting there for IB 2021, and this bank is top 4 in my schools placements. Is the sophomore experience in capital markets worth ruining my chance there for IB 2021? Or decline since I still have some time and hope for something better like IB at a boutique?

        1. I don’t think it matters. I would just accept the CB offer so you can then focus on networking for the 2021 IB internship starting at the end of this calendar year into next year since recruiting now takes place a year in advance. Because of the weird timing, they’re used to students having 2nd year internships already.

  3. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the information.

    I am a penultimate-year Hong Kong student studying in one of the local Universities. After completing an internship in an investment banking boutique last summer, I was invited by two BBs for phone interviews but yet failed to get any offer. After that, I got offers from a local hedge fund, and I am also having an interview for a middle-office role in one of the five largest asset management firm in the coming week. Assume I successfully land an offer for the MO role, which one should I choose that will gives me a better shot for coming full-time graduate application? And could you kindly give me other advice that may help increase my chance of getting a BB graduation job? (I have recently heard of rumours about BBs cutting headcount due to low level of market activity……)

    Thank you in advance!

    1. I would pick the hedge fund role, assuming it is front office, because front-office finance roles pretty much anywhere beat back or middle-office roles. I don’t know why you interviewed at the other banks but didn’t get offers, so it’s hard to say how you might be able to improve. My gut reaction is that you simply needed more interviews – recruiting is a numbers game, and most successful candidates need to interview at ~5-10 banks (at least) to win even 1 offer.

      1. Thank you for your advice!

  4. Hi Brian
    Thank you for taking time to write these kind of articles, they are extremely insightful.
    In my scenario, I am a foreign student studying at a private school in Singapore
    Which means that I am not allowed to take internships at all in this country
    I am graduating in June this year without any internship related to investment banking
    What career path should I pursue to get a chance to land a job in investment banks as an analyst

  5. Hey Brian

    Thank You so much for the article.
    So if I am studying at a non-target B-School and want to get into IB or a VC/PE firm(eventually to move into IB) and I have not been able to land a Summer offer with any of the big brands. Then what are some of the useful activities I could essentially do to add value to my careers like any short term projects or a part-time investment analyst job? Also, doesn’t it happen that an IB will reject my resume as soon as they see me coming from a non-target?

  6. Hi Brian, thanks for offering so many help to us. I have been using your BIWS since the time I think about a job in IBD.

    I did sales and trading summer internship but unfortunately did not get the return, but now I get an IBD summer internship offer from a BB. I am thinking should I really gap a semester for the internship or I can negotiate and talk casually with HR first before making any decision?

    Thanks for any suggestion!

    1. ??? I’m not sure I understand your question. If you did not get a return offer, but you won an IB summer internship offer, what is there to decide on? Accept the IB summer internship offer and try to win a return offer there.

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