by Brian DeChesare Comments (98)

How to Break Into Corporate Development and Make Bank Without Selling Your Soul

How to Break Into Corporate Development and Make Bank Without Selling Your Soul

While other exit opportunities get more attention – it is hard to pass up moving into PE or hedge funds and buying your own country, after all – corporate development presents many attractive benefits, such as having a life and building value for customers rather than destroying the world.

Today we’re going to speak with a reader who works in corporate development at a pre-IPO tech startup (yes, you would know the name) on the West Coast of the US.

Inside, you’ll learn:

  • What the recruiting process is like for corporate/business development and related fields.
  • What types of people go to work at normal companies, and how to move in from banking/consulting.
  • How recruiting might differ at larger companies and non-tech companies.
  • How to ask your MD to hook you up with a job without getting fired.

Walk Me Through Your Resume

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got into corporate development?

A: Sure. I was from a non-target university and worked at a middle-market investment bank after graduation, focusing on Internet companies there.

I was promoted to stay on for a 3rd year, but around that time I was also getting interested in moving on – I stuck around mostly because the economy was in a nosedive and we were just entering a recession at the time.

A few months after that, a company we had worked with before came to my MD and said they were looking for a corporate development Associate, so the MD referred me, I went through the recruiting process there, and had an offer a few weeks later.

I didn’t want to follow the typical PE or HF path, and at this startup I would have a chance to work directly with the CEO and other senior executives and get a much better work-life balance, so I decided to take the offer.

Q: Right, sounds like a good move – you were actually employed throughout an entire recession, which didn’t happen to too many other bankers.

You mentioned “corporate development” just now – terms like “business development,” “corporate strategy,” “corporate development,” and “corporate finance” are lumped in the same category, but how are they different? What do you focus on?

A: It depends on the company, but here’s how I think about the differences:

  • Corporate Development: You focus on M&A and acquiring other companies as well as setting up joint venture deals.
  • Business Development: It’s less about M&A and acquiring companies / stakes of companies and more about setting up partnerships.
  • Corporate Strategy: This is like management consulting, only internal to the company. You focus on planning their big-picture strategy, solving specific operational problems, and competitive analysis.
  • Corporate Finance: This is more like FP&A (Financial Planning & Analysis) – you maintain the company’s finances, plan their budget, and make sure all the right controls are in place.

Of those, corporate development is most similar to banking/PE, and corporate strategy is most similar to consulting; corporate finance is closer to accounting or auditing work and you don’t need to understand deals to do it.

My job is a combination of corporate development, business development, and corporate strategy – since it’s a startup you have to do a bit of everything.

Q: Sounds like a good deal, you get to acquire companies and advise the CEO while avoiding all that boring internal budget stuff. Why did you want to do corporate development rather than PE or HF?

A: A couple reasons:

  1. I wanted to go to a top business school one day and I could set myself apart by doing something other than the typical “track.”
  2. Since I was from a non-target school and didn’t work at a bulge bracket bank, I had almost no chance of getting into the top private equity firms and hedge funds.
  3. Corporate development offered a better lifestyle and more responsibility than what you’d get at a typical PE firm or hedge fund – at a lot of those places you’re still an Excel jockey pulling all-nighters.

Even though it’s a startup, the company itself is very well-known and so I also received the benefit of branding by working there.

The downside is that you don’t get paid as well and bonuses are much lower, so if you’re 100% focused on making as much money as possible, you’re better off following the traditional path.

Recruiting

Q: What’s the recruiting process like for corporate development?

A: As I mentioned, my MD recommended me to the VP of Corporate Development at my company and so I got interviews right away without having to go through a resume screen.

Here’s what I went through:

  1. After my MD recommended me, the VP of Corporate Development called me to chat and find out more about my background.
  2. I did 3 phone interviews before I flew in to meet with the company.
  3. On the interview day itself, I met with 10 people across all divisions at the company, from managers and VPs all the way up to the CEO himself.
  4. Right after meeting in-person, I heard back fairly quickly and accepted the offer.

They focused on my deal experience in interviews but did not go into extremely technical questions as you would get in some IB/PE interviews – they cared more about what the rationale behind each deal was, how I contributed, and the main issues we confronted.

They also asked more general questions such as what companies I admire, what I like about them, and what I thought about the strategies different companies were using.

There were a lot of questions on why corporate development over the typical PE/HF choices, so you need to have a good answer there (hint: don’t say “lifestyle,” say that you want to build value over the long-term and spend your time contributing to a single company’s growth).

They tried to gauge my maturity and see how well I could think independently, because the perception is that banking analysts follow the herd and do what they’re told – which is a big problem at a startup, or any normal company for that matter.

Q: I guess that’s not too difficult if you follow the news and have your own investment / strategy ideas, though.

Are they mostly looking for former bankers and consultants, or can undergraduates and people from different industries break in as well?

A: It’s very rare for undergraduates or people in other industries to get into corporate development, unless they’re already working in a similar role at a similar company.

When the VP of Corporate Development here began searching for someone to fill this position, he was only interested in investment bankers and management consultants.

I guess theoretically an undergraduate might be able to break in if he had previous internships in the field, but if they weren’t even open to it at a startup I doubt it would be easier at Fortune 500 companies.

Q: What about if you start out at the post-MBA level in banking or consulting? Can you still move into corporate development?

A: Honestly I am not 100% certain since our hiring process is more random than what you see at big companies.

But I have seen post-MBA bankers and consultants move in – it’s certainly more possible than getting into PE or HF, since they’re looking for younger candidates.

It’s still more difficult if you already have an MBA and you’re moving into corporate development because you’ll have higher salary expectations, but it is possible – you just have to be more discreet because you don’t exactly want to go around telling senior bankers that you’re leaving.

Q: Right, that makes sense and confirms some of the other stories from readers who completed MBAs.

Are there any differences in resumes compared to banking/PE, and do you need to talk about your deal experience differently?

A: Not really, just use the investment banker applying to buy-side resume template on this site and that works equally well for corporate development jobs.

Talking about deal experience is the same – focus on how you saved money, earned money, or improved a process – and follow everything in the PE interview guide here.

Making the Ask

Q: Most people would be afraid to approach their MD and ask for a recommendation – how did you do it and how much pull did he have?

A: A lot of it depends on your bank and the group you’re in. At most bulge bracket and middle-market banks, they are used to analysts moving on after 2 or 3 years so it’s not awkward at all to bring up the topic.

I would just shoot a quick email to your MD or whichever senior banker knows, likes, and trusts you the most and ask for 5 minutes to chat about the next steps in your career.

When you work with headhunters, specificity helps and they will be able to help you much more effectively if you can say exactly what you’re looking for (e.g. “$500MM – $1B PE funds that invest in Asian real estate assets”). But with MDs and other senior bankers, you shouldn’t be quite as specific – just say generally what you’re looking for (“corporate development”) and see if he knows of anything.

Headhunters have hundreds of opportunities coming in all the time, whereas bankers hear about far fewer job openings – if you’re too specific they might not be able to help you at all.

A lot of analysts are scared to ask senior bankers for buy-side referrals, but it’s silly because senior bankers benefit by helping out their analysts – if they help the analyst get a job at a normal company or PE/HF, their chances of getting business from that firm are higher in the future.

You could even ask MDs if their friends at other firms know of anything – if they like you, they will help you out.

Q: OK, but let’s say you have an MD who’s more like Patrick Bateman. He doesn’t like you, everyone in your group sucks, and it’s an awful work environment. What do you do then? Go to headhunters?

A: No. Unlike private equity and hedge funds, headhunters are extremely rare in corporate development.

I actually talked to some headhunters when I was getting ready to recruit, and no one had any opportunities in corporate development.

At normal companies, recruiting happens via connections, networking, and even via job board postings.

There are far fewer corporate development jobs than PE/HF jobs – to even have a corporate development division, a company has to be fairly large. You don’t see 10-person small businesses recruiting for corporate development roles.

Whereas an analyst or associate would be critical even at a 5-person startup hedge fund, he would be completely useless at a 5-person Internet startup until the company got big enough to make acquisitions.

If your group is not helpful and there’s an awkward culture there, network yourself and contact alumni, friends at other banks and firms, and even former clients to see what’s out there.

If you don’t know anyone, you can go to LinkedIn, Doostang, and other job boards online and apply there – that’s less effective and you shouldn’t spend all day doing it, but sometimes it does work.

Q: What about the timing for all of this? If you start out as an investment banking analyst or associate, when should you start recruiting for corporate development roles?

A: Unlike private equity and hedge fund recruiting, which follows a specific schedule and can finish more than a year in advance of when you start, corporate development recruiting is much more random.

If you’re set on moving on after your 2nd year, you don’t necessarily need to start 18 months in advance as you would for PE – you can wait until you get your first year bonus and then start recruiting in the fall. You definitely want to start 6 months or so in advance at the minimum, but normal companies hire year-round and job openings don’t follow a set schedule.

So I don’t think there’s an “ideal time” to recruit – just make sure you get your bonus before bouncing, and that you start looking well in-advance of when you’ll be leaving.

The Road Not Taken

Q: We’ve been discussing the recruiting process at a pre-IPO tech startup – how do you think it would be different at a much larger company, or a non-tech company?

A: I have a friend who just started in corporate development at a Fortune 500 company – his team there is more like 7-10 people rather than the 2-person team we have here, and he interviewed with everyone on the team but did not speak with executives in other divisions.

They still ask the same types of questions, but interviews may be more technical and formal and your job description would be narrower – at a company with tens of thousands of employees, they don’t need you to do corporate strategy and business development and corporate development.

So your role would be more focused on one area such as just M&A deals, and you wouldn’t be interviewing with the CEO and all the senior executives as I did.

Q: That CEO interview must have been tough – what did he ask you about?

A: It was actually one of my easier interviews, because it was very high-level – similar to interviewing with Managing Directors in banking.

He spent a lot of time asking about my career vision, why I was interested in corporate development rather than investment banking, and what ties I had to the local area.

They wanted people with connections to the city I’m in, because they want you to commit to living here for an extended period – it’s not like being sent overseas with the expectation of returning home after a few months to a year.

He also asked about the main challenges of corporate development compared to investment banking, because they wanted to assess if I understood how growing a company is different from working with clients, finishing, and moving onto new clients.

Q: On that note, let’s say that you have a change of heart and want to go back to making bank or trying to buy bottles with Starwood points. Can you move back into banking or consulting FROM corporate development?

A: I don’t know anyone who has done that – just like moving from PE into banking, it’s rare because the perception is that the exit opportunity is always “better” than where you started, so you need a good story to justify your move.

If you wanted to do that, you might be able to pull it off if you have lengthier experience in banking, went to corporate development for only a year or two, and are OK moving back into IB but receiving a “demotion” for the time you spent away.

Business school may be a better idea if you want to move back into finance or consulting.

Q: That’s your secret plan, right? What are your next steps after this?

A: Wait, don’t we cover that in part 2 of this interview?

Q: Right, I forgot. Need to give everyone reading something to look forward to.

A: Agreed.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.
by Brian DeChesare Comments (30)

From Nuclear Submarines to Investment Banking: How to Make the Leap from the Military to Finance

From Nuclear Submarines to Investment BankingCan you get into finance coming from a military background?

Just how many bankers each year break in from the Army, Navy, and Air Force?

I get a lot of questions on these topics, but up until now haven’t had solid answers beyond “yes” and “quite a few.”

But that changes today with an interview from a reader who broke into investment banking from a military background – keep reading to find out how he did it and how you can do the same.

Plus, advice on part-time vs. full-time MBA programs and starting in a location that isn’t New York.

Nuclear Submarines & Business School: Perfect Match?

Q: Tell us about your background and how you got started operating nuclear submarines.

A: Sure. I accepted a Navy ROTC scholarship right before attending college, because my priority at the time was to serve my country.

At school I picked a highly technical engineering track, but ended up taking a lot of financial math classes on the side – that’s how I originally got interested in finance.

After graduation, I wanted to work in a high-impact environment and since I had a technical background, I figured that nuclear submarines would be a good fit for me.

The Navy has a rigorous selection process for this kind of role, but I passed and started operating nuclear reactors aboard submarines.

After a few years there, I decided to attend a top MBA program as my next move.

Q: I guess you had an easy time proving your “attention to detail” in interviews. Coming from that background, why did you decide to go to business school as your next move?

A: I got a lot out of the Navy in terms of leadership, teamwork, and meeting deadlines, but I wanted to hone my financial skills and learn more about business.

I knew that moving into finance directly would be challenging since my background was unrelated, so I decided to use business school as a steppingstone.

I still had a commitment to the Navy, so I decided to attend a part-time evening program at a well-known business school while finishing my obligation of service.

Q: Most people would say that it’s very tough to break into finance coming from a part-time evening program – why did you decide to go that route instead of waiting and applying for full-time programs?

A: I could have waited, but that might have cost me 1.5 – 2 years due to my Navy commitment. I figured that I would be more competitive if I made the move sooner rather than later, so I opted for the evening program instead.

If you have the option, though, I would strongly recommend full-time programs.

I had a unique set of circumstances, and I ended up transferring to the full-time program anyway to take part in recruiting – looking back on it, starting out there may have made more sense.

Transferring & Recruiting

Q: You mentioned switching to the full-time program for recruiting purposes. When did you decide to do this, and how did you make the move?

A: In the evening program I couldn’t even drop my resume for recruiting purposes – I could still go to events and network with bankers there, but I couldn’t formally apply for internships or full-time jobs.

Recruiters also viewed me with a lot more scrutiny coming from the evening program – they would ask, “Was he not able to get into the full-time program? Were his GPA or GMAT scores not up to par?” If you’re not in a full-time program, you need good answers to those questions.

So I realized early on that transferring would make recruiting much easier.

As for the actual process, I just applied through the school after going through all the core classes, earning good grades, and developing a competitive profile.

The key is that the school doesn’t want you to hurt their average GPA / GMAT scores – as long as you’re above the bar there, it’s doable.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy – only a handful of people do it each year – but it is possible.

I would also add that a couple of classmates stayed in the evening program and successfully landed investment banking internships, so switching is not absolutely mandatory.

Q: Right, that makes sense. What about your networking efforts? Once you made the leap to the full-time program, did you just rely on on-campus recruiting or did you also use alumni networking?

A: I used both – early on, I relied more heavily on networking with military alumni. I started months before the school year began, and began by searching for former naval officers who now worked in investment banking, via LinkedIn.

I got around a 40% response rate, and leveraged the responses into phone calls and in-person meetings during the weekend trips I took to New York and other financial centers.

As the school year approached, I widened my net and started going beyond naval officers to other “military alumni” and also went through the alumni at my business school.

I waited to speak with the alumni last because they were in the best position to get me first-round interviews. Additionally, they were bombarded with emails from all my classmates so I wanted to ensure that I always made a strong first impression.

Q: What about the networking process itself? What did you do, and how effective was it?

A: In my initial emails, I would usually ask for 30 minutes to speak on the phone – but as I moved further in, I took trips to New York and other financial centers and met with bankers in-person.

Most “target schools” have a pretty regimented process for MBAs, and I used recruiting events to make a better impression on bankers in a social setting. That’s a huge advantage of target schools – these investment banking information sessions are the key to receiving first-round interviews.

Because I was aggressive with networking and made a good impression on the recruiting teams, I managed to win first-round interviews with most major banks.

How to Convince Them You’re a Financier

Q: So it sounds like you had a lot of practice with interviews, whether they were official interviews or unofficial informational interviews. What were the key challenges you faced coming from a military background?

A: The advantage of a military background is that you can sell your management experience, leadership, and teamwork skills more easily than, say, an accountant looking to break into investment banking.

And since I had operated a nuclear reactor, it wasn’t hard to convince bankers of my attention to detail. The same goes for unpredictable hours – going out to sea on a whim’s notice or being extended during a deployment were routine in the submarine force.

But there are a couple problems you’ll face coming from a military background:

  1. There’s the perception that ex-military guys don’t know finance.
  2. We also have a reputation for being overly blunt and trying to exert too much control over a situation.

Q: So how did you overcome these problems?

A: For the first one, I pointed to my high GPA and GMAT score as evidence that I could do quantitative work.

I know you’ve criticized it before, but I also enrolled in and passed Level I of the CFA – which at least showed them that I knew something about finance. Plus, I had all my finance classes from undergraduate.

On the second point – about being overly blunt – you just need examples of how you’ve compromised and worked successfully in a team without being overbearing.

A lot of this also comes across in your tone and presentation – if you’re a direct person, sometimes you have to take it down a few notches.

Regional vs. NYC Offices

Q: You ended up accepting an offer in a regional office rather than in New York – how did you think about this one, and why did you decide to start there instead?

A: Most people tell you that New York is the end-all when it comes to finance, at least in the US – but I’m not completely convinced of this.

For one, lots of regional offices actually do full deal execution themselves – SF is a hotbed for tech and biotech, LA for media and gaming, Houston for energy, Chicago for industrials, and so on.

If you already have an industry you’re interested in, going somewhere other than New York could be a good move.

Also, the cost of living is much less in other regions, the lifestyle is not much worse, and the deal teams are leaner which means more experience for junior bankers.

The main disadvantages of not starting in New York:

  1. You do miss out on networking opportunities by being around fewer bankers / financiers.
  2. You’re more limited in terms of moving to different regions / groups.

If you’re just out of university and you’re not sure exactly what you want to do, New York could be a better bet – but if you’re older, you have a family, or you have a good idea of what industry you want to work in, there are considerable advantages to starting outside of New York.

Q: Right, I agree completely. The obsession with New York in the US is similar to the obsession with exit opportunities. Thanks for your time – you have a very interesting story, and I learned a lot.

A: My pleasure.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.
by Brian DeChesare Comments (232)

You Didn’t Get Any Full-Time Investment Banking Offers. Now What Do You Do?

You Didn’t Get Any Full-Time Investment Banking Offers. Now What Do You Do?

“Don’t Panic.”

Or not.

If full-time recruiting season is over and you don’t have any offers, you should be panicking at least a little.

While summer interns who don’t get return offers have a few months to fix the situation, your options are more limited.

But that doesn’t mean you have no chance of getting full-time offers – so here’s what to do.

Worst-Case Scenario

You might think the worst case scenario is not getting a full-time job, but that’s not true – there are two scenarios that are worse:

  1. Putting yourself in a position where it’s nearly impossible to break into finance in the future.
  2. Moving into a job that’s difficult to leverage for business school or eventually breaking into finance.

#1 happens most often when you get the brilliant idea to go to business school straight out of undergrad… oops.

#2 is not the end of the world, but you still want to avoid it unless you absolutely, desperately need the income in the short-term.

If those are the 2 worst-case scenarios, then the best-case scenario is simple: whatever maximizes your chances of breaking in without limiting your options or wasting time on things that won’t help you in the long-term.

What Went Wrong?

The next question you need to ask: what went wrong?

There are only 2 reasons why you didn’t win any full-time offers:

1) You didn’t get any interviews / enough interviews.

Your problem was your resume, your networking efforts, or both.

If you’ve been submitting applications online, please stop immediately. It doesn’t work, and you’ll never get a critical mass of interviews like that.

You need to get on the phone ASAP and start talking to real people and then meeting them in-person – if you’re coming from a non-target school and you haven’t done that, you stand a 0.0000000000001% chance of breaking into investment banking.

If you’re at a better-known school, networking is still essential but your resume / lack of solid work experience is more likely the culprit.

Diagnosis: Make sure you’re using this investment banking resume template.

Then, take a look at your resume and your experiences – if you haven’t had impressive-looking internships then you need to get them if you want any chance of getting interviews.

Finally, take an honest look at your networking efforts – have you contacted at least 100 alumni? Cold-called 100 local boutiques? Talked to at least 20 people on the phone and hopefully met most of them in-person?

If not, then you need to put your nose to the grindstone and keep at it until you ninja your way into interviews.

2) You got a lot of interviews but didn’t do well or didn’t connect with the interviewers.

Winning offers from interviews is very, very random.

Yes, knowing the key fit and technical questions is essential, but a lot of people know those – especially in bulge bracket interviews.

You need a “hook” to actually win offers, and unless you’ve had dozens of interviews the “randomness” factor is too high for you to say anything concrete.

Diagnosis: If you didn’t have dozens of interviews, you need to get them (see above). If you did, and you still didn’t get any offers then you need to figure out what went wrong.

The best way to do this: go through a few mock interviews with friends in the industry.

90% of interview problems can be reduced to:

  1. Your “story”
  2. You don’t have a good answer for “why investment banking
  3. Your enthusiasm is low and you aren’t as polished as other interviewees

The good news is that “fixing” your interview skills takes less time than networking with hundreds of industry contacts and getting more impressive work experience.

But the bad news is that it’s very difficult to “teach” someone how to be more likable, which is what tips the scale in interviews.

How Much Time and Money Do You Have?

Next: how much time and money do you have to fix whatever mistakes you made?

If you didn’t win full-time offers, you need to fix your resume, interview skills, or networking skills, or maybe all of those… but how you do that depends on the resources at your disposal.

First, let’s go through a couple examples of what you shouldn’t do when you don’t have any full-time offers lined up, and then a couple examples of strategies that make more sense.

What NOT To Do

I thought about adding the CFA here just for fun, but I’ll resist the urge to do that – just this once.

1) Business School

It’s a big mistake to go to business school with minimal full-time work experience.

How much do you need?

At least 3-5 years. We basically threw out resumes of Associate candidates who had less experience.

Yes, there are plenty of good reasons to go to business school if you want to use it for something else, but going immediately after undergraduate is a recipe for disaster if you want to get into banking from your program.

And be careful that your work experience is actually “full-time” – a bunch of side projects or travel combined with teaching English and intermittent work won’t stack up to the guy who managed a $1 billion product line for 4 years.

The other big problem with going to business school right after undergrad is that if you don’t get into finance when you’re there, your future chances also drop dramatically.

2) Back Office

For the last time, back office to front office moves – at least for investment banking – are rare and very difficult to pull off.

Yes, it may work slightly better in other fields and some people pull it off successfully, but you need to think about the probability.

What will give you a higher probability of eventually moving to a large bank’s investment banking division – starting in the back office, or going to a boutique first and then making a lateral move?

Please, stop the insanity and go for front office roles at smaller firms rather than “taking what you can get” and making the back office your backup.

3) Normal Job

By “normal” I mean not related to finance at all – marketing, engineering, medicine, etc. Corporate development, wealth management, consulting, and the like don’t qualify.

I would only “settle” for this if you’ve been out of school for months, have networked extensively, are doing all the right things, but still have no offers and you really need income in the short-term.

4) Nothing At All

I’m not referring to whether or not you have something lined up by the time you graduate – I’m talking about what you DO between now and when you graduate.

I had a reader last year who only started her full-time job search 2 months before graduation. Whoops.

No matter what you’re “busy” with, figuring out what you’re doing afterward comes before everything else – so move grades, classes, and activities lower on your priority list.

Possible Plan B’s

Here are 5 viable options. They’re not mutually exclusive, and there’s no “best” option – everything depends on your own situation.

1) Delaying Graduation

“Help! I have no offers. Should I delay my graduation and go for summer internships again this year, then do full-time recruiting before I graduate in December next year?”

It’s most helpful if:

  1. You got some interviews but had trouble convincing them you could do the work since you didn’t have substantial internships.
  2. You go to a well-known school that banks recruit at – otherwise it’s a huge gamble to bet on summer internships.
  3. Your problem was your resume or interview skills, as opposed to your networking efforts.

The main problem: if you’ve had impressive internships, done a lot of interviewing, but simply didn’t make it through any final rounds, then it will come across as an obvious Plan B to anyone interviewing you – and they’ll ask the questions you don’t want to answer.

2) Master’s Program

Another common plan, and also not a bad move. It’s good if:

  1. You’re using it to move to a better-known school where banks recruit.
  2. You didn’t do enough networking and need more time and better access to recruiters.
  3. You could also use some more impressive-looking internships.

This is not the best plan if the main issue was your interview skills – it’s a big commitment just to have another shot at recruiting.

The focus of your program is almost irrelevant beyond being related to finance/business/economics in some way – if you’re trying to re-brand yourself, don’t go for a Master’s Degree in English Literature.

3) Keep At It

This one gets overlooked, probably because it’s not as “exciting” as the other options.

If you keep cold-calling and networking, you’ll eventually get something – the only way to fail is if you give up first. Even if you graduate without a firm plan in place, that’s still better than taking the wrong job.

You should think about this option if:

  1. You don’t have the resources to delay graduation or to stay in school even longer.
  2. You have a decent amount of work experience but you lack a good network and need time to build it.
  3. You don’t mind going for smaller banks at first and then making a lateral move.

If you’re at a non-target school and cannot move elsewhere or stay in school longer, this is your best option: set a target of making 10 calls per day, sending 10 emails per day, and so on, and never take “no” for an answer.

4) Mini-Retirement

I’m referring to my suggestions on what to do with time off before you start working full-time: moving to another country for a few months and doing something interesting.

This one can work but it’s more risky than the others since it puts you out of the game for quite awhile – if you do this for an entire year after graduation, for example, it’s tough to jump back into recruiting.

It’s more viable if you combine this with the other options above – so maybe you apply to grad school, but take 1-2 months in between to go on an adventure.

That way you get a big boost to your networking and interview skills because you appear more interesting, plus you might get some solid leads if you go to a country with a major financial center.

5) Something Leverageable

If all else fails, none of these options is viable, and you can’t afford to spend more time recruiting, then you might have to take what you can get.

But still think about something that can be spun into sounding relevant to finance – corporate finance at a large company, helping governments manage all the financial services companies they now own, or even an economics/business-related fellowship.

Your Plan of Attack

If full-time recruiting season is over and you don’t have any offers, your plan of attack is simple: figure out what went wrong, decide what you’ll do after graduation to give yourself another shot at recruiting, and then spend your time between now and then fixing the mistakes you made.

Now, get to it.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.