So you found out just a little bit late that you want--need--to be an investment banker. Maybe you just missed OCR. Or maybe you didn't get a job through OCR and are scrambling, still with no luck. Or maybe you are a year removed from undergrad and in another job, but you're looking for opportunities that don't seem to be there since this is the awkward stage between campus and experienced hire.
Whatever your reasons, you're now stuck in the off-cycle recruiting haze, somewhere between annoyingly enthusiastic and pathetically scared--probably a mix of both. I'm a strong believer that (assuming reasonable goals) you will achieve what you set out to do if you work hard enough.
Good News and Bad News
First, I have good news and bad news. If you're like me, you want the bad news first so here it is: IB is hard to get into even from a target. Now that most analyst classes are full, there are even fewer spots to go around. And you aren't the only one trying to fill those spots. Lots of people are.
Depressed yet? Wait for it, here's the good news: people drastically overestimate how hard it is to get an IB job by saying it's impossible (it's not). Most classes ARE full, but many are not, and firms are motivated to fill those spots. Also, there may be a lot of people in your position, but as long as you're competent you don't have to be the best. You just have to be the first.
One final word before we get to the list: you need to believe this is possible and go all in. If you don't none of this will matter because you won't work hard enough. I'm not superstitious, but I believe we get what we deserve. If you work hard, you will get what you want because you will earn it, and you will feel like you earned it. If you don't work hard, you likely won't get what you want. Now, on to the list.
1. You Need to be Technically Ready
The whole point of Off-Cycle Recruiting is that you are scrambling to fill one of the last spots available. If you are blowing youror--worse--actual job interviews because you're not ready technically, then you're doing it wrong. It's best to have even advanced technical down. You don't have to be spreading and doing analysis for fun, but it would probably help.
2. Call and Email Everyone Everywhere
You need to have your hands in as many pots as possible. Contact everyone you can think of and ask for advice or information. Make sure your emails are brief but pointed and people will get back to you. If you're getting a call out of every 10 emails, you're probably okay, but you should consider changing your email if it's not yielding as many calls as you'd like. You are up against lots of kids looking at lots of banks, and as I mentioned, you don't need to be the best, just the first to impress a bank. But part of having your hand in many pots is that beggars can't be choosers. This isn't the time to be picky; it's the time to get a job. If you hold out forthe rest of your life, you might never break into IB.
3. Communicate Wisely
You will talk to people. Lots of people are generally nice and helpful. And if you're contacting people through your network, your chances of meeting these people are even higher. You need to know how to answer all the fit and story questions in any order. You need to learn how to condense it to 15 seconds or expand it to 15 minutes (not really, but being able to sure proves that you know your story). If you don't believe your story, neither will they.
You need to be enthusiastic, and it's deceptively hard to fake. If you're not the enthusiastic type, at least sound earnest. It will come across in your voice and help interviewers insta-you as someone who actually wants the job.
Be grateful, but not annoyingly so. People love gratitude but nobody loves a suck up. Thank them in the beginning for taking your call, thank them for specific advice (only if it's actually good advice or they'll know you're full of it), and thank them at the end.
Lastly, be concise. If you're asked if you know how to do a, you can just say "yes". If they want you to expound, they will indicate so. Anyone can go off, but it takes communication discipline to be silent. Caveat: don't sound like an idiot by giving one word answers to everything. Be professional, earnest, and grateful, but concise. You will sound more intelligent guaranteed.
4. Be Bold
Q: Why are you talking to all these people? A: Because you want a job. So why is it so hard to ask for one? If the conversation is going well (and after points 2 and 3 it should be), then you should have no shame in asking for referrals or job openings. You can even ask about opportunities at other banks if they truly have nothing open because if you don't you'll never know if maybe they had a contact they could have shared with you.
5. Don't Get Discouraged
If you're following the advice above, don't get discouraged! (If you don't have the willpower to study the technical and get your story down, you can be discouraged all you want, but you don't deserve to break into IB and you can stop reading). People can and do get out of cycle IB jobs, and you shouldn't be an exception. Keep working until it happens. Your feelings will fluctuate between encouraged and discouraged daily, but try to keep discourage at a minimum; at most, it should only motivate you to learn more or try harder.
6. Know What You Are Getting Into
Do your research. Being an IB analyst or associate isn't hard. At its core there is elementary math and collegiate communication skills. But the hours are grueling; deadlines are plentiful; life outside of banking will likely suck; you won't feel as rich as you think you will be. But if you know this is what you want to do, jump all in.
That's it! I don't know what else to say other than good luck. If you really want it, you'll find a way.