Congratulations!!! You made it into investment banking. Of course early on you're excited and just want to spend 100+ hours in the office to impress everyone and get that top bucket bonus, but how do you really get the most mileage out of your 2 year stint in banking? For most, it's about exit ops and this is becoming more and more true as we see bonuses go down the shitter. Heck, a lot of my friends got paid less in their 2nd year than they did in their 1st year!
Now if you're looking to stay for the long haul, this post might not be so helpful. In that case, there really is no secret trick or tips. You simply need to be good, which means a strong work ethic, good technical/modeling skills, and a legitimate interest in chasing deals and closing them.
For the rest of you, there are some ways to set yourself up for an exit while not necessarily suffering the most. So here are some tips from a fellow ex-analyst that you won't find in most employee handbooks:
1. Plan your exit ahead of time.
Reach out to headhunters ASAP and set up interviews. You only have to do them once and then you'll be free to use your actual "sick" days to interview for the buyside. Also, you never know when megafunds are going to interview and stampede all over each other for the best candidates. For my year, they went really early (before Christmas) of our first year while the next year they went after the midmarket guys. Not to mention if you're focused on HFs which are year round, you'll see more opportunities by getting your name out there earlier since a lot of HFs will hire 1st year bankers and not wait for the full 2 year stint to finish.
2. Work really hard the first 3 months.
Of course everyone's excited early on, but you should make it a point to stay late and show facetime, even if they don't require it at your shop. This creates a reputation that you're a hard worker (but don't be obvious by taking 8 hours on a few simple slides and then sending it out at 4am like this one idiot summer associate used to do). Also, you want the best deals early on for recruiting purposes and since you never know which one will close, being on the most # gives you the best chances of getting that lucite.
3. Find the best MD and try to get deals under him.
This may seem like a no brainer, but too many kids in coverage groups tend to ask for TYPES of deals such as "Hey can I please get M&A deals instead of IPOs" instead of asking for the PERSON. Getting that rainmaker's attention will help you more than having an extra M&A deal or two under your belt. All you really need is one good deal to talk about and what really matters is having great recommendations and having someone go to bat for you. A fellow analyst was able to land a megafund offer 4 months into his 1st year by simply doing good work for a rainmaker and it wasn't even an M&A deal! It's much better to do 1 M&A and 3 debt/equity deals for a baller who will push for you than to do 5 M&A deals across 3 different MDs who don't even know your name. Get under someone's wing and stay there!
4. Be social and talk to the 2nd years.
Sometimes the best asset is getting the superstar 2nd year to take you under his wing. Though we all have horrible hours, don't hermit yourself in your cubicle and work all day. Even if you turn in slightly worse work, it's still better to be known around the office and to walk around and talk to people. Obviously don't bother people if they're busy but in your down time make sure you're fraternizing with the rest of the analyst class. They're the ones who can give you the most help in terms of recruiting, finding that special place to take a nap, modeling tips/help or just giving you a better banking experience in general. Trust me, once you get to the buyside you're going to miss having a cohort of fellow analysts to talk to and complain with.
5. Maintain good relations, but slack off.
Most people do one extreme or the other. They either work their ass off until the finish, or they go totally crazy and destroy the connections and goodwill they've built up over the past two years. What you want to do is finish up your current work and keep those who wrote or gave you good references as a future resource/network. However, you should definitely push back more on staffers and leave early on nights you aren't doing much. Don't be afraid to simply say "No" to a new deal, especially a pitch that goes nowhere and will take up the next two months. Most people are scared of job security in this market, but trust me it is usually detrimental for anto fire a second year that is already planning to exit. Unless the group is facing serious problems, it's really counterproductive to let go of productive/knowledgeable second years who already "get it".
There's a lot more tips/tricks I've picked up from my stint in banking (such as getting on a staffer's good side) but I figure I'll save those for another day.