How I got into BankingPE
Mod Note: bumping this thread from November 2006 up top to the forums for new members who haven't seen it. Great story from one of our top members.
So I'm new here and spent a good deal of time reading all of the posts from the past few weeks. I thought I would share my story.
So I am at a Business school in New England majoring in Computers. No banks recruit at my school with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 smaller ones. We have almost no alumni in I-Banking and I certainly don't know any of them or even bothered to find out who they were. I didn't have any previous experience in I-Banking but I had taken a couple Accounting, Finance, and Economics courses.
So I knew the first thing I needed to do was build both my technical knowledge and industry knowledge. I purchased numerous Vault guides on everything. Investment Banking, Venture Capital, Finance Interviews, anything I felt would relate to I-Banking. I bought a dictionary of Finance terms and familiarized myself with the lingo. I even bought books such as one titled: Mergers & Acquisitions from A-Z. My friends who were finance and accounting majors lent me their textbooks to read in my spare time. I had already spent a lot of time on Yahoo tracing the market and learning about interest rates and all of the economics I could take in. Whenever I had a free moment I'd be attempting to learn more finance/accounting. This gave me the technical basics I needed.
Second, I had to get work experience. As a Computer major I had a number of internship in "computer" roles, but nothing in finance. I found a boutique bank that was willing to take me onboard part time during the semester. Not many people are willing to work during a semester for free. I set up my work hours around my classes and agreed to come in on the weekends as well. All in all my internship eats about 40ish hours a week. I think this internship was really the thing that made it possible for me to secure interviews. By working the equivalent of a 9 - 5, while simultaneously taking a full course load, I was able to prove to banks that I could handle the hours. Not to mention I proved to myself that I was capable.
There I stood with my rapidly increasing technical knowledge and an internship under my belt. My resume was quite strong with a number of extra-curriculars, a high GPA (not 3.5 but not 4.0), and some things that screamed mathematics. I had some family in similar industries so I was able to have them pass my resume through to some banks. I was also able to secure a few interviews at MM banks on my own merit. I didn't care too much for the BB firms because I'm more interested in learning as much as I can and I feel as though MM is the best way to do that. This isn't to say BB doesn't teach you anything, but MM was just a better fit for me.
So I built my own personal database of companies that I wanted to send my resume and simply used the brute force method. I must have sent out near 50. Looking back at the process, I definitely should have done 75 to 100. I saved myself time and didn't bother sending it to Goldman, MS, and the likes.
Obviously things didn't end there. All of my preliminary interviews were done over the phone. Banks simply didn't go to my school. I spent about 30 - 50 hours going over my resume, perfecting answers to any possible question that could be thrown at me. I continued to read the WSJournal daily to ensure I was up to date (not to mention I think its interesting ... but thats besides the point). I practiced doing math quickly in my head while I was in the shower. Interview prep took over the little free time I had and was always the last thing on my mind going to bed and first thing in the morning.
Another thing. Every company that granted me an interview I researched intensely. If they were publically traded I read through their 10Ks and charted their historical stock performance. I had at least 10, sometimes 20 questions prepared per interview. Often times I was telling the interviewer things they didn't know about their own company.
I'm no super-hero and I'm definitely not at an Ivy League school. I fumbled up on numerous accounting questions during my interviews and my SAT scores weren't 1600. However, I was able to really demonstrate my interest and excitement to be an analyst and that was the key selling point. Most of all, I was sincere. This is truly the career path I want and the work is thousands of times more interesting than coding 9-5 in some dark room.
50 - 75 interviews later, I was finally given an offer. I'm not going to a bulge bracket or even to New York, but I can say that I'm going to be working for a top tier Middle Market bank.
I guess I don't have a purpose for this post other than to give encouragement to those who have seen nothing but rejection thus far. There is hope, but you have to really want it. I haven't had more than 2 straight hours of relaxation for the better half of the year but its nothing compared to what I'll be put through as an analyst. So, if after sitting down and determining this is really what you want, dive into it head-first and I promise it will pay off.