Networking is the process of establishing relationships with professionals as a way build a foundation of contacts that can help you though your entire career. Stop being so focused on the short-term. This could be the most vital part of securing an interview for many undergraduate students. Coming from a target school you will have the opportunity to network at on-campus recruiting sessions and with a much larger group of alumni already on Wall Street. For semi-targets and non-targets, you will not be afforded these luxuries, and you will likely have to be much more proactive in your networking efforts.

Regardless of where you are coming from, networking should be a priority for you. Even if you can get an entry-level job without networking, you never know what opportunities might be opened up by your network down the road.


The purpose of networking is to establish relationships with people already in the business that can vouch for you. There are a number of ways to do this, mainly cold-emailing, cold-calling, and relying on personal relationships and alumni. The goal when speaking with these people is to get them to do either a phone or in-person informational interview. While either one is a great start, you should really aim for an in-person meeting so a stronger relationship is built.

Personal Relationships:

Personal relationships are perhaps the best way to start networking for a first-round interview. Do you have a father, sister, cousin, uncle, or close family friend working for a company you would like to learn more about? If so, you should aim to network and build relationships with these people. They will most likely be willing to help if they can, and they will usually provide you with a more direct representation of their firm and industry. Depending on the level of personal interaction you have had with them and their position with the firm, they may very well be able to secure you an interview or job. You can also use these relationships to try and find more networking opportunities by asking if they know anyone else you can speak with.

Cold-Emails and Cold-Calls:

Cold-emailing and cold-calling are the best ways to network if you don’t have any personal connections to an industry or firm. Be aware that to be successful with this method you need patience and persistence. If you can find 500 people to email and call, you will likely get further than someone who shoots off a dozen emails and calls it a day. Emailing is generally more effective than calling as that allows the person you are targeting time to finish what they are doing and get back to you, whether that is an hour later or two weeks later.

Since establishing relationships is far more effective than submitting a resume online, you should start as early as possible by reaching out to alumni, family and friends; attending career fairs and presentation sessions; and setting up informational interviews. The best way to get a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of networking is by reading through the WSO Networking Guide and practicing your personal pitch as much as possible.

Remember, you may be going to informational interviews to learn more about a firm or industry, but you are also presenting yourself as a potential co-worker or employee.

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Generally, cold-emailing works better than cold-calling for securing informational interviews. This is because a clear and concise email can be answered whenever the networking target has the time, whereas a cold-call at the wrong time may annoy a potential contact.

A huge part of this process is targeting people you have some sort of connection to, even if it’s not personal. If you attend the University of Wisconsin and there are three alumni working at JP Morgan’s Investment Bank, start with them. If you served in the Marine Corps and are looking to transition to a position on Wall Street, networking with former service members is a great way to get started.

Direct and Concise:

The most important thing to do is be direct and concise in what you would like, while simultaneously showing your appreciation for any advice or help they’d be willing to offer. The people you are targeting are extremely busy and have a lot on their plate already. Try and keep emails to 2-4 sentences, and your introduction in a cold call to less than 10 seconds. Your goal is to get an informational interview, so telling your life story isn't necessary. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to help you out.

Cold-Call Opening Line Example:

Hi, my name is John and I'm a junior studying finance at the University of Virginia. I was wondering if you might have a minute to discuss your job and background or if you'd be willing to meet up for a cup of coffee sometime?

Cold-Email Example:

(first name),
(If you've been referred, start off by saying "I was referred to you by ____.") I am currently a Junior at UVA studying finance. I am very interested in learning more about (their industry) and (their firm). Would you be willing to speak on the phone for a few minutes or perhaps grab a cup of coffee so I can learn more about your background?
John Student

Finally, keep in mind that you will have far more in common with an Analyst than with an MD. If you have the option, start from the bottom up. If you make a strong connection with an Analyst, they will most likely go to bat for you and will probably give you contact information for other Analysts (and possibly even some Associates, VPs, and MDs).

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This is a difficult question. Networking is a very delicate balancing act because you need to put enough pressure on to get an informational interview, but not so much that the person you are trying to network with gets annoyed. While you'll have to be the one to ultimately decide how persistent to be, here are a few guidelines:

  • If you do not get a response to your first email, wait two weeks and try again
  • Don't try cold-emailing the same person more than 3 times, at that point you're just wasting your time
  • If you receive a response that says the person will get back to you by a certain date and they don't follow up, wait two business days after the stated date to follow up.
  • If your contact misses a meetup, email or call immediately to let them know you were there and you'd like to reschedule if possible. Be very polite, these people are extremely busy and going out of their way to help you.
  • Do not spam a group or firm. If you email everyone in a firm with the same message, you may annoy some people and hurt your chances.
  • If you're making cold-calls, don't call the same firm and/or desk over and over trying to get through to someone. You will piss someone off, especially if you're calling a trader in the middle of the day while he's trying to work.
  • You know when you're being obnoxious. Back off a little.

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An internship is not absolutely necessary, but it is an extremely important part of the process when trying to secure a full-time position. If you are thinking about pursuing a career in finance, an internship is a good way to find out more about the day-to-day of the job. It also gives you the opportunity to network and show the firm you're interested in that you can handle the work.

Your Story
Perhaps the most important part of an internship is how it relates to you telling "your story". If you're aiming for investment banking, but get an internship in private wealth management, this is by no means the end of the road for you. This has at least shown that you have an interest in finance. The downside is you haven't worked in investment banking so you don't know exactly what it entails and the person looking at your resume doesn't know if you can handle that particular position. Your job now is to pull your academic record, extracurricular activities, and any internship experience you might have together to show the recruiter or interviewer that you are not only interested in finance, but also that you can handle the workload.

Overcoming No Internship

If you are not able to secure a relevant internship, you can still overcome the odds by having an otherwise very strong resume. However, we would not risk this -- all of the most competitive finance positions expect you to work in at least some internship remotely related. If you've missed all the deadlines for the major banks, for example, look at small boutiques and offer to work for free. You can also look for Fall/Winter/Spring internships (also known as off-cycle internships). While these internships are not generally looked upon as favorably because you are not working full time, it's a lot better to have some experience and demonstrate interest than to have no relevant experience none at all.

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Internships are a crucial part of the recruiting process not only because they allow you to gain experience in a specific industry, but also because they give your potential employers the opportunity to see how you work. There are a number of internship opportunities available to you and deciding which one is right depends on what industry you want to end up in. Keep in mind that one of the best aspects of getting an internship on Wall Street is the perceived selectivity. Many firms will give you a full-time first round interview just for having investment banking, sales and trading, or another highly relevant internship on your resume because of the process you must go through in obtaining that internship in the first place.

Private Wealth Management

This is somewhat of the go-to finance internship for the summer after sophomore year or for students who weren't able to get a summer analyst offer or realized too late that they wanted to try finance. These types of internships may be paid or unpaid, but usually what is most important is showing some sort of track record of interest in finance in general. It will be hard to convert, but if you have the resume and the interviewing skills you can turn a PWM internship into a full time offer in just about any finance-related industry.

Investment Banking

These are some of the most selective internships and some of the best. From an IB internship you can go just about anywhere. Many people choose to accept a full time position because of the exit opportunities of an analyst position, but some choose to go into corporate finance, consulting, or asset management, to name a few. With a strong IB internship on your resume, you are way ahead of 99% of those looking to enter finance and business careers.

Sales & Trading / Hedge Fund / Equity Research / Asset Management

Having an internship for any one of these types of firms shows an interest in the markets. If you want to be in a market-related career, these are the internships you should target. Many are known for their selectivity, which will even help you if you choose not to pursue a career in one of these industries.

Private Equity / Venture Capital

Securing an internship in either one of these industries is extremely difficult as an undergraduate. If you're able to get an internship at a private equity or venture capital firm, you're most likely hoping to get a full-time offer. If you end up trying for a different career in finance after your internship, these will still usually look very good on your resume, as long as you can help on some decent projects at the firms.

Consulting / corporate finance

Consulting and corporate finance internships can set you up well for many different careers. If you're good enough to pull off an internship at MBB, you should have no problem making the switch to investment banking or corporate finance. corporate finance varies greatly from company to company. Someone who gets into an internship program at GE is going to have a lot more options than someone who is keeping the books at the local supermarket. If you do manage to get in a strong program at a solid company, you can still find your way to a full-time offer in consulting or investment banking down the road through and MBA or with a little persistent networking.

Keep in mind that no matter where you end up for an internship, whether it's Goldman Sachs, Bank of America or the Corner Store, you're going to have to maintain a strong record for full time recruitment. Keep that in mind so you can make sure you come out of your internship with a set of good references.

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There are a number of ways to get finance experience as a freshman or sophomore in college. While it is definitely more difficult to get an official summer internship at an investment bank, for example, it is still very possible to get some sort of internship. Many of the BBs offer IB boot camp programs for underclassmen and there are also a number of diversity-focused programs.

One of the most common ways to gain some finance experience is by looking for an unpaid internship in your hometown with a financial planner or private wealth manager. Many internships at the freshman stage of college are going to be unpaid and even at the sophomore level few will be paid for their work. As always, the best way to secure an internship is by networking, whether by cold-calling and cold-emailing or by taking part in case competitions or investment banking conferences.

Keep in mind that your junior internship is the most important. As a sophomore you should be more serious about getting an internship, but having an internship in finance isn't absolutely necessary. Working for the summer as an intern for a political party, candidate or representative or a nonprofit of some sort can provide you with a great experience and story to tell during you junior year interviews. As a freshman your time may be better spent working a part-time job for some extra cash and networking (read: having fun) with your former high school classmates, but if you want to get ahead of the game you should go for it!

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Background Checks

The background check can be a stressful process for new employees worried about something in their past that may show up....orr anyone that has rounded their GPA a bit too aggressively. In general the background check is meant to double check on a few key points:

  • Education: Did you go to the school you said you went to? Did you major in what you said you majored in? Does your GPA match your transcript?
  • Criminal: Have you committed a crime? How serious was the crime? Do you have a track record of criminal activity?
  • Work Experience: Did this person actually work for the company when they say they did?
  • Credit: Has this person ever declared bankruptcy? Are there any major issues with this person's credit?

Discrepancies and Red Flags

The background checks are used to make sure you don't have any glaring discrepancies or red flags in your application and you're not a career criminal. If you listed the correct school with the correct major and correctly rounded your GPA, you will be fine. If you have an offense related to underage drinking, drinking in general, or minor traffic violations, you will be fine. Most misdemeanors that don't result in the harm of another person will not be considered an issue. Anything connected with fraud or robbery will most likely keep you from getting a job with a financial services firm. As far as work experience, most firms just want to make sure you worked for who you say you did, when you say you did.

Some firms may look to make sure you held the position you say you did. Usually the credit check will not get you dinged in and of itself. Having a bankruptcy on your record may hurt you, as can delinquent or unpaid accounts.


In general it is best to be as honest and forthright as possible throughout the recruiting process about anything you may be concerned about. Lying on your resume and applications is an easy way to get dinged, or worse, lose your job in 10 years when you've established a career and reputation. If you're in doubt about putting something on your resume, ask here on WSO or connect with your network and see what they say.


Background checks are usually completed after an offer has been extended. If you cleared the background check with no issues, you will not hear about it again. If there is an issue with your background check you will most likely hear within 6 months of the background check starting, as it takes quite some time to get the information from government agencies, former employers, and your school.

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Please use common sense and protect your reputation. We would like you to succeed and lying is NOT the way to make that happen. When you are found to have lied to the company that is hiring you, you will most likely be fired. Not only that, but this likely kills all of your exit opportunities and can derail your career very quickly.

There's also a good chance you won't be able to get a job again in the industry. Getting fired for lying to your company about your past is something that will spread fast. Your reputation is your most important asset. Think twice before putting your entire future at risk.

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This depends on your firm, but for most large financial services firms, a drug test is a standard part of the background check. This is usually before starting your full-time or internship position.

If you are worried about this, there's a very simple way to get around the drug test: do not use drugs prior to your drug test. It's that simple. If you don't know if or when you will have a drug test, it's a good idea to go through the entire recruiting period drug-free. If you just found out you have a drug test tomorrow and have been engaging in illicit drug use, don't say we didn't warn you.

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