106 Rejections, 1 Success & Unquantifiable Perseverance

ValueBanker14's picture
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Mod Note: Each day we'll be posting the top WSO forum posts of 2014. This one was originally posted on 4/29/14 and ranks #11 for the year by total silver banana count. You can see all our top ranked content here.

Hey everyone,

It's been an interesting and long 10 months since I began pursuing a career in IBD. I wanted to share my story with the rest of the WSO community and especially for those monkeys out there who are trying to break in (target or non-target, it's tough) and having trouble fighting through the rejections and pitfalls of the process.

As some of you might know, I have been a tennis player for over 17 years now and up until 10 months ago, I thought I'd make a career out of the sport in some capacity. But with chronic injuries catching up to me, I realized quickly that it'd be an extremely uphill battle and one that would yield little result or enjoyment. Luckily for me, through my lone internship, I had access to a small PE shop and had the chance to talk to the people who work there. In hindsight, reaching out to those guys was the best move I made as they proved to be a great support system, mentors and a network during the next 10 months.

Unfortunately, I had a few things going against me. For one, I was a non-finance major at a non-target with no finance internships in any capacity. Furthermore, I knew close to nothing about the markets, finance or investment banking. And to top it all off, apart from the PE shop, I had 0 connections in the industry and by the time I reached the PE shop, it was late October and most firms were rounding up their recruiting or had already chosen a pool of candidates to recruit from.

After applying to 30-40 firms and getting rejected everywhere, I decided it was time to round up all my weaknesses and turn them into strengths. I joined WSO, read every thread about breaking in and the expectations of an IBD analyst, kept up with the markets on a daily basis and started teaching myself the basic technicals. While all of this stuff was incredibly useful, the most arduous, painstaking and fruitful part of my process came in the form of networking. The first thing I did was look for alumni from my school that worked in banking. Unfortunately, I found none or the few I found had moved on from the industry and didn't respond to my requests for a phone call.

Not knowing where to go from here, I decided to form a plan that would hopefully help me create my own luck while helping me learn more about the industry. So in December during my winter break, I went through the WSO Company Database, eliminated the big name firms and focused my efforts on the smaller IBD firms. I compiled an excel sheet of 300-400 prospective contacts for cold emailing and cross-referenced that sheet with LinkedIn to check if any of my existing contacts had any links to these prospective contacts. At the time, I also began studying for the GMAT so that I could apply to top tier MSF programs and begin looking for summer IBD internships. The month of December 2013 essentially involved a daily routine of 3-4 hours of GMAT prep, 2-3 hours of networking and then 2-3 hours of training for tennis in the spring.

I then took the GMAT in January (scored a 700), applied to the various MSF programs and got into WUSTL's MSF program in February. In the meantime, I got interviews for SA internships at 1 BB, 2 EB and 4-5 smaller firms. Nonetheless, I got rejected at all of those firms but managed to secure 2 unpaid offers at boutique firms (1 local and 1 in Florida). I won't lie here. I got immensely frustrated after the rejections at those bigger firms. Still, I decided to use those as opportunities and stayed in touch with the analysts and associates who interviewed me.

I continued networking, accepted the local SA offer and then got a surprise offer to come down for a superday with a well-respected MM firm for a FT analyst position starting this summer. After having gone through so much in the past 10 months, I was far more confident in my abilities and my knowledge of the industry. Finally, this past month, I heard back from them and accepted their offer.

To put everything in perspective, I was a non-target, non-finance major with no finance experience and no contacts in the industry. In the past 10 months, I have amassed more than 100 people in the industry whom I'm in regular contact with, secured an offer from a MSF program, secured an offer from 2 small boutiques and now, I'll be working at a well-respected MM firm.

I just want everyone to know (especially those struggling with finding a place in the industry right now) that with the right attitude, lots of perseverance, desire to learn and most importantly, the ability to cultivate relationships, you can break in. None of this would have been possible without the help of the people I met and got to know along the way and the WSO Community.

Huge S/O to @CompBanker, @frgna, @BlackHat, @Jared Dillian, @square_miles, @Group Therapy, @ichorturtle, @NiuShi, @WallStreetPlayboys, @AcctNerd, @SSits, @TNA, @BTbanker, @BTbanker, @BTbanker, @Esuric, @State of Trance, @IlliniProgrammer, @APAE, @NorthSider, @Simple As... and of course, @AndyLouis and Patrick for this amazing site, the great content and the advice I have received from all of you directly or indirectly.

For all of you monkeys still fighting to get a SA or FT position, keep pushing and have various plans to get to your desired position. It'll work out in the end. If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to post them on here or PM me. Good luck!

For those of you interested, click here for a follow-up post to my story.

Comments (118)

Apr 29, 2014

Great Story and Good Luck going forward!!!

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you! I hope things continue to work out. I'll definitely keep working hard now that I have gotten the chance

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Apr 29, 2014

Congratulations!!!! That's an incredible story! Pat yourself on the back, sit down, and take a break -- you definitely deserve it. I hope you enjoy your new role and that it's the start of a wonderful career!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. I'm taking a month off where I want to do some charity oriented work and then I'll hit the ground running again.

Apr 29, 2014

Incredible story - congrats man.

Probably an incredible feeling going to bed one night thinking you'll have to grind it out a whole summer then spend 100k on a masters degree, then the next day your life changes. Looks like you'll have great experience + great GMAT in case you ever need to rebrand at a top MBA.

Apr 29, 2014

It really was an interesting few weeks. I was getting ready to hit networking hard and then I got this chance out of the blue. I'm glad I was able to convert it into an offer and as you said, with my gmat score, I might get the chance to rebrand myself in or enhance my profile with a top tier MBA.

Apr 29, 2014

good stuff +SB

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks!

Apr 29, 2014

Great story! Would SB if I could. Good luck going forward!!

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Apr 29, 2014

Haha thanks!

Apr 29, 2014

This is how you go to work and "make your own luck." Tip of the hat and with your attitude the sky's the limit. Incidentally, this is the reason a lot of desks/firms love ex athletes. Great job.

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks for the compliment man. As I mentioned in my previous post on tennis, I've learned to shrug defeat and rejection off and use them as opportunities instead. Everyone can do what I did with a little discipline and the right attitude.

Apr 30, 2014

Question: PRIOR to starting this process, how many rejections were you expecting before you hit paydirt? Did you think you'd have to eat MORE than or LESS than 106?

Corporate financial/business analyst looking for career/MBA/CFA advice.

Apr 29, 2014

Didn't have any specific expectations of rejections. Just kept track of them to motivate me for the future

Apr 30, 2014

Having been a part of your success makes me feel good as well. Keep looking ahead to your future dreams and I know you would achieve those much like you have been successful in the past.

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Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. Definitely wouldn't have been possible without your help.

Apr 30, 2014

Always willing to help a fellow Varsity Tennis player.

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Apr 30, 2014

congrats. What was your major in undergrad? If you don't mind me asking what state are you in?

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks. I'm hesitant to give out the name of the state but I'm an international business major

Apr 30, 2014

Also, what was your undergrad GPA?

Apr 29, 2014

My undergrad GPA is a 3.7/4.0

Apr 30, 2014

struggling toward intern applications...
thanks to your story!

Apr 29, 2014

Keep pushing. Just make sure you're analyzing where you're going wrong and how you can change that. Good luck!

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. Great posts btw. Definitely adds a twist to WSO

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats! Can't wait to see how your career develops!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. Great posts btw. Specially liked the one on creating your own excuse to get in touch with someone you met. Picked up a few great tips on networking.

Apr 30, 2014

Glad to be of service!

Apr 30, 2014

Great job! Your story is motivational for me. I worked for a collegiate Tennis team when I was in college stringing rackets and laundry and what not... I'm not surprised by your endurance and aptitudes for accepting rejection and realizing that the only real failure is failure to get back up and keep at it. Before that job, I thought I was in pretty good shape -- 12 minute 1.5 mile time, 20+ pull-ups in a single setting, 70+ push-ups, etc etc, but those guys creamed me. What I learned by working for them was, while they did have genetic aptitudes towards physicality and hand-eye coordination, the differentiating factor was not their genes, or the number of hours they trained or how many times they served or returned volleys--no, the real definitive advantage is attitude and motivation. Every single day, every single ball all that mattered was getting better and pushing harder.

Huge props man, SB for you. Once again I graft some motivation from a seasoned tennis player and reinvest in my own career search in ER with vigor! Good luck with the new FT position. Keep us updated on how that works out for you!

"Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today."
-Twain

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Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. That's definitely true. If you have the motivation, you'll work harder than you imagine and you can make up for a lack of talent (to a certain extent) and having the right attitude in tennis is key. You go through so many momentum shifts and turmoil in one match that you need to be able to handle your emotions, insecurities, confidence and focus.

Good luck with your search! Shoot me a PM updating me on your progress.

Apr 30, 2014

This is what it's all about! Congratulations!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks!

Apr 30, 2014

Congratulations! This is exactly what I needed to read this morning after my existential crisis last night. Keep up the good work.

Apr 29, 2014

Glad I could help in some way. PM me if you ever need it.

Apr 30, 2014

Congratulations! Great job you did there!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man

Apr 29, 2014

Definitely. I think it's important to recognize the harsh realities and then plan for your options. There's no one path to get to where you want to. And then, you just have to persevere and get better every day.

Apr 30, 2014

congratz, great stuff

Apr 29, 2014

Appreciate it

Apr 30, 2014

Just starting the same process (sans the tennis) so its good to hear again that it works and pays off. Out of curiosity what did you use to teach yourself the technicals? Are we talking WSO guides, old textbooks, networking contacts? Trying to get myself pointed in the right direction.

Apr 29, 2014

First and foremost, make sure your story and other behavioral questions are airtight. Those are immensely important for informational interviews. I did over 300 informational interviews and not once was I asked a technical because I told them in my story that I didn't have the background in finance and I was working to eliminate that weakness and I'd be ready by the time FT recruiting came about this year.

On the technical front, I used the WSO guide, signed up for a couple extra classes in my last semester (bonds and stocks classes), investopedia and I also talked to a few people who I got close to through networking to see how they answered questions. Don't forget to look at Rosenbaum and Pearl's book. Honestly, if you look at some of the resources that @"Simple As..." gave us in his research process post, you'll be golden.

Lastly, don't forget to stay abreast with the daily news, try to form opinions on the macroenvironment and be able to back them up and then when you network, try to get a better feel for the industry as a whole and where it is headed. For instance, what's the general consensus over the MM M&A market? What sectors and areas are growing?

If you work at it every day, it'll start snowballing and everything will come together for you at the right time. Good luck and PM me if you need more help. Always happy to field questions.

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Apr 30, 2014

Appreciate the help. Been on the fence about buying some of these guides (mostly just a lurker until now) but realizing slowly that you gotta spend money to make money and go all in. Will definitely check out @SimpleAs' posts for some references.

Apr 29, 2014

It'll pay off man. It did for me.

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats, great story!

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks!

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats!

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you!

Apr 30, 2014

I just got a job ironically after 10 months of applying as well so I understand what a great feeling it is. Time to celebrate!

Apr 30, 2014

Good job dude! Happy to hear you broke into the industry.

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. Wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't come across your great posts.

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats!!!!! I love success stories like this one, it helps keep me motivated!!!!! Good luck in your new career!!!!

Apr 29, 2014

Haha I'm glad it'll help you in some way

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats man, inspiring. I've enjoyed reading your posts, thoughtful and well written

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. I appreciate the compliment. Always good to hear.

Apr 30, 2014

Awesome story and congrats !

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man!

Apr 30, 2014

Make sure to get certified and to stay active on here. People with your kind of story are the ones who can contribute the most.

Apr 30, 2014

Much respect!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. I appreciate that

Apr 30, 2014

Congrats man, thanks for sharing this inspiring story.

Apr 29, 2014

Anytime man

May 1, 2014

@"ValueBanker14" Very impressive story. Congratulations and best of luck to you going forward.

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you. I appreciate that

May 1, 2014

If work ever sends you over the pond to London, hit me up so I can buy you a pint or four. Then I'll introduce you to a bunch of guys who email me throughout the year saying networking isn't working for them even they they're at LSE or Imperial or UCL (all super strong ass targets by the way). I don't think they know how to hustle.

Major props!

Apr 29, 2014

Haha I'll definitely hit you up. Haven't been to London in a while. Thanks for the compliment though. In my experience, networking with the right attitude pays off in spades

May 1, 2014

Keep hustlin cuz!

Apr 29, 2014

Haha will do bud

May 1, 2014

Congrats man!
Funny how similar your situation was to mine. I was also a non-target, non-finance major with no contacts or experience in the industry. I even played college tennis (in the A-10 no less, which if I remember from your other posts you competed in as well!) Although I never made it to a top MM like you, I made four superdays at 1 EB, 1 MM and 2 boutiques before accepting a FT offer with a well-respected boutique within its industry through hardwork and networking. Anyways, point is I can really appreciate your story and excitement at finally breaking in! Now celebrate and live it up before you have to get on the grind haha.

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Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man! That's actually really uncanny. It was an unbelievable 2 weeks haha. I flew out for the superday at 5 am, flew back the same night at 9 pm and then left for the A-10's the next morning at 5 am again. Definitely worth it though.

That's an impressive number of superdays and I'm glad to hear that things worked out for you. I'm sure you'll continue to be successful in anything else you choose to do. Feel free to shoot me a PM whenever. I'd definitely like to keep in touch and see how things continue to shape up for you.

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May 2, 2014

Superb...This is very helpful for inspiring monkeys across the globe..though networking is very different in here (Asia) !!

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you! I'd imagine it is. I'm an international business major and we've done extensive research on how business and networking is done in Asia. The core values remain the same though.

May 2, 2014

Very inspiring story.

ValueBanker14, when you say you got 106 rejections, were you ever told 'no' by prospective employers, or do you (quite reasonably) count every attempt that did not result in an offer as a rejection? I was once in a similar situation to the one you describe, but never received an explicit rejection from a financial services firm. Functionally, having an interviewer say, "I'll send you an email inviting you to next week's superday," or, "great, we'll need just need to find a time for you to come meet the team in New York/Boston/San Francisco," is a rejection when that message never arrives, but I have never received a rejection from any banks, asset managers, boutiques...etc.

If you don't mind saying, did you receive any explicit rejections, and if yes, from which firms?

I have received plenty of rejections from employers in other industries, but never from any investment bank or HF--I have not heard anything.

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks. So I should clarify this, I couldn't add these details in the post for the sake of length but as I mentioned in the post, I planned for almost every outcome. While I applied to IBD and wanted that the most, I also applied to corp finance roles at firms like Boeing and I also applied to a couple consulting firms. Still that leaves around 90 percent of the rejections. Out of those, I actually heard back from every investment bank I applied to in the form of email rejections or my contacts passing on the message. Some of the smaller banks were swifter and gave me more personalized emails and advice for the future while EBs and some MMs were professional, courteous and sent out the standard emails.

Does that answer your question?

May 2, 2014

You answered my question.

I applied for approximately the same number of positions you mentioned, but never got a straightforward rejection from any of the banks. As everyone on WSO probably knows, trying to get an answer out of HR is nearly impossible. I went a few thousand USD out of pocket for travel to on-site interviews, and only got lead on further, no offers, no rejections.

Like the OP, I also interviewed with some management consultancies. No particular interest in working in that industry, but was not getting any results from IB and HF interviews. All the consulting firms I interviewed with gave me an answer, by telephone, within a week.

May 2, 2014

Congratulations! Your story will definitely keep me motivated!! :)

Apr 29, 2014

Glad to hear that!

May 2, 2014

What a great story. Congratulations. One piece of advice, if I may -- do continue to network. People get busy once they start working and lots of times the networking slips.

Apr 29, 2014

I will definitely continue to network. Thanks for the advice!

May 3, 2014

So happy to hear things worked out. We need more stories like this on WSO.

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks. It wouldn't have been possible without your contributions on this site.

May 3, 2014

Congrats !

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you!

May 3, 2014

nice work - persistence is everything in life.

Just a question, you said: "I decided to use those as opportunities and stayed in touch with the analysts and associates who interviewed me".

How did you go about staying in touch with all these guys considering they rejected you...?

again good work!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. Great question. So what I did is I emailed the analysts and associates asking for feedback after I got rejected and once, they responded, I'd ask them a few questions about what they were looking for in a candidate and such. Then as I got into WUSTL and such, I sent them emails updating them on my progress. After a month or so, I asked to jump on the phone with them and just reconnect and they agreed.

May 4, 2014

Well done sir!

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you sir!

May 5, 2014

Congrats man, really inspiring story!

I had a question, what did you do to learn about finance in such a short time? i am also facing similar difficulties as I was focusing on accounting so far and i completely changed my mind quite recently and I am already entering 4th year, my GPA is in trouble and the recruiting is coming in 6 months. Any tips? I am from a top B-School in Canada, but not sure how much that would make an impact for Wall St. jobs.

Apr 29, 2014

Not sure how things work in terms of going to school in Canada and applying for Wall St jobs. If you have been doing accounting, you should be good for a lot of the technical questions. Accounting is actually a decent part of your work as an IB analyst and tons of people have told me not to overlook that. I also used the WSO technical guide, the resources listed on WSO in terms of books and websites, talking to people in the industry and keeping track of daily news.

Don't get me wrong. My technicals are still rough but luckily the firm I'll be working at focused on fit more than technicals. I will continue working on that from now till my start time and then I have training anyway. Good luck man. I'd try to get your GPA up as much as you can as well and what prior internship experience do you have?

May 5, 2014

Thanks for the advice, I will look into this technical guide - I am still getting used to this website.

My internships so far was an accounting assistant in a personal tax firm, one in a mid-size media firm and an administrative assistant in govt. I am guessing all analyst positions would most likely require a finance one so I am making a plan to increase my network through this summer to improve my chances.

May 6, 2014

Well done! Love these success stories.

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks!

May 6, 2014

+SB I always respect the hustle. It's why if someone sounds sincere to me, I'll always try to make time for them.

One question: your 300 informational interviews. You met with 300 people for coffee or in their office? If so, that is on a completely different level!

Apr 29, 2014

Not at all. That'd be a lot more impressive! I probably only met 40-50 people for lunch/drinks/coffee. A vast majority of my calls and informational interviews were on the phone.

May 6, 2014

Encouraging read. I'm starting from a similar situation and am using some of these examples as a model for how I'm going about the process. I would be very interested to see/read some examples of a "cold" email. Any chance you would consider a follow up post or PM me an example or template of how you structured the initial email reaching out to prospective contacts?

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks. Take a look at the follow up post to this I have mentioned and I'm working on a networking/cold emailing post right now. It should be up in the next 3-4 days and then if you have more questions or concerns, just PM me anytime. I tend to be fairly prompt.

May 7, 2014

Not to beat a dead horse.....but for what its worth, Congrats sir!!!

Wise Men Listen & Laugh While Fools Talk

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you! I appreciate it

May 7, 2014

Your story sounds all too familiar. Same story for me... Athlete, no internships, worked my ass off for 2 years trying to break in. Finally made it into BB in NYC and now trying to make move to HF. After being on street for a year you realize if you just try hard enough youll get where you want to be.

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Apr 29, 2014

Congratulations man. You did even better than I did to get into a BB in NYC and now you have a chance to make it to HFs which I and several others might never have. Keep up the good work!

May 7, 2014

Certainly gives you a boost reading pieces like this. Congrats and thanks for the post.

Gie Hannesson

Apr 29, 2014

Anytime man. Glad to help in some way.

May 8, 2014

Great job, congratulations!

Apr 29, 2014

Thank you!

May 9, 2014

Congratulations, this is fantastic. Really pleased that this worked out for you. Apologize for the delayed response, I have barely been on this site. All the best as you begin your future role.

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks APAE. I really appreciate it. No worries at all!

May 14, 2014

Great story man, keep working!

Apr 29, 2014

Thanks man. I appreciate. Great connecting with you as well. Feel free to read the follow up posts to these and PM me if you have any questions.

Oct 21, 2014

Way to go out there and get what you want!

Apr 29, 2014
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Apr 29, 2014
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