106 Rejections, 1 Success & Unquantifiable Perseverance

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", @Edmundo Braverman", @Stryfe", @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 (117)

Apr 29, 2014 - 9:07pm

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 - 9:40pm

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 - 9:45pm

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 - 11:22pm

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 30, 2014 - 1:23am

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 30, 2014 - 2:11am

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

twitter: @StoicTrader1 instagram: @StoicTrader1
Apr 30, 2014 - 9:55am

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

"Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money." - Mickey Bergman - Heist (2001)
Apr 30, 2014 - 10:26am

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
Apr 30, 2014 - 1:30pm

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 - 1:44pm

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.

Apr 30, 2014 - 2:07pm

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

"Don't touch the watch." -Patrick Bateman U AWARE BRAH? bankers gonna bank \o/ Trance Crew \o/
Apr 30, 2014 - 7:03pm

Awesome story and congrats !

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

See my Blog & AMA

Apr 30, 2014 - 7:35pm

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.

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

See my Blog & AMA

May 1, 2014 - 6:28pm

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!

May 1, 2014 - 11:52pm

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.

May 1, 2014 - 11:56pm

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.

May 2, 2014 - 3:22pm

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.

May 2, 2014 - 3:40pm

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 - 5:46pm

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 3, 2014 - 10:21am

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 - 10:01pm

Well done sir!

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.
May 5, 2014 - 12:11pm

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.

May 5, 2014 - 12:47pm

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 - 3:21pm

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 - 8:35pm

+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!

Please don't quote Patrick Bateman.
May 6, 2014 - 10:12pm

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?

May 7, 2014 - 4:25pm

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

Wise Men Listen & Laugh While Fools Talk
May 7, 2014 - 4:41pm

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.

May 7, 2014 - 10:53pm

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

Gie Hannesson
May 9, 2014 - 10:50am

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.

I am permanently behind on PMs, it's not personal.

Dec 26, 2014 - 9:40am
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