A non-target's failure

I'm at a non-target and the advice for non-targets on these forums is honestly absolute bullshit. Everyone says 'keep trying', 'keep your head up', 'good luck just keep at it!'...

It's such bullshit. Just because 1 guy from a non-target out of the 10000+ trying gets in, doesn't mean there is hope for all of us. I wish someone had just told me at the start of college that I was not going to make it because it's just too competitive, and I wouldn't have wasted so much fucking time trying for something that was never going to happen.

I messed up in high school and ended up at a non-target and I was angry at myself, but I decided to work incredibly hard to try and get something. I've lost count of the number of stupid, useless applications I have sent off. My college has a non-existent network with no alumni in the industry, so I have had to network all by myself. I have literally sent over 3000 emails since starting college and have worked tirelessly just to get someone to take a 5 minute call with me. I have contacted countless recruiters and many straight up told me they don't hire from my college. Despite the odds stacked against me, I was told 'keep at it', 'you are working really hard, you will get there in the end'. So I kept grinding. I taught myself financial modelling, asset pricing, LBO, DCF, I looked into each specific division and it's function for IBD, S&T, how banks raise liquidity, DCM, ECM, etc. I read every relevant resource available to me to ensure that I knew everything I possibly could about the roles I was applying for. Also, I should note that I study a quantitative/relevant subject, not that it matters anyway since I am at a non-target.

I got rejected every single time. I would always ask for feedback and re-assess to improve - it's not like I was just sending out the same applications again and again. One of my friends from high school studies at a target and got an internship so I asked him for help with my applications. I sent him one of my applications and he said he was surprised that I didn't get any internship offers. When I saw his application which was successful, I was fucking shocked. It was so basic and had nothing relevant to the role. This guy was an english major, he had no idea how to construct models and he thought investment bankers are day-traders LOL! I know that he got the internship and I didn't so I can't really talk, but I was genuinely shocked at how basic his application was. At first I didn't even believe that was his actual application and I thought he was just trolling me, but he told me that the firm had a campus day at his college and he spoke to the guy there and put his name down on some form, which he claims helped fast-track his application. My college has never had a campus day from firms in the industry.

After that I just felt so defeated. It's like nothing I try will work simply because I fucked up in high school and ended up at a non-target. It's like I am being punished for going to a non-target. I thought if I worked hard enough then it would still be possible to break in, and the posts on this forum from other non-targets who had made it gave me hope. But I'm fucking exhausted. 3 years of constant rejection eventually wears you down. I knew that I would have to work 10x as hard as a target student because I'm at a non-target. I accepted that because it is my fault that I am at a non-target. But I thought I would at least get one fucking offer after so much work.

I'm going into my final year and I don't know what to do anymore. All my hard work so far has been a waste because I can't get an offer. There was nothing more I wanted over the past 3 years than to get into my dream career. I just can't do something else because I will be forever resentful of the fact that I am not good enough. I have been breaking down crying randomly because I am coming to terms with the fact that it's not going to work out for me. I can't see a good future and I have considered killing myself.

I don't know why I made this post tbh. It was initially meant to be a rant to vent my frustrations, but I don't really talk to anyone about this since no one else in my college applies for these things.

I guess all I have to say for other non-targets out there is that despite the rare success stories you see, the reality is you are statistically not going to make it. You don't read about all the people like me who have worked really hard but don't get any offers. Just be prepared for the possibility of failure so you don't react adversely to it.


Based on your post must have been your attitude and probably inability to connect with others in your interviews.

Realistically if you’re a solid candidate at a non-target who networks and can talk to people, you’re going to break in somehow.

I suggest taking an inward look at yourself.


“inability to connect with others in your interview”

dude, did you forget the part of the post where he can’t even get a call, let alone an interview?


I'm not making excuses. I'm not entitled to anything at all. I am just talking about my experience and the fact that I have no offers. If a non-target has received offers then that's great for them! All I am saying is that it is extremely competitive and non-targets are statistically not going to make it.

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YEs, it is very competitive, especially if you are at a non-target.  Some questions...and points.  You mentioned 3,000 emails, but honestly that's not too many over 3 years (if that includes simple Linkedin connection requests which take ~10-15 seconds each).  Some other questions:

1.  How is your GPA? If it's not 3.5+ from a non-target it's even harder

2.  Did you pay for a resume review to make sure that is not holding you back?  If you want to join our weekly intern chat we host every Friday, happy to do one free of charge to see if I spot anything that may be reducing your conversions at each stage (email [email protected] a Word version of your resume and mention this post).  I'll be out this Friday but Sept 9 we'll have one.

3.  Online applications are a black hole...notice that your (objectively inferior) friend got fast-tracked to the job because of a simple campus fair?...if anything, that points to reducing the number of applications you send and increasing the more targeted approach of building real relationships 

4.  How many calls for info interviews? - no first round or phone interviews?  how many mock interviews have you done?  are you asking generic questions in these calls?

I realize that you are super frustrated and that it's depressing putting in so much work, but you are missing the bigger picture here:

1.  The skills you are developing from this journey are applicable to the skills you will need for the rest of your career.  Namely, selling yourself.  This includes connecting with people, making a good impression, putting together flawless documents and crafting a pitch that makes people want to take a chance on you.

I guarantee you have improved in all of those, just maybe not enough (yet) to land an elusive IB role. 

2.  IB is just 1 role and is fairly niche.  While you were applying for a junior IB internship, you shoudl have or should right now be applying to other related roles.  You do know that in all your research that Big 4 TAS groups is a steady feeder into IB roles, right?

3.  Your job (especially your job right out of school) does not reflect your potential or ultimate path if you are a hard worker and you continue to get better at all of the skills mentioned above.

Best of luck,



Industry is run by mostly generational wealth: wealthy upbringing —> to semi/target school with top price —> family friends for internships —> on campus events and referrals = offer.

Not saying this is all, but unfortunately the industry is flooded from privileged kids from elite high schools and Greenwich residents.


this is the right answer. Life sucks and it's totally unfair . You can get immensely angry at the lies about "meritocracy", but what can your anger do? 

The "keep your head down bro" "just work at it bro" "practice your DCF and interview skills bro" "your personality bro, you need to be more chill" is total cope - more needs to be said that this is an insanely competitive field and chances of success are not guaranteed especially when the odds are against you (non-target, parents aren't well to do or well connected), take it or leave it. 

I didn't get into front office as an intern nor as my first job out of undergrad and now that i'm working at M&A, i've seen:

- intern quitting after 2 weeks

- shit work from interns (spelling mistakes, no formatting, no consistency in labels used) 

- interns who refuse to put in the hours (only 60+ hours a week is their utmost max and most other weeks is 50+)

- people doing little work and still getting the job because their daddy has a very senior relationship 

When i was in college, i was literally begging for an front office internship and i didn't even get an interview - which leaves me upset when these kids just waste their internships and learning experiences, despite me taking the time to go through the materials with them and doing some of the shit work for them so they can work 10 hours instead of 14.

Even for full time hiring, just looking at kids getting connects in by their dads or uncles etc., pretty girls getting a role in "markets" and "private banking", shit's tough and makes you rage - but then i asked myself, what's the point of the rage and what will come out from it? the answer - nothing. Let the rage fuel you. 


Hands down the most felt post I've seen on this site.

At the end of the day the only person who controls your life— is you. Prior to my junior year recruiting, I was at rock bottom. Somehow, it turned around, and I channeled all of the sadness, anger, and anxiety into an indescribable rage that fueled every choice and action that ultimately led to me finally securing a role.


I can't see a good future and I have considered killing myself.

Whoa, calm down. It's never that serious. I'd recommend all the people leaving these hard-ass tough love comments to tone it down a bit. You never know who is sitting behind the computer and how serious they are after a post like this. If this is your mental state, then get some therapy and seriously find someone to talk to.

With that said, if you taught yourself everything you say, your time wasn't wasted. You can pivot and utilize that knowledge in some other way. You can also get an MBA in a couple of years and try to break into banking as an Associate if it means that much to you. It's not the end of the world or your life just because you didn't get into banking straight out of undergrad.


It's all about your mindset. Went to a non-target, with literally 1 alumni in IB. I never doubted myself and just took on solid experiences. Beginning of college started out at a small RE shop and now in IB. The problem is most people aren't strategic with their approach to recruiting. You don't need to apply everywhere and you don't need to cold email the entire division. It's eat or be eaten out here, we all can't make it.


The good thing aiming for IB/ER/S&T from a non-target, if you actually grind, is that even if we fail it still makes us competitive enough for great starting roles like valuations/TAS, commercial banking, and MO risk type roles. You won't make 150k out of undergrad but it's still a lot better than starting off in audit or something. Then after a year, lateralling is a very real possibility or you can do an MBA

You clearly didn't prepare for the very real possibility of not breaking in and should've casted a much wider net. There's even targets who do everything right and still fail and have to end up taking Big 4 M&A or something. 


3000 emails and a few years later, it must have struck you to transfer to at least a marginally better school where banks have some sort of on campus recruiting presence. Given the level of effort you expended, I am assuming you have a 4.0 GPA at your non-target.

It’s really not that complicated, the likelihood of getting a front office offer out of school is pretty binary, 0 or 1. Success is pretty much a function of being in front of decision makers in a formal and structured recruiting process.

Long shot 1% success stories aside, if you’re not in front of those people, you’re probably not going to get a job. 


What do you classify as "making it?" Is it specifically working at a top BB bank? Or just getting into IB at all? If all you're trying for is top BB, then yes its extremely difficult to get in, and if you keep getting rejected, I'm not sure why you keep pursuing that. It seems like you have to change your mindset. If you go more downstream to a MM bank, don't you still think that's "making it?" Comparing yourself to >90%, you're still going to make more right out of college, have a great knowledge base, and offered the chance to establish a good work ethic with exit opportunities. I feel like that's making it to me...


For me it was just getting into IB. BB or boutique I didn't mind. However, after several rejections, I expanded my options and I would be extremely happy with any role in 'high finance' - MBB, ER etc. Unfortunately even those fields are fiercely competitive. I remember reading somewhere that the majority of students from a really prestigious target-school chose to go into consulting over IB.

It seems that most high-finance fields are unavailable to me due to my non-target background. I completely understand why. There is more than enough interest in these fields from students attending far better colleges and any serious applicant will already have relevant experience, ECs and good grades. I'm not annoyed at the way recruitment works in the industry, or at target-schools. I'm just angry at myself for not being good enough.


If you really think going to a non target is why you could t land any role, why don’t you go to a top masters program? MSF at any target school like Vanderbilt, UT austin, etc will give you the on campus recruiting that you want, and they take tons of people from non targets.


I think you're getting bent around the axle on the whole "non-target" thing... it's truly about how you position yourself, frame your story, show your networking efforts, keep grades up, and be a overall decent person to be around. Honestly if you position yourself right your school has nothing to do with getting a job. I come from a non-target and work at a solid MM shop, and I don't attribute much to my school from me landing the job. Sure, an ivy or target school diploma helps, but there's so many college kids who come from non-targets that land both top BBs, reputable MM, and regional boutique offers. My advice would be to change your mindset on the whole "non-target" thing and do what you can more easily control (good grades, networking, technical knowledge, behavioral interview prep, etc.) 

Edit: I hope this is not a troll, if so, you got me but the advice still applies 

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Network your ass off with firms that have mostly non-target analyst classes. See Quadriga Partners in Denver. They are actively hiring as we speak. Message Analysts on LinkedIn and try to make a connection with them. Dont focus on listing off your modeling capabilities, but learn about the firm beforehand and express interest on your call. Best of luck to you. 

I was one of the many non-targets from a no-name school who made it. 

If you have no IBD experience and aren't targeting firms that are <50 IBD employees, you're doing it wrong


If you sent 3000 emails and didn't get a single offer, you are getting rejected for fit or attitude issues.

Sounds like you're great on paper, a bit hardo (whose application is THAT detailed?) and getting dinged in coffee chats or interviews. Yeah, targets have it easier, but that's the way of the world. There was zero pathway for non-targets 20 years ago and it gets easier every year with more and more non-target alums on the street.

I have kept track of a handful of impressive non-target kids who've reached out, even if they weren't a fit for my bank. Every single one of them got an offer somewhere. If you grind, start early, and have the right GPA (those 3 things do eliminate a lot of non-targets, to be fair) the pathway is 1000% clear. 

IMO I would get someone to give you an honest behavioral interview / feedback - not a friend, but some upperclassman or pay for 30 minutes of a WSO mentor's time. 


I go to a target but have many friends at complete non targets because my entire high school went to non targets. Yes IB May be hard to get from a non target, but why did you never consider casting a wider net? All my friends at non targets got great roles (many making more than me with way better WLB) in tech, SWE, consulting, asset management, S&T, corporate banking and 2 of my non target friends got into top grad schools. IB is not the end all be all - it literally represents like 1% of finance jobs or less.Even at my top target, many people strike out on IB/MBB/PE. However, unlike you, they casted a wider net and ended up with other, still good, roles. My advice to you is to delay graduation, reapply, and cast a wider net. There are tons of great roles out there that non target students are obtaining besides the IB/MBB/PE (which probably represent less than 1% of finance/business roles), and I have complete faith that you can as well.


I was in a similar position to you—couldn’t land a role while in college and took the long route by entering a tangential field and building a story that said “I’m committed to entering banking, I understand and am capable of the workload required, and I’ve built qualities relevant to banking through my non-banking role.”

Temper your expectations. Focus on MM’s and Boutiques because they typically weigh cultural fit more heavily. Most importantly, accept that it may take time, potentially multiple years, and don’t sacrifice growing your skillset and career in the meantime.

While I was trying to break into banking, I worked in some very cool finance but non-banking roles where higher-than-average effort and commitment allowed me to gain a wide scope, work directly with senior executives, and learn valuable tools. Career progression will be helpful if you end up having to obtain an MBA to transition to banking.


Non target myself that made it, your attitude needs to be fixed. Number two stop bitching and keep grinding fix your mentality you will fail over and over again but if you don’t give up things eventually works out


This. Number 1 thing is nobody cares about your excuses or how hard shit is for you. People only care about results. Once you hammer that in your head, you stop feeling sorry for yourself and continue to take action. I landed BB from non target (non div too) and everyone I spoke with said I had good resume with solid gpa, experiences, and test scores. It's easy to make excuses, but those excuses won't pay your bills or help you sleep at night. Gotta be willing to do anything given how competitive these roles are


Dude, your comments are always so vague...
They're like walking by the bakery section of Costco, the smell tantalizes but when you but when you buy the goods, it's just another average tasting pudding.


I was in the same shoes, honestly what fixed it for me was a crappy internship at a 3 man boutique IB. Once I threw that “summer analyst” on my resume / LinkedIn I got so much more traction. I literally got it by calling their front desk and asking if they need an intern and that I would work for free. Sometimes the conventional method of outreach and networking just doesn’t work.

After that internship it was pretty easy to convert to MM for FT. Another route is a MSF degree at Vandy. Buddy of mine did that after coming from an absolute non-target. Basically gives you an extra year to recruit with a target name on your resume. IMO better than going big4 and working your way up as you only lose 1 year and some earnings + cost but then you are in IB.


There has to be more to the story here — GPA?

I work in a top group at a lower BB and there are a lot of non-targets on my team. Not to mention I helped with the 2023 SA interviews and I was honestly a bit taken aback at how many non-target candidates HR pushed through for us to interview. All smart and driven candidates, it’s just very different from 5-6 years ago.

I’d also add that MM banks have tons of non-target folks. WF, RBC, BNP, BMO, etc. 

Your best bet is the corporate banking —> lev fin route. What was once pretty rare, seems fairly common these days.

Good luck, but definitely fix your attitude and outlook. There are so many better jobs out there than IB but I’m well aware that this one pays the most with the least amount of schooling at a young age (vs doctors, lawyers, etc.) 


Agreed, OP should post a blinded resume or at least provide what school they're at + GPA. Huge difference between going to say, University of Washington vs. Washington State.

That or 3k emails w/o any traction really speaks more to OP's attitude / personality potentially - this is coming as somebody from a non-target too who has helped many non-targets break in. Looking at your prior post here I can't help but get a sense of you feeling like you "deserved" something better in college too. 

OP - IB out of college isn't an end all, be all. Plenty of people do a Big 4 job first, or valuations, or something else, and break in later on in their 20s. Could also try to get an MSF as some others have suggested. Feel free to DM me a blinded version of your resume if you don't want to post here.


I already commented but think to yourself if you really want IB I went to a non target and my gpa was shit. I also come from a very poor background and my mentality was that I have to make this happen because I was done being poor and living in the hood with my parents ( imnt diversity either) that allowed me to grind, I failed so many interviews got so many rejections but finally I was able to get a BB SA and get that return. If you really want something so bad you will find ways to

make it happen. It might not happen immediately but it will eventually happen… all about how you approach things.


Some of these comments are just......I get why as an industry we are stereotyped as sociopathic douchebags. As to real advice for OP, I have a few thoughts:

First, be a little kinder to yourself. This world is hard enough as is without having your worst enemy living inside your head. 

Second, we're talking about a job. It's not going to determine the relationships you have with family, friends, and partners, determine your or self worth. It's nothing more than something we have to do so that eventually we won't have to do anything. Manage your expectations and understand that we are the only species that has built a system that requires us to do labor and pay to exist. Fuck work, don't let it consume your every waking moment, regardless the job you end up doing.

Finally, if you are really determined to get into banking, the first move is to get a job. Accounting, corporate finance, consulting, whatever. Do it for 3-5 years, and do it better than anyone else you work with. Find a mentor, build relationships, do some volunteering, and continue to follow markets and prepping for banking. then, at 26 or 27, apply to the best MBA programs that you can and enter the banking world as (hopefully competent and not utterly useless) MBA Associate. 

You may find with a few years perspective that you were a little in your own head about this, or you may take that chip on your shoulder and leverage into being the smartest, hardest working, most competent banker to ever hit the desk, it's totally up to you. Either way you go, via con dios and best of luck.


Thanks for this. I guess the reason why I am so upset is because the work I have put in over the past 3 years has been a waste since I haven't received any internship offers. I should mention that I have applied for a range of roles including consulting, S&T, global markets and big 4 advisory - I haven't exclusively been applying for IB

But I have been rejected from everywhere. I have been told that it is unlikely for non-targets to get any role in high finance, let alone IB

I have a few questions about going down the MBA route - don't the best MBA schools only select applicants who are already working in competitive fields i.e. consulting, PWM etc? If I don't get into a competitive field after graduation, surely I don't have a chance of getting into an M7 MBA? Aren't the MBA associates who have broken into IB later on all from the prestigious MBA schools?

If I still don't manage to get into IB after an MBA, would it have been a complete waste of money? Are there other good fields that I can pivot into if I have to give up on high finance roles?


Casting a wide net is good. There are a ton of opportunities out there even beyond the additional roles that you mentioned. Knowing nothing else about how you're doing this, I would say continue to reach out for informal conversations with junior staff at the places you are interested in and use every bit of your personal network that you can.

Re: MBA programs, there are bankers from every reputable program (top 30 or so), and MBA candidates come from every background. I was an accountant before stating my MBA, and I had classmates that were engineers, political staffers, teachers, professional athletes, consultants, bankers, other accountants, business owners, military officers, etc etc etc. If you had good undergrad grades, do well on the GMAT, and can show 3-5 years of solid work experience, you will get into a good program. 

I am not of the opinion that education is ever a "waste of money", but that said MBA programs are really just fancy trade schools, and if you are borrowing a lot of money to go, you'll want to make sure that you get a good ROI. There are always opportunities for MBAs, and those good programs (not just the M7) have relationships with every industry and it is in their interest to make sure you have a good gig once you graduate.

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OP - if you have run any sales process (selling a car or something smaller like a 2nd hand video game console), you quickly realize desperate sellers always underperform. I have seen many processes where the seller gives away too much to accommodate random requests from large buyers who are not even that interested which led to nowhere.

In any job applications, you are fundamentally trying to sell yourself to a firm. If you reek of desperation it makes people uncomfortable and people are much less likely to give you good reviews post interview if they were uncomfortable. If you want to break in you need to adjust this attitude and start telling yourself that you are too good for GS/MS/EVR/CVP and it is their loss not hiring you. Understand this might not be the reassurance / comfort you are looking for here, but if you were to go on any future job search (with any company, banking or else) - this attitude will only hold you back. 


I’ve been where you are and I remember feeling like I wanted to die when final rounds at a MM shop went poorly (I actually got the offer). I also remember feeling like the success stories were annoying cause they just highlighted that I couldn’t do it.

If you really want it then keep at it. I went big 4, then MM and now I’m at an EB.

Good luck and if you’re feeling unsafe consider getting help (I have a therapist now).