Advice from an ex-IB MD on how to make it to Wall Street

Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #39. This one was originally posted 9/20/2015.

Mod Note (Andy): Check out Wilowallstreet's Q&A here. The Q&A is still open and he is actively answering any question that you may have.

See my other recent posts: "Advice from an ex-IB MD - why aren't you getting those interviews?", and "Advice from an ex-IB MD - on how to make VP"

Someone asked me last weekend how do I get a job in finance, I said it's relatively easy. I'll tell you how I did it and hopefully it will help you on your journey. I came from an EM country, and arrived in the midwest for my undergraduate degree. I was a Computer Science major, and decided in my fourth year to do Economics also. I didn't know what a Investment Bank was until the January of my graduation year. So given this limited planning and foresight, I made Managing Director at age 34. I'll tell you how I managed to do it.

Step 1

Start reading books, magazines, newspapers to do with finance – choose whichever branch of finance you want to go into and understand the lingo. So for example, since I wanted to do Sales & Trading, I read the Financial Times, the Wall St Journal, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune. Anything I could get my hands on to get the lingo.

Step 2

Find all the movies you can find on the industry, watch those too. All careers are specific tribes, with their own cultures, languages, short hand. You need to learn the lingo before people will take you seriously. You want to sound and look like an insider.

Step 3

Find the opportunities. Talk to friends, talk to family, read the newspapers, look at job websites, look at the websites of the companies you are interested in working for, call your university career office.

Step 4

Learn to write resumes and cover letters. Best way to learn is to see a lot of samples. Build expertise in doing this. Go work in the Career Center if you need to.

Step 5

Learn to interview, the trick to this is just practice, practice. Do lots of practice interviews, do informational interviews, even apply for jobs you don't want. Its important to just get a lot of hours on the board. Figure out your weaknesses, and figure out your strengths. Make sure you highlight your strengths in each interview.

Step 6

If you have done steps 3-5 well, then you will get a few job offers. Don't agree to any offers until you have received them all, then compare what's on the table in a rational manner. These offers are not final, remember there is always room to negotiate. Negotiate. Once you have maximized the opportunity, make a decision.

Step 7

Show up at the job. Remember at the beginning you know close to nothing, so you are being paid to learn. Make sure you learn. Ask questions every day. Find 5 new people to meet everyday. Figure out how to help them.

Step 8

Figure out what drives your boss and your boss's boss. What is important to them, what are their goals, how do they operate. What are they trying to achieve. Once you understand their goals, help them achieve those goals.

Step 9

Keep learning new things, keep reading, keep your eyes open for new opportunities, figure out how to keep your name out there. Keep growing your network. Treat it as a career marathon, not a sprint. Its about staying in the game as long as possible, so make it fun.

Books you must read

Never eat Alone (Keith Ferrazi)
The Start Up of You (Reid Hoffman)
Influence (Robert Cialdini)
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Finance is about people, not numbers.

Comments (39)

Sep 15, 2015 - 5:51pm
delete account, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do you think it's odd that he put HF and not IBD on his profile? Sounds a little fishy. He's not certified but I'll cut him some slack since he's new and I'm not certified (yet).

Sep 15, 2015 - 6:10pm
wilowallstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey guys to clarify on what I do, I made GS MD at 34, 4 yrs ago. Got bored and left last year to manage money. So to be clear not a current MD. I wouldn't be stupid enough to post stuff if I was still working. GS has a very explicit policy on this stuff, plus you don't have the time in that life style.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Best Response
Sep 15, 2015 - 12:14am
wanttobreakin111, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Am I the only one here who thinks that the OP has done nothing but stated generic cliches? I was hoping to read about what he did SPECIFICALLY to go from unaware during graduation year to GS MD. I have gained nothing useful from reading the OP, nothing that I didn't already know anyway.

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Sep 15, 2015 - 3:49am
wilowallstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for your feedback. I'll follow up with another post on what you need to do to make it on Wall Street, this one was just meant to cover what to do to make it to Wall Street. But specifically do you want to know what you need to do in the first few years as an analyst / associate, or as a VP heading to MD. They are all very different skills, and you have to change the game over time. So let me know and I'm to share what I learnt. Thanks again for taking the time to read it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • 1
Sep 15, 2015 - 11:25am
wanttobreakin111, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey sorry for the cocky tone of my earlier comment, I was having a frustrating day.

I am curious as to what did you do as a person who only found out about IB in the janurary of his graduating year. What did you do from there just to break in as an analyst? Clearly you had to take a non-traditional path, and I'm always looking to hear stories on those.

Sep 15, 2015 - 12:41pm
BlueShirt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm interested in hearing about how to progress from analyst/associate to senior banker level. I know you're from a sales background, but would be great if you can talk about skills that relate to M&A/Coverage banking positions.

Array
  • 1
Sep 15, 2015 - 5:10pm
delete account, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First off congrats on being a MD. That's really impressive and I would think the vast majority of those on here looking into IBD really don't have much of a clue of how hard it is to do that (myself included). I have a question though: why do you put hedge fund on your profile if you're a MD at Goldman?

Sep 15, 2015 - 1:37pm
copper245, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What type of school did you go to (Ivy, Top Private, Stern/Wharton, Top Public)?

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Sep 15, 2015 - 3:26pm
sevensevens, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do you reach out to 5 people every day? How do you keep track of everyone, remember names, and have the time to help them? Do you prioritize based on seniority, closeness of relationship, etc? Would love to hear more about building and maintaining a network within the working world.

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
Sep 15, 2015 - 4:23pm
Sil, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Great post. I wish that you had given some concrete examples of what you did, but great post nonetheless. The real takeaway here should be that to succeed in any job, you must be passionate about it. If you want to be a career banker, you better start learning your industry or product early on.

Sep 16, 2015 - 12:40am
Pitbull Class, what's your opinion? Comment below:

For some ex-Goldmans, the sky is the limit. One guy Malcolm Turnbull got into politics and became the Prime Minister of Australia. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/11396259/Malcolm-Turnbull-the-millionaire-lawyer-who-toppled-Tony-Abbott-to-become-Australias-new-prime-minister.html

Winners bring a bigger bag than you do. I have a degree in meritocracy.
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Sep 16, 2015 - 4:20am
wilowallstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey guys, I'll answer the quick questions first, and then will do another post on How to climb up the ladder next.

I was in Sales in the Investment Bank covering large clients (more specifics are irrelevant). I went to a top 20 school (not Ivy league), didn't make the cut !

I try to reach out to 5 new people every week - either completely new or at this stage people that get referred to me as interesting. I wish I had started this much sooner. I also try to help 5 of my current contacts in some fashion, by either (i) sending them something that's relevant to them or (ii) connecting them with someone who they will enjoy talking to. If you want to go deeper here, get Keith Ferrazi's - Never Eat Alone. Great book on the subject of building a network.

To keep track of contacts I have a simple spread sheet with separate tabs based on whether they are banker, investors or in industry. Then each sheet just holds their personal details, last contact, what they care about.

I think the key to building a network is just think about what sorts of things you want to genuinely know more about, learn as much as you can on that subject by reading up on it, then go contact by contact and bootstrap your way. To make this relevant to the recruiting process you have to find some way to add value to the people you are speaking to. So for example if while you are speaking to a banker he says that he is looking into TMT deals in Latin America, then the next time you see something interesting on the subject, you should send that to him/her. They may already have the info, but they will appreciate that you thought of them. When finishing a meeting, your last question to every one you speak to should be: 'is there anyone else you recommend I should speak or, is there anyone else I can learn from'. Most people are willing to help.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Sep 16, 2015 - 4:39am
delete account, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey I just clicked on your link at the bottom. Bookmarked it and will read! Some good stuff that wasn't covered on the WSO post.

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Sep 18, 2015 - 10:23am
Sil, what's your opinion? Comment below:
wilowallstreet:

When finishing a meeting, your last question to every one you speak to should be: 'is there anyone else you recommend I should speak or, is there anyone else I can learn from'. Most people are willing to help.

THIS.

All students reading this topic should write this down. After EVERY networking call, ask this. You would be amazed at how friendly and helpful even random strangers are.

Sep 18, 2015 - 4:42pm
Este5, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for your advice, I have a question, I applied to Goldman Sachs for a summer internship next year, but well my chances of getting an interview are very slim since I do not come from a top tier university or have spectacular grades or extracurricular experience. I have read some reviews on line of people who get calls and interviews from them without having the require grades, etc. If I should happen to hear back from them for an interview, how could I stand out or have an impact on the interviewer to get a second interview?

Sep 19, 2015 - 5:52am
wilowallstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for the question, I'll cover that in a few days. I just posted on what to do around making your resume better, to make sure you get those interviews.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Sep 19, 2015 - 8:05am
IvyLeagueVet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

A quick glance and this doesn't pass the sniff test @ all. Generic to say the least and Sales in the Investment bank? That has to be the 1st time I've ever heard a GSer refer to Securities as the IB.

Gut says he/she is full of shit about his background.

Sep 19, 2015 - 10:50am
Casanova, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Would be great if you could do the similar post on how to progress from analyst/associate to MD. Cheers

Strength & Honour Lads pass exams
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Sep 19, 2015 - 1:36pm
wilowallstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey casanova I just put up something I used to tell my associates who wanted to make VP. Hope that helps. Making MD when you are a VP is a totally different bag of skills, I may cover that later.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Sep 23, 2015 - 4:09pm
wilowallstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hi mr white, lot of answers on that. Tell me what stage of the game you are at and I can narrow it down for you.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Sep 21, 2015 - 3:40pm
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

you should really get verified as a Certified User, I don't doubt your authenticity but sometimes this site turns into a bit of sophomores giving advice to freshman and it takes away from the quality.

get up with AndyLouis

Also Andy, sorry about your birds last night, but not really. GO PACK GO

Sep 21, 2015 - 4:13pm
AndyLouis, what's your opinion? Comment below:

lol, was waiting to watch game tonight.... thanks

yeah we're going to reach out to him about getting certified

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Sep 21, 2015 - 4:45pm
AndyLouis, what's your opinion? Comment below:

lol, was waiting to watch the game tonight, oh well, knew i wouldnt make it through the day.

and yes we will reach out to him/her about certification

WSO Content & Social Media. Follow us: Linkedin, IG, Facebook, Twitter.

Sep 22, 2015 - 7:32am
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Nov 26, 2015 - 1:40pm
egao, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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