Thoughts/Advice on the Internship Search Process & the Limited Utility of WSO

For some context, I'm currently a sophomore at a good academic school but a non-target for IB, and am an incoming IB SA at a top BB for sophomore summer (think GS/MS). 

Having navigated the sophomore internship process, I just wanted to offer some thoughts and advice regarding recruitment and the usefulness of WSO. I don't profess to be a finance recruitment guru and I have not been through the main junior year SA process; however, I have used WSO a decent bit over the past several months and wanted to share some insights to try to give back. As far as I'm concerned, if one young college kid derives value from this post, it will have been worth my time.

#1: Realize the Limits of WSO

There's a reason why I started with this point. 

WSO can be a great resource for the interview process. If you're interviewing at a large firm, chances are that you can find interview questions, helpful insights about recruitment, and other great advice in previous WSO threads. I know I certainly did. However, please let that be all you use WSO for.

WSO has a pretty toxic culture with a lot of petty people, some of whom actively spread disinformation (for reference: I have literally seen someone falsely say that there were x amount of spots in a program when I was in the program and could verifiably prove otherwise; I've also seen people say that certain internship recruitment processes were over when they weren't because I was actively in them, etc.).

For the most part, people claiming to know intimate details of a specific program's recruitment processes are usually full of it and lying (at least in my experience). Try to avoid these people as much as possible, and certainly don't let them get you down or allow yourself to become demoralized when you see them.

#2: The Best Advice Will Come from Mentors IRL

The best internship advice I received came from upperclassmen at my school--not WSO. My advice to underclassmen is to find people who have achieved what you want to achieve, reach out to them, and pick their brains and join the organizations they joined. If your school is completely off the radar and has no alums, you might be forced to rely on the generosity of random bankers, but that is a far greater resource than merely using the internet. 

#3: Be Unique

This is probably going to be perceived as contrarian, but I would highly recommend doing things that you're genuinely interested in instead of trying to tailor your major/extracurriculars/internships to your perceptions of what companies want. What companies actually want is an intelligent, articulate, and charismatic person who is secure in their sense of self and is interesting to be around (and also knows their technicals, obviously). If you're naturally interested in finance and genuinely drawn exclusively to finance clubs and eat, sleep, breathe finance--then embrace it. However, if that's not you, that's fine! Identify what you're genuinely interested in and dive head first into those activities. Don't be afraid to be different. If you do what 99% of IB recruits do, you'll get the same results as 99% of IB recruits get.

Caveat: the one exception to the above advice is if you come from an extreme non-target. In that case, having a near perfect academic record in a more traditional major is probably necessary. 

--

Last thing: I acknowledge that it seems audacious for anyone, let alone a sophomore, to be offering advice on such an uncontrollable process. I want to say that I do not purport to have all the answers or the perfect recruitment strategy. I just know what worked for me and those that have mentored me. As always, take everything with a healthy grain of salt.

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Saleh, the Jets' HC, when he said: "If you ask a football coach what the perfect coach looks like, odds are he'll describe himself." Same thing is true with recruiting--if you ask someone who's been successful in recruiting what the optimal strategy is, they will likely talk about what they did.

The key is to recognize that what works for one person doesn't work for everyone. The perfect recruitment strategy is derived from listening to as many successful people as possible and finding out what works best for you.

I hope this post was helpful.

Comments (2)

Oct 4, 2021 - 10:42pm
johnwall47, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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