The Non-Target Who Didn't Take No For An Answer
Mod Note: Each day we'll be posting the top WSO forum posts of 2014. This one was originally posted on 1/25/14 and ranks #19 for the year by total silver banana count. You can see all our top ranked content here.
As I sit here and prepare to write this story, I look back on one of the most memorable years of my life. I cannot help but be thankful for the opportunity to have gone through some incredible experiences, both good and bad, that have shaped me into who I am today. As investment banking summer analyst recruitment continues to progress this year, I thought I would share a bit of inspiration to help you along your way.
Like many of you, there was a point in time where I sat down and decided that investment banking was what I wanted to do. I was going to apply to as many places as I could, and hopefully land a great gig. Easy enough, right? Not really.. Not at all actually. You see, like many of you guys I attend a non-target state school with relatively low amounts of alumni in the field. Having originally come from a pre-med background, the whole process was daunting to say the least. Exactly one year ago, I did not know my head from my ass and yet, I was preparing to jump into this whole process head-first.
Perspective. I remember always telling myself that I had to have perspective with this whole process. As I began formulating the first steps, I began to try and identify my value proposition. How can I, an over-active undergraduate banker wannabee, convince seasoned professionals that this is what I wanted to do? I had a basic story for why I transitioned from medicine to banking, and found a way to incorporate my past entrepreneurial experiences. It was my enthusiasm and my desire to learn that landed me my first boutique investment banking internship, NOT my experiences or my expertise. I had nothing to offer this bank other than my willingness to learn about the industry. And oh did I learn.
When this year's recruitment began to pick up, I could tell the process was going to be different than last year. I could just feel it. It was clearly obvious that recruitment for these bigger banks was an entirely different ball-game with its own difficulties and obstacles. While at least I knew my head from my ass this time, I was preparing to jump into an entirely different animal head-first with hopes of success and prosperity.
Coming from a non-target, I had to evaluate my advantages and disadvantages, and find a way to best leverage what I had in order to stand out and differentiate myself. I developed an extensive, multi-tab excel spreadsheet and titled it "Networking Doc- CRUNCH TIME" and began to scour the depths of LinkedIn to find any and every alumni in the field that I could find. I also added contacts of contacts, and alumni from other state schools in the industry. I was preparing myself to be quite possibly the most annoying, pestering little shit in the industry. This list came out to be well over 200 people, or what you would call a good start. I would soon find out over a few months that 200 potential contacts translates to approximately 100 responses, 50-60 phone calls, and maybe 20-30 people that may help you. We live in a world with no guarantees, and that is something that began to hit home with me.
To maximize my chances, I tried to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible and tried to create my own luck. I booked a week-long trip to New York on my own dime to meet the new friends I had made. I also booked trips to two other cities, all in hopes of landing an interview at their firms. You see, ladies and gentlemen, the beauty of hard work is that while you are completely zoned in on your mission, those around you begin to notice what you are doing and the work you are putting in to achieve it. Before you know it, university faculty, your friends, and even those at the boutique bank you work at, begin to cheer you on and support you. My contacts began to reach out to me and ask me how I was doing. Incredible feeling to say the least, to know that I wasn't alone. From several months of work I landed three interviews, two superdays, and, drum roll please……One offer. Not just any offer though, an offer from an Elite Boutique to work in their healthcare division where I would be working directly with healthcare companies that save lives. I was thrilled!
The most important takeaway from all this? I gained the opportunity to make friends with great people in the industry. People I can see myself grabbing a drink with after work in a few years should I be fortunate enough to translate my SA experience to a full-time offer. You see ladies and gentlemen, this is a people industry. People join people, not companies. Keep putting in the work, be persistent, MAKE FRIENDS, and just maybe, something might come your way if you are lucky.