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 - 6:10pm

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
Best Response
Sep 15, 2015 - 12:14am

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.

Sep 15, 2015 - 3:49am

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
Sep 15, 2015 - 11:25am

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

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.

  • 1
Sep 15, 2015 - 5:10pm

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 - 3:26pm

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 16, 2015 - 4:20am

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
Sep 18, 2015 - 10:23am


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.


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

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

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

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

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
  • 1
Sep 19, 2015 - 1:36pm

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

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 - 4:13pm

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

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

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Sep 21, 2015 - 4:45pm

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's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Start Discussion

Popular Content See all

Girlfriend vs PE
+95PEby Investment Analyst in Private Equity - Growth Equity">Investment Analyst in PE - Growth
I’ll never take WSO for granted again
+55OFFby Principal in Venture Capital">Principal in VC
What's so good about Evercore?
+41IBby Prospective Monkey in Investment Banking - Mergers and Acquisitions">Prospect in IB-M&A
I'm tired man
+34IBby Intern in Corporate Finance">Intern in CorpFin
First year analyst, still feel incompetent and like I haven’t learned anything
+28IBby 1st Year Analyst in Investment Banking - Mergers and Acquisitions">Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Friends in IB are chilling hard, how can I get this?
+20IBby 3rd+ Year Associate in Private Equity - LBOs">Associate 3 in PE - LBOs

Total Avg Compensation

January 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (9) $911
  • Vice President (31) $349
  • Associates (141) $232
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (18) $155
  • 2nd Year Analyst (87) $152
  • Intern/Summer Associate (90) $144
  • 1st Year Analyst (347) $134
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (298) $83

Leaderboard See all

LonLonMilk's picture
Jamoldo's picture
Secyh62's picture
CompBanker's picture
redever's picture
frgna's picture
Addinator's picture
Edifice's picture
NuckFuts's picture
bolo up's picture
bolo up