AMA: extreme poverty to non target to investment banking

johndoe2019's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 737

Hello everyone, I am sharing this because Andy and Patrick said it may be useful for some younger users. I legitimately believe that WSO helped me get my career started.

About me: I grew up in the roughest part of town nearby a big city (think Ferguson Missouri, Flatbush Brooklyn, Baltimore, Detroit, etc). My dad was a substance abuser and my mom found "homes" by finding a new boyfriend to move in with. I had two brothers and sisters.

I didn't finish high school because we got evicted when I was 16 and we couldn't find any place to stay. I got a GED and worked for a landscaping company.

Anyways after doing that for a few years I got mad at my boss one day, quit, and enrolled at a community college. From there I transferred to the closest four year university with the thought "ok ill major in business!" with no other plan.

I got interested in banking my sophomore year but too late in the game to be on the right cycle for internship recruiting, so I missed out on any summer analyst roles. I also had to work full time to support myself so I had a job as an overnight stocker at a big retailer from 11pm to 7am, took classes from 9am to 4pm. I also drove for Uber on weekends.

My junior and senior years I did a bunch of local internships from my schools on campus recruiting. They all sucked. "Intern - accounting" was my title. I essentially licked stamps, surfed the web, data entry, etc.

My big break came when I decided I wanted to network heavily. I made it my goal to contact 10 strangers per day. I had literally zero alumni network in banking. After 6 months of doing this I found a guy who for whatever reason took pity on me and he made an introduction to his buddies who managed a very small hedge fund in NYC. They had me do a crazy long interview which included a case study where I had to build a 3 step model from scratch in under a couple hours and then make an investment pitch. They let me come on as a pseudo intern for a couple months with no chance for a full time offer, but I took it anyway.

So I paid for the resume service here and I started applying for jobs in July / August and through that short experience at the hedge fund I got an interview with a very large investment bank, who loved my story and gave me a full time offer on the spot.

I've been at this role about a year now and I get buy side offers almost every day through LinkedIn and I'm getting ready for business school in case that doesn't work out. My life literally never would have taken me this far if a kid at school had not told me "you should check out Wall Street oasis."

Anyways, ask me anything.

Comments (101)

Apr 16, 2019

I don't particularly have any questions but came on here to express that you deserve a lot of respect for your story, a true testament to tenacity.

    • 11
Apr 16, 2019

Thanks! Really appreciate it.

Array

Apr 17, 2019

Seriously, inspiring story and really respect the hustle.

    • 2
Apr 16, 2019

What school did you go to? I grew up very similar to you; low income in Newark, NJ; dad was on drugs heavy, mom grew up in Jim Crow and didn't get an education at all. I'll be starting my first job in consulting and did pretty much the same of contacting strangers throughout college. Just happy to see how far you've come. Thank you for sharing.

    • 4
Apr 16, 2019

I'd rather not say as it would immediately identify myself but it was not even a semi target. Just your run of the mill state university. Our football program is all we really care about. Top 100-50 ranking academic ranking. Probably admits 50% of applicants.

Array

Apr 18, 2019

UNL?

Array
    • 1
Apr 16, 2019

Damn impressive

    • 1
Apr 16, 2019

No questions, just came here to throw you an SB and say ditto. While not quite as rough a start, I owe a large portion of my success to what I learned here.

    • 2
Apr 16, 2019

Yep I literaly didn't even know the difference between PWM, S&T, AM, ER, etc before I came to this website. Props to everyone for the help.

Array

    • 3
Apr 16, 2019

nothing to add, but if you ever want to make the jump to PWM, my team could use someone with your hustle. PM me anytime.

bravo sir.

    • 7
Apr 16, 2019

I almost did PWM. I just don't think I can handle cold calling. I know that once you build your book it can be really cushy. I'll think about it!

Array

    • 2
Apr 17, 2019

if you met 10 strangers a day, worked 3 jobs to put yourself through school, and ended up where you are, cold calling will seem like doing a 5k after you just got out of Navy SEAL training. you're right, at the beginning, anything new is scary, but that wanes

    • 4
Apr 16, 2019

Great work @johndoe2019

& thanks @WallStreetOasis.com you have helped so many people, myself included

    • 2
Apr 16, 2019

Thank you!

Array

Apr 16, 2019

Given how many in IB come from very affluent backgrounds, how much of a culture shock have you experienced?

Most Helpful
Apr 16, 2019

It's insane. The waste and excess - I literally can't wrap my head around it. Let me share a couple examples.

1

I've got an associate who wears $2000 tailored suits, a $6000 Rolex, and $800 ferragamo shoes every day. My first day, he asked me "where do I get my suits done?" The answer was I of course bought them at Goodwill. I couldn't understand paying more than that. Find a Jos. Bank jacket in my size, then pay a few dollars to have it altered. I apparently looked shabby and was told to fix this. I haven't, only my associate cared, my director doesn't. This guy will wear his expensive loafers even when it's raining, by the way. He also once complimented my watch that I bought at Walmart (it's a Timex). Backhanded compliments, odd flex but OK.

2

We get seamless every day if we stay past 6. We get a cab every day if we stay past 9. On seamless orders, I make sure not to be excessive, because I don't want to be wasteful. All of my coworkers think I am insane and spend the maximum dollars they can spend every time. Similarly, an Uber home would cost upwards of $50-70 depending on surge. I think this is super wasteful and I still take the subway.

3

I once made an analogy to a different associate where I said "it's like lay-away." He looked at me like I was crazy. "What the fuck is that?" "You know, where you set the merchandise aside and you make payments on it until you take it home later? I did this at Kmart for Christmas gifts all of the time." He has literaly never heard of this before.

4

The summer interns asked me "Where are you from?" I say "Home State." They say "No, where? I'm from [small town] in Connecticut." Like I would fucking know where this was. Their whole world view was so ego centric they just assumed everyone would know every suburb of Stamford like "oh yeah! I leave my yacht there. Nice place!"

5

Last summer my portfolio managers would go out for drinks once a week. They regularly ran up $5000 tabs doing shots of Casamigos. This is the tequila for people who think they know what classy tequila is based on cost. I mean duh, it's got George Clooney on the commercial, it has to be good right? Five fucking thousand dollars to reserve a section at Mr. Purple. That was literally all I had to live on for a semester. The view is nice but everyone there were your stereotypical Instagram wannabes. I'd much rather go to a place like Blue and Yellow.

6

One of my Vice Presidents asked me if I had ever been to Buenos Ares. I had not. In fact, I've only ever been to Canada and this was by accident taking the wrong exit on the freeway. He was shocked - told me how "tickets are so cheap! You absolutely must go."

7

On three separate occasions I bought a bus ticket to New York that left on a Wednesday. The greyhound was more expensive so I bought from the Lucky Star Lines. Instead of spring break or winter break, I instead spent the week going out for coffee with random bankers I found on Bloomberg at the library. This led to my interviews at the hedge fund last year. At my current job they still talk about this (much to my embarrassment)

I'll post some more as I can think of them. I've got loads more stories.

Array

    • 45
Apr 17, 2019

tjoiljktissue

    • 1
Apr 17, 2019

You remind me of the situation I am in now. Good to hear you made it.

    • 2
Apr 17, 2019
johndoe2019:

This is the tequila for people who think they know what classy tequila is based on cost.

I just spit my coffee out... This...so much this.

    • 2
Apr 17, 2019

great response!

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

Apr 17, 2019

Being wasteful and rewarding yourself for becoming successful are very different, with that being said, how do you draw that line between luxuries that aren't necessary but are a nice reward for all of your hard work, resulting in being able to financially afford splurging on yourself every now and then?

Apr 19, 2019

Props on the come up, I had to make something out of nothing too so I respect it and know the struggle.

That said, are you really from the hood? Where I grew up (think drug-infested, violent little ghetto hell), every time someone gets a little money he/she spends it on designer shit he/she can't afford, watches, chains, etc. Conspicuous consumption/wastefulness is hardly limited to the banking world.

I feel you on the fact that it's such a small, self-contained world of privilege. Everyone is a frat brother of this one or that one, they "summered" in the same place, can't imagine another way of life. It is what it is though, we don't get into this to make friends. We make friends to get into this.

    • 1
Apr 19, 2019

You should at least take the UBER home. Your time is very valuable, to yourself and to the company, and by taking the UBER you are making sure to save yourself time so that you are more rested and able to be more productive at work. Considering how much clients are probably paying for your work, its more wasteful to take the subway and not maximize an opportunity to get rest.

    • 2
Apr 19, 2019
johndoe2019:

It's insane. The waste and excess - I literally can't wrap my head around it. Let me share a couple examples.

1

I've got an associate who wears $2000 tailored suits, a $6000 Rolex, and $800 ferragamo shoes every day. My first day, he asked me "where do I get my suits done?" The answer was I of course bought them at Goodwill. I couldn't understand paying more than that. Find a Jos. Bank jacket in my size, then pay a few dollars to have it altered. I apparently looked shabby and was told to fix this. I haven't, only my associate cared, my director doesn't. This guy will wear his expensive loafers even when it's raining, by the way. He also once complimented my watch that I bought at Walmart (it's a Timex). Backhanded compliments, odd flex but OK.

2

We get seamless every day if we stay past 6. We get a cab every day if we stay past 9. On seamless orders, I make sure not to be excessive, because I don't want to be wasteful. All of my coworkers think I am insane and spend the maximum dollars they can spend every time. Similarly, an Uber home would cost upwards of $50-70 depending on surge. I think this is super wasteful and I still take the subway.

3

I once made an analogy to a different associate where I said "it's like lay-away." He looked at me like I was crazy. "What the fuck is that?" "You know, where you set the merchandise aside and you make payments on it until you take it home later? I did this at Kmart for Christmas gifts all of the time." He has literaly never heard of this before.

4

The summer interns asked me "Where are you from?" I say "Home State." They say "No, where? I'm from [small town] in Connecticut." Like I would fucking know where this was. Their whole world view was so ego centric they just assumed everyone would know every suburb of Stamford like "oh yeah! I leave my yacht there. Nice place!"

5

Last summer my portfolio managers would go out for drinks once a week. They regularly ran up $5000 tabs doing shots of Casamigos. This is the tequila for people who think they know what classy tequila is based on cost. I mean duh, it's got George Clooney on the commercial, it has to be good right? Five fucking thousand dollars to reserve a section at Mr. Purple. That was literally all I had to live on for a semester. The view is nice but everyone there were your stereotypical Instagram wannabes. I'd much rather go to a place like Blue and Yellow.

6

One of my Vice Presidents asked me if I had ever been to Buenos Ares. I had not. In fact, I've only ever been to Canada and this was by accident taking the wrong exit on the freeway. He was shocked - told me how "tickets are so cheap! You absolutely must go."

7

On three separate occasions I bought a bus ticket to New York that left on a Wednesday. The greyhound was more expensive so I bought from the Lucky Star Lines. Instead of spring break or winter break, I instead spent the week going out for coffee with random bankers I found on Bloomberg at the library. This led to my interviews at the hedge fund last year. At my current job they still talk about this (much to my embarrassment)

I'll post some more as I can think of them. I've got loads more stories.

If you stick it out in IB, these examples demonstrate what your kids will likely be like. Your parents didn't do IB or some other high paying profession (no shame there, just pointing it out), so you were raised differently. Gives you some perspective, doesn't it.

    • 5
Apr 20, 2019

Funny what you mentioned regarding the associate. Now that I have restarted a new career the younger folks banter around me and given my now lack of seniority I am in on the conversation. They have an obsession with clothing - something that no one gives a fuck about past the age of 27+. As long as you look presentable (read a suit that has been altered so it fits and clean and irons shirt, you are good...)

Liked your story OP

Apr 16, 2019

Thanks for sharing your story!

Did you do anything special for yourself once you finally made it and starting bringing home the IB pay?

Apr 16, 2019

No problem!

I do not do anything special for myself. I actually don't think I make enough money to live in NYC. I'm told it's going to be better at year two but I don't have anything in writing. Bonuses haven't been paid yet. I have a suspicion I am being underpaid relative to my peers because I wasn't exactly in a situation where I could negotiate on an offer.

My portion of rent is $1500 (I have a roommate). Plus student loans, tax withholding, metro card, food, etc, I honestly have very little left over each month. I also have a monthly medical expense that I absolutely must have in order to live which costs me about $350 a month (that's with insurance). I went without this for many years by the way, I actually used to ration my medication because it was so expensive.

Are any of you able to save money? I'm not really.

Array

    • 3
Apr 16, 2019

Your rent sounds pretty good by NYC standards especially with just one roommate.

At a BB, you should be making $85k as a first year analyst. If it's below that, you're underpaid. Are you part of the first year analyst class or more of a junior analyst?

Most Controversial
Apr 16, 2019

I'm rooting for your success. One day, you'll be wearing the 'Gamos and the nice watch. It will pain you a bit to buy them, but then you'll realize what an insanely small percent of your income it is and you'll pull the trigger. Maybe I'm wrong. I didn't grow up in as rough a spot as you did, but was the first in my family to graduate from college and grew up nowhere near Manhattan (physically, but more important, psychically). Everything was a shock to me as well, but like everything in life, you become accustomed to your environment.

That being said, save as much money as you reasonably can and invest it. Twenty years from now, you will have what you consider a shockingly large amount of money to you right now. It likely won't feel like as much as you would like twenty years from now, because expectations change over time (if that makes any sense).

The quickest way to burn through cash is to pay for all the bills for your family members. If they have an inkling that you're making anywhere near the kind of money you will be making in 5-10 years, they will likely be all over you for 'loans' or 'investments'. Do not do it. That's the death spiral of your cash flow. Your best course of action is to never tell a family member or friend how much you earn or have banked. Never. Nothing good can possibly come out of it, other than your momentary ego boost. Repeat: do not brag about your success to family, even to your parents (often, especially your parents).

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Apr 16, 2019

Thanks for the kind words.

I actually don't talk to my parents at all. They were pretty toxic and I cut them out of my life when I turned 18. I have friends back home who constantly ask me to hook them up with references or a to help them get interviews. I want to help but they only ever put in a fraction of the effort I did. I'm torn. I don't want to stick my neck out for somebody who will make me look bad, but I also want to help them a lot.

As far as investments go, I just max my 401k in a target date fund. I don't have the cash to put away more than that at the moment.

Array

    • 3
Apr 17, 2019

Do NOT stick your neck out for friends like that. Social capital is one of your most precious resources. Do NOT burn it carelessly for people who do not have your same level of dedication. I know you might feel like a prick at first, but trust me, you'll regret it 10.0x if you do.

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Apr 17, 2019
DickFuld:

Do not do it. That's the death spiral of your cash flow. Your best course of action is to never tell a family member or friend how much you earn or have banked. Never. Nothing good can possibly come out of it, other than your momentary ego boost. Repeat: do not brag about your success to family, even to your parents (often, especially your parents).

Sounds like you have a story

    • 1
Apr 23, 2019

Why'd this get MS?

The part about family is sooo true. I make nowhere near most of you guys and might as well be Bill Gates when I go around the extended family.

Apr 17, 2019

Nothing to ask, but just wanted to say much respect to you bro. Your perseverance and pushing yourself against all odds is incredibly inspiring. Wish you the best of luck

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Apr 17, 2019

Thanks for doing this AMA. Your story is really inspiring.

  1. There's no doubt that WSO is a great resource, especially for people with limited exposure and resources to finance. However, the accelerated recruitment process has undoubtedly narrowed the timeframe and the odds for an inner-city student to learn about and prepare for the recruitment process for junior year IB SA internships. How often have you run into other peers from working-class backgrounds, both during the recruitment process and now? Are their stories about recruiting and breaking in generally similar to yours, and do you stay connected with them?
  2. Did you find it difficult to initially network with representatives due to your atypical background? I have some friends from upbringings similar to yours, and they feel out of place sometimes at events like networking lunches. Aside from general advice, they still struggle with how to bring up and highlight the strengths of their background (first-gen, low-income, immigrant, etc) without invoking pity or awkwardness.
  3. I know you discussed the culture shock in detail in a previous response, but have you at any point felt disconnected from your family and friends (who might still be struggling to get by) ever since breaking into IB?
    • 2
Apr 17, 2019

1

I have never run into people who were formerly working class. I have, however, run into people who were from Brooklyn or the Midwest who were closer to "normal." Some of them are similar to my story. I know two individuals in particular that both went way over the top to get noticed; one started a club on campus and the other started a trading company (with student loans for startup cash!). I've tried to stay connected with them - I'd say we speak about once a month still.

I also met two people from a rural area in another continent. Their hometown was exactly what Trump was alluding to when he said "why do we have to take people from these shithole countries?" They both had scholarships to wayyy better schools than I went to. They were so smart! I felt entirely inadequate around them. They told me how they networked - both coincidentally got in the same way; by attending every XYZ Society meeting they could find and shaking hands with people.

2

Yes, very. I initially tended to really emphasize my background and this really made people uncomfortable. I remember talking to this guy who was a director at Morgan Stanley. Nice guy but he asked me why I wanted to do banking and I told him it's because I wanted respect. He goes "you know the left thinks we're fucking cockroaches right? Nobody will give you a job to make you feel better." I thought this was great advice. I don't even bring up my background anymore or if asked I downplay it a lot. I think this has actually helped. These guys have absolutely no way to relate or understand and I'm not looking for a pity party.

3

Yes, all of the time. I've lost touch with some people and I think some of them have me pegged as "the banking guy" and that's all I am to them now. Some examples:

I have one close friend who was probably smarter than me. Except he's working at some warehouse because he got arrested twice in the past year for having pot on him.

There is also this culture of failure back home. I say how I worked hard for something and they say "what's wrong with working someplace back home?" I tell my friends who are also interested in banking to do this and that and they say "ok!" and then they never do it.

One guy in my schools' MBA program called me one day and asked if I would forward his resume. I asked him why he wanted to do banking and he said essentially "it seems cool." I then asked him "what do investment banks do?" and he goes "they buy and sell stocks right?" Dude was in the mba program and still had no idea what an investment bank even does. And you know what? I was exactly the same way three years ago. Because my school just never taught this stuff. Nobody ever dreamed of doing this and the school never bothered to try getting banks to recruit. They had plenty of life insurance salesmen at the career fair though.

Array

    • 3
Apr 18, 2019
johndoe2019:

I have never run into people who were formerly working class. I have, however, run into people who were from Brooklyn or the Midwest who were closer to "normal."

Love the story, and as someone from a very middle class neighborhood in the Midwest, I can vouch that even after 10 years in the industry, you never get used to (or respect) your co-workers who come from unimaginable coastal wealth and can't fathom that everyone didn't look and grow up like them. Best of luck for as long as you're able to tolerate your environment and stay in the industry.

    • 3
Apr 18, 2019
johndoe2019:

He goes "you know the left thinks we're fucking cockroaches right?

Spoiler alert - we are.

    • 1
Apr 17, 2019

Thanks for sharing your story! Truly inspirational

Recognising that you spent some time off the "normal path", how old were you when you entered IB? Are you older by a couple of years compared to the other analyst?

    • 1
Apr 17, 2019

A few years older. I definitely feel like I wasted a lot of time in previous years and I am very conscious of this. I do know of a few analysts that were older than me but typically you would expect somebody to have a graduate degree to enter banking at my age.

Array

    • 1
Apr 17, 2019

Was wondering the same thing. Any chance you can share your exact age? I know it may be the wrong mindset, but I feel like I'm too old to break into IB (without an MBA at least). Your story is really inspiring. Obviously you worked hard, but how much of your success would you attribute to luck? What if you didn't get a shot at that small HF for example?

    • 1
Apr 18, 2019

Love it! You definitely deserve it! How did you go about meeting strangers? LinkedIn or just on the street? How did you keep the contacts alive? And especially how do you manage to get so many buyside offers coming in?

    • 1
Apr 18, 2019
_schnitzel:

Love it! You definitely deserve it! How did you go about meeting strangers? LinkedIn or just on the street? How did you keep the contacts alive? And especially how do you manage to get so many buyside offers coming in?

So for meeting strangers, I leveraged public networks. On a Bloomberg terminal (which yr NYC public library has for free in some locations) you can type PEOP and it has a really large database. You can filter by all sorts of things. Similarly, you can make a free trial CapIQ account or FactSet account with a student email and they have people searches. In addition, I used LinkedIn a lot, but people weren't as responsive on this. I'd also go to every CFA society event I could manage. Basically I'd just find something I have in common and run with that. One guy had on his public profile that he's a sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous. I had a lot of experience with this so I mentioned that in my email, and he was kind enough to push my resume to HR who actually called me back. Didn't get that job though.

Another thing is I looked up funds that I was interested in. I'm partiuparly interested in lev fin and securitizations so I looked up lev fin funds on google, found their personnel bios, and just emailed or called them out of the blue. A surprisingly high number of people were sympathetic to this.

You can get very creative here. LinkedIn isn't the only way. For example, on one of my NYC trips I literally just walked down 6th Avenue, walked in to buildings wearing my nicest suit and a folder with a hundred resumes. I'd go to the security guard and say "oh I'm sorry I'm not on the list, can you buzz me up to floor whatever?" Surprisingly this worked a non zero number of times. Once I got in there was always somebody at the elevator room who'd let me in, then I would literally hand my resume to the person at the front desk! You're going to think I'm making this up but in occasion I bumped in to a guy who was a senior VP who sat with me and told me what I needed to do. He appreciated the hustle and gave me a great reference.

Another example - during one of my internships I used to see a lot of trades go through the treasury department. The internship had zero technical application but we did process transactions. I wrote down the names of the bond traders on the trade tickets and looked up their emails, then contacted them later. Again, they were actually surprisingly nice and gave me advice or actually forwarded me in the right direction.

I also emailed Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. That didn't go anywhere though. I figured I had nothing to lose. Lloyd, in case you're reading this, I'd love to chat about your time being a hot dog vendor at yankee stadium.

For staying in touch - there were a lot of posts on that on WSO. I'd keep a spreadsheet and keep track of all communication. Also I wouldn't email people for no reason, I'd always have something.

I get the general sense that bankers want to help people (specifically the right people who show dedication), they're just too busy most of the time. All it really takes is a well written two sentence email.

Array

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Apr 18, 2019

hey, anyone who told me I'm crazy for saying you should be going into buldings and cold calling people asking for advice, READ THIS

respect the hustle kit, well done

    • 2
Apr 19, 2019

I love your replies as much as your original post, you're a pretty cool guy! I might bump into you in an elevator maybe ;)

Apr 18, 2019

Hey,

Great story, I appreciate it. This is powerful especially since poverty is often looked down upon and the poor despised. Mercy rejoices over judgement.

In the Bible King David went from sheep herder to a big name on earth.

I took you from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: And I was with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies out of your sight, and have made you a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. - 2 Sam 7:8

    • 2
Apr 19, 2019

This might seem like a stupid question, but how are you supposed to network? Do you just reach out to people on LinkedIn? Find people's email addresses online and email them? And when you do, what do you say in those messages without sounding like you just want a job? I'm pretty clueless about how to network so any tips here would be greatly appreciated!!

Apr 19, 2019

I would first talk about what you have in common, maybe same school or love of a sport. I have been doing some emailing with some cousins of cousins of cousins before I go to college next year. I started with and intro and then basically asked for advice or if we could set up a call. My email in a nutshell: Hi my name is Carson Wentz and I am planning to attend NDSU next year. I am very interested in Finance and Real Estate, and have a particular interest in investment banking. I had a few questions and I was wondering if you could set up a time to talk. and then add on some polite stuff, talk about it being quick etc. I am not the most experienced with this but it worked both times for me, take it for what you will.

Apr 19, 2019

flyeaglesfly

    • 1
Apr 19, 2019

Seriously just call them or email them. Calls work better. It's harder for them to blow you off if you've literally got them on the phone - but be respectful of their time and thy might be in the middle of something. Contact analysts or associates and not directors.

I wouldn't do what the guy below you said. Too much buildup. Plus, you'll sound interested in too many things and the guy won't be able to help you. If somebody emailed me and said "hey I'm interested in lev fin, equity research, and sales and trading" I probably wouldn't even respond since it's clear this guy has no idea what he wants to do.

Just do this:

"John,

I'm a student at [YOUR SCHOOL (or if you're at a non target, just say your major and omit your school!)] and I'm really interested in a career in [WHATEVER IT IS THAT THE GUY YOURE EMAILING DOES]. I was wondering if you had five minutes to share how you got there and maybe offer me some advice?

Thanks a lot for your time. I know you're busy so I am free for a call at [LATE PM (>5pm)] or [EARLY AM (<9am)].

Sincerely,
Your Name
Your Phone Number | your e-mail address"

That's it. Short. Sweet. I might seriously reply to this if I saw it. If you gave me a wall of text describing your background I won't reply. Too much. Trust me, I know this from personal experience! The above template actually worked for me.

Array

    • 2
Apr 19, 2019

John,

Truly inspiring. I as well started at a community college and am now at a non-target. In the same fashion you found yourself a little late to the recruiting game, I believe I may be on the same boat. I have strong leadership positions on campus and have always been in these roles. Unfortunately, as a result of burning out working 35-40 hours a week to stay afloat and support myself in New York, my GPA suffered last semester. I am graduating fall 2020 so I have this summer and next summer left for internship opportunities. I am still seeking opportunities out for this summer but have accepted that I won't be getting a position at a BB for IB. I am now looking at MM shops. So my question to you is, how do I navigate around a GPA that has been hurt and coming to the recruiting cycle late in the game?

Apr 19, 2019

Just don't mention your gpa. Is your "major gpa" better? Just list that. What about consolidating your community college and university gpa? I took a bunch of cupcake courses at community college which, if combined, will boost my gpa.

Also you could retake a class. My university allowed up to four retakes. I got one C and I retook it and got an A, which helped my GPA.

In terms of middle markets ... I wouldn't restrict yourself at all. Why just middle markets? Do you have something against smaller shops? You realize that middle market is still a fucking huge bank right? Once you're in the industry it doesn't matter where you do the work, so long as you're getting relevant deal experience. I would cast as wide a net as possible. I personally was targeting New York but I applied at banks in other cities ... and not just Chicago and LA but going pretty far down the list of major cities ... I was willing to go to Mobile Alabama if it meant I got to do IB ...

Array

Apr 19, 2019

And we have millions and millions saying the American dream doesn't exist...... smh snowflakes

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Apr 20, 2019

Hey ! Great story.
How is your "relationship" with your initial social circle ? (Friends/acquaintances from the hood / extended family etc...)
Did anything change since you "escaped" ?

Apr 20, 2019

Completely disconnected. They don't want anything to do with me anymore. But if I went back home things would pick right back up.

Array

Apr 20, 2019

Congrats man!! Wonderful story. It's sad thinking that in Europe you'd never have the same opportunities

Apr 20, 2019

Hi
Can you elaborate on how you built the skills necessary for your investment banking job and how it helped you in the interview process.

Thanks,

Apr 20, 2019

I double majored in finance and accounting and I did the CFA level 1. I also found some courses online that were useful (Wall St Prep, Teach the Street, Wall St Training).

Also trial and error. Just pick a company that you're interested in and try doing a valuation. Write out your thesis. Share it with other likeminded people and let them critique.

Array

Apr 20, 2019

I come from the same background but from another country, so I can totally relate. I am trying to break in the Industry. I come to NYC to meet bankers frequently, most of them brag about the materialistic stuff they have. Needless to say, all of them I suppose belong to rich families. I thought I chose the wrong industry, but it is refreshing to see that people like you exist. You just gave me a huge dose of motivation. Respect, brother.

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Apr 21, 2019

Beautiful story! I hope you know that I (and I'm sure many others as well) will be coming back to this post frequently to take a step back, self-reflect, be humbled, and be inspired by your hustle.

Apr 21, 2019

John - thank you for sharing one heck of a story. You're an impressive individual, and I am sure some unsuspecting reader out there will come across it and use it as guidance and motivation. In fact, your story compelled me to share a little about my background, especially because I feel that it's inherently an obligation to warn others who also come from similar disadvantaged backgrounds, as it's trickier for kids like us to navigate the corporate world. WSO prevented me from making a potentially huge mistake with leaving my existing job for full-time business school, so thought I would give back to the community.

I grew up in a rough neighborhood, raised by a family member (had parents but they were abusive and never really knew them), and went to a non-target undergrad. No one would believe this -- but I had to literally figure out everything on my own. I don't mean trial and error; I mean I didn't even know where you attended college would ultimately determine your future, because growing up in a bad neighborhood means that you attend underfunded schools, which in turn also means that the local high school employs low-quality counselors that say things, such as, "it doesn't matter where you attend undergraduate, it only matters where you attend graduate school." Even after I got to college, I failed abysmally, graduating with a sub 3.0 GPA. Again, I didn't know grades mattered -- I was told that I just needed a degree, so I spent all my waking hours working part-time jobs to pay for school and attended the bare minimum number of classes to graduate. Needless to say, after I graduated, the only job I was qualified for was PWM -- and let's be honest, there's nothing about the industry that is "private wealth management," it's a retail investment salesman position. I cold-called hundreds of business owners and reverse phone directories a day and did whatever I could to make it work. In my first year of production, I made more money than first year Ibankers and by Age 25/26, I was making Pre-MBA megafund PE money already, so the thought of going back to business school to qualify for a "real job" never crossed my mind. This is the disadvantaged kid's Mistake #1: we tend to focus on short-term reward (money), over long-term benefits (exit opportunities and building a transferrable skillset). Or at least I did, anyways. Growing up poor, I was so fixated on an immediate solution to not be broke, I didn't invest time in learning technical skills and instead spent all my waking hours selling and bringing in AUM.

Several years ago, I noticed that my industry began changing and didn't really see much of a bright future in PWM anymore. I began to casually start looking for jobs (even mid entry level jobs at a -100k discount from my current income) and to my surprise, realized that I was not exactly employable. Friends and recruiters tried to help me, but to be candid, the labor force has evolved so much that the skills that people in PWM command are even less transferrable than they were many years ago. After doing research on this forum and Quora, I realized I needed to go back to business school and arrogantly thought I would ace the GMAT since I mistakenly equated high income = success = intellect. Boy, was I wrong. This is Mistake #2 I want to warn everyone about: if you suck in school now, odds are that you will suck in school later in life. It's a slippery slope. Don't be lazy and think "oh it's okay if I slack off this year, I'll make it up this year, or I'll just go back to get a Masters in Finance or an MBA." News flash: almost everyone I knew from my mediocre undergrad ended up at even worse business schools. Academic rigor starts Day One, so don't fall behind, or it gets exponentially harder to catch up. I was lucky (and stubborn) so was determined to prove that I wasn't an idiot, but that my current situation was merely a culmination of my childhood circumstances, so studied my tail off for many months and after a few tries, managed to score higher than the median H/S/W scores. I was accepted to several full-time M7 schools, waitlisted at one of the H/S/W, and had a few part-time acceptances too (because I wasn't sure what I wanted yet). I almost made a huge mistake by quitting my job to pursue a full-time MBA program, because a small part of me craved "prestige" but I realized how it was mostly from childhood insecurity, so I decided to attend a part-time program that allowed me to recruit and also attend the full-time career events so that I can get a better understanding of different job functions and industry options, without risking my existing position.

It's interesting, and also sad, because I sat in a class filled with bright and driven kids, some from well-to-do backgrounds, while others from middle-class and/or disadvantaged families (relative to the general population), and I've noticed one common theme. The bright ones who did manage to "get out" sometimes make silly mistakes such as quit halfway after securing a job, changing career paths too soon, get lured in by some questionable start-up with the promise of riches, that they squander their opportunity away. I am not saying that this will happen to you, or that it happens to everyone, but I did want to caution the younger generation out there that if you are talented to be one of the few kids from your high school or college to make it into a high finance role, don't mess it up. Grind it out and stay the course; it will pay off. I was roped into PWM by the immediate financial rewards, but don't make my mistake, think long-term. I contend that coming from a disadvantaged backgrounds makes you 3x more susceptible to making poor career decisions, regardless of intellect or talent. Research, research, research. Normal kids can afford to mess up once or twice, but we don't have that luxury, which is why it's so important to logically map out our career and personal decisions, as opposed to making emotional ones.

To the original poster: finish up your investment banking stint and don't let those dbags in the office sway you one way or the other. You come off earnest and a really good guy, any business school would be lucky to have you. Don't let fear or insecurity influence your career and personal decisions too much; I certainly know that feeling firsthand. You will come across other pompous kids who try to make you feel like you don't belong, you do. I would even argue that you're better off than them. You're in the same exact room, with a fraction of the privilege they were given. Congratulations.

    • 4
Apr 21, 2019

Thanks for sharing. How did you prepare for the gmat? How long did it take you to get the score you wanted?

And why exactly do you think business school was a mistake?

Array

Apr 21, 2019
johndoe2019:

Thanks for sharing. How did you prepare for the gmat? How long did it take you to get the score you wanted?

And why exactly do you think business school was a mistake?

I went through the Manhattan GMAT books and Original GMAT questions. I realized that my adolescent education was so bad that I had to study for the GMAT as if English was my second language (it's not). Less than 10% of my school went on to college, so we never really learned about prepositions or modifiers in the classroom. It took me roughly 4-5 months of hardcore studying? But that's mostly because I had to spend a lot of time learning the basic elementary stuff. I barely cracked 1200/1600 on the SATs, so I am a firm believer that anyone can change; it just takes a psychologically unhealthy amount of effort to do so.

Sorry if I wasn't clear, business school has been a fantastic experience, but attending a full-time M7 school would have been a mistake for someone in my position. People with the most random backgrounds think they can attend a M7 business school and reinvent themselves and get into the most competitive jobs in the world, but the truth is, those are the exceptions and not really the norm. Unless one comes from IB, MC, PE/VC/HF, giant tech (within certain functions), s/he will have a rough time for on-campus recruiting. This holds true even at H/S/W (some of my friends are still unemployed). It's not to say that everyone has to get pigeon-holed into these careers, but these are the jobs that provide the transferrable skills that a lot of MBA employers are looking for. So someone with my background (PWM and non-target undergrad) will have a tough time competing against the kids who already have years of training in similar roles. Granted, I do see some PWM people switch into lower tier banks and consulting shops, but they usually come from much better UGs/vets and/or have some real work experience (prior to PWM).

Apr 21, 2019

Pretty sure this will get lost in the comments but I just wanted to say I resonate with this. I didn't have the same unique circumstances as you, but I did grow up low-income with a single mother in the hood. Through a rough and discouraging transition into college, I luckily landed an internship at a BB for the summer and it utterly blows my mind that I'll be making more in those 10 weeks than what my mom makes in a year. However, with this, I am afraid of the culture shock since this will be my first internship at a corporate setting. (To put into perspective, I grew up eating rice and beans and mom cleaned houses for a living - definitely no exposure to luxury living or a professional setting)

Apr 21, 2019

This is all incredible.

I grew up on the west coast to a family of seven that made <$50K a year. My family recently left the States, partially due to an extraordinary amount of debt. My entire extended family lives on welfare/month-to-month, but it's not even a thing (everyone is incredibly religious). I ended up being the first kid in the family to go to college. I didn't even know what IB was until almost 2 years out of graduation.

After months of hustling, I just finished a "superday" at Goldman Sachs for an M&A internship at a major European branch (technically, they're not called superdays here. I'm hoping to eventually come back to the States). Waiting to hear if I got an offer/additional interviews.

Growing up, I didn't know what Wall Street did. I had no idea there was a world out there where early twenty-somethings could surround themselves with intense, brilliant, engaging people and get paid well for it. I thought smart people only became teachers.

How/where did you get the enthusiasm to think so big? How did you know to look to Wall Street? You said you were surrounded by a culture of failure, so where did you get the spirit to push upstream? I would have never thought to look at IB unless my mentors pointed me there. Did anyone point you there? What happened?

Really inspirational, man.

Apr 22, 2019

Sounds like you interviewed in Frankfurt! Good luck with the outcome.

Great to hear that the hustle got you far.

Btw:

Really like this thread. It's great to see that quite a number of you guys fought the odds this well!

Apr 22, 2019

So when I worked manual labor, I was still able to play Xbox and watch football. In a way, that was too easy. A lot of my friends fell into this trap. They dicked around and wasted their time and you would see dudes who were fifty and still living in a shitty apartment with nothing to show for it.

I hated going to these rich people's homes because I'd always deal with the housewife and they always treated me like I was a second class citizen. I'd marvel at all they had ... multiple cars, fully finished basement, pool, kids rooms has every gaming system, etc. I'd ask them "what do you do for a living? How did you get all of this?" And they'd never take me seriously. I'd get some bullshit answer "oh my husband is an import / exporter." Ok lady you could have just told me you'd rather not say. I'm not an idiot just because I'm doing your mulch. They'd never treat me like I was actually a person.

One day I was doing yard work for this rich family in the middle of the summer and it was very hot. The parents little 10 year old and her little friend walked out past me to go to their pool. She looks over to her friend and goes "wow I wouldn't do that for a living would you?" Gee, thanks kid. Appreciate that.

So I guess my motivation was I wanted to be taken seriously and treated with respect. So that got me into college. For banking, it was much easier to motivate myself. I just hated being told "you can't do that." Why? "You're not at the right school." "So?" "Those other schools present better candidates." "You haven't even talked to me, what makes them so much better?"

Having worked with kids who went to Penn, Columbia, UVA, NYU, etc, I can conclude that nothing about them makes them any smarter than me and I'm not even that smart.

Array

Apr 22, 2019

"Growing up, I didn't know what Wall Street did. I had no idea there was a world out there where early twenty-somethings could surround themselves with intense, brilliant, engaging people and get paid well for it. I thought smart people only became teachers."

This.

Exactly what I thought growing up in the hood. I used to think "wow a PhD can earn you so much respect and big bucks, but too bad I'm not smart enough for that." I didn't know anything about Wall Street or financial institutions or how everything worked. To even think that there are billion dollar transactions just blew my mind when I first heard about it in college. Now, its just so interesting to think about the environment being on the 24th floor of a nice building filled with directors compared to my hood where gang members are still active and all the young adults just waste their time doing nothing productive. The discrepancy is amazing to me.

Apr 24, 2019

This is inspiring - keep it up!

Apr 25, 2019

Your tenacity is really admirable. How did you know that this (banking/finance/whatever) was what you wanted to do, so much that you seemingly staked all you had on it?

How did you set up or approach your completely cold networking emails/outreach? Really amazing mate

May 17, 2019
JDS07:

Your tenacity is really admirable. How did you know that this (banking/finance/whatever) was what you wanted to do, so much that you seemingly staked all you had on it?

How did you set up or approach your completely cold networking emails/outreach? Really amazing mate

Thanks for the kind words.

  1. I wanted to make money. I loved trading ... I used to play World of Warcraft a lot (wasted a huge chunk of my life on this to be honest) but I was always the tycoon type - accumulating wealth analyzing the market and making profitable trades. I found this fun. Finance was a natural progression of this.
  2. Just look people up and find something about them that I could talk about. "Hey Bob I see that you're a VP in commercial credit, I also am interested in commercial credit, could you tell me more about it?"

Array

Apr 25, 2019

This is the most inspiring story I've ever seen here. I have a few questions, if you're still taking them:

(1) Aside from your (extraordinary) story, do you feel that you have any exceptional draws--are you very good looking, very tall, very athletic? This is a serious question! I think one of the hardest things to overcome as a true underdog is the appearance factor. It doesn't discount your tenacity.

(2) How did you wow in that hedge fund modeling assignment? Were you exceptional in your business classes? Did you mostly get As and know that you were good at modeling, or do you feel like it all just came together for that one assignment?

(3) How did you have the conversation about the hedge fund "pseudo internship"? Did you have to invent the position for yourself, say that you'd work for free? Were there other interns with you, and how did you handle your pseudo role?

WSO Content Intern

May 17, 2019
egress:

This is the most inspiring story I've ever seen here. I have a few questions, if you're still taking them:

(1) Aside from your (extraordinary) story, do you feel that you have any exceptional draws--are you very good looking, very tall, very athletic? This is a serious question! I think one of the hardest things to overcome as a true underdog is the appearance factor. It doesn't discount your tenacity.

(2) How did you wow in that hedge fund modeling assignment? Were you exceptional in your business classes? Did you mostly get As and know that you were good at modeling, or do you feel like it all just came together for that one assignment?

(3) How did you have the conversation about the hedge fund "pseudo internship"? Did you have to invent the position for yourself, say that you'd work for free? Were there other interns with you, and how did you handle your pseudo role?

  1. I'm fat and I have asthma. Ive been a runner since high school to combat this (slowly) but I'm not a marathon athlete. So not handsome, tall, or athletic. I'm also much older than your typical Analyst.
  2. I had a 4.0 gpa for most of college. Had a <2.0 gpa before I dropped HS. Scored 99th percentile of the GED with no prep, 31 ACT no prep. Never retook it. Probably wouldn't get as good a score if I took it again.

I just pitched it the same way I would any research report. I built the DCF model based on their 10K. I looked up recent transactions and commented on them. I commented on risk factors (leverage, liquidity, industry decline) and I commented on the management team (totally inept). I recommended to short the stock lmao. After I finished the pitch I wasn't satisfied with my response so once I got home I did a much more thorough write up and model and then emailed that to all of the partners. I got an offer the next day.

  1. There were no other pseudo interns, but regular interns. I was much better than them, but they had pedigrees and I didn't. They all got return offers. I basically just said I was eager and I wanted to learn and I would do whatever it took for an opportunity. They didn't hire me at the end of my contract for what its worth.

Array

Apr 29, 2019

Congratulations on your success! This was inspirational to read, and I wish you all the best even though I've never met you.

I hope you don't mind me asking this, but how did you share your success with your friends/family/extended family? I come from a similar situation (but not as tough as you had it), so when I got my first nice job and shared it with some friends, it felt like I was getting more isolated afterwards. I know the obvious response to that is that they weren't good friends, and I suppose that's true. From then on, I always downplayed success by a lot, changing job titles to make them more generic and such, like "I look at accounting reports for a bank" instead of "an analyst at BB". I'm also fearful of telling my extended family in case they will be extremely resentful that they didn't get as fortunate and etc. Wondering if you have a take on this.

May 17, 2019
Notabot:

Congratulations on your success! This was inspirational to read, and I wish you all the best even though I've never met you.

I hope you don't mind me asking this, but how did you share your success with your friends/family/extended family? I come from a similar situation (but not as tough as you had it), so when I got my first nice job and shared it with some friends, it felt like I was getting more isolated afterwards. I know the obvious response to that is that they weren't good friends, and I suppose that's true. From then on, I always downplayed success by a lot, changing job titles to make them more generic and such, like "I look at accounting reports for a bank" instead of "an analyst at BB". I'm also fearful of telling my extended family in case they will be extremely resentful that they didn't get as fortunate and etc. Wondering if you have a take on this.

My friends and family don't understand what I do. I've given up explaining it to them. They ask me for retirement account advice. My dad thought I was crazy to take this offer and to turn down he other safer offers I had. My mother and sisters always ask me for money. So in short - not well.

Array

Apr 29, 2019

Hi!
Your story truly highlighted the values of staying humble and keeping both feet on the ground; even when blessings come your way. There are not a lot of people like you and I hope you stay true to yourself through your very successful banking career. Sending you well wishes for many many more successes.
I want to share more about myself and please feel free to share your advice however you can.

I come from humble beginnings with a set of immigrant parents who had their eyes on bigger dreams for me and so they left their great jobs in south asia and immigrated here to start from scratch.
Seeing my father transition from an electrical engineer career in Asia to a 7/11 concierge, to driving a cab pretty much scarred my memory.
On one hand he never made me feel like I couldn't have the world and everything in it, on the other hand I knew how hard blue collar jobs make you work for your money.
Fast forward to college, I double majored and minored at a private college thinking a great education and becoming a world class lawyer would be the pathway to success and repaying my parents for their success while giving back to the world.
However, I soon realized the capacity in which I wanted to be a lawyer would further shovel me into debt rather provide me with financial prosperity.
I made a 180 into a full time finance focus junior year in college. I did 2 internships and then landed a FT in a Finance program at a BB.
However, I soon realized I was working in the middle office capacity. Amateur in my understanding of front / middle / back office in college; I was just striving for a great company.
Now after nearly 2 years of experience, I am struggling to get picked up for investment banking opportunities.
Internally has been a mess of a process and I just started looking externally after giving up hope.
While I am also studying for the opportunity, I would like any and all advice you may have for an experienced finance professional to get picked up for a 1st year investment banking position.
I have an above 3.6 GPA, a finance degree from a non-target college, and nearly 2 years of work experience at a BB.

Thanks,

    • 3
May 17, 2019

You just have to insert yourself in conversations with the front office people. Leverage team drinks or other networking events. Talk to everyone. Be nice and agreeable. Eventually, once you've built enough rapport, you can drop some hints "gee I'd love to work on your team" or something as much.

Alternatively, reword your resume so it sounds front office and apply for front office jobs at other firms.

Array

May 16, 2019

Hii
I am from India. Even I aspire to be a Hedge fund manager someday in the US. I am young and come from a middle class background.
I am a candidate in the CFA and FRM program and I am also pursuing my Masters. I have nailed down all my computer skills(Excel, Financial Modelling, VBA Macros).
I also trade in the equity Markets here on my own research (Fundamental& Technical) with some good returns.
In the future I want to go to business school and also do CAIA. I want to start as an analyst and make my way up to hedge fund manager.
Am I on the right track?? Or I am missing something here???
I want to start applying for a job in the US( I am from India). Can u please guide me???
I will forever be in your debt!!!! Thanks a million

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May 17, 2019
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