Encouragement for Non-Targets Looking to Break In
I recently got the chance to be on the WSO Podcast and wanted to follow it up with a forum post for those that have questions (Link to the podcast: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/media/wso-podcast…). I will refrain from the nitty-gritty details since they are in the pod, but if you didn't get a chance to listen, here's the short version:
I went to a decent private school in the south but lacked discipline and focus. Between not giving a shit and changing my major 4-5 times, I ended up graduating with a 2.5 GPA and a double major in entrepreneurship and management. After a failed attempt at commercial real estate, I landed a management trainee role in an automotive parts distribution company and have since worked my way up over the course of seven years in a wide variety of roles.
After learning about IB through a mentor, I decided to pursue it and enrolled in a part-time MBA program at a state school. Through working my balls off, networking, IB prep, etc., I recently landed an associate role starting next year at a regional MM bank in a LCOL area.
I'm going to lay out some best practices that helped me land a role in my dream career, as well as give perspective on some things for you younger college students and analysts:
-Get a mentor! I cannot stress how important this is, regardless if you are in IB. Mentors provide wisdom because they have "been there and done that." They have failed and learned from their mistakes and can help guide you through important life and business decisions. Think about where you want to go and find a mentor who is already there. There are a ton of people who want to help young folks.
-If you are someone who wants to make IB a long-term career and doesn't care about BB/EB names, prestige rankings mean little to nothing. This is further magnified if you are in a LCOL area. You can make a phenomenal living, for example, at a MM bank outside of NY compared to most any other form of employment (this is coming from someone who has never made more than an A1 in 7 years).
-To break in as a non-target with a non-finance background, be prepared to work your ass off to get in. You need to know the ins and outs of financial statements, how to put a value on companies and why different methods are used, network with both recruiters and hiring managers (and if appropriate, MD's) in groups you are interested in and most likely, you will need to get an MBA, which costs money and time.
-If you are dead set on IB and getting an MBA, as someone who is in a part-time program, I would strongly suggest going full-time if you can swing it. By going part-time, I missed out on on-campus recruiting, summer internships, and had to overcome the IB stigma against part-time programs. The pro to this is that I was able to show my readiness for long hours by working, going to school, IB prep, etc.
-If you are in an MBA program, leverage the career resources center. Mine helped with interview prep, resume, networking, and what to expect during the recruitment process.
-We all have weaknesses, so craft part of your story around how you have addressed and overcome those weaknesses. For me, getting terrible grades forced me into intense discipline and hard work to get to where I am now. That hard work led to many opportunities in my current company that gave me a perspective that traditional candidates may not have (I beat out many "target" candidates for what it's worth).
-Invest in your communication skills, both verbal and written. I cannot stress how important this is for creating opportunities for yourself, sounding credible, and having superiors take you more seriously and be more willing to hand you more responsibility. I avoided the GMAT altogether by crafting a very well-written letter and knocking out an admissions interview.
-Write handwritten thank-you letters. I have been told several times by bankers how impressed they were that I took the time to do that.
-Some resources I used for technicals: WSO, Wall Street Prep, Training the Street, the Rosenbaum and Pearl IB textbook. Websites like WSO, Corporate Finance Institue, Mergers and Inquisitions, etc., are great for perspective, helpful articles, and advice.
-Get excited about IB! I realize many cynical/jaded analysts and associates here may laugh, but I am pumped to start a career in IB. I mentioned earlier that I had never made more than an A1. For the first four years of marriage, we were paycheck to paycheck and currently have some decent savings. Starting as an associate will literally change the trajectory of my family. My wife no longer has to work, my son can go to a private school, we can take vacations, etc. Will I be working long hours? Of course, but any career that allows you to make a ton of money will require hard work. That's not to say I don't appreciate the long hours you analysts put in. One other aspect of this is that people in corporate America do the absolute bare minimum. Frankly, I work with a ton of average to below average (in a work sense) losers. These people coast through life, and I cannot wait to escape this and join people who take pride in their work, their academics, and generally care about how they present themselves. This goes for clients as well.
-Lastly, for those of you that are analysts that hate IB and are looking to get out, try to stay for at least a year or two. I realize the hours can be hellish, but coming out of undergrad and into an analyst role sets you apart from 99.9% of young people. You can go on to do great things because of how favorably most companies look at you and your experience. IB may not be for you, and that's great, but it can set you up really well for the future.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head at the moment. I'll edit and add things as I think of them. Feel free to post questions or send me a dm.