Thought I'd post some the PM diarrhea I've sent to monkeys (who ask intelligent questions). Here we go...
I graduated college with an Econ degree from a top 20 school in the US but not an Ivy. Side-note, monkeys get way too hung up on target, semi-target, non-target on this board. In my book, dumbass vs. non-dumbass is much more important and you can usually tell pretty fast. Anyway, I started a tech business after school, and then sold out (Clearly not for FB level valuations or else I'd be buying Patrick out for shits and gigs).
I've always been interested in public markets, but from the buy-side perspective. I grew up praying to be adopted by Soros or Robertson, well not quite, I love my parents. I randomly applied to a MBA level internship, even though I wasn't in a MBA program, on Craigslist (Sketchy sounding, huh?) at a boutique research firm. Take away: There are no limits. You want something, reach for it. Don't be afraid of rejection.
I had one phone interview. We ended up chatting for over 2 hours and was offered the position on the spot, said there wasn't going to be anyone else who could know the market like I did. Take away: KNOW THE MARKET. Keep on top of the news like no other, and I don't mean just following the WSJ macro ticker (do that as well) but pick some companies and follow them like a mad man. Learn them inside and out. Yes little monkeys, that means reading the transcripts and filings. Learn the management's names, its always great to be able to say, "blah blah blah at such and such company is such a prick, does he think he is going to be able to bullshit guidance every quarter." People want you to sound like you're already an insider./investment game has its own lingo, learn it.
I get questions about where to find this information. I say at bare minimum print out the last 2 years worth of press releases, 10Ks and 10Qs (especially focus on MD&A). Read them as you build your model, start with the most recent and work backwards incase there have been adjustments. Also read the earnings call transcripts as well, especially the questions. They will provide color on what the sell-side community finds most important and give you a better idea about what drives the stock. I find printing the transcripts out and highlighting while lounging on a couch a more enjoyable way to do this. In fact I print out everything and highlight, makes going back over much quicker.
As for picking companies, don't pick ones in the sector you are most interested in and if you do pick some smaller players, ones not covered by as many analysts. Sounds counter-intuitive but you aren't going to know as much as an analyst who covers these companies full-time for their job and run the risk of sounding like an idiot/getting torn apart. Analysts can be very defensive about their viewpoints so by picking something they don't know they can still see your process without arguing over the little things. For example, if you wanted to do retail I'd pick companies like HOTT (brand resurgence) or DSW (growth story). Also, don't ever try to pitch AAPL in an interview, especially as a college kid. It is by far the most unoriginal pitch out there. Pick something you can strut your stuff with.
My internship experience was amazing. I built models, wrote research, called execs, went to industry conferences (shameless networking) and basically got to do everything a research associate does. After my internship I hit up every analyst at every bank and said I was looking for a position. Even if I hadn't met them I said we had briefly met (these people meet so many people they never really remember anyway). I've had guys call people on my behalf talking about what a charming person I am and in reality they've never even met me despite being at the same conferences. Why did they feel comfortable doing this? Because they could tell I knew my stuff and was "in the game". Its the Wayne Gretzky quote, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." But at the same time this is as far as I stretch things. Never mislead people about your skills or your knowledge/experience. Anyone who knows anything will figure out you're full of shit within 5 minutes.
Research is a tougher business to break into than, in my opinion. Research associates stay places longer, its not the 2 years with your analyst class and you're out, less of a machine. A research department is like a mall food court, the line could be crazy at Captain Hook Fish and Chips but non-existent at All-American Burger. You only have one boss, your analyst. Make them happy, you don't have multiple MDs and VPs pulling at you so it's really a 2-3 person team and that's your world.
I never wanted to do IBD, deals are boring to me. I plan on staying in sell-side research for probably a year or two more, at the most, and then want to switch over to a. The biggest downside in sell-side research, for me, is we don't have any money at stake (position wise). I love the winning/losing aspect of the buy-side. As far as I'm concerned, on the buy-side you either make it rain or you're out the door, there is no room for anyone mediocre to hang around and why do anything if you aren't going to be the best.
Everyone is selling something and everyone wants something. Once these guys hit the PM/MD stage of their life, they have the money, they probably have a wife (or two) but, although in most people books that is success, it doesn't necessarily mean happiness. I've had some pretty dark conversations, helped some guys dodge the prostitute from the night before while he's shown me pictures of his kids, and gotten to take a peak into the future (your 40s/50s). These experiences have taught me more about life than my "work". Get into this business if you really enjoy it, I know it sounds cliche but don't just do it for the money, you'll hate your life if you do/the odds are stacked against you ever making it to the top manager level. I don't really know how I ended up at this point but just be relaxed and save the drinks for when you got the job. Anyone who can be relaxed and hold their own can really go places.