From Liberal Arts to EB
My post got inspired by NonTargetHardo2019 who wrote about how they, as a non-target, got into . I figured some of you may be interested to hear another story, this time about getting into EB. I also hope to inspire other non-targets/liberal arts students to not give up and realize that if you work hard, stay true to yourself and your goals, and keep a positive attitude, you can accomplish if not everything, then quite a bit.
WSO threats have kept me informed and entertained for almost a year now, so now is a good time to give back.
I immigrated to the U.S. in the middle of high school. I ended up going to a private liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere. Initially, I wanted to get into politics, so I thought liberal arts degree would be perfect for that. I also was an international student with no money, so I chose to focus on a school that would give me most financial aid and where I had the highest chance of getting in. I eventually ended up majoring in economics since I realized that poli sci major was not as fun as reading and debating news with friends. Then I took the only finance class my school had to offer and loved it.
During my sophomore year, I was still set on getting into some policy work, so I applied to numerous internships for different organizations in DC and didn't get a response from most of them. Neither did I get in to those that responded. Then, after doing some reading and reflecting on my strengths and interests, I decided to try to get into finance, hopefully banking. I had no idea where to start. I had no connections, not much of a finance education, and no time. I did a short internship in real estate over that summer only to learn that valuing buildings wasn't my passion.
I started looking for the internship for my junior year when many banks were already done with recruiting. I sent hundreds of LinkedIn messages to professionals I barely knew or did not know at all: college alumni (maybe two of them in banking), high school alumni, people who those people knew, or just random people haha. I ended up getting interviews with some mutual funds, real estate, alternative investing, and one MM bank.
Then, one of the people I networked with connected me with an MD from the EB, which I didn't even know existed.. Frankly, my knowledge of the banking industry was quite limited at that time, and all I knew was that I loved the technical side of valuing companies, the steep learning curve of banking, the exit opportunities, and being surrounded by ambitious and perfectionist people who hopefully wouldn't laugh at my hour-by-hour daily plans. So I had a call with that MD, and I was so scripted, I was terribly Iacking confidence. Due to my little knowledge of the industry, my questions were quite general and boring, and I thought the call went poorly. MD did tell me that the application was due in a few days and I could apply. Since I had nothing to lose, I did.
A month later I found out that I got invited for the first-round interview. I was really shocked, and that's when I realized I may have a shot since my resume got noticed. I'd heard that first rounds at this EB were extremely technical, so I spent a week basically not leaving my room and studying. After the interview, I got invited to a Superday.
When I was walking to the office, I was shaking badly, probably due to the combination of too much coffee, lack of sleep, and extreme anxiety.
Their office looked amazing, very polished. While waiting for my interview, I kept thinking back to my life in my home country, the old post-Soviet office my mom had to work in, the village I was born in with no opportunities outside of factory work. "Just being here is already an accomplishment", I thought, trying to make myself feel better. Then my thoughts got interrupted by another candidate: "Hey, what school do you go to?", he asked. "Just a small college (name). You?", I asked. "Yale". The "Yale" thing kept repeating in my head. "What am I even doing here?"
After my Superday was over, I had mixed feelings. I told my mom it was a 60/40 chance in my favor of getting the offer. While the technical parts didn't go as well as I thought, my behavioral interview with one of the seniors went overtime. It ended up being a fun chat about my life, politics, economics, and the firm. That was a good sign.
In the evening, I got a call from an MD and found out I got in. That was one of the happiest days of my life, and not as much because I got into banking, but because my hard work, persistence, and some luck defeated all odds against me. My non-target status, background, lack of connections, imperfect technicals, and strong accent didn't matter. I got in, and I was so proud of myself.
Networking. Cold-emailing/LinkedIning people I knew, I barely knew, or I didn't know at all. You don't even realize how many people will respond and will be willing to help. I also had a few calls before the Superday with analysts who work at this bank to get some insider perspective into the bank's culture.
Guides. WSO IB, WSO Networking, BIWS 400 questions, IB Technical guide. One thing to remember is that these guides won't do magic. Don't just skim them and think you're done. Don't memorize them. Try to understand everything, every formula, every rule, every exception to the rule. Google if you don't. Interviewers will see if you just memorized and don't understand what you're talking about.
WSO threads. Specifically threads about my bank and how other people's interviews went (especially company's profile and interview reviews). It really helped to know about the scale of studying I had to do and what questions to pay most attention to. For example, I found out this bank liked to ask questions, so I focused on studying those more.
Staying humble. I think the reason why some smart and qualified people don't get in is because they don't stay humble. They often think they know everything because they go to a great business school and had 10 finance internships before. The problem is they don't know nearly as much as people who interview them, and seniors can again see through this quickly. Don't sell yourself short, but don't come off as arrogant and braggy. No one likes people like that, and no one will want to work 80hr weeks with them.
Believing in yourself. I know this is a cliche, but frankly, my lack of belief in myself was setting me back for way too long. I wasn't confident networking with people, I was pessimistic about my career prospects, I thought I did not have any chance. And this made it really hard for me to motivate myself to study more and meet more people in the industry. Only after I got invited for the first round did I realize that I had a shot. And only then did I start to actually prepare. If you believe in yourself (but still stay humble!), you can avoid stressful last-minute studying as well as many awkward networking calls when you're constantly thinking what the other person thinks of you.
That's my story. Guys, just remember that there are so many opportunities around us. We're young. We've got nothing to lose. So take risks, study hard, talk to people, don't rely on luck, and never ever doubt yourself. If not today, tomorrow you'll get what you want.