How I landed my dream job in M&A - Never give up on your dreams
Apologies for the long text but I wanted to share my journey since so many stories here on WSO moved me deeply, especially the one about a guy getting 10 rejections and finally one IBD offer – truly amazing. I have been a long time lurker and recently created my own account to join this amazing community. This story is dedicated to everyone who has faced disappointment. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions.
I am a guy of Jewish origin from a second-world country in Eastern Europe from a middle class family with no inclination towards finance. I spent my early years in a public English speaking school and was naturally willing to study in England.
At the time I had no real idea what to do with my life but managed to secure a position into an undergraduate marketing programme in a well renowned university (think Portsmouth, Southampton, Leeds, Oxbridge).
Apart from that I had a short two month internship in a bakery on the management side. I was also a member of the national curling team (great team sport).
I got really excited about banking from a couple of friends who were into finance so I started reading appropriate literature and watching finance related movies – even the documentaries! We began applying together in the beginning of our second year to all bulge brackets.
Since I occasionally play Call of Duty and Fifa and almost succeeded jailbreaking my old Iphone, I figured out that i have an aptitude for technology alongside finance. I then realized that my dream was landing a good summer internship offer at an M&A TMT coverage team and then converting it into a full time. What I found even more appealing was joining a PE firm or a hedge fund since analysts had an actual say in investment decisions.
I spent countless days submitting applications, making tests, writing cover letters and more. I managed to make more than 10 applications in that month by sometimes putting more than 2 hours a day. While my mates were enjoying fresher's week I was stuck filling countless online forms and sitting aptitude tests with my trusty calculator, pen and paper.
The awful truth is that even though I spent weeks applying, my work didn't always pay off. I was about to find out how hard it is to break in.
I managed to get some first round interviews in October and was on fire. I started preparing for technical and fit questions because I had no prior knowledge in finance. I used WSO's excellent guides for preparing – you can get the IB interview questions course at the WSO Courses website subsection.
I studied long and hard for about a week preparing scenarios and coming up with my stories while simultaneously working on a couple of assignments for my university. Even though I had no interview experience the hard work really paid off because I was doing well on my first rounds.
Two months into the nonstop grind, I faced the brutal investment banking truth. Some of the applications I submitted were left without any response. I was waiting for the outcome of 6 assessment centers and had gotten a rejection from 2 of my favorite companies. I cannot begin to describe how depressing it was for me. I never failed at anything in my life before – I managed to score a first class grade in my first year at university (pushing 70%) and was on the track to do the same for my second year before depression and applying had taken their toll on my academic performance.
I started drinking quite a bit more and locked myself for a week in my room. I am not ashamed to say that I cried at times, even though I am not usually the emotional type. It was devastating. The companies discarded me like an used old shoe (or a more profane item, often discarded after usage). They didn't even bother giving me feedback on how I did despite my numerous request.
In addition, some friends of mine were already getting offers at bulge bracket banks and were constantly asking me how my efforts were going. Unfortunately I had only the two brutal rejections to show for my work. In situations like this, you are happy for your friends… for like a second. And then you start reevaluating your own choices.
The first call came on Monday and I got the offer. I was so happy and exhilarated. The blood sweat and tears had finally paid off and I was on top of the world. What was more surprising was that four more calls came through in the following days. I could not believe it was really happening – Banking at Barclays, Asset Management at UBS, IBD at Credit Suisse and more. Even the exhaustive assessment process at a mid-cap PE firm paid off and I had the offer!
However, the cherry on the cake came last Monday. Apparently my last AC went quite well and a senior employee at the M&A TMT industry group liked me a lot. I remember speaking with him mostly about my personality and baking. Turns out he was a pastry fiend like me and we spent the majority of the interview talking about cheesecake varieties and strawberry tarts. Goldman Sachs wanted me to join them for the 2018 summer internship programme. This was my dream and I accepted the offer in a heartbeat over the phone. In hindsight I realize that the PE offer was good but I wanted to work for the Goldman Sachs, period.
Those three months were some of the worst in my life. I cannot believe that I spent so much time and sanity grinding towards that goal. The light was nowhere to be seen but by the end it shone brightly.
In conclusion, never give up on yourself, no matter how bad the situation might seem. Do as I say, not as I do – do not give in to depression like me, especially when your efforts don't pay off. In the end hard work always pays off. It is just hard to see how far the end is, is it weeks or perhaps months?