This is an absolute must read if you're from a non-target! I will try to detail out as much of my journey as I can. This post is kind of long overdue; however, I feel like it's better late than never. (Even if it's really poorly written.)
I got an email around November of 2010 from JPM Houston's IBD (to my knowledge, this is the only time a bank has ever actively recruited on my campus; OCR is really sub-par due to the program and our location). They were going to be on campus to do an information session about investment banking. My entire background knowledge on banking was confined to, largely incorrect, tidbits I picked up from the original Wall Street movie. I thought it sounded cool and went to the session. The guys blew me away, and I talked to gents afterwards. This is when my journey to banking really began.
The guys and I hit it off pretty well and they helped me get a first round interview even though I had around a 3.2GPA at the time and irrelevant work experience. Long story short, I failed the first round interview miserably. I did so bad that the interview kind of stopped and we talked about what I needed to work on. It was a hefty list. In my Google searches, I eventually stumbled onto this website. I learned a lot about the fit aspects of banking and what goes on here. It isn't a very technical website, but it showed me how to play the game. I did a couple of searches, and it became pretty evident that my interview came from my people skills not my resume. I tried my hand at cold-calling; it was horrible. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, so I dropped my resume online at every bank I could find. No bites. In a total act of randomness, I crossed paths with an executive director at UBS NY, and I'm pretty sure he dug up my resume and had someone give me a first round for a SA position. By this time, I had been reading everything there was to get prepared for technicals and I got my girlfriend to quiz me on all the technical questions. The Pearl and Rosenbaum book, WSO guides, Vault (I wouldn't recommend Vault), finding Associate prep guides on business school (.edu) websites...you get the picture. I nailed the first round, was flown to NYC for a SA superday and in my first interview the first question I was asked was "[My school's name] has a business school?..." Followed by, "Oh...why would you go there?..." I felt defeated, and the interview didn't even really start. I navigated the questions and it came down to a person-to-person conversation about why I wouldn't get an offer. I had a good story; people liked it. I taught myself a lot, and it showed how bad I wanted it. But there were kids interviewing with 4.0s from Ivys, etc. I had no relevant experience; I was too late to the game. I made really good contacts that day. Some of my most trusted contacts are still there at UBS, and I talk to them every now and then. I am thankful for that experience because it was very humbling. I realized on the flight back that networking would be the only way I would have a shot to break in.
My networking strategy.
1) I emailed everyone from UBS and asked them for specific feedback. Some gave me generic answers, and some were very straightforward. I scheduled phone calls with the guys who gave generic answers and explained that I won't be upset; I really just needed to know how to improve my chances and strengthen my skills. They eventually came around. I had some work to do. I hit the books again and tried to balance confidence and humbleness.
2) I talked to our schools alumni network/career services. No help.
[I really needed to step things up. I didn't even have connections to connections.]
3) This is where I made a decision to go creeper status. I got on linked in. Typed my schools name in and then tried keywords like "Analyst", "Associate", "Vice President", "Director", "Managing Director", "Investment Banking", "Private Equity", etc.
This generated a lot of good results with names. Some of them showed up as First Name, First Letter of Last Name. With those I typed in FirstName FirstLetterofLastName and the Company Name into google to get their full name. I then typed the full name into LinkedIn to check if it was the correct person. Once I got a full list of every possible contact, I looked up each companies email structure and figured out every contacts email address. The recruiting season was basically over, so I only contacted boutiques. I ended up getting an SA position at a local boutique and got REALLY solid experience on my resume. At first I was upset about the pay to work ratio....but in retrospect this was probably the best internship I could of received. I am very grateful for it. It was a very humbling experience; it taught me how to take a beating on a daily basis. I was happy leaving the office at 7PM on a Saturday. At the end of the day, the internship showed me that I enjoyed the work and that I was capable of it. I slowly added to my list of contacts over the summer to get prepared for my FT email blasts. I spent my free time in the summer trying to find a part-time job to add some much needed finance experience to my resume. I managed to network into a fund with a large AUM and took it.
After my SA stint ended, I headed back to school with a $1,000 bonus check for "outstanding work" at the boutique I worked at. It could of been $5. It meant a lot to get good feedback. At this place, you really only got called into the office if you fucked something up.
School started. I started working at the fund. Life was looking pretttttyyy sweet. I send out around 100 emails to people I thought would email me back. I structured them as follows:
Subject: Current (University) Student
I am currently a senior at (university), and I was wondering if you would be open to a brief phone call. I would really appreciate speaking about your current role and experiences in banking. I have attached my resume for your consideration.
This method had a huge response rate; I would estimate it at around 55% or 60%. I got a couple of NYC superdays, and it was the same old story as before. One alumni flat out asked me, "Why NYC? Why not Houston? It makes so much more sense given your schools rankings and geographic location." Then it hit me. Why NYC? I couldn't stand a lot of the aspects, the tax brackets, etc. I was actually interested in energy banking since that's what my internship was in. I put all my future effort into breaking into energy banking. It was so easy compared to NYC. I instantly gained traction. It felt so right. The deadlines were getting pretty close for a lot of the banks, so I planned random trips to Houston. I called my newly minted contacts and explained that "I was in town and remembered that we had been talking; could you think of an appropriate time when I could swing by the office and meet you face to face?" This led to a lot of good interactions. It counted as some first rounds, and it landed me some superdays. The most exciting aspect of my random Houston trips was sitting in the lobby of a financial building and just trying to get people to hear my story.
After my internship I knew the technical questions. I didn't study them or try to remember the correct answers. They just made sense and flowed pretty well. I think the internship I had was integral to my path working out. I finally got an interview with the BB I was gunning for. Nailed the first round. Got invited for a superday. Loved the culture. It was very collegiate. I told my story, answered the questions and got a lot of good feedback and conversation out of the bankers there then got on a plane to head back to school. I had a missed call and voicemail when I got off the plane. I went to check it. My phone dies. I waited for my ride to get to the airport; I didn't even have battery to let them know I came in early. They got there; we sped to my apartment. I plugged in my phone and listened to the voicemail. They wanted me to call back. I did, and man am I glad that I did. They offered me a FT IBD analyst position! I took a few minutes, accepted and then went out to celebrate. Over the next few days I politely declined other superdays at BBs. It was weird going from fretting about not getting an offer to feeling disgruntled, "Did I make my decision too soon?" Feeling totally unwanted to being "the man". At the end of the day I am very fortunate to receive the offer that I did. I am convinced I made the right choice because at the end of the day...banking is banking. I like the team I'll be working with and the deal flow will keep me learning. I'll try to help out on the board and keep you posted once I start actually working. I hope I don't become jaded.
I know I couldn't of done it without this board; thanks WSO.