One year. That's all that it takes. One year. Given the importance of time, everyone wants to get to their destination as soon as possible. This week, we interviewed a student from a non-target school who was able to land an investment banking internship within a year. One year prior, he was working at a field completely unrelated to finance or any other corporate position. Read on if you want to learn how he was able to get there!
1. How did you decide to go into investment banking?
When I got to college, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do and was originally planning on doing marketing. I was speaking to a friend of mine who was interested in banking, and had told him that I wanted to do something in business but didn't have something very specific in mind. After hearing about my interest and concerns, he suggested that I check out investment banking. Truthfully, the fact that it is seen as the top of finance was very enticing, coupled with the fact that you’re learning at an extremely fast pace on the job. I did some additional research and realized that it would be the best start to my career, and that this was in a way like an accelerated degree.
2. Once you knew that you wanted to go into investment banking, how did you go from a job completely unrelated to finance to an investment banking summer internship in one year?
Once I had a direction, I knew I needed to put something finance related on my resume to get into investment banking. I needed to show initiative and interest to sell myself as a credible candidate to the banks. As a result, I approached my banking internship hunt by doing two things. First, I started a weekly newsletter (along with a friend) that summarized the top 10 stories that we read in the WSJ, and sent it to friends. Ultimately, this is started to build traction to the point where there are currently around 500 subscribers. Whenever I would go into an interview, I would bring one of the newsletters to the interviews to further show my initiative.
The second was my non-banking finance internship. I knew that I needed something finance-related on my resume, and it became a great part of my story as it not only provided me with some great mentors but also made me understand that I wanted something more fast-paced and involved more problem solving.
3. In terms of your past internship which you received an offer for, what did you do during that interview process that stood out for you?
For the elite boutique, I had two rounds of interviews. The first round was through the phone and the second round was a super day which was just a technical and behavioral interview. For preparation, I probably ran mock interviews every single day for six months leading up to that actual interview. These included mock interviews with friends in IB, with other students looking for IB, and mock interviews with random people who just read questions off the sheet. I also told the story to myself in the mirror – tell me about yourself, why IB, why finance, tell me about a time you failed, how are you on a team, how do you problem solve – I used to practice those answers hundreds of times. I know some people say make yourself not sound so rehearsed, but for me, I am a believer in practice and that practice makes perfect. I wanted to make sure that I left nothing to chance and avoided the downside of not knowing what to say or saying something that was less than perfect. I think I was very, very prepared in that way.
From a technical perspective, they asked me at one point a question I didn’t know and I admitted it to them instead of trying to make up an answer. On the next and last technical question, they gave a question that you weren’t supposed to know but you were supposed to figure out. I was walking him through it and was able to figure it out and by figuring it out, the process actually gave me the answer to the previous question. Therefore, I think showing that I can learn quickly was the one thing that made me stand out. Other than that, I was really prepared both in content and in my delivery.
4. In terms of you getting that offer, what are some of the keys to getting the offer at the end of the summer?
Over the summer, it is mostly a show of effort and attitude. Despite trying my best on every project, I was not perfect by any stretch. I also took a course on Excel before and thought that I was pretty good at Excel but most of the internship turned out to be on PowerPoint, and there were lots of PowerPoint stuff that I had no idea about. Specifically, it was a pretty steep learning curve for formatting – where everything needs to be perfect. However, what made me stand out was my effort. I showed up everyday at 8:45am – when the office didn’t move till 9:30am. I always followed up with my associates at the end of the day to see if there is anything else that needs to be done. The people who didn’t get offers – they showed up late a few times or left early – through this, they basically showed that they didn’t want to be there. At the end of the day, I think it’s not about being able to do DCFs or LBOs – its more about wanting to be there and being willing to put in the work.
5. Is there any additional advice that you would give to someone who will be going through same summer internship / analyst program as you?
I think in terms of the lessons that would be useful for someone else going into a summer internship, I would say that there are huge differences between the work environment and school. In school, for every grade you get back or for every project, there’s always an opportunity to make an excuse. If you’re cool with your teacher, you can always see what you can squeeze out. I found out right away in banking that it would not be like that. If something needs to get done – the train can get delayed, someone could be yelling in your apartment the night before – the project would still need to be completed. There are no excuses – being defensive and making excuses is not something that people there are very interested in. As a matter of fact, it only gets people even more angry. In addition, if you messed up, the best method is to own up to your mistakes and take responsibility. My best story is that I got staffed on a deal during the summer and I wanted to do my best to read up on the deal the night before so that when I meet with my associate the next day, I would be fully prepared (this is a general good practice to show appropriate initiatives). So I was doing that and I wanted to drag the deal into my shortcut. As I dragged it into the shortcuts, I ended up dragging the whole file instead of just what I wanted. What was worse was that I had deleted it from the server. At first, I didn’t know what to do – I could have pretended like I didn’t see it or that I didn’t know what happened. However, I ended up telling my associate and admitted that I made a mistake. After hearing this from me, he said everything is backed up and that it would not be a problem. Through this though, I believe he realized that I owned up to my mistakes and this actually ended up allowing me to build his trust further. On the contrary, had I pretended not to know anything about it and had he found out the next day, I think my return offer may have been in serious jeopardy – hence the power of trust at the work place.
*This article was written without any collaboration or affiliation with third-party universities / corporations.
If you have any specific questions for this person, feel free to email us at Jason@brainceek.com (and we'll pass along the question).
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