Investment banking is a highly lucrative field but one that is very hard to break into. As a career switcher attending a ‘non-core’ recruiting school you face some huge challenges. At ‘core schools’ there are few positions available that are quickly filled by students with alumni’s help. Additionally, many pursuing banking can’t explain why they are interested in banking and why they would be a good fit. Finally, and most importantly many fail to invest the time required to network. The following steps provide a guide to pursue a career in this field. So what can you do?
1. Know your story: You must be able to explain, why you want to specifically pursue investment banking and why you would be a good associate. The toughest task is to spend enough time building a credible, well thought out story. Bankers want to be convinced that you have taken the time to understand what investment banking is, and know your responsibilities as an associate. You need to convince them that what you are looking for and want to do is not available in any other career field (such as consulting or financial services). Since banking involves long hours, bankers want to be convinced they are hiring a person who understands this.
Think about your career so far and the key transition points. What made you realise that investment banking is the right career for you? Next, you need to convince the bankers that you have done your homework and understand what is required to succeed. Use your past experiences to bridge the gap and demonstrate that you already have the necessary skills, which include:
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work in a fast paced environment and deliver a quality product in a short time
- Interpersonal skills (with team work, and managing relations up and down, clients)
- Self-starter who takes initiative (work under less guidance)
- Project and time management
- Enthusiasm, energy and attitude
- Strategic thinking
- Ability to analyse at a higher level
2. Network, network, network. It is about showing your effort, enthusiasm and drive. The more people you meet the more you learn about the field, the job, the group and the bank. Create a list of all the people you may know (friends, friends of friends etc, use social networking websites like LinkedIn and Facebook). Meet them for a friendly conversation over coffee to show your interest. This is your opportunity to meet as many people as you can.
Besides attending several career fairs to build my network, I flew to New York (and other cities) every week for eight weeks simply to meet and speak to bankers. This was my opportunity to demonstrate my intelligence and show them that I was an interesting person. This also gave the impression that I was serious and had taken the effort to come all the way to learn about them. Finally, and most importantly this is your chance to get the bankers to speak to you about what they love the most – deal making. Ask them intelligent questions about what they liked about a particular deal.
3. Know why you want to work in a particular bank and show your intelligence about the field: While you are networking do your homework about the bank and team you are meeting with. Know where they stand in the league tables, what are some of the recent deals/ IPOs they have done, who are some of their top MDs.
Study the deals and have an opinion about the deal and ask intelligent questions. Be able to answer what unique opportunities that bank would offer you and why they are the best fit for your personality. For me it was important to join a bank that had a large deal of volume, did several big deals and had clients all over the world. I knew that would be the best way to maximise my learning experience and hence CitiGroup was my top choice.
4. Be interesting and unique by following your passions: Investment banking is not very difficult. What is hard is the gruelling 18-hour work day, for months on an end. Anyone coming from a good MBA programme can be trained in the technical skills but few will survive the ‘airplane test’ – for instance can I sit next to this person on an on an 18-hour flight and not pull my eyes out! Bankers are looking for interesting people so have plenty of examples from your personal life that highlight that.
When I was recruiting, most of the first questions I got were from the ‘Extra Activities’ section of my resume that highlighted my interests and passions. For example, I love cycling and have completed several 70 mile races. Many times, I was able to connect with the recruiter who had pursued a similar passion (such as marathons) and we ended up having an interesting conversation about the challenges we faced during training. Those experiences provided me with a valuable bonding experience with the recruiter.
5. Pursuing leadership opportunities is very important whether in or out of the classroom. Taking advantage of leadership opportunities will enhance visibility in a positive way.
For example: I was the Vice President of Investment Banking for the Graduate Finance Association (GFA) of Carnegie Mellon University. During my stint I helped place 12 first year students in top investment banks.
Mohit Bhatia CV
- MBA in Finance and Accounting from Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business
- Prior to Tepper, he did BSci in Computer Engineering from the University of Arizona
- Worked as Project Manager at Honeywell International’s Aerospace Division for eight years
- Vice President of Investment Banking for the Graduate Finance Association (GFA) at CMU
- Mentor for 12 college students, who are now professionals for investment banks such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies
- During his MBA, did his summer internship at CitiGroup’s Investment Banking Division
- Soon to be a full time associate in the Financial Institutions Group (FIG) where he will perform M&A, IPO related work for Banks and other diversified financials
Volume 1 Issue 1