One of the main reasons students fail to get a job in investment banking, is that they discover they want to do investment banking “too late” in the process, and as a result – lack the relevant internships on their resume to be competitive.
This is partially because the recruiting timeline has been moving up earlier and earlier every year. In the United States, many bulge bracket, elite boutique, and even middle market banks are now releasing their applications for the critical junior summer internship as early as halfway through sophomore year – 1.5 years before the internship starts. In other words, you can’t really blame the students for being caught off guard.
So what can you do if you’re currently a finishing up your sophomore year, but you still don’t have an internship lined up for the summer? Your sophomore summer is going to be your last opportunity to get relevant internship experience before the recruiting window for junior summer internships closes. Here are three things you can do to improve your resume:
#1) Look in places other people aren’t looking
If you’ve only been applying to internships that are listed on major job sites it’s going to be tough. In our experience, these job postings each get upwards of thousands of applications, and many are also targeted towards upperclassmen closer to graduation. Even if you were to get an interview, you’ll be less experienced than your competition.
Instead, I recommend finding opportunities that are not listed online through your own networking efforts. Go after smaller financial services firms that aren’t as well known, and ask if they’d be willing to take you as an intern. By impressing the firm enough during their networking and interview processes, some of our students have even been able to get these firms to create an internship for them that didn’t exist originally. This approach is more work, but comes with a lot less competition.
#2) Cast a wider net and look at other tangential fields
Don’t limit yourself to just investment banking internships. An almost equally good option is targeting small private equity firms or search funds, since they’re in the business of acquiring companies. After that, small hedge funds, family offices, and venture capital firms are other buyside roles that can also give you valuable experience. These should give you plenty of good options.
If needed, other relevant fields include corporate development, equity research, valuation, corporate banking, private wealth management, corporate finance, or even accounting. While any of these experiences can work, some are slightly more relevant than others. The most important thing is to figure out what kind of responsibilities you’ll be getting, and how you’ll be able to tie it back to investment banking.
#3) Get creative and think outside the box
At the end of the day, you just want your resume to demonstrate a genuine interest in finance, and internships aren’t the only way to do that. Another easy thing to do is to join relevant student organizations at school. My favorite is the student-run investment funds because it gives you real hands-on experience. If you’re more ambitious, you could also start your own club. One of our students started his own private equity & venture capital club, which became a really good leadership story during his interviews. He ended up with four internship offers from bulge bracket and elite boutique banks before ultimately going to Evercore.
Other things our students have done include participating in investment banking case competitions. Check to see if your school has any of these. If not, there are also intercollegiate ones that you can sign up for every year. Similarly, even outside of the pandemic firms like JPMorgan and Citi actually have very short “virtual internships” that you can participate in. They’re a very quick exercise (they’re often only 5-6 hours in total), but they will give you brief a taste of what it’s actually like to be a banker. Last but not least, reach out to an economics or finance professor at school and see if you can help them with any research they’re conducting. If all goes well, your professors might even have some banker contacts they can introduce you to.
All in all, there are many ways to build a resume that would be attractive to investment bankers. To get the best results, make sure you start as early as possible, and allocate your time towards the most relevant experiences you can find.
Sam Shiah is the founder of Wall Street Mastermind, a personalized coaching service that helps students break into investment banking. He was formerly a technology investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, and a private equity investor at GI Partners. Over the last three years, he’s worked with approximately 400 students who are trying to break into investment banking
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