Who to Contact?
In order to get the most out of your time, you have to know what you’re looking for. This means knowing which area of investment banking you want to be in (investment banking, capital markets, S&T, research, etc.), what geographical location, and other similar details. Once you have that figured out, there are many different groups of people that can help you in the process of getting to where you want to be.
There is no safer place to start learning about the industry than from the current students who just got back from their summer internships. Everything is still fresh in their mind and they can provide you with great insight of what you might expect if you get into the field. They can especially provide insight on what they did during their undergraduate careers that helped them succeed in landing a job on Wall Street. Additionally, it is much safer to talk to students and ask “dumb” questions. Often times, students aren’t in a position to affect your career and therefore are willing to be much more open about everything you might be interested in. Not only that, but you might feel much more comfortable asking a student something as opposed to someone more experienced.
Ask your friends whether they know someone who worked in the banking industry. A lot of times, your friends’ parents have a network of people that might help you get in touch with the right people.
Similarly, just like your peer friends, family friends can be extremely helpful in the search process. People usually have a great deal of respect for family relationships, and if they are able to help, they might go out of their way to do so. Remember that this is a contact that no one else from your school has access to. Therefore, you should be very careful how you approach them. You want to be knowledgeable and show a genuine interest in the field. Otherwise you might embarrass your family members and you probably don’t want to do that. If you do everything right, this could be your gold mine.
A reason to have good grades and be proactive in class isn’t only to finish your degree successfully, but also to gain respect from your faculty. Faculty members are usually extremely well connected, and if they like you, they’ll be able to help connect you with their friends in the industry.
Remember that these are people that were once in your shoes. They can relate exactly to what you’re going through and can give you invaluable advice on how to approach the process. They are aware of most of the resources and support that you’re given, because they went through the same things at the same school. If you are applying from a non-core school, this network is even more valuable. Since investment banking is such a competitive industry, alumni are willing to fight hard to help students from their college/university break into the industry. Having said that, you don’t want to try and exploit their willingness to help.
Alumni are not one of the last sections listed of people to reach out to because I forgot to mention them earlier. Realize that although you went to the same school, alumni still don’t know you. You are a stranger to them with only one bond – your school. No one likes to spend time on someone unprepared and indecisive. Therefore, be prepared and get yourself as ready as possible before you reach out to them and start asking for advice.
Ask anyone you meet (without being annoying). You never know where you’re going to get your most valuable contacts. However, you have to know what you’re looking for and be strategic in your search.
You should spend your time wisely. Looking for an internship might seem like an unpaid full-time job. However, the reward is very high so reach out to anyone that might be able to help you. You don’t actually need to conduct informational interviews with everyone. Just keep asking around if anyone knows somebody who could offer you some additional help. Contacts will come up from the most unlikely of places, and when you find a professional willing to talk, focus on your goal and make the best impression you can.