This piece is based on experiences gained over the last few weeks, during the official EC Hell Week process. It is clouded by the current job search environment. In the event that the economy turns around, most of these tips will not be essential, but still useful. First of all, to those of you in Sections H, I, J, K, be glad that the January program is dead. A lot of disillusioned January second years are looking back at the tradeoff between having a great summer on campus, and pursuing the summer internship that could have led to a job offer in their industry of choice. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20. Now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s get to business. I have outlined three points that I think are important to consider when looking for a full-time job in investment banking. I hope these are useful to you but remember, these are only MY opinions.
Start the career search process NOW
I am sure you have realized already that there is no waiting when it comes to the recruiting process. Your resumes are already out there and the interview season is around the corner. What this really means is that the time when you need to decide what you want to do with your life is already here. This past year, the summer internship proved to be an important determinant in the final job decision for a lot of investment companies. For people trying to switch from another industry into banking, the summer internship is almost a requirement. The decision makers in investment banking know that the business is tough, and want to have an easy job picking the people who don’t mind the lifestyle. Usually, these are people who have done investment banking before and know what they are getting into.
Networking is the name of the game. Unlike the past few years, investment-banking jobs are not there for the taking. In an environment where very little separates one HBS student from another, who you know becomes a lot more important than what you know. Even though you might not particularly like the head of the HBS recruiting team at that investment bank, swallow your pride and make him your friend. In fact make as many people at that firm your friends. Before you try to do this however, you need to do your research on the firm. Learn about the culture and whether you will fit into it. Read up on the deals they have done, learn about their strengths and weaknesses, then, armed with this, go to the recruiting events. This takes lots of time but you do want a job right? The aim of this is to put you in a position where your resume is recognizable to the people making the decisions. Even though there might be other ways to achieve this, this route is the most direct.
Be prepared to make an impression
If you do get a summer internship, your reputation at the investment bank will be formed within the first few weeks, and once formed is not easily changed. Among the summer associates you will be working with, there will be stars and there will be losers. The stars will keep getting the great assignments because of the notion that they can be trusted. The losers will keep getting the insignificant, unimportant assignments. Try to be a star. If you do not know what that means at your firm, be sure to ask former employees, classmates etc. Unless you used to be a banker and can demonstrate banking skills from the start, the qualities that you would have to rely on are things like excitement about the job and the firm, willingness to ask questions and to learn, and desire to put in the hours.