How To Get Into Investment Banking If You Have a 3.0 GPA


bjbj Today, I’m going to be telling you about
how you can break into investment banking if you have a 3.0 GPA, you graduated from
an unknown school and you only recently learned English. Now, as you can imagine, coming from
this background, you’re really going to need some kind of ace up your sleeve, to have a
chance at breaking in. Whether you’re doing it through cold calling or through setting
up informational interviews or through other means. What I’m going to do to illustrate
exactly how to do this and to get in if you’re coming from this type of background, is to
go through two case studies from readers and customers who networked their way into investment
banking and got in coming from backgrounds like this where they were really at a huge
disadvantage compared to everyone else. For the first case study, I’m going to be telling
you about a reader who had immigrated to the US about four years ago. Now, at this time,
he was coming from a part in the world where English language instruction is not common.
He only had a very basic knowledge of English when he first came over. Certainly not anywhere
close to the level he needed to actually work full time in finance or in investment banking.
In addition to that handicap, he also went to an unknown state school, because, again,
he had limited financial resources. Especially when he first moved to the US, and so he really
couldn’t afford to go to an elite private school, an Ivy League school or anything like
that. On top of all that, he also had basically no finance experience when he was starting
out. He had a few jobs on campus, working at the library, the athletics department,
other local places like that, but nothing substantial. I’m not even talking about not
having investment banking internships. I mean absolutely no real work experience outside
of on-campus type jobs. In his initial networking strategy to find internships, he tried a couple
of different things, but found that most of what he was doing was just not working that
well. The first problem was that his positioning was not great. He was coming from a unique
background that not many other people shared. And in addition to this, although he didn’t
have any formal work experience to speak of, he had been participating in a program that
was put on by a bulge bracket investment bank, one of those financial training workshop-type
programs. He thought that since it didn’t last very long, since it wasn’t real work
experience, he didn’t really see the point of highlighting this. The other thing that
didn’t work too well is when he started applying, he focused mostly on applying online, going
through bank’s websites, going through career websites, and for good reason. Because at
his school, basically no banks recruited there so he felt that going online was really the
only option he had. Finally, after not having too much success applying online, he decided
to start mass cold emailing local boutiques in his area, and you can probably already
guess that using all these strategies did not lead to much success for him. Because
when you don’t highlight the key points about your background, even if you have to stretch
and spin them, and when you apply to people through an impersonal medium like websites
or email, it’s very difficult to properly convey your stories, especially if you’re
coming from a unique background like this. What did work and what eventually ended up
working for him, is when he changed his strategy as follows. First off, he used proper positioning.
I went through his resume and helped him highlight what was most relevant. Even though the bulge
bracket training workshop that he had been to, even though that was really more like
a class than a real internship, with his background, he really need to highlight that and put it
at the top of his resume, make is seem like the most important, most prominent work experience
there. It is stretching the truth, but he had to do it in this case, because it was
the most impressive thing he had. Second, in the beginning, he focused too much on applying
online and going through websites, cold emailing people, but he got much better results once
he actually started cold calling places, as opposed to just sending out emails. Especially
for someone like him with his kind of background, cold calling is just going to have much better
results. Because if you can get across to someone that you’re coming from a nontraditional
background and you’ve overcome so much to get to where you are, they’re going to be
much more sympathetic to you. Third, one question that came up when he was going around networking,
even though there were not many alumni from his school in finance, there were still at
least a few. One issue that came up was how direct should he be when contacting them?
Should he try to develop relationships with them and try to ask about how they got into
the industry or should he just ask about opportunities? Now, at the time, it was about March or April
when he was still looking for internships, so basically well after formal recruiting
season had ended. In this situation, it paid to be a lot more direct with the alumni. In
a lot of cases, without even saying too much, just indicating that he was looking for an
internship, a lot of them who were impressed by his story, just casually made offers to
him and said, “Hey, you know, if you want to work here at some point, if you’re interested
at some point in the future, just give me a holler. Contact me and we can work something
out.” Once he changed this strategy and started using these tactics instead, he saw a lot
more success. OK, so here you see the email, and you see here in the middle, he kind of
starts at a story. He says, “Truth be told, in the beginning of February, I went to a
two-week depression. I thought my dream job was out of reach because I’m not a [inaudible
00:04:48] target, irrelevant experience, don’t have a strong background in finance evaluations,”
and his resume was crap, in his own words. He goes through this and talks about how he
got bad grades as well, then he skips to the conclusion here. He talks about how he has
a very well-paid part-time internship that provides relevant experience, a summer offer
at a small tech boutique. Essentially, he had gotten two internship offers out of his
networking efforts here. Which is definitely unusual, but can be done, especially when
you’re dealing with smaller firms as he chose to focus on here. Then he goes through some
of the other points here on the networking tools and understanding the technical side
of banking. Up here at the top you see he got an email from an alum from his school,
one of the few who is actually in finance. And he talks about how he used the templates
and tips for cold emails, cold phone calls and then follow-up conversations that were
part of the Networking Ninja Toolkit, and he says how the alum liked his style, “Good
luck and stay in touch.” You see right here, even by using something as simple as just
a few of the templates in the Networking Ninja Toolkit, he managed to get this guy to give
him basically a soft offer to come back and intern with him for awhile. Now, to move to
the second case study here. Now, this one is also from a reader from a severely disadvantaged
background. First off, as with our first case study, he was also going to a non-target state
school. Basically, no banks recruited there. He really didn’t have a wide alumni network
to tap into. Second, his GPA was also low. Now, it’s not quite the C- level that I had
here. He had around a 3.0 GPA. Not terrible, but usually for investment banking for finance,
you need at least a 3.5 GPA to get serious consideration for most places, so he was at
a disadvantage already. To make things even worse, he had already graduated. He was already
out of school. He had been out of school for a few months and he had started looking for
jobs about a month or so after he had graduated. But he really missed the boat because it’s
much easier to get jobs and internships when you’re still in school. Now, his initial strategy
networking was the following. He sort of had a wide list of all these different places
he wanted to work at. He wasn’t really filtering the list at all, so he had boutiques, bulge
brackets, middle market firms, and he was basically just reaching out to everyone, applying
to all sorts of different positions and sort of just spreading his net really wide, and
trying to just get whatever he could. Second, as with the first case study here, he was
also focused on applying online. He went through a lot of career websites, going through individual
bank’s websites, and then also as part of his applying online strategy, he was using
Doostang. Now, I get a lot of questions about this one, which is why I’m bringing it up
here. I personally have not used this service too much before, but he did use the service
a lot. He actually applied to around 150 firms through Doostang, and got essentially zero
results from all that. He applied to over 100 firms, to dozens of different places online,
and basically got no results. Mostly because these types of services, Doostang in particular,
works well if you go to an Ivy League school, you have great grades and you’re coming from
a traditional background. If you’re very passionate about the industry but you’re not coming from
that type of background, you have a lower GPA, you’re coming from a school that most
people haven’t heard of, then you’re not going to get good results by going through traditional
channels like this. Instead, what he changed his strategy to do was the following. First,
instead of focusing on all sorts of different firms, he decided to filter his list more
and focus strictly on regional boutiques. So local, small firms in his area that really
need help. Second, instead of applying online, he decided to start cold calling and rather
than just targeting anyone he could, rather than just targeting HR, he decided to go straight
for the managing directors instead. I get a lot of questions on who you should contact
when you start cold calling. In his case, he found that going straight for the MDs was
the ideal strategy. And what he found is that he got around a 50% hit rate with them, so
about 50% would kind of try to offload him to HR and then about 50% would actually take
the time to talk to him, hear his story and then at least consider him, get his resume
and then potentially call him back for an interview. Finally, so this is sort of a tongue-in-cheek
comment, but he was using a lot of the calling scripts and templates from the Networking
Ninja Toolkit. Obviously, I’m not being completely serious here, the smiley face. But the reason
I’m bringing this up is because with networking efforts, a lot of times you get tempted to
reinvent the wheel, to come up with your own approach, do everything totally differently
from everyone else. But actually if you have a template or calling script or certain phrases
that work well, and have already worked well for others who have gotten internship offers
and full-time offers by using these exact templates, then why mess with what works?
If they’ve worked for other people, then you should probably just go with what works. Now,
I’m going to an email he sent me that kind of describes this whole process so you can
see firsthand from him, his own comments, and how he went from nowhere directly after
graduation to ultimately getting internships and then getting a full-time offer. OK. So
here we see the second email I was referring to, and I have once again deleted his information
to protect his privacy here. We see a bit of background information at the top. “I have
purchased both the Modeling Course, Breaking into Wall Street and the Interview Guide.
It has been the sole reason why I’ve gotten two summer internship offers from boutique,
middle market investment banks.” Then you see here, sort of about his disadvantage background.
So non-target university, 3.0 GPA. Then you see right here, so he started recruiting about
two-and-a-half months before he sent me this email, and he talks about his experience about
Doostang right here. He submitted over 150 applications and did not get good feedback
from employers and then he realized as I’ve pointed out before that really, coming from
this type of background, the only way to get in is to ninja your way in, as he did. He
decided to focus on boutique and middle market banks in his region, compiled a list of banks
using the templates in the Networking Ninja Toolkit and then he got a lot of good feedback
from most of the people. Here, he mentions what I brought up before, how MDs are much
harder to reach. But when he does get in touch with them, 50% of them actually took the time
to speak with him. Then you see here he got offers for two summer internships, one was
unpaid but one was paid and he had two backup plans as a result of this. Now, obviously,
I was really happy for him when I saw this email, to see that he had gotten great results,
but I want to ask his permission before I could actually show this to you. So I wrote
to him the other day and here’s what he said. He received a full-time offer about three
weeks ago and now he is officially an analyst. Within a matter of months here, he went from
going to a non-target school, having a low GPA and having already graduated to getting
multiple internships and then getting a full-time offer, and he’s currently now working as a
full-time investment banking analyst. Hopefully, now you have an even better understanding
of how to network, how to get into investment banking even if you’re coming from a background
where you have a low GPA, you go to an unknown school and you’ve already graduated. If you
follow all the strategies here, what these two readers actually did, then you’ll also
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Paul Whisler

12 Comments

  1. This is very helpful. I'm an undergrad at UCLA so I don't necessarily fall into those categories presented in the video but it is really competitive getting an investment banking internship in the LA area, even from the boutiques. I'll definitely implement some of the advice presented in the video.

  2. I'm sorry, I think no matter what you do the chances are just minim. That's life man. It's never fair.

  3. True, it's harder with low grades but still do-able… maybe you won't get into Goldman Sachs but plenty of small firms are always looking for talent and care more about your ability to generate revenue than your GPA.

  4. I'm beyond elated to come across your videos. I have about a 3.00 but recently I came to full realization that I have a passion for Finance and it's exciting! But I don't understand networking or how to get myself out there. I'm going to try some of these ideas as I continue to learn in class and from a multitude of journals and videos (like yours!). Thanks!

  5. Were can i start if the only thing i have is a high school dimploma. Im 21. My gpa when i graduated was 3.8

  6. Been doing private client retail banking (chkng/savings/credit/lending/investments). have 4 year degree from a good school (staying anonymous), finished school late in the game (left undergrad to run startup for a bit), now 30 looking to jump from recent banking role to ib. Did popular IB training course, clawing for a junior analyst role. Been job hunting for several months. MBA is sounding more and more necessary to get where I want to.

  7. Can someone explain to me what investment banking is exactly? I'm studying finance at the moment and I'm not sure what I want to do after I finish with my degree…

  8. I'm in a similar situation, lost almost 4 years, 3 GPA and 2 years experience in outsourcing. I'm doing the CFA to get any chance but I'm 99% sure nobody will hire an investment analyst with no experience, 29 years old and only the 3 exams passed. The only reason I still study for the exam is when I commit to something I finish it. If there is someone in a similar situation really consider doing an MBA and enter as an associate, rather than trying to break through just entry positions with the CFA or similar, because that takes more than 1000 hours in which you could probably study for a gmat 700+ and 2 additional languages.

  9. I graduated college with a 3.1 GPA and got into a big bulge bracket bank, but it was HARD.

    Here are a couple tips for you:
    1. Start to study for the CFA exam. Passing level 1 is the same as any top 10 MBA program. That should get the attention of some employers

    2. Remember to parlay! You may not get straight out the gates into IBanking as an Analyst, but there are a lot of intermediary steps you can take to get in. Any area of finance coupled with the level 1 CFA will get you an interview. I would suggest starting out at a credit rating agency. Moodys, FITCH, or S&P. This will be solid for fixed income or research.

    Admittedly, if you really have nothing, then start out working for FREE for any financial advisor. They will pay you a 'lump sum' (don't expect much at all) but you have to think long term. Just gobble up as much as you can, so you can speak intelligently about the market.

    When I graduated college, I took a job at $8 per hour at a small Ibank, but it was to do Merchant Banking Mergers and Acquisitions. But it was what I needed and after a few more steps, I got into a big Ibank.

    3. Get clear about which area of the bank you want to work in. Lets get something straight, a lot of people think that working for an Ibank is investment banking. Its not. Historically, in the past traditional investment banking activity was limited to four areas: Corporate Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, Leveraged Buy Outs, and Bankruptcy. Now, with the evolution of the financial markets, many of these Ibanks have a lot of 'investment banking activity' You name it, asset management, trading, research, fixed income, equities, etc…

    If your trading, your school does not matter, but you need to think fast on your feet cause the market is moving. What about Institutional Sales? CFA is a layup for Asset management, Private client services, research, equities or fixed income. Know yourself and strategically pursue your options.

    4. Interview HARD! This is where most people will fail. Remember this: Most people are defeated mentally WAY before they are defeated financially. Is this you? Based on my observation, most people really do not work hard on interviewing. Practice knowing your resume, how you are going to pitch yourself. Be succinct, be FUN, ask smart questions… show your smart by answering questions on your feet. My goal during interviews was always to try and get them excited about the business that they would rally to want to hire me. I did not have a GPA, but they knew I knew my shit, would bend over and do the long hours, and be easy to get along with.

    5. Read the wall street journal everyday. You would be surprised how much you can learn just reading the paper DAILY! Just read the headlines of the financial column, then pick the articles you want to read.

    6. Read all the interview prep literature. You all are lucky and have the internet and youtube, so the shit is FREE. I had to pay for print and it was not cheap.

    Other staple books to read: Monkey Business and Liar's poker. A number of new ones, but those are great conversation starters.

    7. Other random thoughts. Let's suppose you had a non-financial and non-engineering major and wanted to do Ibanking. Lets say acting, you can also take some online classes from Harvard business school or any local university. It shows that you are committed.

    8. Differentiate yourself. The easiest way to differentiate yourself is to do that which others will not. I went to school in Pittsburgh and the Ibanks did not recruit from our school, so it was a lot of work to setup interviews and get to NYC to interview. MAKE SURE YOU ARE SHARP AND READY WITH YOUR INTERVIEWS. Otherwise, your wasting money. A wise man once told me, prepare yourself for the day so that when the opportunity comes, you can seize it.

    Final thoughts: From me to you, I want to tell you that I wish you all the best in your pursuits. Know that getting in or not, does not define you. There are a million other ways to make a ton of money. If you have balls, be an entrepreneur. That is where the greatest rewards lie. I was talking to a friend of mine and he used to tell me that bankers always think they are the MAN. Right? But then it occurred to him when he was in the conference room that the bankers were not really the man, but the client. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, etc… those are the people making BIG money. I say that to give you some perspective.

    I learned a lot working at the bank. I really loved living in NYC and being surrounded by smart, hardworking people that were really driven. I learned so much from all of them! Separately, when the market turns…. heads will roll… so make sure you have somebody that can vouch for you. I learned that wall street can be unforgiving and that the only way to secure your position on wall street or anywhere is to consistently bring money into the bottom line. That would suggest some sort of sales position.

    Unfortunately, my banking career was short lived. I think after about three years, I was out. I really enjoyed it and it gave me the ass kicking I needed to get ready for life. All the following jobs were easier in terms of physical demands but challenging in a different sense – Im a sales guy now. However, I did feel that I was not keeping up with the Joneses. For many years, I felt like a failure and for many years following were some really tough times: financially and on my confidence. It took a lot for me to breakthrough and come back – I pray each of you never go through it. Regardless, do know that you can still find happiness outside of banking. Its not the end of the world if you do not get in. In a twisted way, it may be a blessing in disguise.

    Good luck and I sincerely hope that what you want is within your grasp.

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