As junior year internships are the foundation to securing full-time investment banking roles, to prep for the internship recruiting cycle, sophomores need to begin preparing and networking earlier and earlier. Second semester sophomore year is a good time to begin cultivating and building networks ahead of the junior year fall recruiting cycle, which rumor has it may even begin much earlier this year – one bulge bracket is said to have begun reviewing resumes and will begin conducting first round phone screens this spring and summer. We have received lot’s of questions of how to approach the networking at this stage and have curated the best here as a supplement to our Networking Guide:
Q1: How do you suggest approaching Investment Bankers, if I don’t have previous industry experience?
A1: Ask for an informational interview, say that you are interested in investment banking because of x club you are in (or any other reasons why IB is a genuine career path you want to pursue) and would like to ask if they could squeeze 30 minutes out to talk about their experiences…the key is to show that you have validated your interest in some way, and are now looking for more information.
Q2: What are some of the tips you would give to best prepare for Informational Interviews?
A2: Know the basics of banking. The purpose of the call is to expand on your knowledge not to start from scratch. What does an investment banker do, what the roles of various positions are, etc. Prepare questions that are focused on the banker’s own recruitment process and current experience. Ask what it's like working on a deal versus being staffed on pitch books and marketing materials. What are big standouts about xyz bank, what makes it special?
Q3: How would you suggest finding where in Investment Banking I want to work in?
A3: Explore and conduct informational interviews with bankers across product and coverage areas. This will also help make your pitch for an info call much more precise as well. Saying hello I’m very interested in investment banking because xyz (experience in IB club, time spent shadowing a relative in IB, books read on the topic) and would love to learn more about the M&A space when networking with an M&A banker is a much better pitch than, just wanting to learn about banking. The more targeted you can be the better. This will also help you understand the nuances of the spaces. Additionally, if you already are involved in a student-managed fund maybe a sector you have explored there can be a good guidepost. This doesn't need to be the answer for what sector you end up in for the rest of your career because you can't know, or plan that out at this stage.
Q4: How would you go about reaching out to a senior level individual (VP or an MD) at the investment bank?
A4: Same avenues you would use when approaching an analyst - friends, family, alumni base, or you can go completely cold but do your research into what about that MD’s role is of interest to you - this is the same kind of diligence we mentioned in a previous question (you can find a break down of how IB roles are staggered here). Do they have extensive exp in a specific coverage area you are interested in and would love to connect? Do not be creepy with this and list out a person’s work history, just briefly mention that you saw they worked in FIG and you want to learn about FIG. … Linkedin requests will typically go unaccepted by senior level staff so learning a bank's email convention and shooting a direct email is the best way to get on their radars. As with any form of networking, remaining humble and persistent will go a long way.
Q5: What types of questions would be appropriate to ask a VP or an MD?
A5: What their rationale was in breaking into IB? What they wished they knew when they were in early stages of banking? Why they stayed on when there is typically a lot of turnover? How they make decisions on which banks to work at? What they feel are the qualities that make their best analysts?
Q6: What are some of the resources I can utilize to learn more about deals that the bank has done, and get insight into those?
A6: Dealbook usually puts out recent deals with language that isn’t very technical, and you can use that to keep abreast of new stuff. If you find a deal that looks interesting then look into SEC docs like 10-ks and S-1s and merger prospectuses to see what role the bank played and more about the deal rationale.
Q7: How do you go about politely making the “ask” after the end of an informational interview?
A7: The ask at this stage should be if they would be willing to stay in touch, maybe review a resume or give advice as you go through your process. After a second of third interaction (email or other) it is ok to ask for an introduction to someone in their network, or to ask for advice on approaching the recruiting process at their bank. This is different from asking for an interview and is more about how to look at things. If you were recruiting after your summer internship this would be very different and you would go for the ask in your first interaction and usually if your first call went well enough they will proactively ask you to get involved in their process. However, as a sophomore, do not push the subject in your first call unless the banker does.