October 28, 2016
How to Become an Investment Banker
If you’re a business or finance major who is interested in investment banking, then you probably already know what investment banking is and are curious to find out how you can get your foot in the door of this exciting industry. Although investment banking is certainly competitive, it’s also filled with rewarding opportunities, especially for those who are curious about market trends and passionate about helping clients meet their financial goals.
Here are the steps you need to follow in order to become an investment banker.
1. Know the investment banking career track
One of the keys to developing a successful career in investment banking is knowing the path to follow and making the most of each step along the way. Although most entry-level investment bankers start as financial analysts, the investment banking career track really begins with an internship. In fact, both large banks and smaller boutique banks recruit entry-level employees from their yearly crop of interns, so securing an internship during college is key to setting yourself up for success. This will typically be a summer internship during your junior or senior year and (if successful) will lead to an offer for a full-time financial analyst role. Financial analyst roles are typically two-year positions that provide you the with the bulk of your investment banking training. During this time, you’ll learn about financial markets and the factors involved with advising clients about potential investments. After this two-year period is up, you will likely move on to an associate role for another two to three years before becoming a VP and eventually a managing director.
Pro Tip: In addition to knowing the career track you’ll be following, it’s also important to know the timeframe for hiring in this industry. For those not going directly from an internship into a full-time position, the application process for a full-time role typically starts in early September of your senior year and takes anywhere from six weeks to two months. Throughout this time, you’ll be invited for a few different rounds of interviews (between two and three) and, if successful, you’ll receive your offer by the end of October.
2. Develop your knowledge of the financial services industry
Having a solid understanding of the financial services industry will benefit you not only at the start of your career but also as you move up the ladder into your next role. This means knowing all about past and present market trends and also having more specialized knowledge such as understanding how new generations of investors differ from previous ones. For example, having some great insights into investment trends for millennials is likely to impress potential employers and show that you’re well-informed about changes in the industry. The best way to develop this knowledge is by reading trade publications like DealBook and MarketWatch and keeping up-to-date on emerging trends.
3. Take relevant classes
Taking a broad range of business, finance and even math classes during college can be a practical way to build your knowledge base. This is especially true if you’re coming to investment banking from a non-traditional major like English or history. To find out which classes would be most helpful for you, talk to your academic advisor and ask for recommendations based on your interests and your goals.
4. Know what recruiters look for
Although traditional recruiting for investment banking typically focused on business and finance majors from top-tier schools, in more recent years the recruitment process has become increasingly focused on diversity and on finding talented candidates from a broad range of schools and majors. That said, candidates still need to be able to demonstrate both a solid interest in financial services and a thorough understanding of the field, so your resume will need to reflect classes or projects you’ve worked on that would be relevant to an investment banking career.
Pro Tip: When talking to recruiters, don’t be afraid to highlight areas of your background that are unique and show that you have a well-rounded background. For example, if you don’t have internship experience in the financial services industry but you interned in the finance department of a startup, you can mention what you learned from the experience and how your skills could transfer to investment banking.
5. Take on an investment banking internship
Although knowledge and direction are both key parts of starting a career in investment banking, having experience on your resume is even better. This is where an internship comes in. An internship is a fantastic opportunity to build your skill set and get on-the-job training. This is especially important in a field like investment banking which is both technical and specific. By taking on one or more internships during your time in college, you’ll gain exposure to many facets of the industry and be able to find an entry-level investment banking job that’s right for you.
6. Build your network
Investment banking is as much about who you know as about what you know so building your professional network is crucial to landing a great job after graduation. An effective way to do this is through internships and networking events, particularly those aimed at college students and recent graduates. Attending recruiting events can also be particularly helpful since you’ll be able to meet with recruiters in person.
Pro Tip: Reaching out to members of your school’s alumni network is another effective way to build your network and this is an especially common networking strategy in the financial services industry. As an added bonus, you might come across a professional opportunity you weren’t even aware of or get a personal recommendation from someone already in the field.
Becoming an investment banker might seem a bit intimidating at first since the field is notoriously competitive and fast-paced. However, by following these tips and building up your experience and your network, you’ll be sure to find an opportunity that’s right for you.
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 7 Phone Interview Tips That Will Land You a Second Interview and find answers to common interview questions such as Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?