Anyone hoping to build a career on Wall Street knows that landing a job at Goldman Sachs means you’ve more or less made it.
They also know how excruciatingly competitive it is to do that, especially if you’re not applying from one of the Ivy League universities where Goldman and other investment banks focus their recruiting efforts.
But Business Insider spoke with one analyst (who wished to remain anonymous) who managed to do just that.
Here’s what he did, and what he recommends to others.
1. Get an internship early — even if it’s not on Wall Street.
The analyst got his first internship after freshman year. It wasn’t on Wall Street; it was at a pharmaceutical firm, where he worked in corporate finance.
The firm was a large-cap company that many investors know about, but more important than that, he added: “Getting that first corporate experience is key … It’s one of the things that I think was extremely beneficial.”
2. Make LinkedIn your life.
The analyst started networking hard with alumni in his sophomore year. And, in his mind, that he went to a state school was not a disadvantage.
State schools have between 20,000 and 50,000 students, he noted, so with 40 or more years of history “those alumni spread out pretty far.”
He said that while a school like Harvard might have only 6,000 students a year but some 50,000 alumni in the city, each one of those grads is getting contacted by 100 students or more, asking to meet or go for coffee.
Meanwhile, the alumni the analyst reached out to were thrilled to hear from him.
And the best way to reach them was via LinkedIn. “It’s always easy to find that connection — to find that bond,” he said.
With the help of alumni, he scored an internship with a boutique investment bank in New York City after his sophomore year, and another with a bulge-bracket investment bank the following summer.
3. If you can get in with the firm where you intern, then go for it.
Most investment banks focus their recruiting efforts on the roughly 350-person intern classes that descend on Wall Street each summer, rather than on recruiting for first-year analyst positions, the analyst explained.
That’s because the banks tend to choose who they want to hire full-time from among the intern class each summer.
While the analyst did not end up going back to the bank where he interned after his junior year, he said that if you do land an internship at a major Wall Street bank and you like it, you definitely want to kill it there so that you can stay on.
4. Send résumés early.
Our Goldman analyst started the networking process all over again in his senior year, and he started it early.
Like two weeks after classes started in September.
He said he flew to New York City and back at least six times throughout his senior year, using the trips to arrange meetings and attend networking events.
5. And send résumés often.
In both his sophomore and junior years, the analyst applied for more than 50 different summer positions. Both times he wound up getting only a handful of interviews. But of course that’s all he needed.
Mays Business School/Flickr
“Getting your résumé in the pile is the hardest part.” The analyst we spoke with applied to more than 50 summer internships — twice.
“Getting your résumé in the pile is the hardest part,” he said. “And a lot of times it’s just a favour that you ask of one of these alumni.”
6. Make Excel your best friend.
There’s only one way the analyst was able to keep track of the 50-plus positions he applied for and the roughly 60 alumni he kept in contact with throughout the year:
“I had a lot of Excel spreadsheets.”
He kept tabs on when he last spoke with each contact, made sure to reach out to them every month, and regularly sent them schoolwork and interesting articles just to keep himself at the top of their minds.
7. Treat the application process like a part-time job.
“I did not have a part-time job in school,” the analyst said.
Instead, he split his time between studying for his economics and finance classes and spending 10-15 hours each week on the internship and job hunt.
8. Be obsessed with finance.
This is crucial. The analyst has loved the markets since grade school, when he began watching CNBC and buying his first stocks.
“If you’re not passionate about it, you get burned out very quickly,” he said.
And he thinks the recruiters know that, which is why during the interview process they try to whittle the applicants down to just those who are truly passionate.
Luckily for the analyst, he said, “I’m a huge finance geek.”