What to do when you’re rejected by banks’ graduate schemes
You’re determined to work for an investment bank when you graduate, but you’ve been rejected from all the graduate programs you’ve applied to. What can you do next?
I typically advise students to go down one of three paths.
Delay your graduation, possibly enroll on a Masters in Finance course
If you delay graduation by at least a semester, you’ll get a chance to apply for campus programs again. For example, if you are graduating in May 2025 but failed to get a summer 2024 internship, you might postpone graduation by a semester to December 2025 so that you can apply for the summer 2025 cycle instead.
Some people also delay graduation by getting a Masters in Finance degree. This is the same idea, but can be expensive.
Graduate at the normal time and try to get a role as relevant to the role you want in an investment bank as possible
Even if market conditions are poor when you graduate, the market will inevitably rebound at some point. When that time comes (some bankers I've spoken to are optimistic it'll happen in 2024)!, a lot of the banks will be understaffed and want to hire lateral candidates from tangential fields.
Which are the best lateral jobs to apply to? Relevant fields can be transactional finance jobs such as corporate development, corporate banking, or even Big Four transaction advisory services. Anything that involves valuation work or any kind of investment role with a small hedge fund or family office will also be relevant. In really favorable market conditions, banks will even hire from Big Four audit teams or from financial planning and analysis firms.
If you decide to go this lateral route, remember that a lot of lateral opportunities aren’t posted publicly, making networking very important. When I lateraled from Deutsche Bank to Morgan Stanley back in 2009, I only got the job because I had an acquaintance who was an analyst in the group already, and he asked me if I was interested.
Get an MBA from a top business school and apply to banks’ associate programs
This is probably the only viable path for people who are already graduated and are not working in finance - career switchers by definition. It is however the biggest financial commitment out of the three options here both in terms of time and money, and you have to get into a top MBA program, or it's not really worth it.
Sam Shiah is the founder of Wall Street Mastermind, a personalized coaching service that helps students break into investment banking. He was formerly a technology investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, and a private equity investor at GI Partners. Over the last three years, he’s worked with approximately 1,100 students over the next six years, who are trying to break into investment banking.
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