For many reasons, people want to know how to become an investment banker. Made famous by Michael Douglas, who portrayed Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” investment bankers have a reputation as freewheeling, powerful, cocky, high-earning personas. While some investment bankers do indeed have these traits, there are others who buck the trends. No matter your personality, read below and learn how to become an investment banker.
- Have a desire to succeed. If there is one thing investment bankers do have in common, it is an unfailing desire to succeed. Drive, passion and commitment must be there to compete on Wall Street with the best. Examine your inner workings to determine if you have the desire you need.
- Work hard. Depending on your background, it will take varying amounts of time to become an investment banker. Whatever the necessary time commitment, however, be aware that you will need to work hard. Acquiring the requisite skills, networking at the appropriate banks and interning for your desired position will take a steady work ethic to build the reputation you need.
- Get an MBA from a well-known institution. On today’s Wall Street, competition for investment banking jobs is fierce. All of the major investment banks have varying recruitment guidelines, but they all have one thing in common: all major investment banks recruit at well-known MBA programs. Some of these include Harvard, Wharton, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Cornell and Stanford, among others. The first step to becoming an investment banker is to get into one of these full-time programs and earn an MBA.
- Know your finance. While going through the course of study at a highly-ranked MBA program, focus on all the finance classes available. Investment bankers deal with high finance every day, and an intimate knowledge of the financial world and financial products is a prerequisite.
- Network with all of the major and minor investment banks. Becoming an investment banker is not as easy as simply applying for an investment banking job, submitting your resume, and waiting for the call. Because competition for these jobs is so fierce, steady networking is required in order to secure an interview. At a full-time MBA program, this networking begins in the fall of the first year of study. If you are in an MBA program where investment banks regularly come to recruit, the investment banks will visit in the fall. Make it a point to meet every banker you can, and prepare to follow up with them for the next year or two. Investment banking is not just about what you know, it is also about who you know.
- Do an internship during the summer. To become an investment banker, you will need to do a summer internship at one of the banks. As mentioned above, most interns are plucked from high-ranking MBA programs; most full-time investment banking employees are taken from the summer intern class. As a bonus, all summer interns are paid, usually at a rate equivalent to what a full-time first year employee is paid.
- Ruthlessly pursue a full-time career. If you do not get a summer internship, all is not lost. Tenacity shows a drive and commitment investment banks like to see in their employees. Continue to make contacts and follow up with them. Ask for an interview with bankers as well as the human resources departments at the investment banks. If you are told no, keep on trying; eventually a door may open up.
Becoming an investment banker is a long, difficult process. The rewards are lucrative, with a promise of a career filled with money and prestige. Along with the money, however, comes nearly insufferable work conditions; regular 100-hour work weeks are not uncommon. A strong desire and hard work will propel you to success as an investment banker.