You’re fascinated by finance and markets, you’re comfortable working with complex figures and complex people and you have some serious career ambitions – you were made for investment banking. So how can you build the experience and contacts to get that all-important foot in the door?
1. Start preparing as soon as you can
If you’re an A-level student or first year undergraduate, and you’re interested and driven enough to consider a career in banking, you should start preparing immediately. Here’s what you can do right now:
- Go to careers fairs and research companies.
- Apply for Springweek programmes (application dates are roughly from July to December in the year you start university).
- Read and form opinions – you should be doing this constantly. Reading The Economist every week, alongside the FT, is a good beginning.
- Start building a contact network. When you talk to people at careers fairs, get their business cards and send a follow-up email. You can go to these people for advice later on.
- Join business and finance related societies at your university.
Spring weeks are week long programmes for first years students, offered by many different financial institutions. They’re designed to give you an introduction to banking roles and help you build contacts in the business.
2. Your Spring Week and/or Summer Internship is key
Around three quarters of investment banking vacancies are filled by someone who’s already worked for the employer. An internship makes you vastly more likely to get hired, so your focus in your second year should be on securing one.
Speak to students who have completed an internship and use your contacts to get advice from current investment bankers. Write your application – and then, if you can, ask someone at the company whether it comes across as outstanding.
3. Make the best use of your contacts
It’s not just about having someone recognise your name when they see your application – though that is important. Every contact you make during your journey to an investment banking career will make the next step easier. If you can get on really good terms with recent graduates who’ve already made it, as well as associates and more experienced bankers, you can ask them for:
- advice on writing your applications for internships and jobs
- advice on how to act at interviews
- opinions on important financial news - use Bright Network's weekly commercial awareness update to stay in the know.
- advice on the area of banking that might suit you best
- recommendations of books and magazines to read
- introductions to other useful contacts
You’re going to have a lot of questions. If you have the right contacts, you’ll always have someone to ask. If you're stuck with your CV, download Bright Network's investment banking CV template.
4. You need passion and opinions
Read widely and constantly (the Financial Times, The Economist and The Banker, to begin with). You should be able to digest (and enjoy digesting!) the material you read, and be able to form your own opinions after considering different sides of a question. If you were asked, right now, what happened to the FTSE yesterday, could you quote the numbers? That’s the kind of off-the-cuff knowledge you’ll need in your interviews.
Use these commercial awareness questions to help you prepare for any questions that might come your way.
5. Extracurriculars are vital, but you should be selective
There’s no point in peppering your application with all the hobbies and interests you have. Everything you include should say something positive about you. A good selection might include:
- a stand-out experience, like cycling across Europe (you’re adventurous)
- a team sport, like touch-rugby (you work well with others)
- something with a business feel, like being treasurer of a society (you’re genuinely interested in finance)
- a respectable hobby, like playing a musical instrument (you’re well-rounded)
6. You should look and act the part
As well as being able to hold an intelligent and informed conversation, you need to be presentable, personable and confident.
- Dress like a professional. Go for understated, not quirky. You want to make an impression with your words, not your clothes.
- Use confident body language – sit straight, make eye-contact, and avoid crossing your arms. Projecting confidence takes practice, so join in debating societies and push yourself out of your comfort zone, for example white water rafting or working abroad.
- Use the lingo - but only if you know how to use it! It’s key you understand these terms so you can discuss current economic affairs and spend your internships impressing your boss. Luckily, we’ve compiled some common terms and lingo to get you started.
- Smile, and aim to make a personal connection with your interviewer.
- Don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two (though always in good taste).
- Be authentic. If you don’t know something, say so – though if you’ve done your reading, there shouldn’t be many things you don’t know.
Dive into the latest investment banking graduate schemes using our application deadline list to get started.