Progress Update

by rubenharris

This is the first of a series of blog posts sharing some of my post graduate experiences.

For those of you that don’t know, I am currently seeking an investment banking analyst position.  

When I made this decision I understood that this was going to be a challenge because it is a competitive industry. To break into this business, recruiters typically look for people with the following:

1. Graduates from target universities (i.e. Ivy league, etc.)

2. High GPA (3.5 and above)

3. Relevant work experience.

4. Ability to multi-task.

5. Strong time management skills.

6. Willingness to work long hours (60 hours+)

7. People who are persuasive, driven, results oriented, and similar qualities.

The biggest challenge is for someone to give you an interview.  Since I recently graduated from a non-target university, I decided to tackle the relevant work experience first…but that was easier said than done.  Since graduation, I have been supporting myself by teaching cello lessons.  Parents who choose to have their children learn to play the cello, often have connections in professional circles.  So I asked around to see if anyone knew of any internship opportunities in finance.  As it turns out, the mother of one of my students asked her husband’s business partner if there were any opportunities with their company in finance.  A few e-mails and phone calls later, I had secured an unpaid internship with a management company that acquires underperforming assisted living facilities with the goal of returning them to profitability.  I am learning a lot and I am thankful to the people who given me a chance to show what I can do.

Getting the interview for the investment banking analyst position has been as challenging as I have anticipated.  I recognize that as an individual from a non-target school that I have to be more resourceful than an individual from a target school.  Target schools have alumni networks with extensive connections in the industry. They also have teachers who have direct ties to the industry.  In addition, recruiters come to target schools and students are sometimes allowed to bypass the resume screening process and go straight to the interview.

Having none of this at my disposal, I decided to do something unconventional.  I located buildings in the Atlanta area with offices for multiple firms in the investment banking industry.  With resume in hand, I went door to door, and floor to floor in pursuit of the elusive interview.  The rationale I had was that seeing me in person gives me an opportunity to exercise my powers of persuasion that I would otherwise not be in a position to utilize.  I wish you could’ve seen the expressions on their faces when it dawned on them that I was not there for the business meeting that was about to get started.  By in large they were kind, and they pointed me in the right direction–the website.

Although I was not able to land an interview, I did find out that SunTrust Robinson Humphrey had a 2 year entry level Investment Banking Analyst program.  I applied on the website and knew that it was going to take more than just an online application to get in.  As anticipated, I was promptly rejected.  I could see that this approach wasn’t working so I needed another strategy.  This time I turned my attention to finding ways of establishing relationships with people in the industry.  First I called my cousin who is a Senior Vice President at Bank of America and asked him if he would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation.  Since I knew there were job opportunities at SunTrust I did a search on LinkedIn.  The first name that name that popped up had a number beside it.  Now, for those of you are unfamiliar with LinkedIn, if you are directly connected with someone it shows up as a one, if you are two degrees it shows a two, and if you are three degrees it shows a three.  This person, a Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking, showed a two.  As it turns out, we happened to be linked through my cousin.  This person also was a graduate from a non-target institution, as was my cousin, and had previously worked as an investment banker at Bank of America.  My cousin introduced me to him, and he expressed a willingness to advise me in my ongoing pursuit of the interview.  

Next I decided to use the advanced search feature of linkedin that allowed me to target analysts, recruiters, and associates in investment banking.  This gave me e-mail access to my target group.  I am amazed at the kind and helpful responses I received from the following simple statement:

“Hi _______,

Thank you for accepting my linkedin network request.  The reason I contacted you is to ask for your guidance on strategies for breaking into the investment banking industry.  I am appreciative for what you have done so far.  I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time. 


Ruben Harris.”

The advice I have received has been invaluable.  As a result of this, in one short week I have had helpful phone conversations and e-mail exchanges with an analyst, associate, and senior vice president from SunTrust.  I have accepted an offer to have lunch next week with the founding and managing partner of a middle market investment banking firm.  Lastly, I am in the process of setting up an introductory phone call with a regional lending manager at Goldman Sachs.  By the way…he also graduated from a non-target university.

I will keep you updated with my progress. Pray for me.

Ruben A. Harris