Preparing for a career in investment banking

Time has flown! I am already feeling nostalgic about my first term at HBS and how I will miss having section (f)un until almost February. The past two months have been hectic. Recruiting kicked off in mid-October and dominated my schedule entirely. However, with the resources and helping hands, I learned to navigate.

To be honest, I was quite sure that I wanted to try out investment banking in New York. My last year at my old job in corporate M&A gave me a taste of investment banking and I was intrigued. However, I had many questions that needed answering before I actually committed. Besides, there were better times to go into banking, or so people say.

The first was checking out my actual possibility of getting a job in the US as a foreigner. Needless to say, Career & Professional Development reached out to the international students to help answer work authorization questions. I was able to run a sanity check during my first career coaching session with a specialist on immigration policies. As expected, banking was one of the embracing sectors in terms of visa support. The coach also tutored me about the HBS career website and gave me an update about work visa immigration laws for international students which was very helpful.

After conducting some ground research, I found out about the importance of “Networking” when you are recruiting for banking. It was a new concept for me. When I was recruiting as an undergraduate in Korea, it was not hard to get an interview if you had a reasonably decent resume. Also, it was relatively rare to cold-call people for informational interviews in Korea. Having almost no experience, I felt nervous. However, I had the greatest resource of all: the   HBSers.

I was amazed by the willingness of people when I asked them to discuss their experiences in banking. My section mates were offering help even before I asked. (SECTION F!!!!) Also, the second years were amazing. I asked for nitty-gritty details about what they did to get an interview, how they liked/disliked it, how many people they talked to, what were their criteria on evaluating a firm to name a few. The majority of people I met were people that I found from searching class cards. I am infinitely grateful for all the people who spared me their precious time.  By the time actual company presentations and networking sessions started, I was able to grasp an idea about what I should do and not do. However, there was another factor that I was not too sure about: the small talk.

Going back to my prior experience, Koreans are not huge fans of small talk. I had just started learning the small talk culture with the start of school but this was a different game. Fortunately, HBS telepathically read my anxiety and held several sessions/lectures on small talk, networking and pitches. Getting the practice at school allowed me to have the confidence to push myself at actual events. Unexpectedly, it even enhanced my level of comfort when I talked to my friends. I was already gaining some fruitful results from recruiting.

Of course, the most fruitful outcome of the recruiting process was making new friends. When you have drinks or dinner with the same people 3-4 times a week, you get to know them very well. These friends have been a great sounding board, in terms of sharing each other’s concerns and giving feedback. I am also very lucky because there is a good troop of people in Section F who are going through what I am going through. After all, it’s always the people that count. Right?

In December, HBSers are going to Wall Street trek to visit the offices of several banks ranging from bulge-bracket firms to boutique firms.  I’ll make sure to give you an up-to-date report this time.

– Sue Kim, MBA 2015

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