7 Steps to Get into Wall Street as a Woman
If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, you’re probably wondering if the world of finance is still like that. Men with high testosterone, table-service at the night-club, even the ugly pin-stripe suits. As someone who left the world of high finance: it’s a yes to all of those. Women are highly under-represented in Wall Street. Women only account for 19% of the CFA Institute’s members; 10% of fund managers are women; and women represent less than 17% of senior leaders at investment banks. (CNBC). These numbers are staggering, but if you’re like me and determined to break into the industry, here are some tips:
If you’re in college, breaking into Wall Street starts at getting an internship, but counter-intuitively, you need to have an internship before you get THE internship. The most important internship is your junior-year summer internship. If you’re remotely thinking about Wall Street, start early and build-up your resume. Look for local finance internships in your city. It doesn’t need to be investment banking or investing specific, it can be a finance job at a small local company. Just show that you’re interested in finance.
Do a LOT of research. You’ll need to understand the difference between investment banking product groups vs. coverage groups as well as understand sales & trading vs. research. There are so many different career paths in Wall Street and finance that you must know the nuances. Check out blogs such as www.wallstreetoasis.com they’ll be your one-stop shop to understand the industry.
Once you pick out a career path, understand the recruiting timelines. Each year these banks change their timelines. For example, when I was recruiting for junior year internships, my applications were due in November with interviews in December prior to the June start-date of my junior year. Now, junior year internship interviews take place in May of your sophomore year! It’s crazy! Know your timelines so you can prep now.
3) Be Prepared
Quite frankly, a lot of students who recruit for these finance jobs come from families where they’ve grown around investment banking since they were born. However, if you’re like me, I didn’t learn about investment banking until I went to college. You have to catch-up to understand the in’s and out’s of the industry. Do the research on the culture, the work, the lifestyle: everything. Read the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times daily. Understand finance as much as you can. You have to be prepared to know anything and everything because if John has a grandfather at the bank, you have to prove that you’re five-hundred times better than John.
Once you feel that you know the industry and know what you want to do, time to network. Network and meet anyone and everyone. If your school has an alumni network to tap into, utilize them first and foremost. You may be able to find plenty of alumni who work in the industry and are more than willing to help. If you’re like me who went to a school that doesn’t have many alumni, LinkedIn will be your best friend. Cold message as many people as you can. Send them a kind note explaining who you are and what you want to do. Ask them for 15 minutes of their time so you can learn more about the industry. Pro-tip: you’ll get a better response-rate if you ask more junior people not managing directors. If they don’t respond, don’t be discouraged. Keep messaging people until they do.
5) Be confident
Once you meet them, be confident. It’s a fine line between showing what you know and being cocky. Being on the other-side, many bankers get annoyed when they meet a precocious 19-year-old who thinks they know everything about finance. Be humble but be confident. Make sure it’s clear you did research. Don’t ask questions like, “what’s your day-to-day like?” Instead, ask questions like, “I know your day is busy, but what percent of your day is spent on modeling vs. pitch decks vs. deals?” This would show that you’ve done your research but you’re still curious what they do with their day.
More likely-than-not, your first meeting will be “informational.” This means that you met to learn about their career, which many professionals do frequently. Now, your job is to make sure you keep up the relationship. Think of it as a first date – if you thought the first date was good, you would follow-up and ask for another date to get to know each other. Same for networking. If you felt that the informational interview went well, ask if you can reach out for more questions. Then make sure you do follow-up with questions or just give them an update on your life. Networking takes a lot of practice and isn’t easy. You just need one person who will vouch for you and flag your resume during applications so you can get an interview.
7) Be Yourself:
Once you get in the door for an interview, my most important tip is to be yourself. Far too often women feel that they need to pretend to be someone else. Whether it be act more tough like a guy or try to seem like they have the pedigree background. I remember feeling incredibly intimidated as a woman of color and from a non-Ivy League background. As my mentors have told me afterwards, they took a chance on me because I was hungry and willing to work hard, but humble as well. When you step into the interview, be prepared, be confident, and be yourself.
What other questions do you have about getting into Wall Street?
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