Type of Project: Internship/Career Enhancement
For my STEP signature project, I had the opportunity to embark on a multi-day networking trip to the financial district of New York City. As a member of the prestigious Fisher Futures Investment Banking Program, I got to visit several esteemed investment banks in order to meet and network with Fisher alumni in the industry to better my chances of securing an investment banking internship following my junior year. I also got to see the city in my off-time, a city I have never been to.
It never hit me just how imperative networking is in finance. Luckily, the fact that I spent three days in New York to do just that truly entrenched my mind with the importance of networking in addition to the number of other soft skills. Ohio State is a non-target school for investment banking. However, to listen to some of our most accomplished alumni speak to us about their transition from a lesser finance institution such as Ohio State into the world of investment banking was sincerely inspiring. My experience in New York gave me affirmation that Ohio State does actually produce successful finance professionals and that there is hope for me too. But, the underlying motif of each bank visit was that one must be willing to work hard and take advantage of every door that is open. I am at a distinct disadvantage in the investment banking sector coming from a school like Ohio State. And to compensate for being a non-target, it is up to me to get out what I put into my preparation. With each bank we visited as part of my STEP project, this requisite of intense work and networking became more and more ingrained into my mind. If you want to make it in investment banking, you must be willing to work for it and be open to putting yourself out there. Preparation and networking lie at the foundation of success in the investment banking industry, and I feel that I definitely got whipped into shape throughout the duration of my STEP signature project.
Throughout my STEP project, I had the chance to connect with several incredibly accomplished individuals in the investment banking industry. Our Fisher Futures class got to engage in free discourse with these individuals in an informal and stimulating environment. One event in particular that was quite formidable to my professional development was an alumni dinner at a restaurant within the Empire State Building. The alumni present were of a spectrum of ages across a myriad of professions within the financial sector. I specifically remember two distinct conversations I had with exceptionally successful investment bankers: one an Associate at J.P. Morgan and the other a Managing Director at Evercore. When I inquired as to why we were not able to visit J.P. Morgan, this Associate articulated that he did in fact ask human resources and staff within the investment banking division to host us for an hour. But his co-workers at JPM responded by laughing in his face because Ohio State is a non-target school. My second conversation started with me asking if with enough preparation and networking, I would be able to land an interview at one of Evercore’s shops on the West Coast. This Managing Director responded with a blatant ‘no’, asserting that I would not even be able to get an interview because I am from Ohio State.
Now, there are two ways to handle these rejections and rather rash responses. One either becomes burdened with defeat, with utter hopelessness. Or one can utilize the adversity as a trigger for motivation, as a chip on the shoulder. Though some elements of the former reaction surfaced, I feel as though those feelings were temporary and able to be suppressed. However, it was the latter option that I adopted in the long haul. These provocative dialogues gave me the motivation I needed to push myself in the investment banking recruiting process. Adversity tends to push people to become the best versions of themselves. And I feel as though this adversity being from Ohio State is a double-edged sword in every sense of the word. While being non-target is wholly a blemish on the resume, bankers often find that individuals hailing from non-target schools possess a greater sense of drive and motivation than individuals from target schools. My STEP signature project taught me that in order to succeed, I must enforce rigorous preparation plans and undergo extensive technical training to better my chances of breaking into the investment banking industry. Networking and preparation is everything. The industry professionals I had the opportunity to interact with on my STEP signature project furnished that mindset within me. All in all, my experience was quite effective in perpetuating my drive to succeed, and I have STEP to thank for providing me with the opportunity to embark on this project.
In addition to our alumni event, I spent most of the remaining time during the days in New York visiting several of Wall Street’s elite investment banks. Typically, when we visited these banks, we would be able to ask questions to a panel of employees who graduated from Ohio State. Yet time and time again, with each bank we visited, there would only be one or two investment bankers who graduated from Ohio State, and the rest of the panel consisted of other lowly finance positions. For example, at Goldman Sachs, there was not a single banker from Ohio State. This lack of Buckeye presence in the financial industry is substantial, truly sparking an eye-opening adventure in New York. These visits really made me cognizant of how important it is to connect with individuals on a personal level. Most of my life, I adopted the mindset that I can do everything by myself. But in reality, in order to succeed, I need the help of other people because I can only do so much on my own. All these panelists were able to channel the help of other people in order to get to where they are today. Networking is everything. And up until my STEP signature project, I had no idea just how crucial that networking and preparation is.
Networking and preparation are the foundation of success in the investment banking industry. One’s entire career is set into motion with the junior year internship. And in order to get that internship, networking and preparation are critical. By being able to take part in this incredible networking event, I was able to realize the extent to which networking can make or break careers. I want to utilize my experience in New York as a springboard to propel my career efforts thanks to this newfound drive and motivation. This mindset will be the driving force behind the success I stumble upon down the road. This change was predicated on the unique experiences I had connecting with individuals in the investment banking industry. Thanks to STEP, I was given the opportunity to truly set into motion my plans for the future. Networking and interview preparation are the first domino that needs to fall. And I am now well on my way to making that happen and achieving the success in finance industry I so desire.