Founder and Head Instructor at Wall Street Mastermind
If you’re like most of my readers, you’re an ambitious college or MBA student with a super competitive type-A personality. You want to become an investment banker after you graduate, for some or all of the following reasons:
- You believe working on industry-transforming, multi-million dollar deals with other really smart people, despite your age and lack of experience, is the best way to learn the most in the shortest amount of time
- You are drawn to the ability to make a six-figures salary straight out of school, because let’s be real, who doesn’t need help paying down those student loans?
- You are actually not sure exactly what you want to do long-term yet, so while you try and figure it out, you just want a job with the most flexible and best exit opportunities later on
Regardless of your motivations, ultimately what you care about is having a successful, fulfilling, and happy life. One where you have a career you can be proud of. One where you don’t need to worry about money ever again (sure, money alone doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, but it sure makes it a hell of a lot easier). One where you can provide for the people around you, and share in experiences with them that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
But there are some hurdles along the way, aren’t there?
You want to live out this vision of your life, but so does everyone else. They say nothing good comes easy, and although investment banking can help you accomplish all of these things (it has for me), it is one of the hardest fields to break into upon graduation.
The acceptance rate at bulge bracket investment banks is ~1% or less depending on the bank. Do you know what that’s comparable to? Becoming a professional athlete in the two most popular sports today. Check out these statistics from 2017:
- 1.2% of the draft-eligible NCAA men’s basketball players made it into the NBA
- 1.6% of the draft-eligible NCAA football players made it into the NFL
To stand out from the hundreds of thousands of applicants each year, you would ideally have gone to an Ivy League school, maintained a GPA of 3.7 or higher, worked at multiple impressive finance internships, and served as the president of your student organization on campus, right? No big deal.
Oh you have all of those boxes checked on paper already? Don’t forget you also need to be a sociable person who’s good at networking, while being a finance geek who knows financial statements and valuation methodologies like the back of your hand (a sociable geek… seems oxymoronic). And lastly, you need to know how to demonstrate all of this in an interview setting. Do you know how to crush interviews? How many job interviews have you had to date?
I know how you’re feeling right now. Because I’ve been through the struggle.
Stressed. Overwhelmed. In over your head. You know where you want to get to, but you’re not sure where to start. That was me back in 2007, as I tried to recruit for my investment banking summer internship. I definitely didn’t have all the boxes checked. My GPA was average at 3.5. I had done an unpaid internship but didn’t really get any real responsibilities (I still remember stuffing envelopes on that job, literally). I didn’t know how to schmooze at networking events. And I was horrible at interviewing (true story: I once fell asleep watching the recording of my own mock interview).
Luckily for me, getting into investment banking was a lot less competitive back then. Despite all of my shortcomings, I was still able to land a handful of interviews with bulge bracket banks on campus thanks to my nicely formatted resume. Acing the interview itself was a whole other story, however…
I still remember the Goldman Sachs interview when the interviewer asked me straightforward behavioral questions like “Tell me about a time when you worked in a team.” I couldn’t give any good examples off the top of my head, so I tried to BS my way through it while sweating bullets. It was clear as day to the interviewer that I was pulling things out of my @$$.
Then a day later during the Morgan Stanley interview, the interviewer had a stern poker face the entire time, and I got intimidated into thinking he not only hated all of my answers, but he hated me as a person. I got frazzled and folded under pressure. Not a good trait to exhibit when you’re trying to get a job in such an intense environment.
The worst was the couple of interviews with other banks that seemed to go well. I couldn’t even figure out what I did wrong, but I still got rejected. I will never forget the feeling of picking up my phone anytime a New York area code showed up, anxiously anticipating the verdict as human resources’ voice came through the phone. Every call started with some variation of “while we were very impressed with your qualifications, we had an extremely strong candidate pool this year…”
The first couple of times, my heart sank. The next couple of times, I began expecting the rejections, and I almost didn’t even feel the disappointment anymore. I was numb to it.
Fortunately, it came down to the last firm I interviewed with. Perhaps I got a little bit better from messing up all of my previous interviews. Or perhaps all of the best candidates at my school had already accepted offers with the Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley’s of the world. But somehow, I got in with Bear Stearns. I didn’t care that it wasn’t the “top” or “most prestigious” bank. At least I got one. I was in.
But it got worse...I hit rock bottom.
For those of you who are familiar with Wall Street history, you know the story doesn’t end there. Halfway through my internship, two of Bear Stearns’ hedge funds collapsed. This was the start of the 2008 financial crisis. Bear Stearns’ stock price had reached an all time high of $170 in early 2007. By March 2008, Bear Stearns had agreed to sell itself to JP Morgan for just $2 a share. Needless to say, coming out of that summer internship, I did not have a full-time offer to return to upon graduation.
This put me in the precarious situation of having to recruit for a full-time offer during the worst job market on Wall Street in the last couple of decades. There were very few jobs available, and all the investment banks had filled most of their openings with their own summer interns already. For the first time in my life, I felt like I wasn’t going to get something I’ve set my heart to. The only silver lining was that on paper, I had a summer internship from Bear Stearns under my belt, so I was still able to get full-time interviews with over 20 investment banks. I loosened my criteria and decided to talk to banks of all sizes, as opposed to just bulge bracket firms. This was my last chance, and I knew I couldn’t waste the opportunities.
It’s not whether you get knocked down… It’s whether you get back up.
Well, it wasn’t easy convincing investment bankers to hire me when I didn’t have a returning offer. Although everyone knew about Bear Stearns’ hedge funds collapsing, the firm hadn’t sold itself to JPMorgan yet at the time. My interviewers had no way to determine if I was really a victim of circumstances, or if I just wasn’t a very good intern. When there are so many qualified candidates available, why gamble on someone who has a potential red flag?
So the odds were stacked against me. It meant I had to really knock it out of the park, and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was the best candidate. Realizing the bar was going to be higher for me was the turning point. We’ve all heard the saying:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I realized I couldn’t simply keep preparing the way I’d been preparing. I needed a mentor who could tell me what was holding me back. Someone who has been through the process with great success, and could perform a comprehensive review of my candidacy. There were a lot of things I needed help with if I wanted to beat out my competition. Many of the other students I knew who had done well during recruiting had mentors helping them.
Luckily for me, I found such a mentor, and he helped me overcome the odds.
He was an alumnus of my school who had broken into investment banking successfully and worked his way up to become a vice president in his bank. He ended up teaching me his system, which he named the “PRINCE System”. PRINCE stands for:
- Professional Experiences
- Resume/Cover Letter
- Interviewing Skills
- Networking Skills
- Case Experience
- Extracurricular Activities
According to him, these were the six areas I had to master if I wanted to become an investment banker. And with his help, I significantly improved all six areas, and more importantly learned how to tie it all together into one coherent story.
And the rest is history.
Thanks to my mentor’s guidance, I ended up:
- Securing the only offer available that year in Deutsche Bank’s technology investment banking group
- Becoming the top analyst in my class with the highest bonus at the end of my 1st year
- Leaving Deutsche after my 1st year to join Morgan Stanley’s technology investment banking group, where I worked two more years for one of the top groups on Wall Street
- Becoming an integral member of Morgan Stanley’s on-campus recruiting team, helping identify and hire the best college students
- Working on 13 deals worth $7Bn in transaction value during my investment banking career
- Leaving investment banking and joining a midmarket private equity firm focused on asset backed industries. While there, I focused on the technology and telecom space, and helped manage the fund’s largest investment. Right before I left, I helped the firm sell this investment to IBM for $2Bn
After private equity, I left Wall Street to find something new in Silicon Valley. Since then, I’ve worked at multiple high-growth VC-backed startups running their Strategic Finance teams. In this role, I’ve used the skillset I learned in banking and private equity to help these businesses scale, helping them collectively raise close to $500m of capital during that time. I can honestly say that all of these awesome opportunities I’ve had in my career so far would not have been possible had I not started out my career in investment banking.
Now, I would like to pay it forward and help you do the same.
I created Wall Street Mastermind to provide the type of community and mentorship that I wish had been more easily accessible back when I was recruiting for investment banking. I help motivated students like you demystify the recruiting process, avoid the mistakes I made, prepare the right way, and master the PRINCE System yourself so that you can confidently put your best foot forward.
I believe that finding happiness in life comes down to three things: 1) having good health, 2) having great relationships, and 3) finding success in your career. While my mission is to help you with that third aspect, I do believe these three things are all interrelated.
Having a good career will enable you to have better relationships with your loved ones at home as it removes a common source of stress. You will especially understand this if you grew up in a family without a lot of money. Additionally, having financial wealth will afford you both the necessities (i.e. healthy food, quality healthcare) and luxuries (i.e. sports and hobbies, travels) to maintain your health, both physically and mentally.
Once we launch your career in investment banking, you will be set up financially for years to come. More importantly, starting out in investment banking will open up so many doors for your career, some of which you may not even be aware of today. I know this because I experienced it first-hand myself.
Why should you work with me?
Earlier, I compared your chances of getting an investment banking job to a college athlete’s chances of going pro. Every single one of these players that made it to the pantheon of their sport not only had to be extremely gifted, but they also had to be coached by the best coaches at the top programs in the country. They had to hire private trainers that helped them develop their strength and conditioning, their explosiveness, their speed and agility.
Investment banking recruiting is no different. You need to craft the perfect resume and cover letter. You need to know how to present yourself so that you look the part. You need to be good at schmoozing and networking. You need to know how to tell your story. You need to follow the markets. You need to know accounting and finance. These are all different skillsets that you need to hone and develop. To be one of the best in the world at anything, you need every little edge you can possibly get. If you’re not getting coached on these things, your competition definitely is. Who do you think has a better shot at becoming the top 1%?
Through my unique, one-of-a-kind personal coaching service, I help you with everything listed above. There is no other service out there that is as comprehensive, or offers as much hands-on guidance from start to finish. Every day, I see more students choose to invest in their future. As a group, we work together to help each other succeed. I hope you’ll join our Wolfpack.
Check Out These Testimonial Highlights
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“Whereas the guides online were generic forums that catered to a broad audience, Sam was able to offer helpful perspective that were tailored to my interests and background.” – Daniel K., received summer internship and full-time offer from JPMorgan. Currently working at a growth equity fund with $2.7Bn raised to date.
“I had actually used a different mentoring service prior to Sam but was not getting the help I needed. After working with Sam, the experience was night and day…” – Erica P., received summer internship and full-time offer from Barclays Capital. Currently working at an “unicorn” startup with $9Bn+ valuation.
“If you are going to pay money to work with a mentor, you should only work with the best, and I would highly recommend Sam. He really showed me the ropes and has a genuine passion for helping others, and his committed approach of working with you over the long term is something that is truly unique which I haven’t seen others offer.” – Steven O., received full-time offer from Wells Fargo.
“I found some interview guides out there that had over 200+ questions, which was very overwhelming as I just didn’t have the time to learn it all. Sam was very good at distilling everything down to the core basics… Going through last-minute mock interviews with him helped me anticipate many of the questions I ended up getting during my actual interviews, and I was able to breeze through my interviews confidently.” – Aaron R., received a full-time offer at UBS. Currently working at an “unicorn” startup with $12Bn+ valuation.
Now the ball is in your court.
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Yes, I believe you can break into investment banking, have a successful career, and live a life with less financial stress, and more personal happiness. Even if you don’t check all the boxes of a typical candidate, because you don’t go to a top school, don’t have a perfect GPA, or don’t have a finance background – with enough advanced planning, lots of hard work, the right mindset, and most importantly a coach who understands the game to mentor you, you too can make it.
Shall We Get Started?