Wall Street Mastermind

Can Non-target Students Break Into Investment Banking? REAL TALK + ADVICE

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Sam Shiah

July 4, 2024

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Busting the Myth: Non-Target to Investment Banking

Contrary to popular belief, you can absolutely break into investment banking even if you go to a non-target school.

So why does everyone around you seem to think that it’s impossible? I will dive into that in a second.

Speaking from personal experience, I know for a fact that it is absolutely possible for non-target school students to break into investment banking.

I say this with total conviction because I personally know hundreds of non-target school students who have broken into investment banking – and not just at no-name firms that you’ve never heard of, but even at tier 1 bulge bracket and elite boutique investment banks.

So in this newsletter, I’m going to help you tune out all of the noise and self doubt that you are probably currently experiencing.

If you’re feeling a lack of confidence right now, this newsletter is for you.

If you’ve been told by everyone that you are not going to make it, this newsletter is for you.

Or even if you’ve already tried a bunch of stuff to break in on your own, and all you’ve gotten is one rejection after another, this newsletter will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

If you take what I’m about to say in this newsletter to heart, I will help you remove all the mental trash and install a new winner’s mentality – the same type that we see in every single one of our non-target school students who successfully break into investment banking.

Statistical Proof: Non-Target Success Rates

You might find this surprising, but 35% of our successful students actually come from non-target schools.

And another 20% of our successful students come from semi-target schools.

This means that over half of our successful students didn’t come from target schools.

Not only that, but if you look at the offers our students have gotten from the top 50 investment banks on Wall Street – almost 30% of the elite boutique offers went to students who didn’t attend target schools.

At bulge bracket banks, that number increases to 56%.

And at middle market banks, that number increases to 66%.

This is based on a very large and statistically significant sample size collected over multiple recruiting cycles, so trust me when I say – you’re going to want to hear the advice I’m about to give you in the rest of this newsletter.

Five Key Strategies for Non-Target Candidates

I’m going to give you my 5 best pieces of advice to break into investment banking as a non-target school student.

This is the stuff that nobody tells you about, but is the secret sauce that separates the non-target school students who believe, from the non-target school students who have no confidence and give up before they even try.

I’m going to give you 5 perspectives that you’ve most likely never thought about before, and it’s going to change how you look at this challenge that’s in front of you.

Of course, if after this newsletter you want some more advice on the more tactical aspects of breaking into investment banking as a non-target student, don’t worry I’ve got you covered for that as well.

Read until the end of this newsletter, and I’ll show you where you can find the top 5 things you need to actually DO as a non-target student to level the playing field and beat out your competition who attend much more prestigious target schools.

Because without understanding the things I’m about to talk about in this newsletter first, none of the tactical stuff is going to help you anyway.

With that said, let’s dive into it.

Challenging the Status Quo: Beyond Target School Narratives

The first thing you need to understand is: why are there so many people out there who try to tell you that if you go to a non-target school, you can pretty much forget about investment banking?

Honestly speaking, I think most of the time, these people are not being malicious when they say this.

They’re simply telling you their version of the truth.

As in they don’t personally know anyone around them who has broken into investment banking from a non-target school, so that shapes their world view.

Either 1) they went to a target school, and everyone around them who breaks into investment banking is from the same target school they went to, or 2) they went to a non-target school, and nobody around them has gotten into investment banking.

But just because they’re not lying about what they know to be true, doesn’t mean that it has to be your truth.

In fact, this is why it’s super important to find ways to surround yourself with other non-target students who have successfully broken in.

The non-target school students inside of our Wall Street Mastermind community don’t usually have a lack of belief, because they see all the other non-target school students around them who are successfully getting offers.

But even if you can’t join a community like Wall Street Mastermind, you can go and find evidence of non-target school students who have succeeded, to give yourself that same belief.

For example, you can watch the case studies of all the non-target students who have broken into investment banking, which I will link to below this newsletter.

It’s funny how the human mind works.

We typically need to see that something is possible before we can achieve it ourselves.

This is why for the longest time, no-one could run a 4-minute mile.

But as soon as one person ran a mile in under 4 minutes, suddenly a bunch of athletes started doing the same.

OK now that you know it’s possible, I’m going to keep it real with you.

Expectations vs. Reality: Preparing for the Challenge

The second thing to keep in mind is that you should expect it to be hard.

But wait Sam, I thought you just told me that I can absolutely break in as a non-target student?

Yea, I did say that.

But I didn’t say it was going to be easy.

In fact, you should embrace the fact that it is hard.

Because every time you feel like what you’re doing is hard, remind yourself that this is exactly why you’re going to win.

Because most of your competition is not going to be willing to do the hard things.

But you are willing to do it.

That’s what’s going to set you apart.

Because you want to be exceptional.

You want to work in a job that’s going to make you a top 1% earner in the entire country.

You want the exceptional pay where you’re going to make 3-4x what your buddies make right out of college.

You want the exceptional prestige that comes with working at a top investment bank.

You want the exceptional exit opportunities.

Exceptional people do exceptional things – which is also another way of saying exceptional people are willing to do the hard things that ordinary people are not willing to do.

That’s why they deserve to get exceptional outcomes.

Otherwise, if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it already.

And it wouldn’t be exceptional anymore.

Plus, managing your expectations is important, because when people give up prematurely on something, it’s usually because they had the wrong expectations.

Think about it – if you attempt something that turns out to be much harder than you expected, you’re a lot more likely to give up.

But if you went into something with the expectation that it’s going to be extremely hard, and it turns out that it wasn’t as bad as you thought – you would be much more likely to keep pushing forward, right?

You are coming from a non-target school.

You ARE at a disadvantage.

You WILL have to outwork your competition who go to target schools.

And even when you do, you ARE probably going to experience multiple rejections along the way.

At times, it’s going to feel unfair that the target school students are getting offers so much more easily than you are.

But hey – life’s not fair, and nobody is going to feel sorry for you if you think it’s unfair.

So expect it, suck it up, and understand that every “no” that you hear is just one step closer to the “yes” that you’ve been waiting for.

And you really only need to hear “yes” from one firm.

Or, if you have a question about anything I’m saying, feel free to drop a comment below and I will try my best to get back to every single one of you.

Know Your Why: The Drive Behind Your Goals

OK next, the third piece of advice I want to give you is to know your why.

Truly sit down and think about why it’s important for you to break into investment banking.

You want to make a lot of money? But why is that important to you?

You care a lot about having a prestigious job? But why is that important to you?

You want to have the best exit opportunities? But why is that important to you?

If your “why” is strong enough, that’s what’s going to make it worth it for you to keep pushing through when the times get tough.

If your “why” is weak, you will probably give up at the first sign of trouble.

Whatever your answer is, you should understand that your career is one of the most consequential things that will affect the rest of your life.

As someone who’s almost 40 years old, I’ve probably lived twice as long as most of you who are currently reading this newsletter.

I can tell you right now that you only need 3 things to live a truly happy and fulfilling life:

You need to have good health, because without health you really don’t have anything.

You need to have good relationships with the people who are closest to you, that you truly care about, and

You need to have a good career where you’re doing fulfilling work, and you’re making good money to be able to provide the quality of life that you and your loved ones want to have, and you have an identity that you can be proud of, because let’s be honest – so much of our identity is associated with what we do for work.

This is why one of the first questions a stranger will always ask you when they first meet you is “what do you do for work?”

And the thing is – all three of these things affect each other, and it’s very hard to be doing poorly in one area yet simultaneously thriving in the other two areas.

It almost never happens.

So if you truly understand how important your career is, then ask yourself – is it worth putting in the hard work to overcome whatever obstacles that may be standing in your way?

Regret Nothing: The Power of Persistence

And this leads me to my fourth piece of advice, which is that nobody has every regretted trying and failing, but people only ever regret not trying at all.

Zoom out for a second and pretend you’re asking the 85-year old version of yourself for advice.

What do you think you’re more likely to regret?

Not even attempting to achieve a goal that you once had, because you were scared of failing?

Or having attempted it and given it your all and still failed?

Every athlete will tell you – if they truly know they’ve left it all out there on the field, they have no regrets even if they lose the game.

Changing Perspectives: Replace ‘Can’t’ with ‘How Can I?

And now for my fifth and final piece of advice, which is to remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary, and instead learn to ask “how can I?”

It’s a simple shift, really.

But if you constantly use the word “can’t” – you are letting your self-limiting beliefs stop you from living up to your fullest potential.

Every time you tell yourself you “can’t” do something – ask yourself if someone else in the world has done what you’re trying to do, with similar or perhaps even worse circumstances?

For example, has there been anyone who has gotten into investment banking from an even worse school than the one you currently go to?

Of course, the answer is yes.

So if that person did it, why can’t you?

Well, it’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you haven’t figured out HOW yet.

Unlocking Your Potential

Hopefully after reading this newsletter, you now have the conviction to tune out the haters and keep pushing forward in pursuit of your dreams.

If you want to be our next non-target success story, like the hundreds of other non-target students that have come before you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

And as always – remember – Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and nothing is more important than your future.

Keep Grinding!

Need help navigating through this process?

If you’re someone who’s struggled to break into investment banking on your own but you’re still holding out hope, I hope I gave you more clarity on some of the different paths you might want to consider.

If you ever need help navigating through this complicated process — please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team here: wallstmastermind.com/apply

Wall Street Mastermind, Banking on Success Event NYC 2023

About me

As a former Morgan Stanley banker, my mission through starting Wall Street Mastermind—the original and premier Wall Street coaching program since 2018—is to help our students secure the highest-paying, most prestigious jobs on Wall Street.

Connect with me

📍Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/samshiah/

📍Youtube www.youtube.com/@SamShiahTalksFinance/

📍Instagram www.instagram.com/wallstreetmastermind/

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