For almost a year now, finance recruiting has taken over much of my time at Duke. Although more advanced students warned me about the roller coaster ride of recruiting, I didn’t expect all the twists and turns. During my first year, I had an idea that finance was what I wanted to pursue after getting involved with the Duke Investment Club and Duke Business Society. Unlike some of my peers who realized they wanted do finance by the end of sophomore year, I came into my sophomore year knowing that I would have to be as prepared as possible if I wanted to make it through the competitive process. As a result, recruiting for me started as early as sophomore fall to find junior summer internships in investment banking.
To give you a little background on me, as a sophomore I was still very inexperienced and naive about the entire process, but I distinctly remember networking with Duke alums as early as October. While some of these conversations did not go as expected, it was a great learning experience. I had seldom been in a situation where I was expected to initiate conversation with a stranger for 30 minutes. However, looking back on it, these trials and errors helped me come out of my comfort zone. I started to realize that the dreaded term–networking–is actually a very important life skill to have and even more important in an industry like finance, where the ability to communicate and hold a conversation is crucial.
Sophomore fall was very manageable since my classes were relatively easy and I was just getting my feet wet into the finance recruiting process. My spring semester turned out to be a lot more difficult–I took on leadership roles in both the investment club and business society and my classes were significantly harder. Recruiting was still on my mind, but it wasn’t an immediate priority. Whenever I had some spare time on weekends, I would try and study some of the technical skills that were necessary to succeed in interviews. By the time finals rolled around, some banks were already starting their interview process for junior summer internships.
From the end of sophomore year to October of my junior year, I embarked on the recruiting roller coaster.
First and foremost, I can confidently say it was one of the first times I had truly dealt with failure.
When I was in high school, Duke was the only school I applied to, and so I never faced the stress of getting rejected from colleges. Similarly, when I arrived at Duke, I was accepted into most of the organizations and programs I applied to. But recruiting was different since I was getting rejected from firms that I believed I was qualified for or networked heavily with. Although it was very difficult at first, I learned from my mistakes to better myself. I also learned that you can’t compare yourself to others. Even though it is a natural human tendency, comparing yourself to your peers exacerbates the process of dealing with failure. There were many times throughout the process where my peers would receive interviews or offers from firms that I was getting rejected from or not even hearing back from (even if I had networked strongly). This was very tough because I felt like I was just as qualified. As recruiting progressed, I started to realize that the process is somewhat of a crapshoot and that there are many factors you can’t control. Rather than dwelling on an internship rejection, I learned to move on and continue bettering myself.
Now I can provide a couple of tips that can be helpful for those who are going through the recruiting process.
First, be intentional with the companies you apply to and focus on the quality of your application/networking rather than the quantity. I would also recommend having a tiered approach of reach companies, target companies, and more easily qualified roles. You simply never know from where an opportunity can arise. This is something that I wish I did–during my sophomore year I was under this false mindset (like many Duke students) that I had to get into either Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. As you go through recruiting, you will start to realize that there are many other prestigious financial firms that provide similar experiences and opportunities.
In that same vein, it doesn’t hurt to apply to different types of positions. While it is good to know what you want to do, the reality is that most sophomores in college haven’t done investment banking, sales & trading, consulting, etc. They have read about it and talked to older students about it, but they haven’t actually done the job. Therefore, in my opinion, it is important to apply to different types of roles you may consider interesting. As an example, I pursued investment banking, but I also have an interest in healthcare and biotech. When I first started recruiting, I only applied to investment banking roles and dismissed opportunities to apply elsewhere. This is one of my biggest regrets because I passed up on opportunities that were related to healthcare investment banking or healthcare/biotech consulting. Thus, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be open minded throughout the process.
Lastly, other quick tips that I have is to mock interview with more experienced students (practice makes perfect), be able to craft a compelling story (tell me about yourself), be able to sell yourself, and most importantly be confident and patient throughout the process.
I strongly believe that you should never sell yourself short and should find a role that truly excites you. Regardless of the final outcome, don’t let a summer internship define your Duke experience and path to success.