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August 11, 2007

Student apartment, London, United Kingdom

So you want to be an Investment Banker…

As this is my first journal entry, perhaps some introductions are in order.

You are no doubt, interested in learning more about student life at MIT Sloan.  Since you could be a prospective, an admitted, or current student, or significant other of any of these, I will try to share experiences that may be interesting for all of these profiles.

I am Christina, a soon to be a second-year student at MIT Sloan.  Prior to coming to MIT Sloan I worked for a total of five years split between case managing fraud prosecutions at the Department of Justice and running development projects as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa.  I came to school with a long-term view to work in entrepreneurial activities in Africa, but a short-term view to gain a solid backing in finance.  I am one of the Presidents of the Finance Club, co-founder of the Africa Business Club and tend to get involved in all sorts of stuff on campus.  As a “total career-changer” (as dubbed by the Career Development Office, “CDO”) my first semester was very career-driven.  This brings me to what I would like to write about today: Recruiting for a Summer Internship.

Pre-Recruiting

Like most things at MIT Sloan the Core, i.e., the first semester, was a barrage of information and opportunities.  I cannot speak for everyone, but securing a summer internship was as important to me as the work for my Core classes.  I knew I wanted to land a summer internship at a top firm in order to “bolster my personal brand,” and get a taste of the “go-getter” lifestyle.  This forced a quick transition from living in a subsistence-farming village to living in the Warehouse and running Monte Carlo simulations for DMD problem sets. 

During the first month of school the CDO and various professional clubs like the Finance Club (great club, by the way), the Management Consulting Club, etc., held a plethora of career panels, discussions, coffee chats, mentoring sessions and even etiquette workshops.  My calendar quickly became double and triple booked with club events, speakers and career prep events.  On October 1st, with one month of B-school and coaching under our belts, we put our game faces on and recruiting season began.

Once recruiting and club activities set in, it was really time to hustle.  There was no need to hustle for a lack of opportunities.  As I mentioned, I came in pretty set on a career in finance, but with so many people excited about their industry and their products, I found myself “checking out” technology product management, management consulting, asset management, and start-up ideas. I hustled because I wanted to make it to Company X coffee chat, Company Y presentation, phone call with rep. from Company Z, etc.  It is almost amusing how sought after we are, before the companies even know us.  Just coming to Sloan is enough for them to want to meet us, apparently.  I guess we have the reputation and performance of the alumni to thank for paving the way.

Like drinking from a fire hydrant … time to FOCUS

At a certain point, most of the people around me hit maximum capacity.  For me it was in the middle of mid-terms, hard-core recruiting and a case competition when I realized that if going to MIT Sloan is really like drinking from a fire hydrant I needed to start controlling the stream a bit better.  I think that the Core is so intense by design.  I forces students to go through this process and figure out for themselves what it worth their time.  It was a very valuable experience to see and experience all the possibilities out there and then choose my own path.  With that said, I am so glad the Core is over!

Fast-forward

Between mid-terms and January it was time to have razor-sharp focus.  I did what is considered to be insane: I continued to recruit for both banking and consulting jobs.  This time is a blur of company visits and executing homework, resumes, cover letters, thank you notes, etc.  In the end, I am very pleased to say that I not only survived the Core unscathed, but also that I got my number one job preference for the summer internship: Investment Banking in London.  Once I accepted the offer in early February the second semester was delightful ☺  It was truly a different world compared to the Core.

Summer Internship

Is the summer internship all I had hoped for?  In fact, it’s better in many ways.  I have been accepted into an industry that was completely closed off to me prior to MIT Sloan.  Yet, at my current job, I get a lot of street cred for the MIT Sloan brand.  My experiences prior to and during the MBA allow me to view the investment banking world through a certain lens.  Though the deals I used to work on in Africa are dwarfed in terms of size, the lessons I learned as still applicable, and the technical skills I gained at MIT Sloan are valuable to this industry.  Do I want to go into investment banking as a career?  Let’s have this discussion after I have an offer in hand ☺

Final Thoughts

I love my friends at school.  I love the fact that we can meet in a pub in London and talk passionately through a SWOT analysis of the iPhone.  I am surrounded by people who are creative thinkers and doers.  This can lead just as easily to some interesting nights out in Boston or in South of France, as to innovative solutions to problems … like how to crack your company’s block on Gmail.  No, I’m kidding.  I would never do that.