Navigating to an Investment Banking Job

People gravitate to investment banking jobs from all sorts of backgrounds, and not just the traditional undergrad B-school internship approach. The Financial Times recently profiled an ambitious naval officer who wanted to make the journey into investment banking.

Mind you, besides from spending five years at sea, this candidate had solid financial experience as an accountant for the ship’s personnel and preparing audits for customs and immigration. He was an economics undergrad, had a summer banking internship under his belt, and is finishing up an MBA at Southampton Solent University in the UK.

Career coach Zena Everett noted that while he has a lot of good things in his background, he needs to be more focused on his target – exactly where he wants to end up. What type of job and where. She points out that the job market today is hungry for specialists. Today’s job market is about “seeing where the skills gap lies (in an organization or market) and establishing yourself as an expert who can fill that gap.”

Thus, this candidate should carefully and precisely identify his target position, decide on an angle, then tailor his resume and online profiles to support that angle. He must answer the key question: why is your background better and different from other MBAs or CFAs?

Chris Jackson of Royal Bank of Scotland’s global banking and graduate recruitment division had more suggestions. The time in the navy clearly demonstrates international experience and the ability to work as part of a team. Jackson suggested that this candidate aim for roles as an analyst in corporate finance or equity or debt capital markets or a client-facing role in sales.

But since he’s not exactly sporting an MBA from a “name brand” university, he’ll have to show more flexibility in his job hunt. He can’t expect to be invited in through the normal channels. The key will be networking, finding someone in a bank and finding a way to convince executives at the bank that he can do the job. He may have to get a foot in the door of an investment bank through a more junior level position. Or work for a smaller, boutique bank. Overall, the advice was to take a longer-term, stepping stone approach to getting into investment banking.

What’s the most unusual career path you’ve ever heard of or encountered for an investment banker? Add your comments below.

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