Business Insights


Last week, Xuan Liu reached out to me for insights into landing an internship in the private equity or venture capital world. As someone that hires a lot of new grads for several different companies, I always reinforce how important internships are. They can really help you land that first gig right after graduation.

As you can imagine, every MBA or like is seeking these type of internships along with other places like Goldman, other top investment banks and the management consulting companies. Just keep in mind you’re facing infinite competition. With that being said here are some tips that may work in the PE/VC world along with the investment banks, consulting and other large corporations.

  1. Get a well written, compelling pitch letter together. These people are busy so it should be short, to the point yet articulate. Great communication isn’t about how long you can write about something, it is about how short you can write it while getting the message delivered. Focus on what skills make you unique, what skills you have that are relevant to their core focus, how great of a quant you are and even list out some qualitative abilities since some deals end up more about feel than numbers. (but yeah it’s often about the numbers)
  2. Be prepared to work for free. You’re a quant, right? We can argue about how you should be paid blah blah, but the ROI of having that PE or VC on your resume will be far greater than whatever pay you missed out on. If you’re coming out of a top 25 MBA program, with a solid undergrad and GPA you may not have to think about this as your chances of a paid gig is high. But not everyone gets that shot.
  3. Depending on your college, be prepared to relocate for the summer. While you will find some epicenters and clusters of firms, if you’re going to school in the middle of nowhere, you probably don’t have 10 VC’s down the street from you to apply to. And if you have 1 or 2 and plan to bank on those, don’t.
  4. Learn how to use LinkedIn well for your research. Connect so you can contact later, don’t contact someone 2 seconds after they connect. Also, learn how to find email addresses or email address schemes. (this is not hard to do)
  5. Create a list of all friends and family that may give you a warm lead or put in a good word for you somewhere, start here.
  6. Make a list of alum from your school who are in the PE /VC world. This should be step 2, lean on those that fly the same flag, this can go a long way. (I know one CEO that hired 90% of his people from his alma mater)
  7. Do DEEP research all across the country and find every PE and VC firm that makes sense for you to do work at. Don’t be afraid to contact the super small firms, they don’t see as many applicants but could use the summer help more than many of the large firms. You’re going to have to send out a ton of messages, this is a contact sport, the more you contract with a targeted pitch, the better your odds are. Also, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and follow up with a select few.
  8. Apply to online postings, but like anything posted online, it’s going to get pounded with resumes.
  9. Don’t be afraid to snail mail a resume or a handwritten follow-up. Some of our biggest sales came from handwritten notes. Put in the hard work, do things that others won’t and you may gain a slight edge. But don’t be crazy or a stalker, relentless persistence won’t get you far here.
  10. Reaching out on other social networks is fine, such as Twitter. Again, don’t be a stalker.
  11. Search for news about new funds, acquisitions etc and sneak that into your pitch or cover letter. This may give you a slight edge as it shows that are you a decent cybersleuth, that did the research about their firm and took the time to integrate it into the letter. Top firms naturally want the best and brightest, but they also want the highly motivated and ambitious that are great with attention to detail.
  12. Lastly, search for internships outside of PE and VC. In the event you can’t pull it off, I would rather see you land an internship at Boeing than to not have anything at all on your resume. So shoot for your goal but have a backup plan too.