Position Yourself to Become an Associate

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Get an MBA - Preferably From a Top School

Isn't it better to emerge from the next few years with a ticket to a more lucrative future? Wall Street recruiters agree that an MBA is a "must have." Check out executive MBA programs - many major universities offer them - where you can learn on weekends and during intense periodic study weeks throughout the year. And do it right. A high GPA opens the most doors.

Is it possible to achieve an associate's rank with an undergraduate degree? Sure, as long as you have a stellar GPA from a top school and are a superstar who can demonstrate out-of-the box thinking, says Cara Myers, a recruiter for Capital Search Group in Boston.

Be a Proactive Thinker

Learning to anticipate how a deal may unfold and responding so that business runs smoothly will distinguish you from the crowd, says Myers. "The person who uses a check off list is not high potential," she says.

Consider Boutique Firms

While the prestige of an analyst position at Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley is alluring, you may find more opportunity - and experience - at second- and third-tier firms, says Matthew Weller, principal with Chicago-based recruiter Brokerage Consultants. And, he notes, 2006 has seen the best investment banking job market since 1999, and boutique firms are looking for talent.

Acquire Front Office Experience

Some of your work should at least touch on front office issues, says Ken April of April International, a New York City recruiting firm. All firms want stars who will increase their bottom line. Showing you have the know-how to increase the revenue stream can set you ahead of the pack.

Learn Global Perspectives

"You must be a man or lady of the world," says April. Investment banks work internationally, 24 hours a day. If you can't grasp how consumer demand in, say, Tokyo, affects the semiconductor industry, you can't recommend whether to buy or sell.

On top of all this, moving up to an associate's position requires passion. "People who rise to the top have a genuine passion for what they're doing," says Myers. "Examine why you're doing this. If you're in banking just because you want to make a lot of money, find another career."

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