My Story: Enlisted military to PE from undergradPE
I'm reluctant to make this post, because I think a lot of times these things look pretty douchey, and I don't like to toot my own horn, but... I thought this could be helpful to other military veterans lurking out there looking for advice on how to break into the industry. I know I was completely clueless about the finance world when I got out and this website (looking at you Military PE Guy) was a valuable resource for me trying to figure out what I needed to do to break in. I want to help out other vets, so if you have any specific questions, please feel free to PM me.
As the title of the thread suggests, I just accepted a FT offer with a large MM PE firm after interning with them for the summer.
A little about my background: I enlisted after high school. I had a lot of options coming out, I just felt like I needed to serve for a bit with these wars going on (I could never feel good about myself knowing there are people fighting on my behalf; I wanted to do my part); I decided college could wait. I was in a special operations unit - deployed a lot, got to do all the "cool" stuff you think about when people talk about the military, but... it was completely exhausting, had a lot of friends get hurt/killed, and decided I was ready to move on after accomplishing the goals I set out for myself.
I didn't know anything about finance when I got out, I just knew I wanted to study business. I decided to go to a semi-target state school close to my home (didn't even know there were targets, etc... just wanted to be close to my family). I am married, so I had a lot of pressure to get my shit in line to figure out what I was going to do after graduation. I spent the next year learning everything I possibly could about the industries I thought I may be interested in, stumbled across this website, read everything on here, decided I want to do PE, reached out to some people and got good advice. I read, researched, joined student organizations, reached out to other vets in the industry and alumni, made good grades, worked my ass off in and out of school, you name it... and ended up catching a lucky break through a mentor who made a key introduction.
So, here's my advice to military vets who want finance jobs:
1) Be humble and have realistic expectations. Know that what you did in the military was great, and people respect you a lot for it, but at the end of the day, no one is going to give you a job unless they know you possess the skills to excel at it and add value to their firm. Figure out what you are good at, and seek out careers that allow you to use those skills. Try to be as humble as possible - it's great that you were a company commander, but if you can't translate that into something that is tangible for an employer to understand for someone coming into an entry level position, it doesn't matter. Don't be afraid to take a job as analyst. Sure, it's going to suck for a while, and you're back at the bottom of the totem pole, but there are many more opportunities for you to get a job as an analyst (whether it be PE, IB, whatever), than deciding you have to go to B-School immediately and have to be hired as an associate. I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity in PE that I do, but I was 100% ready to go all in to IB and consulting recruiting (or whatever other recruiting I needed to do if I still didn't have a job) -- was hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
2) Research. Read all the books you can get your hands on (the recommended reading on this website are great; I highly recommend Lerner's Venture Capital and Private Equity: A Casebook). Understand the ins and outs of PE firms, LBO's, how they make money, etc... These websites were very helpful resources for me as well: http://macabacus.com/valuation/lbo/overview
3) Network. Don't network just to use people to get a job, but meet people, get to know them, and treat them as an end in and of themselves and not just a means. I have met some great people and have made a lot of friends just by putting myself out there, and it's okay if they don't ever lead to a job. But, the people who I have relationships with know what I am about, what I am interested in, and these relationships are strong; because of the strength of these relationships, people feel confident recommending me when they hear of an opportunity.
Yes, it is possible to move from enlisted military to finance and undergrad to PE, it's just very difficult. Don't let anyone tell you that is is not. Just use it as motivation, put your head down, tighten you ruck straps, and keep moving forward.
Anyway, thanks WSO for the helpful resources and to anyone who gave me advice along the way. Once again, please feel free to pm for any specific questions.