From an almost college dropout to IB associate

Its a slow day for me, so I figured I would take some time to share my story. I hope that at the very least, some of you will find it interesting. For others, I hope it shows that career progression is not linear, and crazy things can happen with patience and luck.  

Just over three years ago I created a post on WSO asking for advice. I had been unemployed for 11 months, and the only job offers I had were underwriting surety bonds for an insurance company, or working at a glorified call center. But, at the same time, I was in a process for a seat in ER. I had to make a choice, go for the ER job and risk losing the only job offers I had, or accept I would not have a career in finance (for now).

Today, I am two weeks away from starting a new job as an Investment Banking Associate after three and a half years in ER. My path has been unconventional. I was an Arts major at a solid school in Canada. I was almost suspended after my first year due to poor grades (was placed on academic probation instead). By the time I graduated, my resume consisted of a mediocre GPA (I pulled it up from a 1.7 to a 3.0 on a 4.3 scale) and zero work experience (I did not have a single internship having spent my summers working as a line cook).

Here is a rough progression of my career since undergrad:

  • I spent my first year out of school doing unpaid/low paying internships at a search fund and a hedge fund;
  • The hedge fund does not hire analysts, so I was then unemployed for 11 months;
  • After 11 months of searching, I had three job offers. Underwriting surety bonds, working in a call center, working as a barista.
  • A day or two after I accepted the job as a barista (I wanted a part time job so that I could spend as much time possible trying to break into finance), I got an offer in ER;
  • Worked one year in ER at a small independent investment bank (lots of stories from this time);
  • Was poached to join the ER team at a bank;
  • Worked two years in ER at the bank when an opportunity came up to move internally to IB;
  • Went through 16 interviews with three different IB teams. Received an Associate offer from one, a Sr Analyst from another. Last group was looking for a Sr. Associate but said they would have offered me Associate if they had the mandate to hire a 1st year Associate. 

Comments (6)

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 26, 2021 - 3:07pm

That's great to hear as a non-target undergrad with little traction. Thanks for sharing. 

Mar 26, 2021 - 5:39pm
underqualified, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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