Help me choose, please.

Hi all, I am a sophomore at a high target (Columbia/Dartmouth/MIT/UChicago) and I have recently been having a lot of confusion about what to pursue as a career in finance. I really enjoyed working in business strategy at a late-stage tech unicorn and product at an early-stage venture-backed startup, but I do not know what careers in finance would allow me to genuinely continue working very closely with companies. I am currently leaning toward trying to pursue venture capital (Series A-C), private equity, or activist investing; however, before I fully send one I want to ensure that it's the right fit for me and that I will actually get to work with the companies I invest in. I would greatly appreciate any insights that anyone has. Thanks!!

Comments (6)

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Nov 20, 2022 - 5:11pm

Sounds like venture or working at a startup would be your best bet. PE or activist investing will not be similar to your previous experience.

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  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Nov 20, 2022 - 6:03pm

Those are all super great schools and not trying to get into a "Y school is better than Z school" at all here, but I think for some of the "top tier" exits i.e. well-known VC, MF/UMM PE, they mainly recruit from specific schools as opposed to wide recruiting pushes or networking, and you'd need to be at a Harvard, Wharton, or Stanford. Just trying to say look on LinkedIn or on your school's careers page at what your school's exits have been. If no one has ever gone to a legit VC right from school, it's going to be an uphill battle to land, even at one of those excellent schools.

Activist investing is a pretty small world, most of those guys are super small funds (think 1 activist position a year) and thus extremely lean teams who don't take analysts period. Also, honestly, people you engage with at companies will not like the activist angle and won't exactly be nice to you. Maybe shareholder defense, or investment stewardship (think BlackRock or Vanguard, big voters) are other ideas to look into where it's the same idea. But you're voting on a slate of directors, perhaps passing the occasional resolution towards X initiative but nothing super groundbreaking. Most of these votes are a 90%+ landslide in either direction.

PE you will do some portco work but it's more monitoring than anything hands on.

VC sounds up your alley, and if you have startup connections that will be very valuable. If you can continue getting startup experience, maybe a VC internship, that will go a long way.

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Nov 20, 2022 - 10:55pm

I would push back on this. As someone at one of those top tier exits you list, no one is getting turned down for being from MIT or Columbia instead of Harvard. This is also the case at friends' firms. There's maybe a handful of extremely small headcount funds where this is true, but the large PE and VC platforms that recruit out of undergrad will definitely look at an MIT kid that shows initiative if they're looking at Wharton and Harvard kids.

Nov 20, 2022 - 6:31pm
kindheartedconsultant, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you want strategy then you should do consulting. Finance, as a rule, isn't going to be doing business improvement unless you're on portfolio ops teams or in a LMM or MM buyout shop, or in distressed. I can't imagine a scenario where you're a VC investor and you're actively, as an Analyst, helping the operations of the companies you're invested in.

From your description, MBB is the better career path than VC.

Remember, always be kind-hearted.
  • 1
  • Analyst 3+ in Consulting
Nov 20, 2022 - 10:43pm

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