Please Advise: Never-Ending Job Hunt

I've been sitting on this post for a while. I was waiting for it to turn into a success story; started-from-the-bottom-now-we're-here kind of story. But it's been so long I'm going to post it anyway.

My Background:

Finance degree from non-target, super involved on campus, extracurriculars, case comps etc. Worked my ass off to somehow maintain a 3.9 GPA. Managed to land a couple solid internships. I'm also well on my way through the CFA program.

My Story:

I've been on the job hunt for quite a while now. My school has no alumni in finance. My approach has been to apply to jobs online, follow up on LinkedIn, and message everyone and their grandma on LinkedIn/email. Even tried an unsuccessful cold calling stint. I've been keeping track of my job apps in a spreadsheet. It's well into the hundreds now. It blows my mind. I realize networking has the highest success rate, so that is where I now spend most of my time – setting up phone chats and coffees. I've found that talking to ppl at firms that already have an opening results in the most interviews i.e. applying first then reaching out on LinkedIn.

It has been over a year since I've graduated. I have just under one year of work experience. The challenge is that because I've already graduated I get passed over for the new grad roles, BUT I don't have the 2+ years of experience to qualify for other roles. I actively seek out feedback from every interview. The feedback is always positive, which is good, but means I have trouble finding ways to improve. They always mention the role (FT or internship) was given to someone with more experience, or an MBA, which isn't an option for me at the moment.

What I've been looking for:

At this point I'm not being very selective. I've started to cast a wide net. I've had interviews in PE, VC, ER, private credit, real estate, corp dev, consulting, tech sales, underwater basket weaving and on. I'm looking for something analytical involving research and analysis; ideally in an environment where investment decisions are made. I find the process of identifying and executing on investment ideas exciting. That's what my background is in. I am interested in getting more exposure to debt investing and have recently been chatting with private credit firms, specialty lenders, corp banking etc.

I'm a very hard working, driven and ambitious person. I also enjoy long walks on the beach. It felt very uncomfortable to write this post – to admit I've failed. Failing to overcome challenges is not something I'm used to. But this job hunt is starting to break me. It has dramatically impacted my life and my relationships. I've worked so hard and diligently to get to where I am but the stars just aren't aligning. It has been quite a humbling experience – to get knocked down over and over again. But I have to trust there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There has to be…

It's a hyper competitive job market and I know some of you have been through similar experiences and can relate to the struggle. So I'm hoping that by reaching out to my fellow monkeys I can get much needed motivation and advice. What am I doing wrong??

NOTE: I should include I'm in Canada (looking primarily in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver). Very open to US, but don't think sponsorship is realistic.

Comments (22)

Jan 19, 2020 - 9:58pm
Dr. Rahma Dikhinmahas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You make it sound like a very wide net, but looking a little closer it seems you've been very buy-side focused. Especially if we treat quasi buy side jobs (corp dev, credit) as buy side.

Further evidence that you're buy side heavy is your description that you want to be part of the investment decision making process.

I certainly sympathize with that and have made huge sacrifices of time, rank and especially salary just so I could make investment decisions.

But I'm older. For someone at your level, a sell-side role is going to be just as good at developing your buy-side skills as a buy-side role would be. It's probably even better. Very few professional investors didn't start out in banking. All the basic skills are the same. It's only later in your career when there's a meaningful difference between buy side orientation and sell side orientation.

Also, not sure if Canada is different but buy side in the US just doesn't have many junior roles.

Did you just forget to mention IB in your list of industries or are you actually not looking in IB?

  • Senior Consultant in ER
Jan 20, 2020 - 7:13pm

Yes very wide net. I've stopped pursuing IB. Learned that early on in my networking efforts. And at this point I'm not explicitly trying to target one side over another. But I have found that (quasi) buy-side firms seem to have less rigid hiring practices and recruiting cycles. More off-cycle positions. Especially smaller firms. The pension funds are actually great employers in finance. Tons of interesting roles. But to get in you need at least 1-2 years in IB. Which I obviously don't have. I still actively targeted them for a while, but had no luck. Thanks for the advice. You started in sell-side/IB?

Jan 20, 2020 - 1:05am
NeverOutOfTheFight, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Very similar situation. 3.97 GPA from non-target MSF program and CFA level II completed. As the above poster mentioned you gotta cast a wider net. I have been unable to convert some superday interviews in IB/big 4/ER but my biggest problem has been that I don't get too many interviews because HR assumes that I am more experienced because of my master, or I fail to make the cut because I lack strong internships compared to other IB candidates.

I have been casting a much wider net (With a goal to break into ER). FP&A roles that could use specific industry knowledge to later break into a sell side role in that industry. Big 4/Valuation, which has transferable skills for both ER and IB. Boutique/Regional IB and ER, Corp Dev (limited), Financial Rotation Programs, and some smaller PE/VC firms. I have also been creating stock pitches/financial models and sending them with my application.

Ultimately you just gotta stay hungry and keep up the hustle, cast a much wider net, both in applying and networking, and execute when the right time comes. Keep your chin up.

Jan 20, 2020 - 8:42pm
Dallabills, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Don't give up as much as it sucks! Keep your chin up and keep doing what you're doing, hopefully soon one company will say yes and hire you! Competition is hard but it'll pay off, just stay persistent.

Jan 20, 2020 - 9:05pm
Jamie_Diamond, what's your opinion? Comment below:

sorry TLDR,

but everytime i see that someone is getting a few interviews and isn't locking it in, its less about the net and more about the accuracy. make sure your interviewing skills are spot on and your technicals are bulletproof, or you'll be job hunting till you die

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

  • VP in PropTrad
Jan 21, 2020 - 11:56am

i went to a state school (UMASS) with a 3.3 GPA in Economics and CS (taught myself to program and did kaggle like projects) and i got a job offer from almost every single interview i ever had (except for ONE - a senior trader role) the problem sounds like you don't interview "good enough". However good you think your interview skills are...they need to be BETTER.

If you have an interview then the job is YOURS TO LOSE.

When people ask what you've been doing...say you decided to travel after college...say you went to Bali and were living in a hut on the beach...and now you're ready and thirsty to hit the ground running. You've taught yourself to code in VBA, Python and SQL. you've done various kaggle projects ranging from x,y,z....and you are excited about the role abc that you are interviewing for.

You want to come across NOT as somebody who is waiting for a job..but as somebody who is "working" whether you have a "job" or not.

  • Senior Consultant in ER
Jan 21, 2020 - 7:56pm

Wow 100% conversion rate on those interviews! How did you sharpen your interview skills? I fully agree with you on both points. I recently started a side "hustle" to fill in the gap. The entrepreneurial aspect of it seems to impress some interviewers but there isn't many transferable skills. I've been thinking about learning to code but not sure whether it would help much for the jobs I'm targeting.

Most Helpful
Apr 24, 2020 - 4:24pm
NoCapCapital, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First off I empathize with the situation - took me close to a year post-graduation to land a job in one of my desired fields (I was also casting a wide net, looking at really any industry that gave experience in analyzing investments or business strategy). Assuming that you are already networking with people and getting interviews this would be my advice:

  • Narrow Your Focus. I learned pretty early on through coffee chats that there were certain industries that I did not fit in well with the culture. For me personally this was Big 4 / consulting types. I also learned early on that there were certain industries that I wasn't a competitive applicant due to my lackluster GPA and not having relevant internships (scratch investment banking). While this may not sound very motivating, by narrowing your focus you will have more energy to apply, interview, and research the industries that you WILL be a good fit with, and have a realistic chance of getting an offer from. Even if you don't get an offer you can take what you learned from each interview / coffee chat and use it in your next one - something you can't do if you are interviewing all over the map. This will also allow you to perfect your story as to why you want to work in ______ industry.

  • Don't Discount Small Firms. I notice that you're interested in investment management so this may not be as applicable given the relative barriers to entry (AUM) but small firms tend to have a much less structured recruitment process. If you've already graduated without having an applicable internship, chances are it will be quite difficult to land something with a large institution. I would recommend researching family offices in your city as well as private wealth management practices (even if these are affiliated with large banks, the owner has decision making power on who gets hired and when). Consider offering to work as an intern even if for free - this will get you much needed experience even if you don't convert to full time. If you can find anything that is at least somewhat related to your experience (perhaps a group that invests in FI/Insurance companies) that is even better.

  • Perfect Your Interview Skills. Despite what many people say on this forum, I don't believe that you can "perfect" the soft skills portion of the interview. In my experience having a candid conversation with interviewers works 9 times out of 10 better than having a perfectly memorized "walk me through your resume." People want to get a sense of your personality and will smell bs a mile away. Yes, this will lose you some positions in which you are not a good cultural fit, but it will ultimately land you a spot in one that aligns with your personality. That's not to say don't perfect your story as having a logical thought process as to why you are interviewing for that position is required to be taken seriously. I would emphasize perfecting your technical skills as many positions will have you complete a test (and remember you will be competing against others that have experience in the field - I've been nailed on this before). If you haven't already, take financial modeling courses relevant to the industry you are targeting. This may even be a better investment of your time than the CFA as it will help when it comes to the test.

Realize this response is getting a bit lengthy so I will end it there. Keep your head up and don't give up. When the time comes and you land something, you'll find the persistence and skills developed during this time will result in you being that much better at the job when the time comes.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Jun 10, 2020 - 6:30pm

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