Dont give up ! FAS -> Laid off -> Product Manager Offer

Hi everyone, I've been on this forum for 3-4 years now, ever since my senior year, when I found out about WSO. I have absorbed a lot from this forum, about the financial services industry, and financial thinking in general.

Too long to read: Don't give up on your job search !


Non-target undergraduate, top 40 school. The institution did not have a finance major and it still has not established one. I studied math and economics. Double major hurt my GPA a little bit. I found out about the finance industry during the winter break of my senior year. By then, I knew it was likely too late for me to go into anything like full-time recruiting at banks, since I knew so little.
After graduation, I managed to secure an internship at a very small buyside M&A advisory shop. The work was super tedious. I was only doing very basic qualitative research: googling and compiling very vague data into Excel sheets. After almost 3 months, I quit, as I was not really learning anything. Another important factor was the founder/boss. He liked to tell his interns about the philanthropy he was doing and the new sports car he just rented. Not really where I wanted to stay.

Foot in the door:

I somehow managed to secure an off-cycle, long term equity research internship at a lower middle-market bank. It was in the west coast, and for those of you who do ER in the west coast, you know the lifestyle. I grew a lot there, both in terms of my soft skills, work ethic, the ability to handle pressure, and my ability to produce high-quality work products. It was a struggle at first, but I managed to work for half a year.
I decided not to stay. Surprisingly, lifestyle was not the deal breaker, it was the MD. He micro-managed too much for me to have the desire to transition into a full-time role and continue to work for him in the next 2 years. A couple months after I left, another long-term intern --- we are basically analysts who are paid like interns, considering the amount of work and the kind of work we do --- left the team, and then a couple months later, a full-time research associate left as well. A few months later, another VP-level research associate finally became a senior analyst, an MD, which means my orignal MD has no one to use right now, except maybe 1-2 poorly-paid interns.

MSF and Networking:

I went home for about 2 months before I went to the MSF program, hoping to jump from there. I was glad that the business school I went to indeed has a lot of resources and a ton of alumni working in finance. I networked heavily. I'm from China (been here 7 years) and before I went to the MSF program, I would wake up around 4:30 or 5am every morning at home to get on networking calls. Didn't remember exactly how many calls I made. I was focusing on middle market banks and some boutiques, as I knew BBs and EBs would be highly competitive. Built some great connections over the phone, and got some cold welcomes too.

I had 2 contacts pushing my resume for me before school started. I thought I did well in both, especially for one MM, where I networked with 6-7 people in the office. The associate who was interviewing me even said this: hey, you are here because you've done your homework. For this round, let's just chat. After this one, go prepare for technicals for the next 1-2 rounds. Eventually, they did not let me pass that round.

I continued to interview. IB, PE, Corp Dev, FP&A, anything related that I could fetch. One big issue was the sponsorship. Since I need a work sponsorship, almost all banks I networked with, stopped sponsoring getting into the 2018-2019 recruiting cycle, including 2 banks where I knew sponsored my friends who pushed resume for me.
During November, 2018, I passed 3 rounds of interviews for a global tech firm's corp deve team, only waiting for the 4th round's result to come out. The first 3 rounds were great: all interviewers let me pass on the spot. The director, who interviewed me for the 3rd round, told me this before we ended the conversation: I've already put you in the final round. I like you a lot and I want to hire you. Prepare well for the last round.
The last one was with a C-level guy from Japan/Korea, and we were having a difficult time communicating since his English was not very good. He also asked me one totally unexpected, but very thought-provoking question: what do you want to do after 20 years? Tbh, I've never thought beyond 10 years before, only vaguely about 20 years.
I waited for 5 weeks and I had calls with the HR every week. Finally, she told me they decided not to hire candidates.

Before the 1-year program ended, I interviewed for about 50 companies in total, not counting the rounds of interviews. I know this number might not be a lot for some of you here, but I really tried everything I could do to get interviews and pass them. I stopped crazily throwing out resumes around April, seeing very few available positions for me to target.

FAS job offer:

In June, one day I got an email from a company about a FAS consultant position. I did not even remember when I sent my resume, but I said yes.
1st round was a 30 minute interview with a director, who later sat next to me in the office. Half technicals, half unexpected but reasonable questions such as : you took a course in group theory, tell me about it. Okay.
2nd round was a bit surprising: they asked me to come to NYC for an on-site assessment, which consists of two parts: the 1st part is a one-hour written test: math, finance, logic, and reading. The 2nd part was a case study, more like a consulting-type than a finance case study.

I was super close to the answer for the case study before time ran out. I didn't think I did too well on that test.

To my surprise, the next day, the director called. I passed, and they wanted me to go to the office for a final round, which consists of two parts: a 1.5-hour financial case study, basically strategy analysis a DCF modeling, and a 30-40 minute Partner interview. I did something wrong for the case study, a small mistake, the director said it was fine. I did well on the Partner interview. It was the Partner and another director.

My only complain was, they did not reimburse my flight tickets or hotel expenses, not even after I started working there. The expense issue came out later on the job, many times.

I took the offer 7 days later, the same day they extended it.
Thinking about it, I should have given myself more time to decide: later, I had interviews at GIC/Temasec, and got an offer at a Charlotte-based IB boutique, who gave me a meaningfully higer salary. I decided for the FAS role since the clients (Carlyle, Blackstone) and deals they work on are global and high-profile. Plus, I do not know anyone in Charlotte, and I want to be in NYC.
Indeed, I got great exposure and I learned a lot.


Learned a lot, but not as much as I wanted to. In March, ess than 6 months into my job, I got laid-off. The Global Head quoted declining revenue and the virus. I did not blame or yell, negotiated a severance package, took care of paperwork, and started editing my resume the next day. My MD, a fellow analyst, and my manager all got laid off on the same day. The Partner quoted a large decline in revenue YoY.
I had many calls with headhunters as well as direct interviews over the following 2.5-3 months. Over 85-90% of them did not sponsor, once they heard my situation. Some calls only lasted for 10-15 seconds because of this, including a couple valuation positions at EBs, who to my surprise, do not sponsor, Maybe they only sponsor summer analysts who turn full-time.
Again, I casted a very wide net: research, IB, PE (my experience has been in renewable and infrastructure), corp deve, project finance, asset management, fintech (I touted my self-learned programming skills and put some sample projects on GitHub), quant finance (I'm a math major after all, although I did not pass the 2nd rounds because it's been too long). Got very close with a couple firms, but eventually did not pass. I was focusing on building sample models to demonstrate my modeling ability --- I don't build models very fast, but I wanted to show I could do it.
On a 1-hr build-from-scratch, forecast 5 years, and DCF modeling exercise, I panicked, and fumbled.

Product Manager Offer:

I have been taking online courses in product management, programming, and brushing up on finance interview questions, such as the WSO guide. I see PM as a route I want to be in, because after thinking hard for 3-4 months, I realized I want to build a product, and start a company. It's very risky since I really don't have much in savings, and it would be time-consuming since I need to learn iOS development. However, I figured out that if I could get a job in product management, I'll have a valuable skill in becoming an entrepreneur.

4 rounds of interview: first 2 rounds with PMs. One guy is a Stern MBA. His background is similar to mine. 3rd round is a Yale MBA, who has built his whole career in IT/Tech companies. He tries to warn me about the salary negotiation: "young man, you are lucky to be alive and maybe have a job in 2020 !"

4th/final round: the HR. Salary came out okay, total comp 250K+ in CNY/RMB. With my 1-2 years of experience, I won't call this salary bad: it is comparable to BAT's offer, with a lower bonus structure.

I'm still looking for other good opportunities, but the deadline of taking the offer is approaching, and I do not want to take a huge risk in 2020.

For those of you who got laid off as well, or those of non-targets who are struggling to break into finance or IB, don't give up ! Maybe you walk slowly, but as long as you walk, you will get somewhere. It may not be the place you want the most, but you won't fail yourself either.

I know this post is super long, and I hope it is helpful to some of you here. Thank you all.

Comments (7)

Most Helpful
Incoming cfa level 1 charterholder, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I would take the money. You can always find a better job opportunity once the economy gets a little better.

I might be looking too much into your post, but I have a feeling you're really obsessed with money, and get the feeling you're always interviewing, and probably rubbed some people the wrong way in your previous job. From my understanding FAS is doing really well at the moment, and a firm that would be working with the clients you mentioned probably has a steady income, which makes me believe in my previous statement that you pissed some senior people off with your money hungry/interview all the time attitude (this might not be true, but it's the impression that I get.

My advice to you: Work on your attitude. Don't give off the impression that you're job hunting and looking to leave for the first firm that will offer you a few more $.

Again, I might be reading too much into what you wrote, but it's the impression I'm getting.

  • 3
  • Analyst 1 in Other

Hi sir, thanks a lot for the comment. I think you are right. I actually haven't negotiated salaries too much, and I have given not a more lucrative offer from Charlotte when I came to NYC, but I have to admit that my attitude is money hungry, maybe not on the surface, but subconsciously. On the reason for the layoff, the revenue declined more than 50% YoY. The fees were not paid or cleared on time. I'm one of the few who got laid off. Updated the post.

Richard.3, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is a complete humble brag. I would take a $200K offer at a tech firm to work 40 hours a week at age 22 any day!

Will update my computer soon and leave Incognito so I will disappear forever. How did I achieve Neanderthal by trolling? Some people are after me so need to close account for safety.
  • Analyst 1 in Other

Right. I didn't work for GS or MS or Evercore, really don't have much prestige to brag. It's been very difficult to secure a job, and there's a bit of luck in the product manager offer.

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