Q&A: Non Target, 4 Years in ER to PE

Have received some interest to do an AMA on a few other posts about my career path:

TLDR background:

  • Went to non-target undergrad playing a D-1 sport, had no internships in undergrad
  • Masters in finance from top 25 university
  • 4 years ER (MM/boutique)
  • Now at a $50B global PE and credit fund as an associate (sector generalist)

My career path has been fairly non-traditional. Starting in college I had no internship opportunities as I played a collegiate sport in a non-major metro area (couldn't leave campus to go to say NY for internships), so started off handicapped for FT recruiting and didn't land a spot in ER/IB/S&T. Landed a spot at a F500 rotational finance program in the middle of nowhere but decided to decline and instead go immediately to get my masters and try my shot at recruiting again.

My masters was at a top 25 but largely non-target as far as this site goes. Most of the decision in that was it was nearly free to attend with scholarships, and frankly didn't test well enough to place in the top 3-5 programs, particularly with no experience to back it up. I took a part time internship at a WM firm during the school year to build experience for a resume. Wasn't exactly applicable but was able to "word bend" it on my resume a bit to apply to IB/ER jobs. But the largest impact on my path was from aggressively networking. I tried to send ~10 emails a day (adds up if you keep it consistent throughout the year) to anyone in ER/IB/S&T/PE/HF any one in "high finance". The conversion on alumni was much higher, but in general the 50 or so emails might lead to 2-5 calls a week (don't get discouraged here with a low call conversion rate). I used these calls to refine my "story", build up a network to get past the HR gatekeepers when a position did pop up, find out which career path I was interested in, and learn what skills I really needed to build to be an attractive candidate.

Throughout the calls, I narrowed down my focus to pursuing a role in ER. I learned through my initial network calls I'd need to develop a pitch, build a model, and be able to write a 1-2 page investment memo to stand out, so I got to work on those. I used the modeling course I found here along with some YouTube videos, as well as asked a few of my contacts who I thought I had a good connection with to let me take a look at their models, and asked them if they could take a look at mine once done (did the same thing with the pitch and memo).

Once I had the model and memo made and reviewed a few times I started reaching out about full time positions. I circled back to any of the ER professionals I spoke to previously, and reached out to new ones I could find on linkedin (through corporate emails I got a better response rate than LinkedIn directly). 

Eventually made my way to landing two offers. One from the MM/boutique I ended up choosing and one from Citi but in their buffalo office. The Citi analyst was brand new to being an analyst, and the pay difference was significant (at the time Citi was paying buffalo research ~$50K) with no guarantee of any moves to NYC. I had a contact there that actually advised me against taking it as they were having some issues in the ER department as a whole at the time. In ER the firm brand is far less important than the analyst brand, so really didn't feel like I missed much by not having a BB name (probably more useful if I was looking for a larger pivot out of finance).

Spent 4 years at my ER firm. From what I have learned from meeting other ER associates/VPs both at my firm and others is that I had an incredibly hands-on experience compared to others, and my boss was quite intense, but the WLB was good. ~60/week was normal, and frankly we didn't kill ourselves for earnings since my boss was smart enough to realize no one really cares. We tried to put out an interesting (non-earnings) related piece right before earnings and right after as most shops shut down the actual research to just write 100s of earnings previews, reviews, first looks, full looks etc... that no one reads. 

I worked in a fairly technical industry (so not tech/healthcare) which was advantageous as far as my modeling was concerned as I was used to looking at all different types of business models and revenue/cost builds. So in my interview processes for PE (and on the job) I never felt out of place modeling, and frankly think that my modeling was better as all the IB models I have seen to date that have completely unnecessary levels of complexion (for example if you need to nail forecasting a line item that's small percentage of total G&A to make your investment case work, you are in trouble). But that's just me, and obviously bias here. 

As far as recruiting, about 2.5 years into my ER stint I started to look to transition, and 3 years in really got to work on it. My initial goal was to end up at a LO, as the HFs I worked with in ER, all the juniors seemed miserable, and I hated the short term oriented decisions holding positions for a day or a week. As I read the advice from this site I didn't think I would have a shot at PE, but I was wrong there. While I never got traction at the "MF" level, reaching out to a number of MM/LMM firms I got some traction. The job is more similar than people on this site give it credit for. For one, your analysis is built around a Buy/Sell recommendation (and yes those ratings are also 100% bullshit at times), which when you get a teaser or initial info need to turn into an initial bid or a pass. And if you think about an ER report, it's similar to what you present to an Investment Committee in PE. Really the only piece your missing is the "transactional experience". Which to be so far feels overrated as most of what it's been for me is organizing third parties and internal parties and sorting through the "legalese" which is mostly just done by in-house council.

Ended up at my current gig actually from just applying to through the website. Interview process was very quick (total of 3 interviews + case study) which took about 2 weeks. My boss didn't come from the IB world which is why I think he was intrigued by my background for an initial interview, and did well enough on my case study to get the offer about 15 minutes after I finished presenting it. The case study was very similar to my day to day in ER which is taking an opinion on a company/stock, backing it up with numbers/data/your model, and I think for the other participants (have actually seen the folder in our shared drive with the other projects/resumes, other candidates from IB with much more "prestigious" backgrounds), spent a lot more time on making the most intricate beautiful model, and perfectly formatted deck/document, because that is what their job has been about, but didn't make a hard recommendation. That's my guess on why my project stood out. I'd note I wasn't required to build an LBO, the case study more of what do you think this business is worth, what are key drivers/risks. 

As far as day to day, the WLB is great (non-NYC, but major metro city that I was targeting), and while I don't quite get MF money I wouldn't trade my job for a spot at a MF for the slight pay bump. I work less than I did in ER for an awesome boss who genuinely wants to see me succeed, and values my input in our work. I have upward mobility without having to get an MBA and no "log block" in any level above me that I have to wait for someone to leave to move up. 

@AndyLouis and @WallStreetOasis.com

Hope that serves as good background to start a discussion. Happy to answer questions on recruiting, life on the job, transitioning careers or anything of interest. 

WSO Mentor

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Comments (8)

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 19, 2022 - 11:12pm

For the most part no, as I am happy where I am. But I am 2-3 years older than some of my colleagues in the same position, so would've been nice to start earlier. But I am happy that I didn't do IB, mostly because of the WLB and the personal growth I felt like I got to go through during that time. I don't think I would've have nearly the same experiences if I was working IB hours, even if it would've spend things up a few years. 

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  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 20, 2022 - 1:09pm

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