A Story of Persistence: If I Can Make It, You Can Too

Background:

Rewind back to October 2011. I was a Senior at a fairly prestigious state school, but it was a non-target university. I was graduating with a major in History, and I believed I wanted to go to Law School eventually. My father and mother both went to Law School and it seemed inevitable that I would do the same. However, in October of 2011, I opened an E-Trade account. I did some qualitative analysis on IMAX, and when the stock went up from beating projected earnings, the stock went straight up. I was hooked from that point forward.

I loved the idea of analyzing and investing in companies, but I didn't know shit at that point. If you asked me what a Balance Sheet was, I would've looked at you dumbfounded. I also didn't know even know how to put formulas into Excel at that point either. I knew there was a long and extremely difficult road ahead of me, but I knew being involved with investments is what I wanted to do.

Preparation:

I decided to build my knowledge by starting slow; I thought I would be able to digest the material easier at that point. I recorded all the shows about the market (e.g. Mad Money, Squawk on The Street, Bloomberg Rewind, and Closing Bell). From watching these shows, I got a good understanding of the markets but I still didn't know the fundamentals. I thought the next logical step would be to sign up for the CFA. I didn't even know I wanted to go into Asset Management at that point, but I decided I would be able to learn a lot regardless.

I spent thousands of dollars on the exam fee, Schweser videos, books, and secret sauce. All the sections were completely new to me, and I spent hours upon hours studying the material. In June of 2012, I took the CFA Level 1 exam. It was disastrous. I ended up getting a Band 4 aka I failed miserably.

Failed interviews...

While I was studying from the CFA, I also was able to secure a couple interviews but I failed at all of them too. One particular interview feedback from a large credit asset management firm stuck with me forever, and I still have it. In it he said, "However, what we look for in internship candidates are those that not only show a high motivation and specific interest, but those that also show very high potential to be successful long-term at XXX." Translation: We don't think you're good enough.

So there I was, I was graduating with no relevant experience, failed the CFA exam, and my overall GPA was about 2.9. Did I mention that? Yes, my GPA was really low too. I took it all in stride though; my ambitions wouldn't let me quit.

Running out of options

I knew I needed relevant education to even get a shot at securing a position. After graduating in June of 2012, I signed up for a certificate program for Investments. I was doing well in the program, but it was nowhere near where I wanted to be. I reached out to alumni of that university and my Alma mater alumni as well, but neither yielded any actionable results. I also cold-called hundreds of places, and got one interview. And guess what? I didn't secure that position either.

MSF Program:

I randomly was going through Wall Street Oasis one day, and saw there was a new MSF program that @TNA" posted about and he also recommended it. I had just moved to the area too and it was a fairly good university. I thought what the hell, what do I have to lose? I figured if I didn't get in, I'd just take CAIA to see where that takes me. After waiting patiently several months, I got in! To this day, I have no idea how I got in, but I did. I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it.

I felt like I got a new lease on my career ambitions. When I first started the MSF program, a few classmates and I started an investment club. Though it never became official, we brought in investment professionals and presented in front of the finance board as to why we should invest endowment money. The next step was to secure an internship. I applied to a boutique investment bank, and was able to secure the position. However, it was full-time, unpaid and an hour commute each way. It was the best opportunity I had, so I took it. It was exhaustive to go to school full-time at night, work 40-50 hours per week, and drive an hour each way during the week, but I knew I could leverage it to my next gig, and that was most important.

MM PE Internship:

After I finished that internship, a new opportunity arose. It was at a large, well-known middle-market private equity firm. I was in the last few months of the MSF program, and I knew I wanted to be involved in Investment Banking or Private Equity. However, the private equity firm only recruited from a target school but I had access to the career postings because my undergraduate university was in the same university system. I ended up getting to schedule an interview, and crushed it. I got an offer, but it was unfortunately an internship too. It gave me an opportunity to learn more, and expand my network though.

Why you should intern at a PE Firm:

During the winding days of my internship, I called our Principal of Origination to set me up interviews in Investment Banking. IF YOU WANT TO GET INTO INVESTMENT BANKING, I RECOMMEND INTERNING AT A PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM FIRST. PE firms and IB firms go hand in hand, and the sourcing guys know all the Investment Bankers. You will have somebody vouching for who you are when your resume reaches the Bankers inbox. The hit rate is 100x higher than if you were cold calling or cold e-mailing.

MM IBD Offer!:

Low and behold, I was having coffee with one of middle-market bankers, and he loved me so much that he verbally offered me a job on the spot. And that's where I'm at now. I start my Analyst job in January. I guess I am good enough. Also, when you get in front of a banker, be on your shit. I recommend taking a look at Investment Banking Interview Course from WallStreetOasis.

Effort & Dedication:

If you come from a non-target, have a low GPA, and/or have liberal arts background, you can make it too. I had all three riding against me, but I still made it. All it takes effort and dedication to do what you believe you can achieve. Luck only plays a small factor, but when your opportunity comes, be sure to not miss it. I've missed numerous of opportunities, but I was able to finally grab one. People often said my dreams were unobtainable and I would be the last person they'd pick for a career in banking. Guess what? They were wrong. Believe in yourself and everything else will take care of itself.

Update:

I'm in VC now and love every minute of it.

Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this originally went up 12/2014

Comments (37)

Dec 18, 2014 - 5:55pm
Blank999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I usually don't read these but glad that I did. Congrats!

Dec 18, 2014 - 9:56pm
Dingdong08, what's your opinion? Comment below:
TNA:

I usually don't read these but glad that I did. Congrats!

Ah...you just like it because he mentioned you as his source of inspiration. (kidding)

OP-congrats & good work. It shows that even if you're not the person who knows what they want to do when they're 12, you can still get into banking if you're determined and learn by trial and error.

Best Response
Dec 18, 2014 - 11:48pm
Blank999, what's your opinion? Comment below:
Dingdong08:
TNA:

I usually don't read these but glad that I did. Congrats!

Ah...you just like it because he mentioned you as his source of inspiration. (kidding)

OP-congrats & good work. It shows that even if you're not the person who knows what they want to do when they're 12, you can still get into banking if you're determined and learn by trial and error.

Haha, I do love when I can be of service.

  • 7
Dec 18, 2014 - 7:15pm
B4SH, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congrats!

[quote=mbavsmfin]

I don't wear watches bro. Because it's always MBA BALLER time!

[/quote]
Dec 18, 2014 - 9:04pm
UFOinsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Always a fan of unconventional. Way to go and best of all possible luck going forward.

Get busy living
Dec 19, 2014 - 1:13am
vpa94, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congratulations! Truly inspires me, thank you for sharing your story.

VPA
Dec 19, 2014 - 5:06pm
madmoney15, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I wish I could of. But unfortunately you need IB Analyst experience first before you can hop into PE as an Associate. I know a few firms hire from undergraduate or MSF, but the probability isn't high that you'll be hired as Associate. They said there would be a chance to hire for an Associate but they didn't hire neither of us as an Associate.

Dec 19, 2014 - 5:42pm
madmoney15, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Dick,

Thank you for the praises. I read a lot of your posts, and I think the main theme is that you can't overcome your bad reputation of what happened in the financial crisis. However, there is always a possibility to turn a lemon into lemonade.

You have money and the name recognition. I think it would be awesome idea if you would start a fund and exclusively have high school kids from poorer neighborhoods come in to learn and invest in the markets of all asset classes. Sure, the fund would probably lose money, but I think the intangible benefits of that would offset the monetary losses. Just an idea, but I think a good one. For what it's worth, if you like the idea, I'd be more than happy to contribute.

Dec 22, 2014 - 4:35am
markb, what's your opinion? Comment below:

good stuff, congrats. i really like the step by step approach you took/were forced to take. tons of kids those days simply think that they will land a full time at a BB or in PE without doing good at school, internships that require pain etc. i had similar where i interned and worked at tons of places before getting a PE job.

Dec 24, 2014 - 3:14am
Nomadchimp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Truly inspiring. When I read story like this I don't need to have coffee or something to refresh me. Congratulations first of all and thanks for sharing. Stories like yours and people like you give strong hope to people who are in the similar situation and show that "IT IS POSSIBLE". I can say with full confidence that persistence and hard work will take you long way. All the best with your work and future. Have a pleasant holiday season. Cheers, Nomadchimp.

“It is our fate to be tormented with large and small dilemmas as we daily wind our way through the risky, fractious world that gave us birth” Edward O. Wilson.
  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jan 8, 2015 - 2:45pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congratulations! I hope the job is marvelous. How is it, now that you've started?

Jan 24, 2015 - 9:54pm
Lexington55, what's your opinion? Comment below:

WSO success stories...

My favorite subforum within WSO.

Congrats brotha!

Jul 6, 2017 - 5:30pm
iridescent007, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just graduated from a non-target and studying for GRE (MSF) right now. Really galvanizing story. Good luck further in the future. God helps those who help themselves

Jul 16, 2017 - 9:19am
JoblessJoe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Lots of good advice. I liked the part where he impressed the investment banker and got the job. Being able to impress people on the spot is what got the bugger in.

I'm going to try and do what the OP did here. Use my position to make new connections,learn more about the indusrty and maybe network/work my way into a better position, thanks for the advice OP

Jul 9, 2018 - 9:32am
Njabulo Vincent-Hadebe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Veniam et beatae nihil qui reiciendis qui. Deleniti inventore sunt ullam consequatur nobis sequi repudiandae. Eos omnis qui qui cum et aut et.

Veritatis ea officia voluptatem modi quaerat est. Numquam quae quo rem ex nostrum. Ut aliquid atque quia temporibus similique voluptas.

Vel possimus sint ipsa exercitationem qui. Dolor nam mollitia voluptas illum ratione libero. Et minus asperiores mollitia animi sed et sed. Aspernatur mollitia totam harum earum quidem. Perferendis consequatur minus eos reiciendis eum quaerat doloribus quia. Omnis sint ut quo nam dolores facere velit. Dolores animi repellat dolorem accusamus facilis fugit impedit.

Excepturi mollitia a dolorum nisi. Perspiciatis sed dignissimos quia quia distinctio sit adipisci. Qui est rerum quae distinctio ut animi. Consequatur necessitatibus facilis delectus voluptatem culpa. Exercitationem iusto incidunt dolorum facere natus soluta.

Corp. Fin. Analyst currently working two finance jobs (and a teaching gig and trying to save my music production solo career). I love avocado's. And yes Cape Town is the most beautiful place in the world. Don't believe me, come thru and find out.
Jun 15, 2019 - 3:59pm
summer233, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Magnam et rerum sequi corporis aut voluptas. Aut enim neque recusandae quaerat sed culpa. In tempore aut animi commodi.

Quos vel consequatur aperiam aspernatur consequatur maiores nesciunt. Consequatur sequi quia velit dolorem sit est laudantium autem. Beatae repudiandae at expedita hic est qui qui.

Rem animi neque enim provident fugit eveniet placeat. Sequi rerum est a nam. Aliquid voluptatem officiis dolorum deserunt mollitia sed consectetur. Est et est minima autem doloribus. Quo vel inventore ut rerum praesentium est in.

Start Discussion

Career Advancement Opportunities

September 2022 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company (▲05) 99.6%
  • Lincoln International (= =) 99.2%
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch (▲04) 98.8%
  • Financial Technology Partners (+ +) 98.5%
  • Evercore (▽02) 98.1%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

September 2022 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company (▲12) 99.6%
  • Greenhill (▲07) 99.2%
  • Evercore (▲01) 98.8%
  • PJT Partners (▽02) 98.4%
  • Macquarie Group Limited ABN (▲21) 98.1%

Professional Growth Opportunities

September 2022 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company (▲05) 99.6%
  • Lincoln International (▲03) 99.2%
  • PwC Corporate Finance (▲12) 98.8%
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch (▲05) 98.5%
  • Houlihan Lokey (▲05) 98.1%

Total Avg Compensation

September 2022 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (10) $613
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (319) $406
  • Vice President (38) $392
  • Associates (209) $257
  • 2nd Year Analyst (130) $163
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (19) $160
  • 1st Year Analyst (438) $151
  • Intern/Summer Associate (83) $150