2.9 GPA Non-Target on a gap year. Looking for Advice

Hi WSO

Due to me losing a scholarship, I've decided to take a gap year to save up enough money to be able to afford housing once I go back to school. I want to make the most out of this year, so I'm currently studying for the CFA level 1 exam which I will be taking in August. One thing that worries me though, is that the job I'm currently working is not even remotely related to finance and is only a means to an end. Aside from BS options/stock trading, I have NO (absolutely zero) relevant experience, since I've only recently decided to take this career path. In the past I would flip flop between which path to take which was insanely dense of me to do. I don't want feel-good pity advice. I need the cold hard truth to secure a job (or even an internship) once I graduate. Any practical/actionable advice helps. 

Comments (8)

Most Helpful
Nov 30, 2021 - 11:49am

I don't know how much actionable advice I can give, but I've got some time and maybe you'll find some encouragement from the story.  I'm a non-target, low-GPA, late bloomer who has managed to scrape together a career after graduating with minimal experience, little direction, less conviction about what I wanted to do, and even fewer prospects.

TLDR - Don't be afraid to take random opportunities in the short term, sometimes a job is a job and that is fine.  Don't be afraid to take the long-road, which in my case was stringing together a series of tangentially related opportunities that ultimately has become my career

First "finance" internship was the spring semester of my senior year where I worked unpaid for a boiler-room style brokerage house.  Legitimately, these psychos were quoting the movie un-ironically and I didn't realize until years later when I saw it.  It ultimately went the same way as the firm in the movie, barred, criminal proceedings and the like.  It was disgusting, I lost money that I didn't have via commuting and buying lunch everyday, and I was also taking 18 hours in order to graduate.  BUT I got something on my resume.

After graduating with nothing lined up I moved home.  I knew of "wealth management" through my internship, but would sooner die than work for a similarly scummy firm.  I reached out randomly to local firms and was hired as a portfolio administrator (read: admin) for a solo-advisor with his own firm.  There I learned about the fiduciary side of the business, one that really resonated with sense of morality (read: I could live with myself).  I did not want to be an advisor at 22 years old, but I generally liked the industry and thought it would be cool to work in it in some capacity.

After a year I wanted more and also wanted to move back to the Northeast where my college friends were doing the big-city thing and having a great time.  I pinged every recruiter I could find and spammed my resume at anything and everything.  Happened to get connected with a firm that was a strategic acquirer and got a phone interview.  After the phone interview I decided to go for it, sold my xbox, sold my watch, and drove my shitty car east.  I slept on friends couches for 6 weeks until I got an offer.  I leveraged my knowledge of the industry via past experience to "beat out" other applicants who had deal experience, but were completely oblivious to the industry (read: I begged for the job). It worked and I spent 4 years there, getting promoted several times and watching the company take off and become a big player in the space.

Banking then became an infatuation (based on ego and an inferiority complex), but with my background I didn't really consider it realistic.  However, I leveraged the name of my prior firm, and an even more developed knowledge of the industry, to get an interview with a group that specialized in the industry.  I was hired as an associate and spent a couple years hating my life but ultimately developing immensely as a professional. 

That led to my current role which is still in the space.  I work on acquisitions, lead strategic initiatives, and have great flexibility to take on big projects that directly impact the whole of the firm.  

This is reading like a pat on the back to myself, but the point is that I had literally nothing going on for me when I was in school and somehow it has worked out.  Don't get bogged down thinking about or comparing yourself to those who seemingly have it all figured out at your age.  Just keep going...

Nov 30, 2021 - 7:33pm

Real estate agent. Seriously, it's one of the most lucrative hustle without academic target being on your side. 

VP
  • 3
Dec 1, 2021 - 12:42am

Take very easy classes if you can or you could also list your major gpa if it is much higher. Keep striving. Lot of people in finance with less than 3.5s. 2.9 is quite low so just grind as much as you can. Even if you don't get the summer or full time you can always transfer from a different industry to the analyst role provided you did well in the last job. Always another path. 

  • Manager in Risk Mnmgt
Dec 1, 2021 - 10:24am

Not sure I can offer much beyond ebitDUMBDUMB, they did a fantastic job. But as someone who graduated with a horrendous GPA (The university barely let me out), these are things I would tell myself if I could go back. 

  • Raise your GPA any way you reasonably can while still in school. There's a BIG difference between a 3.0 and a GPA in the 2's. From what you've described, sounds like you still have some time. 
  • Apply for any internships you can that are even remotely finance related. Back office stuff if you need to. Just get something on paper. When your GPA/academic career is not a selling point, I believe its easier to transition from a crappy job to a good job, than no job to a good job. 
  • Be humble and likeable in interviews. You very likely won't know technical material as well as some of your competition. Show people that you're nice and have common sense. 
  • If anyone asks about your GPA, and its below a 3, the interview is pretty likely over (at least that's how it was for me). That being said you should still have an answer prepared as to why its so low. If they do reject you on the spot, handle it well. Don't burn any bridges. 

Hope this advice isn't garbage. Best of luck!

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Dec 2, 2021 - 4:03am

Learn how to code. Learn at least 1 useful computer language proficiently. Thank me later. 

Dec 2, 2021 - 2:54pm

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