At classic crossroads - job or master's degree?

HvaCapMar's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 58

Long story short: 23yo; just finished a 3yr B.Sc. in Finance; private Norwegian university; lousy 2.35 GPA (EDIT: 3.04); lots of extra-curricular activities; ~ $60k in student loans; ~ $90k gross cash; no relevant job experience; been doing okay with stock investing/trading for the last three years.

Now I am faced with the classical decision of choosing between 1) improving grades, do GMAT/TOEFL tests and pursuing graduate studies or 2) finding a relevant and fulfilling job that could lead the way to a desirable career path.

My end-goal is to crate my own business, but for now I crave for a career within shipbroking, equity research, commodities trading, or something similar. I have applied for ~ 25 entry-level jobs and internships (domestic and international) the last quarter and been through 4-5 interviews. There is a fairly intense competition for jobs (most positions seem to get 50+ applicants), and most of them have better grades than me. However, employers do not seem too obsessed with grades and they are rarely requested, and since I have landed interviews with Commerzbank and Trafigura I must be doing something right/have the right qualifications.

I am primarily looking at energy/finance type master's/MBA in UK and US (McCombs, Bauer, Imperial, Freeman, etc.), but I am also considering other options. I have thought about getting another bachelor's degree by incorporating some of my existing courses in order to create a one-year degree with energy/petroleum focus. This would also by-pass the whole hasslesome GMAT process and insanely expensive MBA tuitions. TOEFL should not be a problem as I consider myself fairly proficient in English (have lived in US and Mexico before).

With this backdrop in mind, what would you guys advice me to do? What kind of educational pathway is considered the most desirable an employer? How can I, by means of as little effort and time as possible, obtain a position within a company that would yield some clout (network-wise and financially)?

Thanks in advance!

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Comments (18)

Jul 4, 2013

I'd keep looking for work. You're net $30k and doing ok as it is. Unless you get a scholarship I wouldn't risk going in debt.

Jul 4, 2013

how the hell do you get $60k in debt and a 2.35 GPA in Norway? Lol.

First you have to pay your debt ASAP. No question.

I don't think an MBA will be needed for any industries you're interested in (they seem technical) and a good MBA (i.e. one worth getting) is expensive. I would maybe network like a champion, get a great job and then maybe try to get into a great post-experience Masters in finance. You might consider writing the CFA or nailing a GRE/GMAT 100% to show that you know what you're doing. I think a 2.35 is a near death sentence if you're looking at excellent programs.

"What kind of educational pathway is considered the most desirable an employer?"

Answer: Subjective. It doesn't matter. If you're overqualified and applying for a lowly job (i.e. you have an MBA), managers might be reluctant to hire you because there might be a tendency for you to try to run the show. Alternatively, there's a lot of people with MSF it seems (I studied econ). So there will be a significant amount of competition. Going to the best school you can and getting the best grades will show to your employer that you're motivated, passionate and can succeed in a rigorous environment. Each relevant degree will give you this opportunity if you excel at it...I see education as merely a checkbox or screening tool used to weed out candidates than anything else.

"How can I, by means of as little effort and time as possible, obtain a position within a company that would yield some clout (network-wise and financially)?"

Answer: If you're looking short-term, network like a champion. Coldcall, email, get a linked in profile, go to networking events/alumni events put on by your school, go to those put on by other schools, etc. But let's assume you do this, get a great job, then the economy goes to hell (it is Europe, let's assume, after all) and they fire you after 2 years. Then it'll be hard to break back in unless you get stellar references, and even then your GPA will mess you up. If you want to be safe, go to back to school and do really well at something business related that you're interested in at a good school (in terms of int'l ranking and recruitment).

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Jul 4, 2013

also, if you wanna start your own business, I'd go into management consulting first. But that's just me.

Jul 4, 2013

Thanks for the feedback!

No way I am getting rid of the loan. It's heavily state subsidized, meaning that I can fix the IR @ ~ 2,3% and deposit it for a risk-free ~ 1,4% net arbitrage gain (i.e. free money). To me it's just really cheap leverage, as 90% of my funds are placed in stocks.

Is the 2.35 GPA really THAT horrendous? I mean, it's a strong C average - and I might be able to bump it up to B (have filed for reassessments). I have A's and B's in most important/relevant courses (financial markets, corporate finance, securities law, etc.), and too many D's in the "less relevant shit department" that are pulling me down. To be honest, I am kind of embarrassed of my GPA, but lack the motivation to spend more time/money on such an overly expensive, uninspiring and academically sub-par school.

What kind of consideration factors are used for international students that want to "transfer" to other undergraduate studies? How do they consider grades? TOEFL? Motivation letter?

I think I agree with you that a "generalized" 2-year MBA with a lot of cursory theorized academics would not do me a lot of good, I want practical and directly applicable knowledge. The Global Energy Management Finance track at UoH/Bauer looks very enticing - wonder if I could transfer with my existing coursework and take the senior year as an individual major?

I do a lot of networking in unorthodox arenas, such as seminars, industry events and trade-fairs. But thus far, it hasn't really paid off.

Jul 4, 2013

I mean I guess it really depends on your country. Where I live (Canada) you can't get into any decent masters programs without at least a B+ (I think that's a 3.3). They won't even look at you.

There's not a whole lot you can do about it now, though, so I would just forget about it and look at ways of improving. Did you think of doing some courses over and upgrading? The fact that you did well in important courses will help you, but even though you did poorly in unimportant courses it will reflect negatively and more than offset these negative ones. Just think: every job has grunge work that no one wants to do (especially when you first start out), do you think that businesses will want someone who performs only in fields they are interested in? They want consistency.

Perhaps I'm belabouring the point a bit. Did you ever think of just getting a diploma somewhere, like extra cheap certification where you can excel and somewhat offset your gpa? Then maybe masters?

I'd def go with masters for sure. MBA is great if you want to move up in the chain or get a kickass network. Otherwise, you'll have a very general understanding of things, as you said (on the plus side, you get exposed to a lot of different areas).

To be honest, though, the only practical and directly applicable knowledge is attained through work experience, IMO. I don't use more than 25% max of the stuff I learned in class (who tf cares about intertemporal budget lines? Marshall-Lerner conditions? etc.).

Transferring is tough at times (unless you go to a school that is not really well-known). You need a good gpa (normally at least the one needed to enter the program if not higher).Just call/email the department though and see what their expectations are.

Not too familiar with UoH/Bauer. Definitely non-target I think, but if you're interested in that field, go for it. I'll caution you about studying in the US (unless you've decided that's where you want to be). It's ridiculously expensive (especially for international students), but if you can transfer I guess it won't be too bad. Generally they like if you transfer within your first two years I think. But it really depends on the school.

Bottom line answering your questions: They'd use all three (GPA, TOEFL, motivation letter), and actual good reasons why you want to go there. Contact the department. You seem like an intelligent guy. I'm sure it will work out. Good luck! If you need any more input, just pm/post on here.

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Jul 4, 2013

*The fact that you did well in important courses will help you, but even though you did poorly in unimportant courses it will reflect negatively and more than offset these POSITIVE ones.

Jul 4, 2013

**It's mostly about how to break into IB and such but they have great tips on beefing up your resume and networking. Something called networking ninja. Check it out.

Jul 5, 2013
PutINweRK:

also, if you wanna start your own business, I'd go into management consulting first. But that's just me.

Isn't MC the most selective when it comes to GPA?

Jul 4, 2013

Depends on the firm. If you want a job at the big four obviously you need a good GPA. Who says you need to work at the big 4 though? But generally no. I don't think it's anywhere near as competitive as IB/PE/HF obviously, and they accept remedial BBA kids where you have to be deficient or very introverted to perform poorly.

Jul 4, 2013

Source: I had an internship in MC in something other than business. They had people with english lit degrees FFS (though from prestigious unis).

Jul 6, 2013
PutINweRK:

Depends on the firm. If you want a job at the big four obviously you need a good GPA. Who says you need to work at the big 4 though? But generally no. I don't think it's anywhere near as competitive as IB/PE/HF obviously, and they accept remedial BBA kids where you have to be deficient or very introverted to perform poorly.

This is why there should be a seperate baystreetoasis. Wacky Canadians... SMH.

Jul 4, 2013

do you have anything useful to say?

Jul 4, 2013

Haha, funny story. Turns out my real GPA is 2.96 (applying the ECTS conversion scale on Wikipedia) and 3.04 when accounting for my exchange semester (which yet again used an entirely different grading scale).

When you say "big four", I hope you are not referring to KPMG/PWC/E&Y/Deloitte? I am deliberately avoiding these accounting firms (they do intense recruiting from my school), as the last thing I want is to be stuck in an organization ant farm pushing papers till my hair turn grey. I think smaller sized firms (~ 100 people) are way better suited as far as being educational, networking-friendly and entrepreneurial spirited.

What would you suggest as far "extra cheap certification" goes? I really don't want to stray too far away from finance.

Thanks again for the pointers.

Jul 4, 2013

"Haha, funny story. Turns out my real GPA is 2.96 (applying the ECTS conversion scale on Wikipedia) and 3.04 when accounting for my exchange semester (which yet again used an entirely different grading scale)."

K good. You can put that on a resume but I suppose it would also depend how your transcripts appear to businesses.

"What would you suggest as far "extra cheap certification" goes? I really don't want to stray too far away from finance"

I was thinking something alone the lines of a one year diploma in accounting (or something slightly different than you've already done but that you're interested in) or something at a good school (I know, for instance, while it's not a relevant example, Harvard has an executive management program or something that obviously isn't an MBA..a lot of people seem to have this on their resume these days...something like that). Worth some independent research, I guess.

Jul 6, 2013

Work for a few years. Don't get a Master's degree unless it's NECESSARY. A lot of people get a MBA because:

1) It's not easy to get a job, and they're too lazy to work to get one (they want a quick fix).
2) They just finished undergrad., and they don't want to "grow up" yet.
3) They realize that they should have majored in business in school instead of majoring in basket-weaving.

People who wait until a MBA/Master's is the clear next step get more out of it. If you haven't worked yet, then you clearly have tried everything yet.

Jul 4, 2013

I agree with your reasoning.

1) I believe there is a lot of truth to this point. Here in Norway, almost all buy-side and IB related jobs (unless we're talking receptionists and meeting bookers) require a master's degree. Also, internships are a rare occurrence. It seems that going straight from a bachelor to mid-level finance job is a lot more common in the US.

2) I also have these thoughts going through my head. But I don't see how getting a full-time finance job will inhibit excessive drinking and casual sex. Of course, there is something unique about student life.

3) I always wanted a PhD in knitting.

Jul 4, 2013

Also:

Yeah, the four companies you stated. Not that I'm trying to push you that way, but you wouldn't have to stay there until "your hair turned grey". It would just be good for an internship then you go basically go where ever you want in consulting (or at least have a good shot). And don't think you wouldn't get good experience there either. They'll work you to the bone once you prove your value. Otherwise, yes you'll just be a paper pusher (my friends work at Deloitte).

Jul 8, 2013