Career Advice - Senior in College

Now that I'm coasting in my senior year of college, I've been doing quite a lot of deep thinking in terms of career paths in finance and would love to hear other's thoughts. Here's how I see things:

Like most people I'd assume, my ideal job would be one that pays well and is stable. Obviously, there's always trade offs with pay and work but lets say I'd be willing to work max 50-60 hours by the time I'm 30; no more than 50 hours/week by say 50 years old.

From the way I see things, most high-paying jobs in finance could either be categorized into the realm of public markets or private markets.

Personally, I feel that the public markets are much more interesting than private. The ER/HF path seems to be much more cerebral and creative than its private counterparts in IB/PE, all while working incrementally less hours for the same earnings potential. However, I'm afraid to go the public markets route purely due to the fact that it seems extremely high risk in the long-term. Passive investing has been kicking HF's ass and it's clear that the majority of investors can get better diversification elsewhere for a fraction of the cost. I get the whole uncorrelated returns jazz that HFs offer but still, very few HFs add value at the end of the day

Even if I do land a solid gig at one of the value-adding HFs, I feel that the job security there is MUCH lower than its IB/PE counterparts, which gives IB/PE the stability edge. If you have a bad year and blow up your portfolio, seems like game over.

This fear has me swaying to the IB/PE path due to stability. But after learning about the extremely demanding work-life even at the senior level, with added stress to meet revenue quotas, it seems like an unfavorable path. Maybe PE might have better balance but career progression to the top at PE seems like the same odds of being a successful PM at a HF.

All this said, I feel like it's either roll the dice in public markets with less control over my career potential or just live an high-paying and stable, yet extremely unhappy, life in IB/PE. Also thought about the other paths below and my brief take on them too:

Sell-Side ER = like how there's still solid pay at MD level with no risk tied to performance (per say) but worried that its future comp is tied to the future of HFs

Asset Management = same dire outlook as HFs + far less spots + chance of having to relocate to a city outside of my preferences

Consulting = don't want to travel and be away 4 days each week

Corporate banking = seems OK but pretty boring job with relatively capped pay in the long-run compared to most other roles

Real Estate Private Equity = looks cool. Prefer to pursue this more if I didn't have to do banking

Wealth Management = high burnout rate with lower average pay. Odds of being a top advisor seem the same as successful PM at HF and I don't see myself as being that 'salesly' or have the grit to cold call to build the clientbook.

Venture Capital = seems like most exciting place to be but borderline impossible to get into without Wharton-caliber network and prior entrepreneurial experience

Corporate Development = seems like the most sustainable / happy life. Wondering if I could land it by doing ER instead of IB

Sorry for the long post but it seems like at the end of the day, every finance job is 'priced in' in the sense that there is a linear trade off between pay and happiness / stability. Let me know if I'm sleeping on one of the above or something I haven't mentioned.

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Comments (2)

Most Helpful
Sep 14, 2021 - 8:31pm

Few things:

- My uncle worked in a BB IB up to the MD level and warned us all to avoid banking from the getgo. He had extremely poor work-life balance even after the analyst stint and believes that the pay cut in other roles is well worth it for the peace of mind. Also laughed at my face when I asked what about PE having better balance.

- ER to Corp Dev is certainly doable, albeit you would most likely need to be in the same industry as the firm you're recruiting for

- Pay for REPE is pretty top-heavy with the Blackstone's and Starwoods paying top-dollar and most coming from BB/EB IB. If you're looking to be in REPE, you're going to face the same dilemma as you mentioned with the WLB in PE. You can definitely get into REPE without IB though if you're gunning for LMM in a Tier 2 city (like Philly)

Would love to hear more insight though as I'm curious as well.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 15, 2021 - 8:53am

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