Career switch from journalism to finance...how to go about?

mucking's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | banana points 18

Just your typical 'im a liberal arts major trynna break into the finance world' post.

Have about 1 1/2 years of financial journalism experience for a rather large business news/data company, covering corp debt news (mainly just breaking news on new issuances...some spot news/market mover stories...macro trends..market calls from PMs. Nothing that requires me to do anything quantitative...just write)

Graduated from a school that's completely off the radar for all of u guys but fairly top notch in the journalism world (no one in my world uses words like target school, BB, etc). 3 gpa, no ECs, but great work experience (have a few years reporting for major local and national papers, and a leading financial data provider).

But now looking to switch careers to something in finance/marketing/Asset Management/sales. Truthfully, down for anything but the hemorrhaging, low-paying, slowly-sinking journalism industry. don't exactly specifically know what yet...but would love to get a foot through the door and wondering best way to go about it.

As you may have guessed..quantitative skills are fairly poor (esp on paper), though did minor in economics with SOME math involved.

Originally wanted to try law school...scored an uplifting 170 on my LSATs, but got dinged by virtually everyone so gave up on that (my marks actually got progressively worse throughout school as I started working and gave less fucks about them.)

What's the most logical route to go about exploring a way into finance and what's got the best job prospects for a career switcher? Some sort of Mfin? Can my work experience be leveraged into an MBA? Do have some contacts in the buy-side world/DCM teams as they were sources for my beat, but def not any sort of strong alumni network or anything.

Shouldve prolly done some more research before posting this, but figured id tap all yalls expertise. cheers

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Comments (16)

Nov 25, 2017

work for another 1-2 years and get a 730+ GMAT and you should be able to get into a Top 15 MBA. Given your 170 LSAT, the GMAT score shouldn't be an issue for you.

this book isn't fully accurate but may be interesting to you as it was written by a former journalist who went to HBS - https://www.amazon.com/Ahead-Curve-Harvard-Busines...

Nov 25, 2017

you reckon i need to shore up my math skills somehow during that time? and best ways to go about that? another degree, courses, etc.

and been looking for another read lately, will pick it up, tks for the recommendation.

Nov 25, 2017

Ah, that's quite a unique background :)

I think the path of least resistance for you is to continue working in journalism or some form of the same for the next 2-3 years while studying for the GMAT as was mentioned above. You seem be an excellent test taker (170 LSAT is phenomenal), so the GMAT should be an easy affair for you with say 2-4 months of studying.

A good score and the caliber of the rest of your profile should position you well for a top 20 MBA, which you can then parlay into a banking role (no guarantees on a BB role, but what I've seen is that most folks in top 20 MBA's who wanted to do banking and went about the process correctly came away with an offer). I imagine you would end up covering media companies or some sort. You might even be able to go and do corp dev at Nielsen or somewhere after a few years in banking.

Best of luck in all respects :)

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Nov 25, 2017

Many thanks for advice -- that route definitely makes alot of sense to me! So I guess i should really be expecting around a 2-3 year timeframe before really going down this path, then perhaps another year or two..or three..before I 'break into' the industry?

Do you reckon adding another degree (like an MA in econ or something) in between those years as a sort of GPA booster would help more than another year of journalism? Or more of a time and money waster than anything else.

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Nov 25, 2017

Of course :). Happy to help, and it's always awesome getting to read up on all the different experiences everyone has.

That's exactly right. I think somewhere around 3-5 years of work experience with good results supplemented by the rest of your application characteristics (e.g., leadership experience; volunteering work; test scores; etc) should be more than viable for top 20 business schools. It's usually easier in your case as well as you won't be placed into the finance bucket and have a rather compelling story to tell.

I don't really think adding another degree will necessarily help you. It could incrementally, but your GPA really shouldn't be too much of a roadblock the farther out from school you are. A strong GMAT + your experiences will probably signal to the admissions folks that you are a smart individual who just didn't apply yourself when you were younger, a very common scenario in most cases :). It's also a bit pricier I think, so it probably makes sense to hold off unless you really want it for educational enrichment or thereabouts. A cheaper alternative could be to take a level or two of the CFA to bridge the knowledge gap, but that also isn't necessarily a must have by any means.

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Nov 25, 2017

Not sure why you couldn't gun for credit research roles on the sell side right now. Get some modeling experience and start reaching out to people.

I think you're probably more financially literate than you think given your job. Just start applying your knowledge and begin networking.

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Nov 25, 2017

Don't give me too much credit hah..starting from base of nothing when it comes modelling. Been pretty close to pulling the trigger on trying out Wall street preps financial modelling courses tho... is that the one I should be looking at?

Nov 26, 2017

I think you're a viable MBA candidate, which is definitely the easiest way to do a pivot and gives you a pretty good story for apps.

If you think you'd be better at it, you're a perfect candidate for the GRE - humantities background, slightly weaker in quant, likely good with vocab. I would take the GRE and a microeconomics and calculus class at your closest accredited 4-year university, and you should be able to pull off T-16 (if I were you, all equal I'd apply Kellogg (reach), Darden, Ross, Fuqua (Target), and Georgetown (Safety).

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Nov 26, 2017

...this is an odd list of schools considering career goals. Why leave off Booth, Wharton, Columbia, MIT? They'd all probably be better than Kellogg to break into finance. Kellogg is fine, but Booth/Columbia/Wharton are standouts on that front.

Tuck would be a better fit over some of the T15 schools you listed, Yale would be another good option. Maybe NYU.

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Nov 26, 2017

Honestly, in my head I thought he wanted to do consulting. IDK why. Definitely think my advice still stands for taking the GRE and a couple quant courses at a local university and then going full force on the MBA. i think a masters in between will just be expensive and useless.

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Nov 26, 2017

Yep - to echo this you have to apply with some career goal. Transitioning into finance makes sense, but you need to be ready to jump in and go get it, especially if you want banking as recruiting will occur super early into your first year.

In general, you need to craft a compelling story of why MBA, why now, and what you want to do with it to get into a top school. "finance" is too broad, and "consulting" is crowded. Maybe hone in on something, like for example, you might be a good fit for equity research? Just a thought.

In general, I typically advise to take the GMAT over the GRE, BUT your situations is one of the exceptions where I think you can do either. Business schools claim they count both tests the same, but it can be a red flag for certain kinds of candidates if you don't take the GMAT. For example, an IB taking the GRE would look strange. If you're a humanity major with no quant background or quant work to date and a high GRE score? I think you're OK as long as you do something outside of it to prove your intellectual horsepower and quant competency. CPA is a good suggestion, though if you don't want to go into asset management I might advise that you could also get away with taking 1-2 courses at a local university at night. Microecon, Calc I, and Statistics are probably the most typical. This helps you refresh on the quant, and shows you're committed to this coursework, and aren't gonna shit the bed with grades (like you did in college - I'm a 3.0 candidate too, so I get it, but this is how it appears).

Just being realistic, as a low GPA candidate from a non-rigorous major (on hate to journalism, just that it's not engineering, you know?) and a decent career in a non traditional field, I think you should widen your targets. I picked out specific schools before, but more generally what I'd do if I were you is apply to 5 schools in round 1. Choose 1 M7 that you're the most jazzed about, 3 T15 schools that you like as your most realistic targets (Cornell, Darden, Ross, NYU, Yale, etc.), and 1 T25 school as a safety. I mentioned Georgetown because that's a school I happen to really like and respect, but you could also throw in UNC, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, you get the picture. It doesn't sound like you're gunning for the most competitive exclusive finance job out there, just looking for a total reset and actually looking to learn things so I think these schools will help you achieve that.

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Best Response
Nov 28, 2017

I went from journalism to HF. There's no generally recognized role for ex-journalists in buyside research, so I had to design my own job.

It's worked out very well and I'm still in finance after 10 years, though my job description has evolved as I moved from a research role at an equity L/S fund to a quant-focused asset manager with several HFs in different styles. I'm now doing more macro research, and my other value to the firm includes doing client communications and helping with special client issues in our multi-family office, such as due diligence on private investments.

My pathway into finance started in my armored car in Bosnia. My driver (already a good friend) was starting a job at a new fund post-deployment, run by another member of our unit. To be sure, not many Army reserve units have this sort of networking, but ours did and by the end of the deployment I had my foot in the door with the new $750MM fund.

My journalism background included a stint at the WSJ and proved extremely useful in my new researcher role. I knew how to interview people and write up company presentations, so it was natural to be the guy attending NYC analyst conferences and reporting them for my colleagues at the fund which was in a different city.

I never bothered to learn to build a DCF model, as my colleagues were doing those and I was more useful adding input where needed. This meant I couldn't be on a track to be a PM, but I've always felt that's beyond my capability anyway. For career development I focused on being a better thinker/speaker/writer on macro topics, which has been an interest for decades anyway. Also, a good knowledge of government regulation is pretty much essential for at least one analyst at any actively managed equity fund, and several types of debt funds too.

The first fund did great for several years, but then blew up and most of us were axed. I followed my mentor (the armored car driver) to another HF and lastly to the asset management firm where I now work. I love my job, am paid pretty well, and plan to stick with it until retirement, although my pay has probably peaked unless the firm gets much bigger. I'm working with the boss trying to make that happen.

Bottom line, transitioning from financial journalism to HFs is quite possible, and you can add a lot of value. To lever a specifically financial credential, I think CFA, not MBA, would be the way to go. Nobody will really give a damn about what you actually did in journalism, but if you were with a big name like WSJ/NYT/CNBC they may brag about your experience to investors!

Be aware that even if you're a hotshot financial reporter, the learning curve on the buyside will be steep. You'll be amazed at how much you really just didn't know in your old career. I know other journalists who've gone into finance on the buyside, but nobody else who specifically went to a HF. However, I feel if I was more ambitious I could go to big macro funds with a reasonable chance of getting hired and batting .800, based on the quality of my analysis & wordsmithing over the last 10 years.

Just remember, every HF manager has to send monthly and quarterly client reports, but not every PM can write well. Any HF where you can think at least as well as, and write better than, anybody already there, could use you & appreciate you're a valued member of the team.

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Nov 29, 2017

If you want to make industry contacts and (easily) transition your journalism skills into finance I highly recommend shopping around for an Investor Relations gig. People look down on it, but it is a great gig. Best to shoot for a top shop like Blackstone, although I've heard BlackRock is a solid placement. Your journalism background would be a rare asset, as it is a highly publicly/media visible role. You don't intensive financial modeling skillset but strong writing and communication skills as well as a solid knowledge of financial statements, etc. Accounting and fin. statement background can be gained faster and easier than financial modeling. The pay's fair, the hours are fantastic and you get to meet a lot of people in the industry allowing you to make the appropriate contacts across the Street (especially with ER/ ST). Worked with several guys who dumped IB for IR at Blackstone and Goldman. Have a look at it anyway. Can't hurt. Good luck.