Career Transition non-finance to PE

I am new to this forum and hope to get some advice and opinion on my career breakthrough in financial industry. Like most people here, I have dreamed and aimed to have a career in Wall Street which lead me choose the finance major for bachelor degree and MBA in Finance. But also unlike others or some, I completed my bachelor in China and MBA in USA, due to Visa reason, I didnt land a desirable job in finance industry, however my current job and these years experience get me successfully naturalize to be US citizen this year, which give me life-long time to pursuit for this dream. Even though I am not working in finance industry these years after graduate with MBA, but I have completed CFA all three levels exams in 2016 (start from 2012). I have one year experience as Equity research in school fund when I studied for MBA (2012-2013) in US school. And my current job is international procurement manager which source and evaluate potential domestic and international companies as suppliers and manage all importing for company. I write equity research and build financial model sometimes for public companies (potential or current vendors) as practice and application and try to relate my current experience with CFA related experience. Also I am not target school graduate. So this is my situation. I want to know how much possibilities for me complete this career transition? What other short you see me that I need to fill in? what kind of company should I go? what can I do? Another obstacle for me is I am now not living in "financial center" city like New York, Chicago and etc. Of course, I definitely will relocate for the job.
I am not old but compare promising and excellent fresh graduates with decent school degree and internship, I am put in the shade, let along those with years experience. But I have walked so far to get here and don`t want to give up.
Excited to write down my first topic and looking forward to communicate with new friends.

Comments (9)

Best Response
Apr 17, 2017 - 11:57am

Hi there,

I'm going to tell you something you don't want to hear, and hopefully give you some rationale that makes it easier to understand.

I don't think a private equity firm will hire you. I won't say never -- there might be a private equity firm that has a need for a procurement specialist who is bilingual in Mandarin and English because of a situation with a portfolio company, and you call them on that day that they need it. But as you might imagine, that's a small likelihood.

A lot of people come on this message board and offer some variant of the argument that "I am capable of doing the job, so I should be able to find a position." The problem is that, at least in my opinion, there are more people in the world that can satisfy the requirements of being a subordinate in a PE firm than there are positions at PE firms. Therefore, there have to be additional filters used to select who gets in and who does not.

A similar thing happens in medicine. You know what specialty has the highest average board scores for incoming residents? Dermatology. Is it because dermatology is the most challenging, or mentally demanding field in medicine? No, it is not. It's because dermatology has an excellent lifestyle, where you work 9-5, you schedule patient visits beforehand, you can help people you see, your patients generally (generally) do not have life-threatening illnesses, and you get paid well. There is such competition for dermatology positions on the basis of lifestyle that residencies can select applicants on far tougher grounds than whether or not someone can meet the basic requirements for completing the work. Hence, they take the highest board scores they can get.

PE has similar forces at work, at least at the junior level. Could you perform the work? It is entirely possible. Do you have a background that puts you at greater or equal footing to the thousands of others interested in those same spots? No, you do not.

That doesn't mean there's something wrong with you! You should not take your value as seen through the lens of private equity firms as a commentary on your value as a person. Not everyone is a good fit for PE, and that's okay.

Best of luck to you.

"Son, life is hard. But it's harder if you're stupid." - my dad
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Apr 23, 2017 - 12:57pm

Very appreciate for your time and response. It does provide me some new points I haven`t thought about before. PE firm is my ultimate goal, totally understand it is small, small chance to get it. But I will start from somewhere and work for it.

Apr 17, 2017 - 4:18pm

Why do you want to work in PE? I agree with @dmw86" in that PE is not a realistic goal, partly because the path into PE is so defined. That being said, there are other jobs in finance that may share some similarities with PE (depending on what about PE specifically it is that appeals to you) and may be easier (though not "easy" by any definition) to get into.

Once you figure that out, I would check out your MBA program's alumni network and try to contact people who have jobs that either sound interesting or are close to the type of role you are looking for. Ideally you might be able to find someone with a non-standard path into finance who can give you some advice.

Apr 23, 2017 - 1:04pm

Thank you for your kind advice and response. I like the part of PE firm that when you value an private equity and reconstruct the capital and management. You combine the financial knowledge and industry as well as business management and see different of business models and do analyze qualitatively and quantitatively. If I am wrong about the positions of PE, feel free to point out and I would like to know what kind of similar position in financial market can provide these experience and will do more research and include in my career options.

Apr 23, 2017 - 3:36pm

I honestly think you should channel your energy into something else that isn't PE. Working for a US based PE firm is impossible given your age and background. It's also evident that you're not a native English speaker (based on your background and the way you write), and that just makes it even more challenging. Btw, you also have a very simplified view of what PE is. To echo the other poster, yes many ppl want these kinds of jobs and think they can do it, but like a lot of things in life, you only have a small window in life to qualify for some of these jobs and PE is one of them. No one will hire an old person to do junior level PE work and certainly no PE firm will hire a senior level guy without any experience.

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