CFA Charterholder who left finance and joined the Army—AMA

AlexCook's picture
Rank: Baboon | 169

Title explains it. I'm Alex Cook, and you might have seen my YouTube video on the CFA Program. I can't post links here right now but it will pop up if you type in "How I passed all of the CFA Program exams."

The military has been something that I have always really thought about, even as a kid, but for a variety of reasons I didn't pull the trigger until recently.

I graduated in 2009, right after the market crashed. I didn't have an offer out of school. Bank of America, which normally recruits heavily from my school, pretty much cancelled all of their interviews after the Merrill Lynch deal started going bad and the crisis unfolded. Over my spring break, instead of partying in Cancun or some other nice sunny place with cheap drinks, I was hustling for "informational" interviews. I eventually got one from a local investment bank in my hometown of Portland, and I ended up having some for-real interviews for equity research positions, but nothing bit.

I ended up working for my family's business for a while, and I eventually got hired by a local wealth management firm (ballpark $500 million AUM). I planned on just doing that for a year or so, get a little income and pay down my student loans, and continue to explore other and better options. As it turned out, a "year or so" ended up going longer than expected. I was working my way through the CFA Program in the process, as a resume booster and also for the education. People were saying I should be applying for jobs out of state since Portland just isn't a finance hub; the fact is though, I was. I was applying for positions in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere constantly. Occasionally I'd get to a phone screen, but no bites.

I bought a mentorship call from Wall Street Oasis since I wasn't sure what the disconnect was. I might not have the most baller resume of all time, but it certainly wasn't bad. I went to a top 25 school, I was working my way through the CFA Program, and I had some good accomplishments at my wealth management job. One of the things that I heard on the call was that it's hard for a company to take a risk of hiring someone across the country in Portland when they have talent just 15 minutes down the subway that they can call on. The guy suggested that I move to New York and crash...anywhere, just so I can get feet on the ground and network.
This advice was spot on--but I didn't want to hear that at the time. Yes, I knew that some people up and left to other cities without something lined up in advance and ended up making it work, but at the time, I thought it was too much risk to take. More on this later.

In 2013, still at the wealth management firm, I'm really starting to get frustrated not just with the job search, but leadership at my company started turning pretty toxic. Between 2011 and 2013, we lost a number of key high-value employees who had enough of our company's bad leadership and moved on to other opportunities. Since it was a small company already, the impact of top employees leaving is felt more.

During this time though, I start thinking about my career in a broader sense. Since 2008 when I started my career search, I was singularly focused on getting a finance job. I now start thinking more about other interests of mine and what else I could do, since me applying for finance positions just wasn't working. One of these interests was the military. I have always been interested in intelligence, foreign policy, and military issues. I read about terrorist groups and transnational criminal groups for fun. This kind of thing is interesting to me. I start getting the ball rolling in earnest in 2013 when I reached out to an Army recruiter about Army OCS, and I realized from that conversation that I had a lot of work to do physically to prepare for OCS.

I had been lifting, but OCS requires running, and cardio was something that I had neglected really for years. I did track in high school, but starting up again from scratch meant that even a 2 mile, which is what is assessed on the Army Physical Fitness Test, gassed me even at a slow pace. Point being, I realized that it might take me some time, perhaps even a whole year or longer, to train to be competitive for OCS. This isn't the 2007 surge anymore where if you have a college degree and a pulse, you could get in. OCS, at least for active duty, has a competitive application process. And, once you get into OCS, you compete for your jobs (Engineer, Military Intelligence, Infantry, etc.), and physical fitness is one of the criteria to assess how you stack up on the Order of Merit List. There are only so many 2nd Lieutenant job slots, so first place on the OML means you get first pick of your job, like the NBA Draft. So, it's not just a matter of getting into OCS, but also training to be successful once you are there as well.

January 2014. I'm interviewing with a Fortune 100/Dow component company for a corporate finance job. This isn't anything high speed like corporate development. It was a support role for HR and their administration of the retirement funds. Not picking out the investments or managing the funds, but helping with the admin side of things. During this interview process though, I start thinking--I don't even want this. This wasn't what I envisioned at all when I wanted to get into finance. Long story short, that interview didn't turn into a close, and after getting tired of banging my head against a wall trying to network and set up interviews from Portland, and also increasing problems that I'm having with my company's toxic leadership, I quit my job and moved to Dallas. Story is a bit longer than that, but I figure most of you are reading this for my military experience and not random civilian job minutiae. Point being is that I could tell within one week of being on the ground in Dallas that I would find something eventually down there, just by virtue of the quality of people that I'm meeting down here vs. Portland. I did eventually get hired by an energy company in their market risk department. I figure I would do that for some time while I finish training for OCS.

The energy company job was a substantial step up in pay for me, and the company really did treat me well. The thing is, market risk wasn't really my thing (I'd like more of a front office role instead of support), and I would have left for the military anyway at that point.

The OCS application process is very long and time consuming. I had my first face to face sitdown with a recruiter in Dallas in June 2015. It took until July 2016, a year later, until I got the green light that I got approved and that they will find a ship date. This is normal nowadays. National Guard seems to have a faster process depending on which state you are in, but this is the case for Active Duty.

I finished Basic Combat Training in October 2016, and I finished OCS in February this year. Basic isn't really hard, but it's just extremely annoying. OCS is substantially more challenging, but it's also more enjoyable since you get treated better. There really weren't many people in my OCS class fresh out of college. Most were prior service enlisted, or they were in my situation where they were in a civilian job but wanted to do something different. OCS is a lot more physical than Basic. We run...a lot.

Sidebar lessons

Don't try to start your career in a small city. After graduating, I should have done...anything, aside from move back to Portland. It was convenient because I had family that I could crash with, but there's just less opportunity there. I hear for some reason that lots of people are moving to Portland, but I'm not on the hype train. The economy is pretty bad, there really isn't any institutional finance scene at all except for a few local firms, and there's only a few F500 companies still headquartered there. On the positive side, the food scene there is pretty good and if you're into outdoors stuff, there is plenty of that, but it's not a good place to launch a career. Point being, in my experience, being a "big fish in a small pond" isn't a benefit.

A big pond just has much, much more options. Even if that means you got to get uncomfortable for a while to get your feet on the ground, so be it. In Dallas before I got hired, I crashed at this AirBNB place run by this entrepreneurship group. I was sleeping on one of their bunk beds for $35/night, they had a keggerator, and I'd get back from the bars at 2 AM and there'd be people on their laptops still coding. I had some savings to get me by, and I also picked up some random side gigs for expenses. I helped videotape a wedding. Also, you know how at bars or events they have cute girls handing out samples of things? This was Dr. Pepper, and my job was to make sure that the girls weren't running out of Dr. Pepper. And, it paid $16/hour. I don't know how didn't find this stuff in college, but I digress. Point being, you can always find a way to make it happen. You don't need to crash at the W Hotel while you're getting your feet on the ground. Hell, crash at the YMCA if you have to.

Also, life is too short to work for a company with toxic leadership. When I see threads like "Yelled at for saying 'no problem'", my response is for you to get some self-respect and start looking for a new job.

Finally, you got to go for what you want. I did sort of wonder what people's response would be when I started talking about leaving my relatively high income job for meager Army pay. The most common response was just curiosity, like why I am interested in the military, but from the people that I really look up to, a number of them immediately said that they could definitely see me doing this. I really only had two real negative reactions, neither from whom I really care about what their opinion was. People may tell you one thing or another about what you should do with your career, but they don't own your risk or have skin in the game for you. Only you do.

Conclusion

I've definitely gotten value from my military experience so far. It's only been in a training environment though, but nonetheless I definitely would say that I have benefited from this experience, and I'm eager to see how things go once I get to my first real unit. I really think that had I not done this, I would have regretted that down the road. Especially since I'm almost 30, there is an age cutoff at a certain point, so this could have been my last real chance to do this. There may come a point where I go back to finance, since I do still find it interesting, but right now my main focus is trying to be the best 2nd Lieutenant that I can be and taking it one step at a time. I do have a friend who is a Reservist in the Air Force and works at a top private equity firm (think Blackstone, TPG, etc.) as his day job, so I know it can be done, but I will cross that bridge when I get there.

I get messages on LinkedIn or YouTube from time to time since I have that video on the CFA Program exams, and it's usually about exam stuff, but I've gotten a surprising number of questions about my military experience and people who said they too were in finance but thought about the military as an option. I've seen those pop up here on WSO from time to time, so I thought I could provide some value back to the community by sharing my story and opening it up to questions. If you got anything you're wondering about OCS, the application process, the training itself, the CFA Program, life in Dallas, or anything else I can comment on, I'm happy to help.

Comments (45)

Apr 9, 2017

I want to preface this by saying thank you, for serving our country.

My question is, when you became an official charterholder, do you think you would have a good chance at transitioning into ER or were you doing it to build up your chops in PWM?

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Apr 9, 2017
KingColonize:

I want to preface this by saying thank you, for serving our country.

My question is, when you became an official charterholder, do you think you would have a good chance at transitioning into ER or were you doing it to build up your chops in PWM?

I got my Charter in 2014. Yes, my goal at the time was to transition to ER. Shortly before I packed my bags and started driving down to Dallas, Raymond James flew me out to Houston to interview for energy ER over there. I didn't close it, otherwise I would have done that instead of the energy company. It's possible that I could have ended up in ER, but at a certain point I was focusing more on my OCS application than civilian jobs. I can tell you that I definitely think the Charter helped me at the energy company. My boss was a Charterholder and we talked about that during the interview.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 9, 2017

What MOS are you going into? Where did you do basic?

Apr 9, 2017
Ehmerica:

What MOS are you going into? Where did you do basic?

12A, Engineer Officer. Basic and OCS both at Benning.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 9, 2017

Do they have women there now? Used to be one of the men only places.

May 17, 2018

.

Array

Apr 9, 2017

Thanks for your service. No homo here, and I say this in all seriousness - I look up to you. It takes balls to make an 8-year commitment to serve our country, even if you aren't active all those years. I hope you have better luck with future job searches.

So just a few random fitness questions - I know what you're talking about on the two miler. I consider myself fit, but I am not a fast runner by any means, and I'd probably cut it right at the limit on the two mile run. What was your best method for training for time? Also, do you think army fitness training should be changed? I mean that in the sense that research has shown pretty good benefits of HIIT cardio, for example, compared to long distance training, and I know the army molds you mentally with that training, but from a physical standpoint, I am just curious if you think they could do things better switching up some older methods.

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Apr 9, 2017

Sorry for the run-on sentence there as well. You know what I mean.

Apr 9, 2017
RobberBaron123:

Thanks for your service. No homo here, and I say this in all seriousness - I look up to you. It takes balls to make an 8-year commitment to serve our country, even if you aren't active all those years. I hope you have better luck with future job searches.

So just a few random fitness questions - I know what you're talking about on the two miler. I consider myself fit, but I am not a fast runner by any means, and I'd probably cut it right at the limit on the two mile run. What was your best method for training for time? Also, do you think army fitness training should be changed? I mean that in the sense that research has shown pretty good benefits of HIIT cardio, for example, compared to long distance training, and I know the army molds you mentally with that training, but from a physical standpoint, I am just curious if you think they could do things better switching up some older methods.

First of all I'm no expert on physical training, so I'm going to go with what people who know more than me say, like K. Black who was the author of Tactical Barbell, Pavel Tsatsouline, Jim Wendler, and my cadre from OCS and also fellow OCS colleagues which included former college football players and other athletes. For a tactical situation, the 2 mile run is probably a pretty fair assessment. A lot of Army stuff and tactical stuff is really more endurance than explosiveness, so you need that endurance cardio. Meaning, we don't bench press and deadlift our enemies. We run at them while carrying 30 lbs of body armor and maybe an additional 30 pounds of gear/ammo, and then we shoot them. I can tell you from personal experience, and the knowledge of the people I mentioned who know more about this stuff than I do, that sprint intervals and HIIT work do indeed help with the 2 mile run, but that said, you probably want to work in a little distance work into your training schedule as well. We did do sprint intervals and hill sprints both in Basic and OCS. For light infantry roles, the endurance aspect is an even bigger deal, which is why Ranger School has a 5 mile run as part of their assessment.

tl;dr, cardio doesn't kill gainz, the 2 mile probably is fair, and HIIT can indeed help you with the 2 mile, but I'd suggest some distance stuff, like a 5 mile run as well, as part of your schedule. Maybe do lifting Monday/Wednesday/Friday, HIIT or sprints on Tuesday and Thursday, and a 5 mile run at an easy pace on Saturdays. Sunday is an off day.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

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Apr 9, 2017

Stan was 30 lbs of plate, ammo (which can get heavy quick). Mainly used an assault pack with the essentials. Also, a couple tins of Copenhagen (no smoking at night, sometimes during the day), weapon, e-tool, possible breach gun (not on regular patrols), nods, other optics, at4, claymores a couple of frags, smoke, incendiary and a flash bang. I never used a puss pad outside the wire and would adjust rocks to get comfortable - cold weather would be a different story.

Iraq, same gear, but was mainly in trucks. The furthest foot movement I did that was was maybe 6k. Just to positions's overlooking different areas. If we hit a specific compound we would just roll up and hit it. Non-combat related gear was in the truck 99% of the time.

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Apr 26, 2018
AlexCook:
RobberBaron123:

Thanks for your service. No homo here, and I say this in all seriousness - I look up to you. It takes balls to make an 8-year commitment to serve our country, even if you aren't active all those years. I hope you have better luck with future job searches.

So just a few random fitness questions - I know what you're talking about on the two miler. I consider myself fit, but I am not a fast runner by any means, and I'd probably cut it right at the limit on the two mile run. What was your best method for training for time? Also, do you think army fitness training should be changed? I mean that in the sense that research has shown pretty good benefits of HIIT cardio, for example, compared to long distance training, and I know the army molds you mentally with that training, but from a physical standpoint, I am just curious if you think they could do things better switching up some older methods.

First of all I'm no expert on physical training, so I'm going to go with what people who know more than me say, like K. Black who was the author of Tactical Barbell, Pavel Tsatsouline, Jim Wendler, and my cadre from OCS and also fellow OCS colleagues which included former college football players and other athletes. For a tactical situation, the 2 mile run is probably a pretty fair assessment. A lot of Army stuff and tactical stuff is really more endurance than explosiveness, so you need that endurance cardio. Meaning, we don't bench press and deadlift our enemies. We run at them while carrying 30 lbs of body armor and maybe an additional 30 pounds of gear/ammo, and then we shoot them. I can tell you from personal experience, and the knowledge of the people I mentioned who know more about this stuff than I do, that sprint intervals and HIIT work do indeed help with the 2 mile run, but that said, you probably want to work in a little distance work into your training schedule as well. We did do sprint intervals and hill sprints both in Basic and OCS. For light infantry roles, the endurance aspect is an even bigger deal, which is why Ranger School has a 5 mile run as part of their assessment.

tl;dr, cardio doesn't kill gainz, the 2 mile probably is fair, and HIIT can indeed help you with the 2 mile, but I'd suggest some distance stuff, like a 5 mile run as well, as part of your schedule. Maybe do lifting Monday/Wednesday/Friday, HIIT or sprints on Tuesday and Thursday, and a 5 mile run at an easy pace on Saturdays. Sunday is an off day.

To max the Army PT test, you just have to break a 13 min 2mi. This isn't that bad. That's a 6:30 pace. The Marine test of an 18:00 3mi max score is pretty hard in comparison.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Apr 14, 2017

Sprints and fartleks will do wonders for your speed. When I first started running 3-milers for Marine Corps OCS, I was at the 26 min mark. I got it down to the 21 min mark just by running more / being focused, but I felt like that was my plateau. At USMC OCS, we did tons of sprints, fartleks, and "muscular endurance courses." By my final physical fitness test, I dropped to 19:30 for the 3-miles. That shit works.

Apr 15, 2017
RobberBaron123:

Thanks for your service. No homo here, and I say this in all seriousness - I look up to you. It takes balls to make an 8-year commitment to serve our country, even if you aren't active all those years. I hope you have better luck with future job searches.

So just a few random fitness questions - I know what you're talking about on the two miler. I consider myself fit, but I am not a fast runner by any means, and I'd probably cut it right at the limit on the two mile run. What was your best method for training for time? Also, do you think army fitness training should be changed? I mean that in the sense that research has shown pretty good benefits of HIIT cardio, for example, compared to long distance training, and I know the army molds you mentally with that training, but from a physical standpoint, I am just curious if you think they could do things better switching up some older methods.

RobberBaron...
As someone who constantly maxed the PT test with the Army (10-1030 min 2 mile time) I honestly think the training provided in basic (30/60s, 60/120s mixed with distance runs) was the most beneficial for the average person. The 30/60s are 30 second sprints followed by the 60 second jog and so forth.

However, for myself, if I were to implement a new training regime it would use a lot more cycling. I mean cycling like the spin classes. This is a low impact cardio intensive exercise that will build a great base for your physical shape without worrying about shin splints and other injuries from hard impact running. With all the walking/rucking you do in the military you get a decent base just from that, working on the speed aspect and endurance will come with time.

In the end though, you just need to constantly exercise. Small rivers lead to big oceans and that goes with exercise and fitness. Better to exercise for a few minutes a day everyday then 1 time a week really hard when it comes to running.

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Apr 10, 2017

Also, life is too short to work for a company with toxic leadership. When I see threads like "Yelled at for saying 'no problem'", my response is for you to get some self-respect and start looking for a new job.

In that area, you may have some difficulties as an Army officer. There's an enormous problem with toxic leadership right now and when you encounter it in the military there's nothing you can do about it.

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Apr 10, 2017

Thank you for your service, and for doing this AMA.

How far can you punt a football?

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Apr 10, 2017

Thank you for your contribution to the USA.

Also, big shout out to your original YouTube video, watched that thing probably 20x when I needed motivation to study. Thankfully I passed!

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Apr 10, 2017

That's awesome man, I was wondering how many people on here have seen it. Congrats on getting through the program.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 11, 2017

Thank you for spending time serving our nation. I am in the process of being a reservist in the military as well.

What do you think so far? Are the two weeks well worth it for additional training and exercises?

Apr 11, 2017
AZConq:

Thank you for spending time serving our nation. I am in the process of being a reservist in the military as well.

What do you think so far? Are the two weeks well worth it for additional training and exercises?

I"m Active Duty, not Reserves/Guard so can't comment as much

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 11, 2017

Thank you for being an alround alpha human.

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Apr 11, 2017

Funny, small world. I worked at the same place as you did, but as a trader (Power/Gas). If were thinking about the same CFA charter holder there (starts with an S), then he too influenced me to allot. Influenced me enough to realize the CFA charter holder process was the way to go for me. I have always thought about Military service, but 2 kids later and a wife, pretty much ended that. Good decision now for you, well before other items in life distract you.

Apr 11, 2017

I think we have a mutual friend in Dallas....

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

Apr 12, 2017
Frank Quattrone:

I think we have a mutual friend in Dallas....

PM'd you.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 12, 2017

Why did you not decide to do the FBI/CIA?

********"Babies don't cost money, they MAKE money." - Jerri Blank********

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Apr 12, 2017

I did in fact apply to various 3 letter agencies but they didn't bite. I can't necessarily fault them since they have the pick of top talent from military personnel who were "downsized" around 2011-2015. Interesting side note, private contractors play a big role in intelligence and also the growing cyber security/cyber warfare field, so if that's something you have an interest in, you might want to look into that.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 13, 2017

Interesting... I can relate. I was in IB and joined the Marines after my two years. Still in training, but my major takeaway so far: being an officer is incredibly analytical, much more than I ever expected it to be. It's definitely a different kind of analysis than IB, but the planning aspects can be some brain damage. I'm actually thankful I did IB before this because I wouldn't have as sharp analytical skills to succeed in this job. In addition, you need to be comfortable with making game-changing decisions on the fly... even though your decision might, you know, get someone killed.

Apr 16, 2017

And Attention to Detail is a huge deal in the military. A lot of your peers will be people who went to service academies and other military colleges where we had to do things like keeping all of the hangars in our rooms exactly three inches apart at all times, shelves arranged in a very specific order, etc. Those guys will notice even the smallest format error on your training slides almost instantly.

Apr 14, 2017

Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

I thought/read that OCS (in all branches?) is extremely difficult to get into without an engineering/mathematical UG/experience... and that they aren't very interested in a candidate with a finance/banking/etc. background? I had buddies that thought about it but said it was essentially impossible to get into after a few years of IB/corp fin... not sure how accurate this is tho.

Apr 14, 2017

I speak for the Marines, so results may vary...

No, a finance background is not necessary for OCS. In fact, in my OCS class, most had business or social science majors. I believe that ROTC has tiers for majors that get scholarships, and STEM majors are ranked higher vs. business majors. However, OCS is for those who have already graduated, and majors are not as important as GPA, leadership experience / EC's / work experience, and letters of rec. Recruiters ideally want someone who is well-rounded, physically fit, and has a history of excellence and leadership potential.

In my personal experience, the hardest part was physical fitness. It took me roughly nine months to prepare for OCS from IB.

Apr 14, 2017

General rule for aviation community: poly sci? That will fly

Apr 14, 2017

I have heard that Air Force favors STEM backgrounds but that is anecdotal. Your best bet is to ask a recruiter. My major was economics with a business minor, not STEM. From what I've read and seen, OCS is really needs of the government at the time. Things were very tight in 2011-2013 when the downsizing started. I have heard during that time about packets with 300/300 APFT scores and very good GPAs getting rejected. We're now increasing, not decreasing, the size of the military. For example, I have friends in the National Guard who are putting in Call to Active Duty packets. That wasn't even an option for them some time ago, but now it is.

Army OCS has a Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) as part of the application. Do well on it, have a good resume and compelling story as to why you want to join, get good letters of recommendation, and interview well. That's the best advice I can give. ArmyOCS.org has some good resources, albeit some of them are dated.

Also, we had a guy in my OCS class who was from BNY Mellon. Another guy in the company after mine in the cycle was at UBS. So as far as having a few years of institutional finance under your belt being a no-go, that's just simply not the case.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

Apr 15, 2017

I can also confirm that as a former Army cadet/ROTC applicant... APFT with decent grades and a passion to join along with the needs of the military will determine your success. This was back in 2008 for my application, ROTC had slots available depending on funding so it's dependent on a school-by-school basis whereas OCS is post graduate and as stated above majors don't really have as much influence over selection as perhaps other areas.

Apr 14, 2017

Good shit OP. I was in a similar boat as you. Went from interning in IB, was struggling to find a job, ended up joining a terrible commodity trading firm, and quickly pulled the trigger on getting an application going. Can confirm that the application process takes way to damn long. It look me almost an entire year from start of paperwork till a drill instructor was in my face making me push. OCS was some of the most fun I have ever had. Felt way better than sitting at a desk hoping to get some real work. I'm just getting into flight school now. Hoping to do an MBA on the other side of things and make a swing back into banking, but by then I'm gonna be an old man. Are you planning to make a career out of it, or are you using this as a stepping stone back into high finance. The military has an incredible alumni on the street, and some very strong connections with top tier mba programs. I hope you find what you are looking for in it, and that your leadership stays solid. Don't be the LT that dresses down his entire platoon over nothing.... and definitely don't get lost during land nav haha.

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Apr 15, 2017

Alex Cook
Wow, would of been great meeting you before you left Portland. I am here in Portland currently and just finished my Army service (11B and another stint) while transitioning into finance myself... so basically doing the opposite of you. I did the ROTC here locally before staying enlisted and getting into the Army WCAP program. I'm going to start the CFA process later this year and probably look to MBA after graduation. Would love you chat with you, I'll shoot you a PM. Good luck and remember to listen to your E6/7s :), they got your back and will guide you in the right direction.

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Apr 16, 2017

That's generally good advice. Unless something is coming from an officer that you are directly accountable to it's generally better to do what your senior enlisted recommend instead of what other officers recommend. Those are the guys who know all the small yet important details that a lot of officers won't have a clue about. Real life example: some extremely important support vehicles during an exercise getting stuck in soft terrain because an officer didn't listen to his sergeants warning him that was likely to happen.

Apr 19, 2017

Glad to hear another military member on here. I'm a Second Class in the U.S. Navy Reserves... I'm actually getting deployed this June for a year to the Middle East and Horn of Africa... A little worried how it will impact my professional career but still looking forward to it. Having a CFA and being an officer, what do you plan to do after the military? Apologize if you've already stated it, but I kind of skimmed through your writing and may have skipped it. If you landed FO position straight out of school, do you think the military would have prevailed?

I've passed the CFA Level 1 and I'm planning to continue my studies... Did you earn the CFA while you were in the military?

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Apr 25, 2018

Hi Alex,

Great article - I forwarded it to my friends who are officers and most agreed that it's like I wrote the article. I'm preparing my ocs application and sound just like you (graduated business school in 2008, couldn't find a job and have always been interested in history/international relations) with the exceptions that I'm born and raised in Chicago (so I thought a bigger city would help) and that it based on the dates you provided, I'm about to begin this process a little later in my life (I'm 32, turning 33 in February).

My question pertains to the OCS "Letter of Intent"/"why I want to be an officer" letter. Do you have any suggestions or can you offer some insight on what you wrote especially since my story basically mirrors your's?

Additionally, any thoughts or perspective you think is important for older applicants such as myself would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you,

Conrad

Apr 25, 2018

My suggestion is honestly think about why you want to become an Officer, and then write that letter accordingly. This is not a B-school application where you add some cute and trendy motivational buzzwords and call it good. Why at 32 do you want to join the military? I've seen it done, we had one guy in my EBOLC class at 36, but I imagine the question will be asked.

More serious answer: As far as your application goes, kill the PT test since that's probably a bigger factor than the letter, and also the real work starts once you get to OCS and you compete for your branch (in this context, "branch" used the same as MOS. Think infantry, armor, engineer, field artillery, etc.). You may fill out a form to list your branch preferences in your OCS application. That is fake news and it won't ever get looked at, ever. Once you get to OCS, we had an info session on all the branches, and what branch you actually do get is by OML. Give some thought now on what branches you are interested in.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

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Best Response
Apr 26, 2018

I really appreciate you sharing your story. It's resonating with me as I'm also pushing late 20's, working in finance, and am thinking about going the military route before it's too late. Our situations are also a bit similar in that the civilian gig is not bad by any stretch, but I don't see the higher purpose/etc. It's like I'm spinning my wheels doing meaningless bullshit when I could be DOING something. I know my job isn't meaningless, but I just don't care about it that much.

  • How did you arrive at the decision to select the Army as the branch to join? (Army had the job you wanted, etc.)
  • Do you sense yourself finding that "higher purpose/fulfillment" in your role in the military so far?
  • How much of your civilian job/leadership experience was useful as you transitioned to your leadership role as an officer?

Again, thanks for posting this. Also, props for getting the CFA. I passed Level I and stopped there. The CFA is no joke.

Aug 18, 2018

Late response but here we go:

  1. Only two that I really had an interest in, as in to the point of actively talking to recruiters and not just online research, were the Army and Marines. Army has more schools and is a larger organization, which I liked.
  2. Yes
  3. Candidly, I wasn't getting leadership experience in my civilian jobs. I led some projects, but I never had direct reports, except for 1 intern at my wealth management job. The leadership experience that I'm getting now is a whole new level. That has its pros and cons as well. The pros are obviously that leaders get paid. The cons are that it's fun to be out running and gunning with everyone, but as an Officer or senior NCO, a lot of times you can be dealing with paperwork and admin actions instead of more "Army" stuff.

How I passed all the CFA Program exams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUdnYkojtk&t=37s

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Jul 27, 2018
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Aug 18, 2018
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"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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