Quick Background: STEM Undergrad, public tech co, Canadian MBA, Big Five Canadian IBD, now NYC BB IBD
After working a few years in a public tech co in a STEM field, I knew I wanted to make a move. The work was interesting and rewarding, but very niche and wasn't a great platform for aggressive career development. A good friend of mine from undergrad suggested it might be time to do my MBA to get into consulting.
However, after I started networking and looking at post-MBA opportunities, I realized I might be better suited for / enjoy finance. However, my resume at face value had no finance on it. I applied for the Canadian Securities Course (CSC - sort of similar to Series 79) and CFA level I to try to correct it. Spent a lot of time at Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Bloor. Wrote the CSC exams ASAP and passed. Found out later in the summer that I passed the CFA Level I also.
I didn't know anything about finance. I was browsing career websites and WSO religiously (if you ever wonder why I post here, this is why). It was a very rough start (got dinged on a bunch of informals) because I didn't know what I was doing, but I learned quickly. Then I saw an ad from Analyst Exchange ("AnEx", now New York School of Finance or "NYSF") on WSO. There was an opportunity to do an unpaid internship in NYC. I applied and was very lucky to get a spot. Everyone in my family thought it was a scam. They thought I was crazy to pay for training and an unpaid internship.
Networking In NYC (AnEx / NYSF, Pre-MBA)
I found a roommate on Craigslist in Queen's who would let me sublet their place for the summer if I paid cash after I convinced them I wasn't a psycho. Spent the summer turning my academic knowledge of finance into practical knowledge. Translated my STEM skills into finance skills. Paul Pignataro at NYSF is phenomenal so I apologize if I sound biased, but he gave me the basis of skills that have helped me develop into who I am today.
Everyone at AnEx / NYSF spent lunch and evenings networking. I reached out to high school alum, family friends, undergrad alum and even used my MBA alum database even though I wasn't technically a student yet. This theme would continue well into my MBA school year (taking time off in December around exams, March break and even after my summer internship to visit and network in NYC).
Networking During School
During school, I would take a Greyhound bus from the Elizabeth Street Bus Terminal in Toronto to get down to New York. What an adventure! Leave at 8 pm. Get to the border around 1 am and pray to god you weren't behind someone with a red passport (usually Russia or China) who had weak command of English and didn't understand that they needed a Visa and couldn't just wander across the border.
In New York and I would stay at the Portland Square hotel on 47th between Broadway and 6th Ave., which was $109 per night with shared bathrooms right in the heart of Times Square. The window opened into the brick wall of another building (just like on TV). Portland Square hotel holds a special place in my heart. Since those MBA days, it's since been renovated to a swanky new boutique called "Sanctuary". I always fondly remember how it helped me get my start.
Years of Failure... Then Success
In the end, I didn't get anything. Financial crisis was still pretty fresh and no US firms were hiring. It wasn't until years later, after spending some time in Toronto when I decided to make the move down that I was able fire up my old contacts and find an opportunity to move down to the US.
Some quick hits on what I think help me get the success: 1. Having US work experience through AnEx / NYSF helped pique recruiter / head hunter interest. 2. Having solid work experience and good transactions under my belt made me attractive as a potential experienced (off-cycle) hire. But most importantly, 3. Credibility and playing the long game. I kept in touch with people and had build a pretty credible story of why I wanted to come down to NYC.
I could ramble about any of the particular story points above, but figured I'd open it up to an AMA. Some parts of my story are very personal so I may respond directly via PM.
And as always, thanks WSO.