Dilemma: PE vs. Working Abroad?

Background: Went to a West Coast undergrad and just finished up 1 year working FT in a coverage group at a BB (BAML/Barc/Citi/CS) in NYC. I took the GMAT and scored a 750, and am very set on attending business school in 3 years.

I just received an offer to work in my bank's Tokyo office as a generalist in IBD. I'm torn on staying in the US, NY ideally, and moving into an investing role (the logical professional answer) vs. going to Japan (the emotional answer).

Why Tokyo? It's a place I have fallen in love with after all of my visits (5+ now), and my favorite city to photograph (big hobby). I'm not fluent, which is why I'm surprised I'm even being offered the role, but I spoke to a lot of people internally, had some informal interviews, and am being given the chance to move. I have some conversational ability from self and undergrad study, and it would be great to work towards business proficiency on my own time. Post-MBA I'll pursue opportunities in the US so Tokyo would just be for 3 years.

I am still not sure what I want to do after banking, which is why I did not recruit on cycle. I'm worried that if I go to Japan and stay up until the point I go to business school, all investing opportunities will be out of reach (PE/growth/VC/HF) and I'll be forced to pick between banking, MBB, or corp dev. Am I better off recruiting for a pre-MBA buyout job in whatever city in the US to keep optionality post-MBA and spending my 10 vacation days every year visiting Japan?

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Comments (18)

Sep 10, 2018 - 9:04am

Hey IB710, what a lonely thread. I'm here since nobody responded ...so maybe one of these discussions will help:

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  • More suggestions...

Or maybe the following users have something to say: Vilislav-Valchev Mark Hanna kilo fox

I hope those threads give you a bit more insight.

Most Helpful
Sep 12, 2018 - 6:41pm

This is a really tough one and largely comes down to personal preference. Looking back on my career to-date, I would probably elect to go to Tokyo. I've met so many folks who have built a career in respectable roles in various different cities around the world. These people are significantly more interesting and offer a far broader life perspective than my brethren in PE who have taken the traditional path of climbing the PE ladder. Ultimately it is up to you, what you value, and how you want to drive your life. Not knowing any of these details, I'll cast my vote to give Tokyo a go - it sounds like you have a real passion for the location!


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Sep 12, 2018 - 7:49pm

Oh damn, post from CompBanker, feels like I haven't seen one in awhile!

So OP going to experience Japan will become more worldly, gain a more interesting perspective and potential diffentiator. Agree with your view on that (and I elected to work in Asia for a bit as well, and thoroughly enjoyed it). But given the OP's goals to be in PE, and the stated difficulty of going PE post-MBA without pre-MBA PE, from your exp/what you've seen in PE, is there something he/she can do to bridge that gap?

OP - how strongly do you want to be in PE? If you're relatively open to VC/growth equity (can't speak for HF - not enough familiarity in that sector), they are not as rigid as traditional PE and there are ways to get in without the "IB >> pre-MBA PE >> MBA >> post-MBA PE" path. VC requires more personal hustle and networking, but certainly there are former bankers there. Same goes for growth equity... I think if it's later stage growth equity (closer to PE), they may want to see some PE exp, but I think they are still more flexible than traditional PE.

If you're open to those, I think this will be a really cool opportunity to experience Japan (awesome place) before MBA. Because otherwise, it's typically next to impossible to get an IB job there without native fluency.

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Sep 12, 2018 - 7:49pm

It depends what you want. As you sense, if you don't do PE (or some type of investing role) pre-MBA, those jobs will be very difficult (but not totally impossible) to get post MBA. Again, not impossible, but a tougher battle than someone who had investing experience prior to the MBA. You might have to settle, say, for a smaller fund or a smaller city for your first gig out of school.

On the other hand, PE isn't everyone's long term goal. What do you think you might WANT to be doing longer term (not what people think you "should" do, or what the "rational" path is)? What are you interested in? What do you care about?

Also, if you have the opportunity to live abroad now, while you're younger, it's a perfect time to do it. It's low risk, and have the freedom to do it (and a plausible reason to go to Japan, with your current employer, rather than running off to teach English or something). It will set you up nicely for an MBA (all the MBA programs value international experience). You will grow as a person. It will be fun, and frustrating, and exciting, and challenging.

I tend to think that careers work themselves out over the long run if you do what you are happy with NOW (assuming you have the option to do that - I fully recognize that we don't all have that option, or it's not possible at all points in our life). After all, we aren't living ten years in the future, we're living TODAY.

Is there a middle ground? Perhaps you could do a year or two in Tokyo, then 1-2Y PE, then MBA? Or vice versa? Cover all your bases, retain optionality, and STILL do what makes you happy?

Sep 13, 2018 - 2:30am

I'm a big fan of Japan too, but there is a big difference between working in a place and visiting there on vacation.

I interviewed for some credit trading jobs in Tokyo and was told in no-uncertain terms to stay away... it's okay if you have a dedicated out (MBA), but there is a lot of messy finance in Japan. The keiretsu structure really can appear corrupt to an outsider and it's rare that true respect is given to non-Japanese individuals. Also heard of a pretty intense working culture; which seeps down even if you have a US manager. There are still a lot of derivative bombs hidden in Japanese balance sheets, and decades of low rates haven't done a thing.

You may really enjoy your time there, and that's legitimate, but it may be better to snag a PE/HF offer and use your beach time between jobs to take a long vacation there.

  • Works at 137 Ventures
May 1, 2021 - 9:51am

The income tax rate in Japan so high it's enough to turn anyone away. Highest is 55%, is there a way for those S&T to reduce the tax they pay?

Sep 13, 2018 - 2:31am

PE Offer vs 3rd Year Abroad - HELP! (Originally Posted: 03/29/2014)

WSO Community,

This website has been an absolutely wonderful resource for me so far in my career development. I appreciate all the advice that everyone has given, so many doors have been open that would not have been otherwise.

I've got a crucial career decision that I would appreciate anyone's words of wisdom on. I'm a 2nd year at a BB in NYC and recently received an offer at a lower MM PE firm in a smaller location (non NYC, LA, SF). I also have the option of doing a 3rd year abroad with my current BB (think London, Shanghai). My thoughts on each option are below:

- I'm from the area that the firm is located in, so my family and many of my high school, college friends are in the area
- Pay is not megafund-spectacular, but is right around what a 3rd year analyst would make in NYC, which would put me in the Certified Baller category for the area (given much lower cost of living)
- Lifestyle would be a big step up from banking, I imagine 60 hours a week tops
- Possibly closes doors if I ever want to go back to a big city
- Probably wouldn't be terribly impressive from a resume / grad-school standpoint, but I have some other good things going on, so not a major point of emphasis

3rd Year
- Working abroad for a year would be super cool
- Probably would open doors in terms of international opportunities going forward and would be located in a world-class city
- Pay would be standard 3rd year comp., but I would be given a stipend for housing, which would be very nice
- The group I would be working for is considered probably the most demanding in the firm and does not have a great reputation. Would likely be worked pretty hard - this point is my biggest concern, as 2 years of banking hours has become difficult
- Not totally sure what I would do afterwards. I really don't want to be in banking long-term, so if I want to get a PE job in the US, I would need to lock something up before I leave (June / July)

I need to make a decision by Monday, so I'm running out of time!! Any advice you monkeys have would be most appreciated!


Sep 13, 2018 - 2:32am

I would go for the PE gig. Doing a mobility move in 3rd year makes it tough to recruit for PE in the US if that is something you want. It is difficult to recruit overseas.

If this was in London, you could try and recruit for PE in London. And same goes for Shanghai (assuming you are native-fluent in Mandarin, and ideally a Chinese-mainland national). But if your goals are to be in US long-term and in PE, better to stay in US and take the PE job and either do b-school and land a post-mba PE gig, or continue along in mid-market PE if that is an option.

Sep 13, 2018 - 2:33am

Before you think about recruiting for PE in London, do you have work authorization? A very good friend of mine did a third year abroad in London. Despite an impressive background, most (all?) of the PE firms aren't willing to put in the effort to hire people who lack work authorization. You'd have to recruit for the US from abroad (which is what my friend did successfully).

I completely understand the appeal of working abroad, but I'd lock in the MM PE gig if I were you. Don't underestimate the fun of living like a baller when you only work ~50-60 hours a week.


Sep 13, 2018 - 2:35am


Before you think about recruiting for PE in London, do you have work authorization? A very good friend of mine did a third year abroad in London. Despite an impressive background, most (all?) of the PE firms aren't willing to put in the effort to hire people who lack work authorization. You'd have to recruit for the US from abroad (which is what my friend did successfully).

I completely understand the appeal of working abroad, but I'd lock in the MM PE gig if I were you. Don't underestimate the fun of living like a baller when you only work ~50-60 hours a week.

An additional point is that outside of US, PE recruiting is not as formal or 'like clockwork'. A lot of firms recruit on an as-needed basis, and may not make annual hires of several associates per year. Not sure if London would be closer to US's format, but certainly in Asia that's what it was like. And the time period is also a bit different.

Also, overseas recruiting, as mentioned, is difficult. And it seems like it's harder to recruit for US positions (outside of US) vs. recruiting for non-US positions while being based in US. I think it stems from having tons of valid candidates on home turf (i.e. if you're not around, we'll just move on to the next guy whose profile is pretty similar) vs. overseas where they may want someone with international experience vs. local candidates.

Sep 13, 2018 - 2:34am

How do you feel about the city lifestyle? I know you said non-NYC/SF/LA, but there are still a large number of cities out there similar in scale that offer similar resources/opps (think Boston, Chicago, Dallas, etc.) - but the comparison is much more stark if your option is Minneapolis or Atlanta (nothing against those places though). You might find yourself in much slower and older environments where you have to get in your car and drive everywhere and there aren't many social groups just "built in" to your work experience (though it sounds like it may not be an issue if you have childhood friends there). Anyways, just my two cents.

Sep 13, 2018 - 2:36am

I don't know how it is handled in your bank but I know that some places support mobility and then expect you to repay the year abroad so to speak by sticking around for another year. This would mean you go away for one year and then are expected to stick around for Associate 1. Of course this isn't written anywhere but I think that you may poss a few people off if you go abroad come back and quite. But I've also seen that happen.

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

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Sep 13, 2018 - 2:37am

IB Abroad or PE? (Originally Posted: 11/21/2012)

So I'm currently doing my 1st year at a major BB in their best group. Things are going well, I announced a major deal, learning a lot, etc. So I imagine that I have as good of a shot as anybody at a decent PE gig. At the same time, my BB is very global. I wouldn't mind doing a 3rd year in somewhere interesting (South Africa, LatAm, Australia, NOT London), however this may affect my ability to recruit for a PE job in the US afterwards. I definitely do not want to stay in banking. In a perfect world I'd like to go abroad for that year and then do 2 years PE before B-School. Anybody have any suggestions on what to do or deal with this before? I imagine that I would probably have to pick one or the other. Thanks!

Sep 13, 2018 - 2:38am

It's really up to you what you want to do, but taking a 3rd year abroad will make it hard for you to do PE in the United States. The PE recruiting cycle, as you know, is very structured. You absolutely need to be available and be able to move fast. Not to mention convincing the gatekeepers to let you in as a 3rd year overseas.

" I definitely do not want to stay in banking."

If you don't want to stay in banking, I would suggest not to go overseas.

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