Fair warning and a word from the wise: IB is NOT the only path

Like a lot of you on here, I went to a non-target school. Well, I went to THE non-target school of non-target schools. I went to a tiny, rural, southern liberal arts college that 95%+ of you have never heard of. Sure, I got into 'better' and more prestigious schools, but at the end of the day I wasn't going to impose a preposterous financial burden on my family if I didn't have to, and the truth is I knew I didn't. I was confident in my ability to go out and win any job I could possibly want. So, I took the very generous scholarship package they gave me and spent the next four years learning how to learn (for those of you who went to liberal arts colleges, you know what I mean and you know this is by far the most valuable skill you got from college). 

I decided fairly early on that I wanted to pursue IB

In my eyes, it was the only job anyone who had ever thought about doing anything in business should start his or her career off with. All the alums I spoke to said its what I should do and the career center said I should do it, and surely they know best, right? I spoke with the handful of alumni my college had in the industry, spent hours upon hours doing interview and model prep and an ungodly amount of time networking with people at reputable firms, just praying that one of them gave me a chance to interview for a SA role.

I knew I was fighting an uphill battle and I was ok with that. Nothing seemed sweeter to me than getting the same job as some punk from Princeton who's family paid 500k for his prep school and 200k for his degree, only I did it with a diploma from a public high school and without taking on any student debt. I would be able to say 'screw you man!' I can do it just as well if not better than you!

After doing this for 2 years, I got an SA offer at a Top 10 shop, did the internship, got the return offer, put my name on a dotted line and collected my signing bonus. I got to the bank, placed into the top group and went to work on the biggest deal at the bank at the time (yes, this is all true). Mission complete. Screw you Princeton Chad! 

Happy ending right? 

Wrong. I HATED the job. I hated the work and I hated the culture. I did all that work to get a job without once ever seriously asking myself if this was the path I really wanted to go down and whether or not it was going to take me to the place I wanted to go both in my career and in my personal life. I made the decision to pursue a career that was going to require me to sacrifice the better part of my 20's without ever once considering if I even wanted to do IB/PE for a living. (Yes, I know most people don't stay in either of those forever, but can you please just pipe down and listen to the story?)

I spent 3 months at the bank before I couldn't take it anymore and I quit on a Thursday afternoon. By Saturday I was on a plane heading to Florida to do a little R&R and soul searching.

I spent the next 2 months interviewing for jobs all across the board:

FP&A Role at a Start-up in SF, Product Analyst at a TES co. in NYC, Hedge Fund Analyst in Birmingham, AL, etc. None of these jobs at all required me to go into banking and each of them was going to point me in the direction much closer to where I really wanted to go. 

I ended up taking a job in the media space doing growth and I absolutely LOVE it. The work is fascinating, the culture is fantastic, the pay is good enough and the exit-ops are right up the alley of what I think I want to do (come back in 5 years and see if that changed. Fingers crossed it didn't). 

I say all this as a very round-about way of saying this...


There are plenty of first jobs that will put you in a much better spot to pursue the career you want to lead without having to make an inordinate about of sacrifice. There are plenty of routes to get insanely valuable skills that will put you head and shoulders above kids who leave banking and want to come into your space. I know you want to prove you can hang with the 'big dogs', but if you go down that road for the sake of proving it to someone else, you're only leaving yourself to pay when you're miserable because you didn't listen to yourself and instead listened to those around you. 

Have confidence in yourself. Have a vision. Map the most efficient plan possible and execute. 

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Comments (62)

Most Helpful
Nov 19, 2020 - 12:03am

Here we go again - another banking is not the end all be all written by a ex banker... Tell that to the interns that got cut this summer because their banks overpromised and underdelivered leaving them stranded in a horrible job market or the multiple firms that interviewed you because of your experience but would scoff at non banking/pe applicants. 

Listen, I agree with the overall message but stop with this find your passion bs that is a complete disconnect from reality. 

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Nov 19, 2020 - 6:34pm

3 months time is not nearly enough to get the actual value out of your analyst experience. I'm not saying that value can't be found elsewhere but for anyone else reading OP's post... do not fucking quit after 3 months thinking you know everythign there is to know and decided you didnt' like it. Plenty of analysts hit their stride after a year in. 

You do the shittiest work when you first hit the desk. The more interesting stuff (and i'm not saying it's like super intersting but it's more client facing than updating market slides) comes when you've earned the trust of your team

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 19, 2020 - 9:53pm

It doesn't take a year to see what the people a year ahead of you are doing and decide that isn't what you want to do, especially when you can be doing the same caliber of work elsewhere immediately. Not to mention to figure out that your employer's culture is not something you want to be around for. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 20, 2020 - 3:57pm

Yes, having banking on your resume will get you interviews, but banking will not win you offers, which is the goal after all! Also, for what it's worth, I really disagree with the notion that banking gives you a very high skillset that translates better than any other career to different jobs. You get very fast at doing a handful of things, but frankly the actual improvement in skills (not speed) from when you start to leave after 2 years isn't very large. I'm not saying those students aren't devastated and I completely sympathize with how they must feel, but it's not the end of the world and I think forces them to think about other paths that they otherwise wouldn't have. It sucks for now, but I have a feeling it will be a blessing for them in the long run. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Nov 19, 2020 - 7:59am

I'm a credit rating analyst, so I'll give a different view on this topic.

I agree with the message behind your post about life being more than just doing IB.

However, let's get real here, explain why the job descriptions of most interesting roles in finance specifically mention (Investment banking, investing, consulting) experience?

In most cases the banking path is the only one most people in the industry recognize and give you credit for. Any other experience is ignored and considered second rate.

PE- we want ib, or consulting from MBB

Asset management - ideally ib or prev buy-side experience, consulting from MBB is fine too

VC - consulting from MBB or IB

Unfortunately, the roles above don't give a shit about my experience as a CRA. I work on the same deals as the bankers, and although I can't model as well as junior analysts on the banking side because we don't do DCF's, I get the same exposure to fin statement analysis and sector learning. Unfortunately, the industry gives me no credit for my work. Additionally, my hours suck, my group gets slammed and there are periods where I have no life outside of work, and my pay and exit opportunities are much worse compared to a banker.

For that reason, banking is considered the golden path because everything is available to you and most firms will give you a chance at interviewing for openings.. 

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Nov 19, 2020 - 12:22pm

This is a serious question, but why would a credit rating analyst be worried about TVM in the context of discounted cash flow analysis? Isn't the bulk of their work based on debt service coverage? I figure a discount rate wouldn't matter in this context since outstanding debt wouldn't really be affected by it. What kind of use would it have beyond what is already evaluated in relation to what is recoverable in the event of default? I'm a student so please let me know where I'm wrong, I can't quite wrap my head around it.

Nov 19, 2020 - 12:55pm

I agree that banking over-hyped (especially on this forum), but dude, you worked 3 months on the desk before quitting. It's very difficult to say anyone has good grasp of the role (both the pros and cons) based off such a limited experience, even if you're "working on the biggest deal at the firm". Quite honestly, I don't think anyone who has 3 months of IB experience under their belt should be opining about the tradeoffs of the role versus other paths. You simply don't have the experience to speak knowledgably about that, and you're doing a disservice to prospects on this forum by acting as if you do.

I'm happy you've found a better path for you -- more power to you for that -- but you should recognize that the opinion of someone with 3 months of experience on the job isn't worth the paper its written on.  


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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 19, 2020 - 10:01pm

I worked on more multi-billion dollar deals in three months than you've seen in your entire life. Time to take a backseat chump.

Nov 19, 2020 - 1:03pm

There are a million ways to get rich that don't require you to be someones bitch in the office for 90 hours a week. But, IB is the most direct, simplest way to make a lot of money, so a ton of people gun for it

Nov 20, 2020 - 8:14am

Ha! Same thing. Currently a 1st year working in IB and hating it and not really interested in buyside as well. However, can't quit since I'm saving up money to pay for my masters abroad after my 1st year 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 20, 2020 - 9:09am

Hang in there! Even though you aren't thrilled with it, it's still the most efficient means of being able to pay for your program!

Nov 20, 2020 - 6:58pm

It's an interesting thing which never really comes up on here, maybe because it's only a London / Europe thing but a there is a small but decent amount of people who do IB for about a year in order to pay for their masters. I managed to get into a semi-target with a full scholarship (including housing) so undergrad was free, but a grad degree costs a shitload of money, especially if you want to do one abroad (e.g. Canada, Australia or UK) and IB truly helps with paying the fees without taking on significant debt

Nov 21, 2020 - 1:35am

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

Nov 22, 2020 - 10:06pm

Fluffer for adult films is in the media space doing growth haha.

But in reality - corp dev at a television co. (NBC / CBS / Fox etc.), Netflix strat, Disney strat, I guess working for Alden Global's newspaper play would fall into that bucket too. Lots of NY jobs.  

Nov 23, 2020 - 7:49am

uhhhmm....maybe you should have stuck it in there for a year or two, so that you actually came out with some valuable experience that you could leverage?

3 months on the CV is very different from 2 years. The marginal cost of putting in the extra time is rather low compared to the significant marginal benefit. Staying for another 21 months would have opened a lot of doors, probably to things that might have interested you. 

Nov 23, 2020 - 11:33am
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