How to spin a poli sci degree

polibanker's picture
Rank: Chimp | 3

At the expense of receiving troll responses, I wanted to ask for some ideas on this topic:

First and foremost, I have been working at a no-name boutique and was involved to a lesser degree of a decently-sized deal for being a no-name boutique. My boss liked me BECAUSE I wasn't a finance/business major. I graduated from a top 10 school, but I studied something super qualitative: political science.

Anyway, I have had a couple of interviews with BB banks and elite boutiques, but nothing has stuck. I know where my shortcomings are and I have one more interview coming up with a well-respected regional bank. The thing is, I don't know how to spin my poli sci degree and to be honest with it. I don't want to sound like I am bullshitting, though it's hard not to.

Maybe my technical skills aren't as strong as I'd like them to be, but I sure as heck am working on getting them there. I love working with numbers, but didn't do too much of it in college. Nor at my current job. And more than anything, having worked in the industry, I definitely have discovered that I have a passion for finance. For me, it really isn't about the money (I mean, it's definitely nice), but it's about the work.

How could I justify getting into IB with such a qualitative background to a group of finance majors (the people interviewing me all studied finance/business/econ)? How can I talk about things that I can bring to the table without sounding like I'm bullshitting?

On another note, if someone would like to work with me, I would love some one-on-one interviewing advice. If you'd like to help, send me a PM.

Region: 
France

Comments (42)

Apr 22, 2015

Depends on your game. Some people are really good at being smooth and kind of lying. Some are better upfront. From the limited information, you sound like the latter.

Keep it positive. Smile, chat with the person. Why justify polisci? Because you liked it, it was interesting and hey banking isn't rocket science. Look up some senior wall street people. I think Hank Paulson was an English Major (if he wasn't then others were). It's applicable because you learned to write and to think which will come in handy. You've worked on deals and have some skills and dammit you are working to get them even there and are willing to prove it.

Get examples ready on why you like finance. That deal you worked on. Talk about it. What you liked about it. Talk about markets Your investments. The industry, whatever.

Good luck.

    • 1
Apr 22, 2015

Export Agency Finance is one route which a pol sci degree + boutique experience could get you into. Whether or not that's IBD (usually not) depends on the bank. However, you could use that as a bridge to something in IBD or elsewhere, as it can lean heavily to project finance work.

If you're in the US, speaking Spanish would be a definite plus. Mandarin is less useful, more useful if you're looking for a role in Asia.

Apr 22, 2015

I had the same issue but was able to spin my poli sci major into a few offers at BBs. My school doesn't really have a finance major, but does follow the typical econ curriculum which I did not want to take. When the question came up in interviews I stated that although I was interested in Finance, my passion centered around working with companies and clients rather than macro trends.

I'm also very interested in history and studying the art of winning an argument, two fields which a poli sci major adequately covers. I added in a few sentences along the lines of wanting to be a "Renaissance Man", and they usually seemed satisfied with the answer.

I think as long as you can show a passion for the industry you're interviewing for, while also demonstrating clearly why you majored in political science, you should be fine.

Apr 23, 2015

If banking is really what you want to do, then it shouldn't be too hard to figure out your story. Just take a close look at all your decisions over the past ~5 years or so, starting with freshman year undergrad, and pick out the things which drove you away from being a campaign worker shill and toward finance. Write it all down and have it make sense, make it a story. Then clear up the questionable parts and you shouldn't even have to put too much spin on it. Focus on consistency and reassuring that you are 110% in on finance and you aren't going to quit one day and report on potholes for the local news channel and you should be good.

Apr 23, 2015

This is what I told interviewers when asked about my political science major... (this may or may not apply to your case)

My initial interest in political science stemmed from my love for quantitative analysis. I took advanced statistics, econometrics, and math-focused classes, where I had to quantify theories in a logical fashion. But I quickly realized that research wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted exposure to management teams and be at the forefront of actual decision making processes instead of doing "research". This is when I met/networked with several bankers. Quickly realized it was what I wanted to do and made the transition happen. the reason why I didn't switch to a finance major was because of costs... I would have had to take an extra year of classes. I found it more beneficial to rack up actual experience at a regional/lower-tier bank than to take a full year of academics. Experience trumps classroom materials.

Now, when you try to explain why you want to lateral into a "better" bank, make sure it blends with the initial story of why political science to banking. Hope this helps!

Apr 23, 2015

Wow, thanks everyone for the advice! It was all very helpful. I have about a week to prep for the interview, but this really helped out one of my biggest weaknesses when interviewing.

I usually talk about how originally I wanted to become a lawyer, but after doing research and working on law school, talking to lawyers, etc., I knew that it was NOT what I wanted to do. Maybe mention how law did not seem as fast paced as I would like? Should I talk about how after deciding against law school, all the recruiting for SA positions had finished?

Thanks!

Apr 23, 2015

I was a philosophy major...here is my two cents:

Everyone knows you are going to spew BS in these interviews, so just make something up. I always talked about how Philosophy was very analytic in nature, but also very qualitative and taught me how to become a superb writer. Philosophy also taught me how to understand how to frame an argument in a coherent, and concise way--and I like to think that's pretty valuable. That right there was half truthful and half fluff.

This should be easy to spin if you're a polisci major, but would be more of a challenge if you were an English major. I interviewed at GS/MS/JPM and the recruiter told me 'we don't really hire Philosophy majors...usually Econ/Math/Enginnering/PoliSci...etc'. My interview was over the minute she read my resume haha--you're lucky you're polisci. Good luck.

Apr 23, 2015
NESCAC:

I was a philosophy major...here is my two cents:

Everyone knows you are going to spew BS in these interviews, so just make something up. I always talked about how Philosophy was very analytic in nature, but also very qualitative and taught me how to become a superb writer. Philosophy also taught me how to understand how to frame an argument in a coherent, and concise way--and I like to think that's pretty valuable. That right there was half truthful and half fluff.

This should be easy to spin if you're a polisci major, but would be more of a challenge if you were an English major. I interviewed at GS/MS/JPM and the recruiter told me 'we don't really hire Philosophy majors...usually Econ/Math/Enginnering/PoliSci...etc'. My interview was over the minute she read my resume haha--you're lucky you're polisci. Good luck.

"We don't really hire philosophy majors"

with which one should respond with

"Well maybe it's time to make an exception"

Man, I wish I had balls when I was in college at these interviews...

Apr 23, 2015
polibanker:

Wow, thanks everyone for the advice! It was all very helpful. I have about a week to prep for the interview, but this really helped out one of my biggest weaknesses when interviewing.

I usually talk about how originally I wanted to become a lawyer, but after doing research and working on law school, talking to lawyers, etc., I knew that it was NOT what I wanted to do. Maybe mention how law did not seem as fast paced as I would like? Should I talk about how after deciding against law school, all the recruiting for SA positions had finished?

Thanks!

Yeah, so if law if what you wanted to do when you started at university, and polisci is how you thought you would get there, then that's fine and its a pretty common story. You could also mention how you are eager to do real world work and couldn't stand another 3 yrs of school, that's part of my story at least.

Just make sure you only pivot once. Polisci to banking is ok, but no 20 year old has room for a basket weaving to pottery to banking story. Don't leave any room in your interviewers' mind to think you are a tumbleweed that will bail after a rough week to pimp Rand Paul and his effort to "audit" the Fed.

Apr 24, 2015

How much more difficult does it make for a poli sci major to get into IBD than those who majored in Finance/Econ/Accounting?

Apr 24, 2015

i was poli sci major

Apr 24, 2015

Bump eagles 7 question

Apr 24, 2015

bump again

Aug 24, 2015

bump

Aug 24, 2015

If someone on the internet tells you "you're doomed," are you really going to give up? Yes, it's a very tough situation that you're in, and yes the odds aren't great, but if you're genuinely interested in finding a job in finance then keep networking, speak with alumni from your school in the industry, broaden the list of firms that you're applying to, and keep pushing.

To better evaluate your situation, I think we need to know 1) how long out of school are you, and 2) what are you currently doing.

Also if you were able to get the interview with a WM firm, then you probably weren't dinged because of your background. Once you've secured an interview then it's generally up to how you perform, so no offense, but your interviewing skills may be an issue as well.

Lastly, your story about becoming disillusioned in politics due to the debt debate does not strike me as genuine. Were you planning to be a politician, but lost interest because you only just now realized politics is messed up? I don't see why that would lead to switch towards finance. I'm not doubting your interest in finance, but I think you should consider tuning up your story a bit.

Aug 24, 2015

I've been out of school since May. I did work a job from July to October, until I relocated (the job was selling cell phones at a Best Buy cell phone kiosk but that does involve pitching different carriers, OSs, devices, protection plans/accessories, as well as cold-calling and cold going up to people's faces). Since October, I've basically been applying to whatever I can find.

I had previously been planning on law school. Thing is I don't want to say "Idk if I'll find a job after law school" at an interview because I understand it being about money is a no-no. It was more that as the debt crisis unfolded, the only way to understand it was to learn about the financial markets. I also said I enjoy it because its dynamic and ever-changing.

And I had two interviews: one with 2 younger gentlemen, then the next one, a week and a half later, one of them took me around the office to meet the rest of the people in the division and some of the managers. I thought my handshakes were firm, tho could it have been that I answered the question "when would you be looking to start" wrong? I'll admit I never previously had a finance internship, tho I did have an internship last year at a consulting firm, a small boutique but still. I made sure to have good questions to ask.

Could addressing everyone by Mr. instead of their first names hurt me? I ask because they did introduce themselves by their first names.

Aug 24, 2015

Just my opinion here, but the whole "Debt crisis led to a fascination with markets" story is a little tired and no one is likely to care about your virtual portfolio returns. I'm not sure if you're trying to get into IB here (maybe you said it, I didn't read particularly carefully), but if that is the case, they don't want to know why you're interested in markets, they want to know why you're interested in business, and they're probably wondering why your virtual portfolio returns are relevant given that investment bankers don't invest. The pol sci thing probably isn't a dealbreaker if your resume is otherwise good, but it probably doesn't help. People who studied finance / acct / econ tend to take poli sci about as seriously as people who studied physics take finance / acct / econ.

But, like the above posters said, keep after it and you'll be fine. I'd work on your explanation for why you want to do finance in the first place and quite sending out your virtual portfolio returns, just my two cents.

Aug 24, 2015

could I look like I'm trying too hard? I'm fine in any position so as long as its either wealth management, research, investment banking, as long as it isn't operations.

Aug 24, 2015

so am I doomed, or should my "story" be about how I originally was planning on law school (plausible yet true) but idk if another 150k plus is worth only a 50/50 chance of a job

Aug 24, 2015

Rodney, given your background I don't think you should feel like you're above anything, including the back office. Truth is, jobs in finance are hard to come by right now. Focusing solely on FO gigs and WM is a little ambitious considering the situation you're in. Network your ass off, learn more about the industry, and hope you get lucky.

You're 22-23 years old, starting in a lesser role isn't a death sentence to your career. Get your foot in the door, work hard, and most importantly network until you get the job you want.

Aug 24, 2015

ok but are back office jobs a dead end job, so I hear? How does the leadership experience (I was president of a major campus organization) I have, me writing on the newspaper, and being fluent in a second language not make me stand out? Most of the kids who studied finance at my school were not in anyway intellectual nor did they like learning. I was also in a frat too, so I'm brosef enough. Or is it really a losing situation for anyone who didn't major in finance/accounting except from Ivy League or Ivy League caliber schools no matter what?

Aug 24, 2015

Rodney, just because your school had kids who "were not in anyway intellectual nor did they like learning" does not mean there arent thousands of other kids from OTHER schools who are intellectual. It seems slightly like you feel you are entitled to a front office position for some unapparent reason other than you think your leadership sets you apart. WM is probably the easiest FO position to get into and if you were able to obtain an interview, it is most likely not your background, but moreso your attitude and interview skills.

Please, never say "brosef enough" again if you ever want to be considered seriously for anything. Better yet, just strike that from your vocabulary now. I would stop aiming so high and look for lateral positions and back office roles in attempt to get your foot in the door. Since recruiting for analyst programs is essentially over, I would start considering other avenues.

It might help if you put your resume in the resume review section for people to critique for you as well.

Aug 24, 2015

obviously I didn't use the term "brosef" in the itnerview, but from what I understand, Wall Street likes "bros" etc. I actually tried hard to be very formal, addressing all people by "Mr.," not ending my sentences with prepositions, using big words, and never using "like" ever. I also never used words such as "stocks, bonds," but rather "equities, fixed income securities"

I know I'm in a rut not having majored in finance, but what kind of position am I in compared to general "business" majors or "entrepreneurship" majors? I mean do people not see that a large part of the people who studied non-liberal arts majors, often are doing it because their parents told them to, instead of a genuine interest?

Could my looks, being a bit overweight at the time, have hurt me?

Aug 24, 2015

Let me put it simply to you Rodney - having "leadership experience" on your resume is just par for the course. You're not special for having been president of a college organization. None of the accomplishments you listed stands out much at all, and on top of that you're a poly sci major. I'm not saying this to knock you down I'm just being honest. For the positions you're talking about (maybe not WM), you're competing against top candidates. I don't think you're going into this with the right mindset, I'd take a step back and re-evaluate your approach.

Aug 24, 2015

they really look at me in the same vein as an English or History or Sociology major?? no I know I'm not gonna get IB, PE, or HF, but as long as the job involves stocks, bonds, ETFs, I'm game, even at Mickey and Minney Parntners LLC.

Aug 24, 2015

The top 10 reasons you are not getting offers:
1. 30 resumes is nothing, that's just a warm up given your situation
2. I didn't see your GPA listed, which makes me believe it's not good
3. Few people care about your extra-curricular activities in business (I can't figure out why anyone does)
4. WM jobs do NOT require you to be a stock picker, it is a pure sales job....if you are touting your stock picking skills, they will think you don't understand what the job really entails (because you don't, if that's what you're telling them)
5. Most people will discount your stock picking results, there's practically no way for the to verify your results and probably nothing that makes the results repeatable
6. Nobody cares about your 'leadership' experience
7. Your major
8. Your school
9. It sounds like you are sending resumes into an online black hole and not to people you are speaking with; you aren't differentiated enough to get picked out of a pile for an interview (few are)
10. The debt crisis story that sparked your interest in the field is not compelling

Aug 24, 2015

my GPA was a 3.5, thats with 2 minors, economics included, and tons of activites too. I got a 3.9 in my major and was in its honour society.

Aug 24, 2015

so what do I do now? Is my life basically screwed?

Aug 24, 2015

This has to be a troll...

Aug 24, 2015

Erm for the love of fuck don't send your shitty virtual portfolio...

If you want to show it once you get an interview, sure (make sure you can explain your strategy). Anyone can make retarded returns with these simulation portfolios.

Aug 24, 2015

Btw, your story is shit. Come up with something else. For example one course at school which gave you a boner or some shit like that.

Aug 24, 2015

do you think basically just admitting that I once consider law school but 150k in tuition for a 50/50 shot of landing a job was a little, rich, is a better idea?

Aug 24, 2015

Yes.

Aug 24, 2015

Again, yes.

However you'll probably get the most traction in groups that are heavily policy influenced.....public finance groups, infrastructure, etc.

Aug 24, 2015

some examples?

Aug 24, 2015
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Aug 24, 2015