I've been at a boutique business valuation and investment banking firm for just over 3 years (since graduation from a top 20 public school with a 3.9 gpa). While we do sell-side advisory work, it is few and far between with maybe one engagement per year. I've learned that Bval definitely not a long-term interest, and think going to B-school in a couple years would be the best way to transition from a). a small, no-name firm, and b). into longer-term areas of interest including MM PE, corp dev / strategy, or MMB.
My question is, which of the following (or not mentioned) options would best position me for admission into a top school? I'm assuming given my background, I would be shooting for lower end of M7 as potential reaches and top 15 schools more comfortably.
Option 1: Stay at current firm
I have been promoted from analyst to senior analyst, and beginning this summer with have 3 direct reports on a small team. We recently brought a senior team member on and are focusing on growing the m&a side of our business, which would be a great experience to help build a platform. However, I've heard that goal for 2+ years at this point, and execution has lacked in the past.
Option 2: Move to boutique IB firm
I've recently been approached and have an offer to join a small boutique IB firm that does sell and buy-side m&a in addition to some capital raising. I think it would be a good move experience wise, given I enjoyed working on the m&a processes at my current firm, and this opportunity would provide that full time. However, I still run the risk of having a non-recognizable name on my resume when applying to school. Additionally, they want me to join as a 1st year analyst and commit to staying for a full 2 year analyst stint, which means I'd be dropping down in title and would be applying to b-school at age 28 as an analyst.
Option 3: Search for SFA / Corp Dev / Strategy Positions at more recognizable firms
Haven't gone down this path much, but with my advisory experience I think I would be able to secure a position at a F1000 / 500 company through networking and reaching out to some recruiting contacts. Part of me wonders if the higher profile name of a firm would carry more weight than being lumped in a finance bucket with individuals from higher quality firms, which is why this route is of interest.
Any advice would be appreciated.