If B-School is the Goal - Best Path?

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.

Comments (6)

Feb 17, 2015

If you are applying to B-School I think option 1 is your best choice. Option 2 seems like it won't add any value for your application or story. Option 3 will cause you to reset and rebuild a rapport with new co-workers, plus in corp fin a SFA typically doesn't have direct reports or management responsibility.

Option 1 shows you have worked hard, advanced, and are valued at your current firm. I think the management experience you are going to receive will distinguish you while applying because most b-school applicants do not have management experience when they apply.

Of course, all things equal a more well known brand name firm will be more appealing to adcom members than something they haven't heard of before, but I think you are on your way to a very strong profile. Assuming you do well on the GMAT (>680) and have good essays and LORs, I think you will be fine. Your work experience at the time of applying will be very competitive, and you did well in undergrad.

Feb 17, 2015

stay. u should be able to get some lower M7/Top10 given current stats. all options above won't improve your chance of H/S so really no big difference.

bschool has much better ROI when you have less working experiences (most post-MBA position pay same to students regardless w/e length pre-MBA)

Feb 17, 2015

I would stay unless the boutique bank is willing to hire you as a second year analyst given your experience. I would push hard for them to reconsider your offer.

Feb 18, 2015

Bump - any changes of opinion if the boutique IB firm offer isn't a true 1st year analyst role? More along the lines of entering with a generic "Analyst" title that, through impressive performance could turn into a Senior Analyst / Associate title in 2ish years.

Feb 18, 2015

Stay put, manage direct reports, identify recommendation writers, and strengthen relationship with them.

Outside of work, focus on the GMAT then apply this coming fall. You should have no problem getting in, just comes down to the execution of your GMAT, LOR's, and essays (Craft a story that makes sense!)

Lastly, as mentioned above start volunteering now, its looks bad if you start this Summer and pick 1-2 things you are really passionate about.