Leaving back office work

A little background, I graduated college a couple years back and didn't have any internship experience upon finishing school but landed a debt analyst internship for a couple months after graduation. In the end, it didn't work out with. The broker I was working with was not interested to train or mentor me in anyway. However, people at the firm really liked me and I was offered a back-office role doing servicer and corporate operational stuff. I ended up taking the job and stuck it out for a couple years now. I took it mostly with the advantage of being employed and just continued to look for front office roles. I interviewed for FO jobs, making it far, but just gave up in spring 2019 when no offers came out of it. After that, I just decided to start applying for MSRE/MRED programs to help make the transition and also leave my current market. I got into some great schools, but with the turnout of 2020, I held off on enrolling because of remote learning.

I'm kind of stuck and unsure what to do. I'm pigeonholed at this point. I was mainly targeting development roles (associate, analyst, manager, etc.) and was counting on a MRED/MSRE to get me there.

So far these are the options I think I have at this point

  1. Talk with boss to try and consider a production role. This might mean skipping any associate/analyst role and just going right to a broker role on commission/draw. Not too enthusiastic about this, but I do think it's a viable option.

  2. Continue job-hunting and literally just pick up any front office job to get a clean start elsewhere. Not sure how easy this is going to be now that I possibly have too many years of back office experience and probably can't get into entry level roles. I have some experience in asset management, and have been able to sell that on a lot of roles in the past, but I think it's not been enough experience to many interviewers.

  3. Reapply to grad school. I'm thinking about including MBA programs in there just to have more options at a "reset" I'm trying to do.

I screwed up in my past and should have taken some risks with my careers. I feel like this is a huge lesson I'm learning. I just need to figure a way out to reset things and start new.

Comments (7)

Feb 19, 2021 - 8:02pm

Interesting dilemma. 

I'll address each of your points:

1. Do not do this. Production requires a rolodex and thorough understanding of the business. I cannot imagine how anyone would be successful without the benefit of executing / analyzing a multitude of deals. 

2. Not going to lie, you are at a big disadvantage. The market is flooded with really quality candidates. I am hiring, a cheaper, spry undergrad is pretty attractive. What exactly is your experience? Trying to understand if you can spin this and land somewhere.

3. Candidly, this is your best bet. Go to an NYUish school. The options it opens are extensive. I did not go to B school but friends I know have and I'm constantly impressed with where they end up and with whom they're interviewing.

Feb 19, 2021 - 10:19pm


2. Not going to lie, you are at a big disadvantage. The market is flooded with really quality candidates. I am hiring, a cheaper, spry undergrad is pretty attractive. What exactly is your experience? Trying to understand if you can spin this and land somewhere.

Work has been mostly in loan servicing, so write up reports on physical and location performance of properties. I've done some light underwriting, spent some time analyzing financial statements for different properties. Read and review loan docs, leases, abstracts, insurance. So a number of different things related to operating a property. The rest of my job is composed of different things more related to running a company like administration, accounting, IT, HR. So nothing tied to actually closing deals. Constantly wearing different "hats" in my job.

A master's is certainly looking like it's my best bet. Georgetown might be one I'm considering since it's got a good name with a lower cost compared to other programs. I'm on the west coast, but am not sure how good the network is out here though.

Feb 20, 2021 - 11:56am

Two options: 

1. Perfect your story and network like crazy. You know what these groups want to hear and the experience they want their candidates to have. Figure out a way to truthfully bridge the gap. Focus on the aspect of your job that align with the employer. This takes time and careful rehearsal. Do REFM or comparable. Read Linneman's book. Put in the work up front. I was in your spot once. Put in the work and come correct and you'll get a chance.

2. Go to grad school. 2-years of real world experience gone but you'll get where you want to be, albeit with a large debt load.  

Feb 20, 2021 - 12:31pm

You're not stuck. Loan servicing is a good starting ground. No person at 24 is stuck. On top of that, most 24 year olds who have only done acquisitions or asset management don't know their way around a loan doc and loan structure - you do. Huge advantage. Either network, or go back to school. You'll be fine either way. Stop thinking you're stuck or at a disadvantage - if you keep thinking it, it will be true. You're not pigeon holed - it's WSO over achievers who tell you that but frankly, in the real world, you're totally fine. Last year I watched someone move from loan servicing (7 years of experience doing loan servicing) to equity asset management. On top of that, I know tons of people who moved from loan service to acquisitions / asset management / lending in other instances. Network. If you don't like networking, go get a MSRE(D) or MBA - it'll open the doors you want and people will look favorably on your experience. 

  • Associate 1 in RE - Comm
Feb 20, 2021 - 2:24pm

I agree with this. I think OP gave up too soon. Getting a new job is a hustle. OP - you have to keep taking steps forward. The actual steps matter less than you think - all that matters is that you keep moving, keep making calls, keep sending intro emails, keep practicing your modeling skills, keep creating mini "case studies" of your work experience (how you stand out, how you've added value, how you've gained tangible skills that are transferable to FO roles).


Find a mentor - there are people on LinkedIn who have moved from Debt AM to FO roles. Pay for a month of LinkedIn premium and find as many of these guys as you can - reach out to all of them.

Feb 20, 2021 - 3:00pm

Just a thought, you can probably enroll when you want to the programs you got accepted into, unless you outright turned them down, they usually just "defer" you and let you enroll next time pretty easily. Apps are through the roof on all these programs and MBA programs so acceptance is likely to be low next few cycles (doesn't mean you shouldn't apply, but your acceptances may be valuable (and a quick solution).

That said, I wouldn't be so bold as to call yourself "pigeonholed", your few years of back office exp has not made you less qualified. You are still in the entry level zone for sure, but should approach this in a similar way to many grads who don't land exactly what they want day one. A lot of networking, hustle, and cold contacting can do wonders. Just don't focus only major/large firms and online applying, this is a shoe leather type business, so take that approach (which is frankly what many out of UG actually have to do get hired in the first place). 

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