Low pedigree, non-linear career path, will I get overlooked?

I'm in my mid-30s with a non-linear career path and lack pedigree. At 18, I made the uninformed choice to attend a state university close to home having not yet realized my passions. Following graduation, I was a loan officer, analyst at a strategy consulting firm, founder of college textbook drop-shipping start-up (successful for 3-4 years) which morphed into an online consignment start-up (which failed) and then to my most recent position.

For the last two years I was a research analyst at a buy-side research house where I was part of a team that picked up on early company trends such as the impact MCD's all-day breakfast would have on its top line growth, advertisers' massive shift of dollars into FB, and the sloppiness and lack of execution in the Men's Wearhouse/Jos. A. Bank merger. I absolutely loved my work and company mission.

The firm hit serious financial troubles, and I'm now stuck looking for a similar position. In addition to piecing together qualitative and quantitative market research, I served as the firm's investment analyst. We didn't do classic financial modeling, however I "get" how it's done having traded for 16 years and know all the statements, variables within, ratios, etc etc. Frankly, I question how valuable such modeling is when it seemingly weighted toward past performance, arbitrary growth rates, conventional wisdom, and management puffery versus actual current and future business trends uncovered by way of market research.

Is my background too non-linear, non-safe that I keep getting overlooked? Do firms look for those who have followed a formula on the straight and narrow and just assume EQ/IQ is only possessed by the hyper-competitive with pedigree? I've an option to segue into "data science" which isn't aligned with my passions but I need to be realistic about feeding the family. Thoughts, suggestions? Will taking a financial modeling course and slapping that on my resume give credence to my research/analysis wiring?

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Comments (5)

May 29, 2016

At first blush, I'd actually think that your background should set you up nicely for an ER job. While I obviously can't speak for whatever firm you end up interviewing with, my gut reaction probably would be to assume you already know financial modeling (i.e. I don't know how much a course is really going to help you from a credential-ing perspective). As for pedigree and such, while some shops may put a large amount of weight on schooling, the places I've worked generally care more about work experience (for experienced hires).

To provide more specific advice and commentary, what exactly is it you are looking to get into? Sell-side, Buy-side, or something else?

Jun 3, 2016

Thank you for replying. I'd prefer buy-side due to familiarity and what appears to be more flexibility but would be happy with sell-side as well. I interviewed at a sell-side firm awhile back but may have hit a roadblock when reporting that we didn't do formal financial modeling e.g. set price targets. She also wasn't happy that our research house wasn't constrained by FINRA and alluded to the style of research the firm and its peers did as "irresponsible." Is it common for some sell-siders to frown upon channel checking firms that produce market moving reports? (Ours was in-depth channel checking and interviews in multiple silos.)

Jun 3, 2016

That's the first I've ever heard of such a bias, but I guess anything is possible. It strikes me as odd because analysts should like to be able to publish insightful research that would cause clients to act accordingly - I dont know why they'd dislike you for doing it except for you stealing their thunder?

Per the other respondent, for sell side, you need to be able to do classic financial modeling. It's not hard and if you just find some free resources or cheaper online ones, I'm sure it'll be easy to pick up. If you feel confident about it and they ask, just confirm you can indeed do financial modeling.

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Jun 4, 2016

Great, thank you for your insight!

May 30, 2016