New to forum/wanting a career change

Hello World,

Im a 26 year old financial services professional who has worked for a couple discount brokerage firms in various capacities. But its high time for a career change and a new challenge in the investment banking world.

I did not come from a target school, nor did I realize that Finance is what I wanted to do until much later in college so I feel behind the 8 ball here. To compensate, i have worked my ass off and am currently pursuing my CFA charter (sat for level 1 a few weeks ago and I am awaiting results). I sat for my exam and feel like i can conquer the world, but in all seriousness I just want a shot to pursue something that I think is really cool.

Encouragement is welcome and any type of advice will be met with the most sincere thank you that you have ever seen. 

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Comments (54)

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 7, 2021 - 2:52pm

Study the GMAT and go get an MBA from a top 15 (preferably top 10) school, probably path of least resistance

Sep 8, 2021 - 9:55am

I was in a similar boat, but older. I was working in BO as a CPA and was considering the CFA vs the MBA. The biggest con for the MBA was the cost, but that can be mitigated by crushing the GMAT and getting some scholarship money. Ultimately, I ended up pursuing the MBA and broke into banking with several options available. Breaking into IB at the age of 26 without relevant prior experience will be extremely difficult. Without going the MBA route, you would only be eligible for analyst programs that hire almost exclusively from a handful of target schools and lateral hires are at a minimum working as a CPA at the Big 4 in TAS.

The MBA path is expensive, but it's a straightforward proven path to break into IB. Plus, you'll come in as an associate making great money. Total comp for an A1 is north of $300K, so any student loans could be paid off quickly (less than 5 years). I'm paying off $200K in loans in ~2 years. Additionally, a handful of students I graduated with completed 1 or 2 parts of the CFA while in school, so it's still doable to come out with both the CFA / MBA if you're that interested in becoming a CFA. Ultimately, the CFA doesn't really have much use in traditional IB, my classmates that pursued the CFA while in their MBA program were almost exclusively trying to work at asset managers.

Sep 10, 2021 - 12:22am

That value proposition for a T15 MBA comes from the network you're able to build and a second shot at campus recruiting. Finance is very much a business based on personal relationships, and having a vast alumni network and close camaraderie with your cohort will go a long way for recruiting and sourcing business. 

Of course, there are other fields of finance that don't require an MBA to break in with. RE is HOT right now and hiring more junior positions than ever before. I got in through purely networking after being late the the finance ball game (realized I hated accounting after my Junior year internship).

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Sep 7, 2021 - 3:26pm

Thank you for the insight.same as the above but in your opinion, what is the appeal of a t-15 MBA for many of these firms? I am sure that you can understand that I would want to find alternative methods without accumulating more student debt.
this may be the path of least resistance and so be it, its something that i should seriously consider if i want the most out of my career

Most Helpful
Sep 7, 2021 - 3:41pm

T15 MBA programs have direct pipelines into the many of the banks for IB roles (among other high finance roles, like equity research). These are highly structured recruiting processes for roles you will not otherwise be able to land. Given your non-target schooling and non-target work experience, if you want to work at any high finance roles, you need to be trained. Spending a few years in IB post a T15 MBA program will get you that training. 

I don't think it's the path of least resistance, but the only path. Sorry to be blunt, but I just don't see how you can make it without the full time MBA career reset route. You can try to complete your CFA charter, which itself is difficult, but even with the charter it's going to be near impossible to land a front office finance role from your current seat. There are plenty of operations folks at the BBs doing the CFA program gunning for similar jobs you would want. 

There's also a time component. The day you get into a T15 MBA program, you're seen as eligible for many jobs you would not normally have access to. Completing the CFA program takes 3 years, and you're not going to be accumulating relevant work experience in that time.

I would focus solely on the GMAT and put aside the CFA charter as you can't do both successfully. If you ace the GMAT by year end, you can send apps by late December for the current application cycle. 

Best of luck.  

Sep 7, 2021 - 3:52pm

I really appreciate the honesty actually, doesn't hurt to hear the truth.

I look at it this way, I know for a fact that I am better than most of those schmucks who can make it into target schools with daddy's money or the post graduates who have never had to work a day in their lives. It's unfortunate that people who didnt know exactly what they wanted to do from the time they were 18/19 dont have the same playing field.

Some people are just born with a means of being able to do whatever they want with as little effort as possible while some of the rest of us need to fight a little harder. If thats what it takes then the ends must justify the means

Sep 7, 2021 - 5:58pm

The way I think about the job process is two fold, 1) you need to have access to firms to interview. So, you need to be in a place that firms/jobs you want will seriously interview you. Knowing what firm is hiring and sending in random CVs is not even close to enough as the recruitment process is highly structured. 2) You also need to be in a position to ace those interviews. That means you are fully prepped with all the vast technical questions down pat. From your seat today, the best and really only way I see to obtain the two points above is via a full time MBA

You certainly can work harder than anyone, with all the grit and drive in the world...That's great and it will serve your career well. Internal motivation and confidence to succeed is key in this industry, so definitely keep that fire burning. However, if you aren't in a position to obtain the right interviews and ace the highly technical questions, sorry to say, but nothing else really matters. 

Best of luck!

  • PM in HF - Other
Sep 7, 2021 - 6:50pm

Get rid of this attitude right away or you will find yourself in "mid-office risk" in the foreseeable future. No one gives a shit about what your view of others path is tell me what you did and why you deserve it. You want some more honesty, saying to me I did not know at 18/19 what I wanted to do is bullshit you could have went to any path and excell'd and your resume would be right up there versus your competition. You could have been a pro athlete, a historian, journalist. a fortune 500 leader etc...the list goes on. 

But reality is you fell way behind the "8ball" and landed in basically the cushy backoffice/midoffice job with decent pay/hours and got utterly bored out of your mind one day and decided the cushy lifestyle and path is not for you. That is great but do not give us the other crap and put down others cause no one wants to deal with that guy.

Sep 7, 2021 - 8:47pm

Hey there bud, nobody called you out by name. I can sit here and say that I'm better than half your first year analyst peers and believe it all I want. If the stereotype isn't true, then why do you seem so triggered by it.

Your reaction tells me that I can excel at whatever I want but still be miserable enough to beat down some 26 year old young man who took just a little but longer to figure out what they wanted out of life.

Thanks for the help anyway!

  • Intern in VC
Sep 8, 2021 - 12:04am

The person you are responding to is literally a certified HF PM. "Analyst Peers" makes you sound like you do not know what you are talking about and will also make people not want to offer advice.

  • Intern in PE - LBOs
Sep 9, 2021 - 8:35pm

The reason you didn't go to a target school was because you did bad (most likely did not try) in high school, not because your daddy didn't have money. That's on you, bud. Literally, every top 20 school will give you a full ride if your parents make less than 70k or whatever. I grew up in a single-parent household making 20k a year and was still intellectually motivated enough to study hard in high school, get into an HYPS target, and land a great buyside job out of college. "Not knowing what they wanted to do" is an excuse people use for not even putting in the minimal effort required to get into a decent college during HS. You didn't have to get into harvard. You had to get into Vandy/Georgetown/Notre Dame, all less-selective-yet-prestigious, private targets who would've given you a full ride if you were anywhere near as broke as me. But keep having this mentality of everyone who's in a better place than you got there unfairly. That mindset is really gonna help you succeed.

These comparisons you keep making are offensive to those who had to work for it, not to mention completely inaccurate, and at the end of the day, not relevant. Nobody in IB or PE cares where you came from or how you struggled on the uneven playing field. They care about you doing the job.

  • Business School in IB - Cov
Sep 9, 2021 - 9:06pm

Lol wtf 

You seem to be an incredibly insecure human being. I was actually looking forward to responding to your questions with some insight, but I no longer have any intention of doing so after reading some of your snarky & bodacious comments. That and everyone else gave you pretty great advice already.

Coming from someone who also didn't go to a target/semi-target, is also the first to go to a 4 year university in his family and also started his career in IB 'late' (25), grow the fuck up man.

At this point, you're not ready for a career in investment banking; you're too immature (and insecure). 

Also, if you're not prepared to go to an MBA out of state (I read below that you want to stay in Florida) then don't go to one at all. Face the facts; it matters where you go get your MBA. Go to a good school unless you want to decrease your chances of breaking in to a half-decent firm by 10x. M7 preferred but T15 will do- heck, even a T20/25 might get you there. Just don't go to Crackhead State A&M in Florida because you have a mortgage. If that's holding you back, either leave your attachments in the past (ie. your comfy mortgage in Florida) or say goodbye to this industry. Even if you ended up in a Florida office (which there are very few of), that attitude will not save you from the gruesome work-life balance that IB can give.

I'm being critical of you because based on what you've described, you and I have incredibly similar early career paths. And that is why I am doing you the favour of giving you the opportunity to reflect now on wether or not pursuing a career in investment banking is really what you want. It may be, but you need to seriously think about how your attitude is going to contribute to not only your career focused decision making, but your general happiness in this line of work.


A lot of people don't have daddy's money and go to top schools for free. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 7, 2021 - 8:15pm

MBA at a T15 program will give you recruiting looks by 95% of banks for front office roles (IB, RE, ER, AM). 

If your work experience isn't elite, you will need to compensate by getting a GMAT score that is above median (740-760 ish to offset). This could take you anywhere from 3 months to well over a year depending on your general cognition/discipline studying. It really varies so don't assume it's a cakewalk

In all honestly, it will probably be less difficult grinding the GMAT and doing what's required to get into a T15 MBA than it is breaking into an entry level role without prerequisie experience at this age.

Sep 8, 2021 - 8:54am

Hi, i just have a very simple question. How realistic do you think it is for an intelectually average individual (but a hard worker) to get a score in the 730-750 range. Btw I plan on doing the GMAT in about 2 years.

Thank you in advance.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 8, 2021 - 1:38pm

It implies that you outscore 95-98% of candidates. If your goal is a top MBA and you aren't a phenomenal standardized test taker, give yourself as much time as possible to prep. 

  • Associate 3 in PE - Other
Sep 8, 2021 - 1:27am

MBA is your only real chance (ie. not 1 in 1000, which would be your chances sans MBA)

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Sep 8, 2021 - 11:20am

Drop the CFA, not relevant for IB. MBA is your path forward - you benefit from already working in finance and your story will work for IB

But seriously dude, you absolutely need to drop ANY attitude towards people who got into this earlier in life, saying you'd perform better than half of analysts, etc. Everyone has their own path. There are hundreds of 26 year olds going through MBA every year who are very smart/talented and also humble, you're not special. IB is a team sport and you'll get dinged for it in a second. 

Sep 8, 2021 - 6:18pm

Always follow your passion just know its going to be incredibly tough as finance is probably the most competitive industry. You wont be eligible for analyst roles as they are strictly for college grads. You will have to ACE the GMAT and get into M7 before you will be eligible for an MBA. If your college gpa isn't greater than 3.5 it will be hard to get into M7, but if you can spin your story and ace the gmat and have good recommendations it could work. Good luck. 

Sep 9, 2021 - 8:43am

might be time for some more brutal honesty, but i simply dont understand why everyone is making it seem like an M7 MBA is the only way to go or else im wasting my time? I live in florida, i just bought a house, so even if i were to apply and be admitted to an M7 school, it would be difficult to uproot my life and move for two years.

Sep 9, 2021 - 8:46am

fwiw there are plenty of good schools in my area, university of florida warrington cob, rollins college crummer cob. stetson cob. Would i just be wasting my time with these programs, even if they do have placement in firms such as GS? (i looked a bit more into rollins and they appear to be the best for IB/high finance placement, but obviously not a good as an M7)

Sep 9, 2021 - 7:27pm

I'm going to be brutally honest, this response makes it seem like you don't know what you're getting into.

Here's the truth: the IB business model is based on a pyramidal human capital structure that is held up by an army of young mercenaries with nothing to lose and slavish devotion to the cause. Many of them wash out jaded and tired after 2 years, and many fewer hang on, mostly because they were cut out for it from the beginning personality-wise (read: proud professionals, tireless work ethic, high degree of social poise and quick reaction time, very nuanced sense of interpersonal politics, etc) and not because they worked meaningfully harder than the ones who wash out. By the time any of these young bankers have things to worry about other than their bonus and promotion (eg family, property), they are senior enough (and valuable enough) to make claims like "but my house is already in florida".

I think you think that your work ethic is enough to take you far and I am here to tell you about a lot of deserving kids that worked with me or for me and who got invited to leave after two years of 80-100 hour weeks. They weren't even bad, they just weren't that good by the exceptionally brutal yardstick of this industry. Working like an animal at the beginning is table stakes. It is an apprenticeship business where the whole point is that you bend over backwards and enrich your boss at great personal cost so that someday he makes you into himself on the way out the door. Your role as an apprentice is to be useful and easy to interface with, not to justify why you should be weighed evenly against a Stanford grad with no wife and a rental apartment just because you didn't come from privilege and you already have a mortgage. Who gives a fuck? That's a bad fit for the role. I'm not trying to be callous I'm trying to impress upon you that anything you do to hurt your case is going to count against you because you're already starting behind the starting line and whatever hard work means to you 100% won't cover it up because that's just normal around these parts. There's a reason analysts/MBA assos in this business are predominantly young and untethered. It's because the demands of this job for someone who is going to do it long term are really, really, high, and at a junior level they just cannot coexist with the limitations that middle age adults face without unreasonable levels of sacrifice that make it just not worth it. Know that the bank is going to squeeze you hard for a few years and you're going to have to become seriously hard to replace before you start getting to play cards that have fuck all to do with your preferences. Choose wisely.


  • 10
Sep 9, 2021 - 10:25am

I am sure there are good schools. Just these banks like to hedge their risk and like to choose from M7 but if you do go to one of those schools you mentioned you will have to kill it with your grades, try to get some scholarship, or have an impact on campus. Its hard but doable and you will need to have mamba mentality. 

Sep 9, 2021 - 12:20pm

I think the best bet to make the transition would be school. That being said, some BBs are willing to take on an experience professional if you are willing to start over as an AN1. I started completely over and skipped the MBA step and it was well worth it. Also....coming into IB at the bare bottom you truly understand all of the processes and get a good grasp at what you are doing. Plus in most other career paths switching to an AN1 at an IB more times than not is not a pay cut. Good luck!!

Sep 9, 2021 - 7:05pm

I had to claw my way into IB the way you're describing (though did not do MBA). And at a point, I had a chip on my shoulder.

I'm here to echo others in saying you have got to (right now) get humble and stop telling yourself self-flattering stories about merit, who had it harder, blah blah blah. Everyone has their own story and you can never know the fullness of them all so don't take an uneducated position that benefits yourself. I can tell you that everyone who makes it into the chair does so with a healthy dose of luck, whether or not they recognize/acknowledge that, so in a sense we all owe some part of our success to forces beyond our control. And I can tell you that once in the chair, you stop feeling so hard about those who "don't deserve it" as much, or whatever, because the absolute blistering heat of this job is a crucible and I don't really give a shit about the backstory because if you're still here odds are you have seen some shit and are fighting daily to remain on the ball. Honestly, complaining about merit, private schools, whatever just demonstrates that you don't understand how difficult this actual job is - all of the legs up that people get mean very little in the face of the actual challenges you need to manage day to day in the role. I wish you the best of luck.


  • 8
Sep 10, 2021 - 10:15am

You need a reality check. You mention Stetson COB. Stetsons are hats, not reputable colleges. I grew up very blue collar on a farm in a poor community, but work ethic has zero to do with ability to get into IB. You may perform better once you are there, but getting in is the first step. Getting in and being successful are two very different things. 

  • 2
  • Intern in VC
Sep 10, 2021 - 11:24am

These firms have pipelines that work for acquiring junior talent. Its frankly a waste of time for them to attempt find people outside of these pools given that their system already serves all their needs. That's why it's entirely on you to try to get in to the industry and not on them to find you.

 Not to mention, Target schools prove both motivation and capability (with exceptions) and firms don't have to worry too much about confirming these traits.

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Sep 10, 2021 - 6:26pm

Would echo other posters who have outlined the difficulty in transitioning into an analyst program. Associate programs would be the most logical path forward unless you care to work at a local boutique (which, notwithstanding some of the prestige-whoring children on this forum, is a perfectly respectable career choice).

To your point more directly: You would do well to consider the heuristics firms use. The non-target success stories on this forum would tell you that firms certainly do recognize thekind of "hustle" you possess. However, when presented with an MBA from a no-name school and an MBA from a brand-name school (T15), they will almost always select the latter because that person has demonstrated an ability to check so many boxes that a firm need not perform super-extensive due diligence on you.

Folks here are counseling you to pursue this path because it offers much greater certainty. It would be very cool to see you succeed in recruiting from Stetson into a front-office role, and you should definitely rub it in our collective face if you do (we would deserve it!). But the path you are proposing reduces certainty (to sub 1% levels); humans are naturally risk-averse, all the more so within this most neurotic of worlds (and forums). Please bear in mind that you can learn from others, even those on the "golden path."

In summary, what makes you an attractive candidate to a bank is (1) the hard work you seem willing to take on and, importantly, (2) the ability to move up within the ranks and sell M&A work or debt products etc. (1) is table stakes. (2) is nearly impossible to assess, so the banks rely on your ability to navigate the complex process of getting into a top school as a de-facto selection mechanism. Hopefully this is helpful to you. Please do bear in mind that there are many lucrative and fulfilling careers outside of finance ("sweaty" entrepreneurship is one that tempts me nearly every day). Finally, you would do well to get that chip off of your shoulder. While an underdog mentality will inevitably help drive you, projecting it upon others (bear in mind that mid-senior folks in finance can read people very well) will do you a disservice in recruiting and in your career.

Sep 11, 2021 - 9:15am

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