Path to post-MBA PE without Pre-MBA PE Work Experience.

Hi everyone-

I find myself in an interesting position. I want to move into private equity from S&T. Does anyone have any experience with this-- is it doable? I've not found much discussion on this topic, and I thought starting a new thread might help people in the same position as I.

My background:

I thought S&T was all the rage as an undergrad and solved for a job there... had no guidance at all and was out of my depths. Anyways, I got an offer and joined one of the top BBs (think GS, MS). Around the same time, I got an offer to join a newly launched great scholarship program (think Rhodes, Gates Cambridge). I thought it was too great an opportunity to pass up, so I left work and joined. Managed to retain my position at the firm.

However, now I want to move into PE. I had an interview with a PE firm but in the end, they said I needed to have some IBD experience, even an internship. In the meantime, I got into HBS 2+2. However, I've found it quite challenging to make any breakthrough into IBD right now, and it's very late in the recruiting cycle. Would most likely end up going back to the trading floor.

So my question is, post-MBA, would it be doable to move into PE given my background (i.e., no pre-MBA IB experience)? I would very much appreciate any thoughts and inputs. As for those who may have questions about my MBA application process or any question for that matter, I'd be more than willing to help.

Thanks for your inputs.

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Comments (10)

May 26, 2017

It is typically really, really hard. However, you have a top BB on your resume and are receiving a Harvard MBA, so its probably possible in some form or another.

Reach out to Harvard alumni.

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May 26, 2017

Thanks. Will certainly try to use the alumni network. Another disclosure: I know the head of global recruitment at one of the top PE shops (think BX, KKR). I build bridges during my interview process and we've remained in touch.

My fear though is by the time I graduate she might no longer be there. and even so, it's not guaranteed that I will land a job if she's there. I think she did the most she could during the interview process to help, but my lack of relevant experience did me in.

Best Response
May 27, 2017

Yea it's going to be tough, I know a guy who is at a top MBA(H/S), super smart guy, Ivy league STEM undergrad, near perfect GPA/GMAT, engineering roles at a few top startups and he is struggling to get into PE.

I never used to understand post-MBA PE recruiting, until I was fortunate to break into PE myself. What it comes down to is that doing deals is a process and learning that process is something that can really only be done in banking and PE. I'm an Associate now and have completed a few deals, even if we hired the top performing HSW MBA grad with whatever phenomenal experience he/she would bring to the table, if that person had never done banking/PE before, they would lag behind on the first deal or two and I'd really have to coach them through things. The ramp up period would be at least a few months and depending on the deal flow, maybe even longer. If that person was hired on as an analyst or Associate that would be one thing, if they were coming it at a Post MBA Senior Associate or VP role, they would be a liability during the deal process.

To make things worse, PE firms that are recruiting have their choice of tons of people who have gone through the process many times before and have Pre-MBA PE experience.

With all that being said, the positives are that you're going to HBS and have some good contacts within the industry. My thoughts would be to obviously continue to network, start thinking about how you can get some deal experience(working at a local PE/Bank for free), and probably start trying to find smaller firms that might be willing to take on someone without a ton of deal experience. Small firms are going to be your best bet, ideally, you'd do well there and slowly lateral your way up.

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Jun 1, 2017

Many thanks for your very thoughtful response. Talking to a few small PE shops now and will update when the process plays out. Hope others can find this process useful as well. Had no idea how difficult it was going into PE post-MBA without prior work experience.

Jun 2, 2017

How did you not know how difficult it was going to be? No prior IB or PE experience and you think it would be easy to get a job post-MBA? Do you know how few spots there are and how many qualified people with prior experience there are?

Your best bet is to network like crazy and hope to break in at a small firm that is less structured and is more willing to take a chance on someone.

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Sep 20, 2017

Any updates? Your PE process and discussion here is definitely helpful. Thanks and good luck.

Jun 3, 2017
mrharveyspecter:

Yea it's going to be tough, I know a guy who is at a top MBA(H/S), super smart guy, Ivy league STEM undergrad, near perfect GPA/GMAT, engineering roles at a few top startups and he is struggling to get into PE.

I never used to understand post-MBA PE recruiting, until I was fortunate to break into PE myself. What it comes down to is that doing deals is a process and learning that process is something that can really only be done in banking and PE. I'm an Associate now and have completed a few deals, even if we hired the top performing HSW MBA grad with whatever phenomenal experience he/she would bring to the table, if that person had never done banking/PE before, they would lag behind on the first deal or two and I'd really have to coach them through things. The ramp up period would be at least a few months and depending on the deal flow, maybe even longer. If that person was hired on as an analyst or Associate that would be one thing, if they were coming it at a Post MBA Senior Associate or VP role, they would be a liability during the deal process.

To make things worse, PE firms that are recruiting have their choice of tons of people who have gone through the process many times before and have Pre-MBA PE experience.

With all that being said, the positives are that you're going to HBS and have some good contacts within the industry. My thoughts would be to obviously continue to network, start thinking about how you can get some deal experience(working at a local PE/Bank for free), and probably start trying to find smaller firms that might be willing to take on someone without a ton of deal experience. Small firms are going to be your best bet, ideally, you'd do well there and slowly lateral your way up.

This is a great write up however in my opinion you are giving no experience post-MBA sr. associate way too much credit in terms of time to ramp up. So far, I closed multiple platforms and 3 add-ons and screened countless CIMs and I have been fortunate to 90% of the time work directly with partners of the firm. Looking back, it took me well over a year to "ramp up" and this is with prior IB closed transaction experience. Hell, it took a few months just to get my arms around a SPA.

That is just on the transaction front... what about portfolio management? financial reporting, budgeting, project sequencing, etc etc... forget it. I think for OP, your best chance is to get into Mck/BCG, get a few years under your belt (be as the most analytical consultant you can) and try for PE as senior associate and make sure you can model the sun and back out of anything imaginable (unless you are going for super specific O&G or RE models then idk). at this point you may even wonder if its worth it for you because you will be taking few steps back and paycut.

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Sep 20, 2017

Sorry but can you please elaborate a bit more about the ramp up? What exactly is so difficult about SPAs, portfolio mgmt, fina reporting, etc that takes so long to ramp up? Are you talking about technical skills? Aren't there third parties like lawyers, auditors, etc that do all the non-finance stuff?

May 27, 2017

Or go for MBB and plan on breaking in a few years down the line. Limits the firms that will target you and might need to be in an operational role, but that is definitely a viable option

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May 30, 2017
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