Q&A: GS/MS IB Analyst —> Megafund PE Associate —> HBS/GSB Business School

Hi Everyone, I've lurked on this site for a long time and it's been extremely helpful at different points in my career. I'm interested in giving back via Q&A thread as I've seen others do over the years.

Quick background

  • Graduated from one of the top liberal arts schools
  • Spent 2 years as an analyst at GS/MS at one of the top groups (think GS TMT/MS M&A)
  • Have spent the past few years as a private equity associate at a megafund
  • Will be attending HBS/GSB in the fall

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Apr 15, 2019 - 11:23pm

Being in a top group at GS / MS, how important was it for you or your peers to come from a target school? How well would a non-target at a group like GS TMT / MS M&A place for PE?

Thanks and congrats!

“If you ain’t first, you’re last!” - GOAT
Apr 16, 2019 - 1:30am

Short answer is that it's not that important. Going to a lesser-known school will not actively work against you while working as an analyst or in the PE recruiting process. That being said, those coming from target schools have built-in advantages that come with the network.

When you're actually working as an analyst at one of these groups, where you went to school matters very little after 1-2 months. Analysts from target schools will feel more comfortable at first asking their older counterparts questions related to practical knowledge, recruiting, etc. They might also have an easier time establishing a good reputation via word of mouth - i.e. a second-year will mention that someone is smart and easy to work with based on their experience in undergrad. Generally though, it's assumed that you're smart and able to learn until you give people a reason to think otherwise - everyone is given the benefit of the doubt. Over time, your performance will have the biggest impact on your reputation and therefore the kind of experience you'll have.

In PE recruiting, you'll be given every chance to earn a spot regardless of where you went to school if you come from one of those groups (and MS/GS in general). Those coming from target schools can differentiate themselves prior to the interview process starting by actively networking with alums at different funds. But, again, where you went to school will not immediately place you at a disadvantage.

There are some who believe that not having a target school on your resume will give you fewer chances to screw up - either on the job or in an interview - before people begin to think negatively of you. I can see how this confirmation bias would play out, but I haven't seen this in my experience.

Apr 16, 2019 - 1:55am

do you feel like a carbon copy?


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

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Apr 16, 2019 - 1:55am

what are you afraid of?


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

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Apr 16, 2019 - 1:55am

tell me your fears so i may feed on them


Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

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Apr 16, 2019 - 12:27pm

How do you feel about your experience in banking? Would it have made sense to start right away in PE as an analyst or did you see tangible benefits from your time in banking?

Second, what next? You've basically achieved the best so far, but how do you think about the lifestyle tradeoff and the various opportunities beyond banking/PE after your time in B-school?

Apr 16, 2019 - 10:11pm

Thanks for the questions.

  • My banking experience was challenging; I had a steep learning curve starting out and had the unfortunate luck of being staffed on a few projects/clients that kept me unusually busy over the course of my two years. My experience wasn't as emotionally draining as it could have been - fortunately, my friends and family were empathetic and understood when I had to break commitments - but it was mentally and physically taxing. Having said all of that, I look back on my experience very positively. Despite the workload, my group had a great culture (team-oriented, supportive). I benefitted from thoughtful mentors as well; I was lucky enough to spend a lot of my time working across multiple teams with a group of really smart people, who were patient enough to help me work through anything I struggled with at first. For the majority of my two years, I worked with and for people I enjoyed, respected, and learned from. The brand name has obviously opened a lot of doors, but I've come to appreciate how much I've been able to benefit from the foundation I established through my banking experience
  • It's hard to generalize when debating the merits of starting as an analyst in IB or PE. It's highly dependent on the individual; the good PE analysts I've worked with all have pretty different backgrounds. I've performed well in my current role on the buyside, and (consistent with what I expressed above) I think a lot of that has to do with what I was able to gain through my banking experience. Personally, I just don't think I would have been ready to jump straight into PE coming out of undergrad for a number of reasons. It's not the liberal arts background specifically, I just don't think I had yet developed the mindset/problem-solving approach that I was able to develop in banking. The subject matter in finance is easy to grasp conceptually - as you'll hear elsewhere on this site - but being able to thoughtfully apply that knowledge required critical thinking skills that were very different from what I needed to be successful in college. I think a lot of it had to do with not having consistent experience digesting quantitative information, so I needed to develop the muscle memory there; in any case, I'm glad I took the path I did
  • I've been fine with the lifestyle trade-offs associated with the roles I've targeted early in my career. Since I had no idea what I wanted to do up until recently, my goal has been to preserve optionality and I determined that the best way to do so was to brand myself early on (despite the trade-offs, which I accepted). I personally don't judge people based on where they've worked or have gone to school, but it's unfortunately part of how the world works. I've come to really enjoy investing over the past few years, though would like to go a bit earlier than PE (growth or late-stage VC), so that's what I'll be focusing on post-MBA. I certainly wouldn't want to return to the hours I've been consistently working since graduating from college, but I personally don't think I will mind the random streaks of elevated hours during a deal process. I enjoy investing and have accepted that it's a price I'm willing to pay
Apr 18, 2019 - 4:20pm

You've said several times here that you want to go into growth or late-stage VC.

My questions:

  • Why would you move away from tradition buyouts to growth and VC?

  • In your view and from networking with people in the industry, what does the day-to-day and compensation look like in growth compared to PE?

  • What type of firms will you be targeting? KKR TMT Growth, TPG Growth, Warburg, Apax, Summit, Insight Venture Partners? Am I in the right ballpark?

Apr 17, 2019 - 2:13am

Main reason I wanted to go to business school was to further expand my network; there will be benefits professionally (an aspect that doesn't require further explanation), but I was more excited by the opportunity to meet and spend time with a new group of interesting people. The schools I've attended in the past had very diverse student bodies; I realized early on that I really enjoy learning about other people and their experiences, and thus I've always been pretty intentional about putting myself out there and meeting as many people as possible. So getting the chance to be in that kind of environment again is what I'm looking forward to.

Having two years to take a step back and explore different interests in a relatively risk-free environment also appealed to me. I'm not obnoxious about self-improvement, but I do love stepping outside of myself a bit and seeing what I can learn. It hasn't been all work and no play since I graduated college, but I've definitely forced myself to keep my head down and focus more often than my personality would otherwise suggest. Given how things turned out, I'm more than satisfied with some of the tough choices I've had to make over the past few years; I set a goal for myself and the hard work paid off. However, I'm absolutely looking forward to the break.

Relatedly, and to answer your second question, I mentioned in another one of my replies that I'd like to pursue earlier-stage investing; it's nice to have a good idea of what I'd like to do after business school (even better that it's something I know I'll enjoy), but I'm definitely going into the two-year experience with an open mind. I'll approach my time at business school with a degree of intentionality, but I also decided that I am going to force myself to at least look into interesting opportunities that come my way.

Apr 17, 2019 - 3:04am

At the end of the day, no, I'm happy with the choices I've made. I said this in one of my other replies, but I set a goal for myself and took the steps I thought would maximize my chances of achieving that goal. A few of my friends are pursuing off-beat careers that are interesting and fun to hear about when we get together, but in general we all have different priorities and goals that drove us to where we are now. So tough to compare.

If you're talking about alternative paths within finance, then my answer is the same. I have a few friends who moved on to public markets, some are in VC, another buddy works at an endowment, one is still in banking... all of us at one point had access to the exact same opportunities, and we chose to pursue our respective opportunities because they aligned with our goals or interests at the time. So again, hard to compare something like that when you're starting from fundamentally different places.

I started my career in finance because I genuinely had no idea what I wanted to do after college. Having played sports growing up and through college, I was drawn to IB by the descriptions of how challenging it was and the idea that I would be able to develop a transferable skillet and knowledge base that would help preserve optionality (again, no idea what I wanted to do). I chose to try my hand at investing because it seemed like the logical next step after banking for those who wanted to stay in finance and continue working in a challenging environment with a steep learning curve. I've discovered over the past few years that I actually enjoy investing in itself (as opposed to just the challenge it represented), so will pursue roles in investing after business school. I'm approaching the next two years with an open mind though, so if something really interesting comes up on my radar then I'll at the very least take a look.

Apr 17, 2019 - 5:16am

Don't plan to stay in PE, but would like to stay in investing as I've mentioned elsewhere.

I liked PE better than IB, though there are aspects of both jobs that I enjoyed. There are also things about both roles that I didn't really care for.

What I enjoyed about IB was the team-based environment/working style, the camaraderie amongst junior bankers, the emphasis on mentorship and career development, and the variety of clients/projects. I didn't particularly enjoy the demanding clients, the hours, and the relative lack of depth in the work/analysis (only realized this after I got to PE though).

What I really enjoy about PE, and investing generally, is the intellectual aspect - you have the opportunity to learn about an industry, map out the key players, create a thesis, and execute on that thesis by identifying attractive opportunities and pursuing them. And you really have so many resources to draw upon when doing all of this research. Over the course of a deal, you're solely focused on doing everything you can to understand every detail about a company before synthesizing it into a coherent argument that you then have to defend at investment committee (or justify passing on the opportunity). So you end up learning a lot in a short amount of time. Things can feel a bit repetitive at times from a process perspective at the associate level, but, in my mind, this is more than made up for by the quality of learning opportunities.

The one thing I do miss about banking is the team dynamic. When things got busy, it felt like everyone was pulling in the same direction which could make otherwise miserable experiences pretty tolerable. By comparison, I've found the buyside to be a bit more solitary which can be a drag at times.

  • Prospect in AM - Equities
Feb 14, 2020 - 12:18am

Can you elaborate on "relative lack of depth in the work/analysis"? Is it because there is more emphasis on the deal process vs understanding company fundamentals?

Most Helpful
Apr 16, 2019 - 6:12pm

What's the story you pitch to b-schools? They must get literally hundreds of applicants just like you, talking about the same types of deals and with similar pedigree and work experience ... how on earth do you stick out? These jobs don't even leave room for extracurriculars.

Apr 23, 2019 - 4:12pm

What's the story you pitch to b-schools? They must get literally hundreds of applicants just like you, talking about the same types of deals and with similar pedigree and work experience ... how on earth do you stick out? These jobs don't even leave room for extracurriculars.

Not OP. At least historically, you stick out because there's only HBS Dean of Admissions) used to literally come into the Blackstone offices every year to chat with the Associates. Check the class sizes at these schools and it's easy to see how they get in. Much, much easier to get in from a MF than a no-name PE firm.

Apparently, things are changing and H/S now ding more MF guys, which is very problematic as they hope that the MFs continue to recruit at their schools. Anyone with this background will at least get into Wharton, as anyone with this pedigree went to a (semi) target, got good grades, can easily crush GMAT. But this is irrelevant as essentially noone at a top MF will want to go to Wharton (H/S or bust) Maybe if you come off as super arrogant you'll get dinged from H/S nowadays, but back 4-5 years ago I know that essentially all Apollo/Blackstone/KKR Associates got into H or S.

Edit: More direct response in case that wasn't super clear -- hire an admissions consultant (you have plenty of cash to do so) to say you want to do entrepreneurship / impact investing / save the whales / help people in Africa...

And expectations of extracurriculars are less since they know your hours are brutal. Join a board of a small non-profit one year before applying, dial in to meetings once in a while, and write about how it supposedly changed your life.

All this info is googleable, not sure why this thread is clamoring for the answer so badly

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Apr 24, 2019 - 6:37am

Wanted to highlight how things are changing at HBS/GSB - it is definitely becoming more challenging to get into those schools from a "standard" finance background. Some of this has to do with the fact that the number of applications has been increasing every year, but there's also been a somewhat secular shift as these schools try to diversify the professional experiences represented by those in the class. You're definitely still at an advantage applying from one of these firms though - folks are admitted at a disproportionately higher rate relative to the general applicant pool, so the proof is in the pudding there. But yes, it is no longer the case where you are guaranteed admission by simply filling out an application and writing a throwaway essay. There has to be some genuine effort and thought put into the application.

Commentary on Wharton for whatever reason is still true - as long as you're not giving off the impression that Wharton is your last choice, folks from BB+MF backgrounds still regard Wharton as a "safety school" relative to HBS/GSB. It has a higher acceptance rate than HBS/GSB, but I also think that the school's skew towards finance ends up being reflected in the student body.

Apr 24, 2019 - 5:42am

So I think a lot of what monkey_brah said is true. There's a small number of people with BB+MF backgrounds, and from that group only a fraction (even if it is a large fraction) want to go to b school. It's a self-selecting group, and most everyone from that group will have the qualifications (school, stats, etc.) to get noticed and therefore get in, which also allowed them to get the jobs they've had, etc. There's a snowball effect there. As monkey_brah also alluded to in describing how the deans from these schools will visit MF offices, there's often a relationship between the firms and the schools that's beneficial. Not to be confused with the college admissions scandal, but there are backdoor conversations that happen between the high-level alumni at these firms and the admissions offices - really just pushing for candidates who are highly qualified to begin with.

I think everyone can piece that logic together pretty easily though, and I want to address this "story" concept that you bring up. As I explained above, the professional accomplishments and background will get you noticed at these schools and increase your chances of getting in, so those people have a leg up there, but business schools do not accept 100% of these kids. The "story you pitch" is what pushes you from qualified to admitted, and that story should not in any way be a list of professional accomplishments - as you said, doing that will not help you stand out from the crowd. Focusing on deal experience will likely make you come off as boring/shallow at the very least, which will make business schools think that you won't add to the class very much.

Despite the resumes of everyone from this pool of applicants looking similar, each person has a story to tell of how they got to where they are and how their collective life experiences have shaped who they have become and will drive them towards the goal they have articulated in their application. You don't need to have a unique life story or have overcome significant hardship; what you DO need to have is a unique and thoughtful perspective, which will allow you to connect your experiences and craft a coherent narrative that gives business schools the impression that you will 1) add to the class in a meaningful way and 2) be a good fit. As a white male from an upper middle-class family, there wasn't a single moment of clarity or turning point in my life that I could craft my narrative around; rather, I had a series of smaller experiences to talk about and had to think long and hard about the common thread connecting those stories so that by the time someone was done reading my application they would feel like they knew who I am and what drives me.

The essay is the best place to do this since that's the only part of the application that gives you the chance to really flesh out a narrative. The best advice I can give is to take a step back and figure out who you are on paper/resume, and then think about how you want your essay to add to that impression (can be related or unrelated). The themes that you express in your essay will inform how you tailor other parts of your application, which can be personalized in ways that become obvious once you fill these fields out. For example, if your essay paints a picture of you as an energetic people-person, you can mention that you led recruiting in the "accomplishments" section of your professional experience entries (along with your deal experience).

Lastly, as far as extracurriculars go, admissions folks are aware that you don't have much time to devote to community service involvement. But you do have some time. The best thing to do is get involved with an organization that fits within your overall story/narrative and do whatever you can to contribute. Even better, if it's an organization that strives to achieve an impact beyond itself (mentoring, for example), then that will be an impactful entry for a b school application.

Hope this helps.

Apr 24, 2019 - 7:51am

Wanted to tack on to this post to expand on what I mean by perspective/narrative. The goal of your essay - which you can safely assume is the "story you pitch" to business schools - should be to tell your story in a way that's meaningful to you. It's not a pitch for how you could benefit from being at that specific school, nor is it a space for you to bluntly talk about everything you've accomplished. Those things can certainly be parts of your story, but ideally they're small relative to everything else you're communicating - how experiences or influences have shaped who you are, what you've carried forward from those experiences, how all of that sheds light on what motivates you, etc.

I've seen this done in a few different ways based on essays I read from older colleagues who had successfully applied to business school. One of my coworkers talked about a job he had in high school and how different experiences there have influenced his professional life and personal outlook: how his managers influenced how he leads, how exposure to different kinds of people impacts his interactions with teammates, etc. Sometimes these kinds of essays can come off as overly-engineered since it can feel like a stretch to connect experiences from a trivial summer job to what he's done in IB/PE roles since, but he wrote it in a way that came off as humble and reflective.

Another one of my colleagues talked about a life-long hobby of his (worth mentioning that this was a very common hobby) and used that as a springboard to convey his dominant personality trait and how that permeates other aspects of his life. He talked about how that aspect of his personality helped him overcome certain family challenges, drove him to pursue certain interests in college and be proactive in different ways at work, etc. He wrapped up his essay by explaining how this trait impacts what he will prioritize in how he approaches his post-MBA goal, a goal that wasn't entirely unique or original but ended up being cast in a more positive light because of his perspective.

The best essay I read from someone else was how a coworker was inspired by a book he read/documentary he saw early on in his life and what that inspiration led him to pursue growing up and in college. The connection to his professional experiences was indirect at best, but he artfully bridged the gap and made the connection in a way that came off as genuine and believable. From there, he was able to talk about how specific aspects of his professional experiences directly connect to his post-MBA goal. Everything he talked about in the essay was described in a way that was thematically consistent with the experience he talked about in the intro - making his passion come off as sincere - and because the essay talked through experiences chronologically the narrative was really clear.

My essay was focused on how an embarrassing experience when I was really young impacted my approach to people/experiences growing up (it was not tramautic or unique in any way, but embarrassing enough at a young age), how subsequent experiences led me to overcome the embarrassment/impact from that experience, and how that personal development shaped how I approached different turning points in my life as I got older. I described in pretty blunt terms what I learned/how I developed throughout and how everything I experienced built on itself, all of which was consistent with and connected back to the "thesis on myself" that I had established in the intro (as a prelude to my embarrassing experience). I didn't make any specific connections to why I pursued banking/investing because that wasn't the point - I was trying to get across who I was. To drive the point home, the different things I expressed in my essay culminated in a very specific leadership story from my professional life that demonstrated how I wanted the folks in admissions to view the finished product - me, at the end of the narrative that I had laid out. I very briefly concluded with how everything I've learned from my experiences would help me achieve my post-MBA goal.

Hopefully this helps get the point across. As I mentioned, all of these "pitches" were from people with BB+MF backgrounds, so despite their resumes being similar they all had something different to say. Additionally, none of the examples I mentioned above were written by people who came from exceptionally challenging circumstances. I am not trying to minimize challenges that others overcome to get to where they are - if overcoming poverty, being raised by immigrants, being a first-generation college student, etc. is part of your story, then by all means convey that because those stories are powerful. But coming from a privileged background or more fortunate circumstance does not preclude you from telling a story that is both memorable and likable enough to get noticed and eventually admitted.

I remember feeling frustrated with how a lot of the articles I read online about "telling your story" in the MBA application weren't very helpful. It wasn't until I got the chance to read other essays that I had a concrete idea of what "telling your story" really means. So hopefully these examples, though lacking specific details, help people gain a better understanding of what a "pitch" to business schools really is.

Apr 16, 2019 - 6:12pm

Thanks for taking the time to do this

While it is common for those two groups to exit to MFs, did you have to be discrete about recruiting for MFs at the time or was the group supportive.

Apr 24, 2019 - 5:50am

Firm philosophies on this were distinct enough at the time that revealing my personal experience would allow people to easily discern where I was. I can tell you that MS is pretty supportive, while GS tends to care more about their analysts recruiting.

Generally - if you leaving to recruit leaves your deal team in a tough spot, then it's going to be tough to recruit. Outside of those rare instances though, if your firm isn't supportive of analysts recruiting, then it's on you to inform the associates/VPs you're working with what the situation is. If you have good relationships with them, then in all likelihood they will be sympathetic to your cause and will give you some breathing room to recruit; the recruiting process only lasts a day or so, so the disruption to overall work flow is likely minimal in any case. It would take a rare type of individual at the junior/middle levels to prevent you from recruiting.

Apr 17, 2019 - 1:48pm

How important/significant was your initial IB group on the rest of you career? For example, would you have had the same opportunities/ open doors if you had worked in a more specialized group such as GS/JPM FIG?

Apr 24, 2019 - 5:56am

If you're talking about a specialized group such as FIG or energy vs. an analyst role in a group with a more transferable skillset, then no, the same opportunities would not have been readily available.

That being said, if you're in one of these groups you're early on enough in your career that folks won't pigeonhole you too much if you proactively demonstrate interest in pursuing other verticals on the buy-side. There's also work you can do in specialized groups that can get you more generalist experience - services companies in energy or fintech in FIG - that would be good to highlight during recruiting if you're interested in breaking out of the mold your IB industry group will establish.

Apr 24, 2019 - 6:01am

Any small liberal arts school - even at a top school like the one I went to - would be considered a "semi-target" at best by people on this forum. The firms that recruited on campus were those where my school had a significant alumni presence. Outside of those 3-5 firms, you need to reach out to individual alums in order to get your resume passed on.

To answer your question directly - the bank I worked for recruited on campus, but our alumni presence within the bank meant that folks were funnelled into specific parts of the IB that I wasn't too keen on. I had to reach out to an alum that wasn't heavily involved with recruiting in order to get in touch with the group I ended up being placed in. From there, it was a bit of luck, like every process.

Apr 17, 2019 - 6:32pm

Can you speak on the path of recruiting for a HF after an associate stint at a MF? Specifically, I've seen a pretty 50 / 50 split on people who go Top IB group -> MF -> Top HF vs. those who do an MBA in between MF and a Top HF. Can you speak on whether you found recruiting opportunities into top hedge funds to be readily available amongst you and your peers or if an MBA is an easier route to take before breaking in?

Based on your previous comments, I know that you're not necessarily looking to make this transition, but I was curious if you have learned anything from either headhunters reaching out or your buddies at your MF or other MFs that pursued this path.

Apr 24, 2019 - 6:06am

Much easier to get a top HF job directly out of the MF vs. going to business school and then recruiting for public investing roles. Going back to business school means you're just another fish in the sea during recruiting. Recruiting for HF roles directly out of the MF, you're likely going to be participating in more bespoke/selective recruiting processes, have stronger/more recent references (if not referred to opportunity directly), etc.

In other words, if you know you want to do public investing, then just go for the top shops right out of the MF. Won't be any easier coming out of business school - likely much more difficult.

Apr 17, 2019 - 7:43pm

I'm a freshman in college at the moment. Any recommendations or tips in order to increase one's odds at admission to a top B-school (H/S/W)?

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Apr 18, 2019 - 4:49am

I'm not OP, but as a freshman you're getting way ahead of yourself. Average business school students have about 5 years of work experience; that's 8-9 years away for you. You don't even know if you will want/need an MBA at that point of your life/career.

That being said, here's 5 tips regardless:

  • Crush it academically; stay curious and open-minded, but make sure your GPA is high.
  • Do internships and find your professional passions; crush it there. If you don't find your passion, you can still do IB/MBB given a high GPA and quality internships.
  • Get into leadership positions and/or find a hobby to get really good at.
  • Care about your community, friends and family. Don't try to please everyone, but be a positive force beyond your own life.
  • Lastly, enjoy your college life and have some fun too. You're only young once and youth passes by faster than you think.

Recent M7 admit

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Apr 22, 2019 - 12:40pm

What would be considered a quality internship? I am know most IB intern roles are junior year so I am wondering what is a good internship for sophmore year to consider (Assuming I don't get super lucky and somehow get into one of the highly competitive sophmore programs). I also come from a Top 10 public school but idk thats probably non-target in the eyes of IB but not sure.

Thanks for all the help.


Apr 24, 2019 - 6:13am

Agree with danpo. Make sure you crush it academically, no matter what you major in. Relatedly, just do well with anything you get involved with; the idea with the general advice is to make sure that you're not doing anything that could resurface as a potential red flag down the road during MBA applications.

Be sure to participate meaningfully in campus life - don't need to go overboard, but if you have a demanding job post-college it will limit the amount you can participate in extracurriculars. For people coming from finance/consulting backgrounds and lacking in extracurriculars, it helps to be able to fall back on meaningful experiences during undergrad that highlight how you would contribute to a community IF you had the time.

And yea, just generally enjoy college.

Oh, and try to take the GMAT at some point during your senior year or in the summer after graduation but before you start your job. Huge time sink that becomes difficult to balance with full-time work commitments/other life responsibilities.

Apr 20, 2019 - 1:05pm

Just had the same thought. I guess not at this point.

“Doesn't really mean shit plebby boi. LMK when you're pulling thiccboi cheques.“ — @m_1
Apr 23, 2019 - 4:21pm

Are you not gonna reply to the highlighted comment that's probably the most valuable insight you can share w/ the thread?

Not OP, but I took a crack at it above

Apr 24, 2019 - 3:45pm


I am from a non-target and going to graduate soon. Just curious to hear your advice on how to break into GS. I am already past the entry fresh recruitment season and not experienced enough to enter as full time role. Would love to hear more about their recruitment channel

Apr 24, 2019 - 5:03pm

Your post is light on specifics, but if I'm being honest you're in a tough spot at this point. Some of what I outline below might be a bit too intentional for some people, but assuming you have your heart set on landing a role at GS the best advice I can offer you is the following:

  1. First, identify individuals you can connect with in the bank - alumni network, broader personal network, high-probability LinkedIn messaging, etc. - and get in touch with them to learn more about their roles within the firm. Unless a spot opens up unexpectedly at some point in the near future, you're playing the long game at this point. Your focus should be on building a genuine relationship with folks instead of gunning for an open position - ask for advice, be sincerely interested in what they're saying, continue to follow-up with them, etc. You can ask if they have any openings during the intro conversation, but it should come at the end of your discussion; if you do ask make sure you phrase the question as something along the lines of, "I know there are likely not any open positions at this point given timing, but if you happen to know about anything..." It will reflect better on you if you demonstrate that you're aware of your situation in particular and knowledgeable about the process in general.

  2. While you're executing on the above, once you've figured out the area within the firm where you have a critical mass of potential connections, try to look for full-time roles that are adjacent to what you'll be doing in that department. What I mean by this is the following: if you can get introduced to people within GS Tech, then try to land a role that gets you working on infrastructure or data/analytics; if you find that a lot of people within your network are clustered in Treasury, then try to get a job in corporate finance; assuming you'd like to eventually up in IB, the best case scenario would be for you to have a lot of potential acquaintances within GS, in which case you should focus on analyst roles at boutique investment banks. Whatever the case may be, you should try to have your first job out of college make you more attractive for the role within GS that you have the highest chance of landing (i.e. where your network is). This might be the wrong strategy for some banks, but GS in particular encourages top performers to move around internally as a way to develop professionally (they call it "mobility"). I imagine that this is harder to do for some back/middle office roles (no particular insight there), but just know that GS is open to this kind of thing. Again, assuming you'd like to eventually end up in IB (you don't mention this specifically), the first step is getting past the gates so you'll want to position yourself appropriately

  3. Continue to follow up and build relationships with the people you've networked with. Turnover in all parts of the bank is high enough at the junior level where something will open up eventually. If you've networked properly - i.e. formed actual relationships and informed them of your interest in the firm - then most people will happily refer you for anything that becomes available.

  4. Once you have an offer in hand, do your due diligence and make sure you're smart on the career paths within GS that are available/likely from the role you've been offered. As I mentioned in point 2 above, GS encourages mobility for top performers but if your goal is to end up in IB then how steep your uphill battle is very much depends on where you start within the bank.

Hopefully the above helps. Again, some may disagree with what I've outlined, but that's basically how I'd approach the process - the key input is how determined you are to land a role at the firm and what early-career sacrifices/risks you're willing to expose yourself to in order to get there. Feel free to message me directly if you think providing more specific info on your situation would allow me to give more targeted advice.

Apr 24, 2019 - 6:18pm

During diligence process, what were your responsibilities was an Associate at a MF? Did you spend most of your time modeling, reading and analyzing diligence reports, developing a 100 day plan, legal doc negotiations, etc etc. I've always heard MF Associates spend most of the time in excel, whereas Associates at MM/LMM can "see more" of the deal lifecycle. Curious if that lines up with your experiences.

Apr 25, 2019 - 4:03am

At various points in time, all of the above. I haven't heard of any MFs working differently from what I've experienced so I'll speak generally here.

The first thing to understand is that, as an associate at a MF, you'll find yourself oscillating between two very different cadences as far as work flow is concerned. If you and a VP/Principal are lightly exploring an opportunity, or if you are on a deal team in the early stages of a deal process, you will be the only associate on the team and will thus be responsible for anything that needs to get done. You obviously don't have as much to do during these times (no need to negotiate with lenders at the beginning of a process), but it's safe to say that you will be doing literally everything that requires substantial work or can otherwise free up time for the senior folks on the team (coordinating internal processes, leading intro calls with management, etc.).

When a process heats up, more junior resources will be added to a deal team. At this point, the roles and responsibilities of the senior/junior associate are well-defined. The first-year is responsible for the model and any diligence associated with model inputs; some deals require very intricate models due to the target itself, while some processes just move really quickly. Either way, my point is that a first-year associate will spend ~80-90% of their time in the model during serious deal processes. I'm not talking about managing a bunch of different excel files with unique analyses, creating various outputs, and calling it a day; literally, most of their time will be spent in one excel file.

Once you're out of the model as a second-year associate you have a lot more time to take on different responsibilities during a deal process. On the diligence side, you should expect to lead the research process to help the team form a view on the target's industry and competitors; additionally, you'll be responsible for the micro-analytics that help prove out the different aspects of a target's business model. Those are the standard associate-level tasks that most people think of since they require you to get deep on a diligence topic, synthesize what you've learned, and produce materials that help communicate the main points.

At the same time, you have the opportunity to drive some of the process-oriented work that's required in a deal (and often done by the VP). It's pretty standard for second-year associates to coordinate with consultants/accountants/other buy-side advisors; you define the scope of work, make sure things are running smoothly, and ensure that your deal team is getting the output they need from those advisors. If you prove that you're competent with this entry-level process work, you'll be given as much responsibility as you can reasonably handle given your experience and role at the firm - it's unlikely that you'll be trusted enough to negotiate key economic terms on your own, but it's not uncommon for VPs/Principals to ask an associate they trust to lead/handle the negotiation process for some of the more trivial items that get worked out in deal docs.

Finally, if you've made the right impression with your deal team, you'll be trusted to lead discussions with management teams - whether they be diligence sessions, walking through post-transaction strategy/vision, etc.

All of this is to say no, I don't think that I've missed out on any aspect of the deal process due to being at a larger firm. It just occurred to me that anything you might have read or heard that contradicts what I'm saying could be referencing the fact that larger firms tend to have more resources than the smaller guys - and by "resources" I mean things like an Operations team to help manage the portfolio and assist with different types of diligence (synergy plans, for example), or a Capital Markets team that helps negotiate with lenders. If that's the case, then yes, I suppose I have missed out on certain parts of the deal process. To be honest though, I am glad that I ended up at a firm with those types of teams - I've been involved with a lot of those conversations/processes and have seen those guys in action, and I can confidently say that I'm happy to not have those kinds of things on my plate on a regular basis.

Apr 26, 2019 - 10:02am

Would you mind sharing your rationale why you are willing to spend 200K in tuition and living expense for 2 years while giving up at least 300K annually in opportunity cost from mega fund salary?

What benefits of B-school you are seeing that I am imagining now? Meeting rich people who can start business together afterwards?

May 1, 2019 - 1:59pm

Would you mind sharing your rationale why you are willing to spend 200K in tuition and living expense for 2 years while giving up at least 300K annually in opportunity cost from mega fund salary?

What benefits of B-school you are seeing that I am imagining now? Meeting rich people who can start business together afterwards?

Fuck around, travel, actually enjoy your 20s

  • 1
May 1, 2019 - 11:33pm

A little late to the party, Classica , but I'm wondering when you took your GMAT and what your scored (if you wouldn't mind sharing).

I work at an UMM firm with a "sweatshop" reputation and am having trouble finding time to study for the GMAT and think through my essays, so wondering what your timeline looked like. I saw your recommendation above to take it in college, but obviously that ship has sailed for me!

May 2, 2019 - 3:02pm

I was in a similar boat as you, got spanked at work had study from midnight-2am and anytime I had down time on the weekends knocking it out in 6 weeks (got 760). It's definitely doable but not ideal - if you have any vacation days highly recommend taking 2-3 days off right before you exam to catch-up on sleep/review.

Re: apps I used a consultant to help with ideation/crafting my story because I didn't have any downtime. Not sure I'd recommend using a consultant (on the student adcom of my school and would have crafted my app totally different knowing what I know now) but it gave me peace of mind at the time

May 6, 2019 - 10:29pm

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May 7, 2019 - 11:49am

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