Running out of time and options in a big, big way; have no idea what to do; losing my mind

So my situation is:
-target school, bad GPA
-2 years bulge as generalist IB
-2 years middle market in TMT IB
-1 year at *extremely* small tech startup which shut down in January

Since Jan, I've spoken to over 3 dozen banks, at least 10 corp dev positions, and a handful of buyside shops.

I can routinely get to final rounds, but never, ever, ever, ever close the deal to an offer, anywhere. I never get any kind of feedback as to what is wrong, but I suspect it's that I a)fail to elaborate on my deals b)my startup experience was useless and way too small and c)I don't ask good questions.

I cannot go to business school, as a) I do not test well b) I am currently not working.

I do not want to do anything else, ever (as is the way of people here), and leaving banking>coming back to the world of M&A will look silly.

My network has run completely dry, there are no positions anywhere, and I am increasingly unable to get first rounds even on the very rare chance that jobs do appear.

I will not consider financial analyst or ops roles in any capacity.

Outside of the "well there's nothing you can do" (seriously, please spare me those suggestions, as I think about it all the time anyway), what should I do? Literally 100% of my time is looking for a job at this point, and I am running out of time in a big, big way.

(Also, before anyone suggests that I come across as insane in my interviews, well, perhaps, but I already try not to, so telling me that I do doesn't serve as a fix as it is something I already very, *very *consciously try to avoid doing)

Comments (37)

May 16, 2018

If you get first rounds but fail from there then it's about the interview, not your profile. As you said, perhaps work on fit, asking the right questions and showing you really like the firm. If you really don't want to leave banking then keep applying for MMs or boutiques (not necessarily EBs) and build it up from there. If you can't find positions and you are forced to sit around until the next recruiting season do something useful to explain the CV gap (e.g. learn a language or coding). Alternatively if further down the line you are open to slight deviations in career path potentially consider consulting in the financial services industry either at generalist firms or at those who specialise in this (e.g. Chappuis Halder). Your profile is something financial services management consultants would seek.

May 17, 2018

It is 100% my interview, but sadly, I have no idea what I could improve. No one - not the people I interview with, not the recruiters I speak with, not the HR folks I coordinate with - responds to emails once I fail out of final rounds.

I keep searching, but there truly is nothing out there. Having been in this process and having gone from a BB to a MM, I can see firsthand the damage it has done to my resume, and I know that going to a not elite boutique will only make that worst, since it will look like I was falling down the ladder even more.

Sadly, I have no desire whatsoeever to step outside the world of M&A - believe me, I wish I did. I wish I could be ok with it, but fact is, I can't.

I fear this gap in my resume will be permanent. Banks don't really care if I learn coding when they look at me; they care when I most recently worked.

Lastly, I know that it seems that I'm not really asking a question, moreso shooting down ideas and complaining, but I'm mostly looking for a way to look at things that I hadn't considered in this bafflingly excruciating process.

May 16, 2018

PM me. I can try and help

May 16, 2018
LikeIdUseARelateableNameHere:

I cannot go to business school, as a) I do not test well b) I am currently not working.

If you got into a target, you must have some intelligence. The GMAT isn't rocket science and I don't think you need to be employed to apply to B-School.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

    • 1
May 17, 2018

To get into a worthwhile B-school? I've heard for...decades now that there are only a handful worth going to. I can only pull that cord once, and I worry that if I do it for a not-top one, it will permanently ruin my chances and set a cap on my career that I can never undo or get past. Of course, so will not working, but that doesn't make it any more appealing.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

May 16, 2018
LikeIdUseARelateableNameHere:

To get into a worthwhile B-school? I've heard for...decades now that there are only a handful worth going to. I can only pull that cord once, and I worry that if I do it for a not-top one, it will permanently ruin my chances and set a cap on my career that I can never undo or get past. Of course, so will not working, but that doesn't make it any more appealing.

Yeah only a top B school, obviously.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

May 16, 2018

How did you get into a target school if you don't test well?

May 17, 2018

Extracurriculars, good essay writing, early applications. Bear in mind that I ended my undergrad with horrible grades too, which I'm sure will also continue to haunt me.

May 16, 2018

To mimic what Isaiah said above, I wouldn't discount the ripcord B-school approach. Use this downtime you have now to bust your ass studying for a GMAT (and obviously continue looking for positions) despite the fact that you don't believe you test well. It doesn't matter that you're not currently employed from an adcom perspective, you're a smart guy, spin a story around the resume gap during interviews. If that truly isn't an option in your mind, you know the story: gotta keep grinding on the networking.

May 17, 2018

I wouldn't say that it is out-and-out not an option, but I've been attempting to take the GMAT for many years - the tutors, the classes, the study guides, the whole shebang. It's an option I will continue to pursue as I dual track this.

My challenge with networking is coming up with a contact method that actually, you know, get's a response, and one which doesn't seem so blatantly "hey I know we just met, but do you have a job?".

The way I've been going about the former is to email everyone on my school's network who is even remotely related, to reconnect with past colleagues, to try to get back to past interviewers who might know a person, etc. Not great, which I can never begrudge someone for, because of course it's not their job to get me a job, but still, I feel as though I could be doing something better.

For the latter, I go into the conversation being extremely aware of the value of their time, and that this is the beginning of a dialogue with the person, not just me unilaterally demanding a slot in their firm.

EDIT: Changing this to be a little less "woe is me".

    • 1
May 17, 2018

I don't have a solution, but a defeatist attitude will certainly not help. Perhaps interviewers can sense a lack of confidence?

Your situation is not bad. You've been looking for 4 months? Finding new opportunities generally takes at least that long. You have a target school on your resume (this far our of college, you don't need to put your GPA on your resume). You have 4 years of IB experience, including at least 2 at a name brand shop. I can't imagine most banks will really hold it against you to go from BB to MM. I know people who have done that (left BB for less than elite MM shops), and have gone back to BBs later.

Trust me, corp dev depts will love your resume. I come across a ton of CD folks with lower MM banks on their resume who have done well for themselves. Some of it is a numbers game, but fix your attitude and try to tighten up what you think might be causing you issues in interviews. It should not be difficult to correct elaborating on your deals or asking good thoughtful questions. And startup experience isn't useless unless you paint it as useless in interviews. MM TMT IB to a tech startup that fails is totally understandable and explainable. Start ups fail all the time. People won't hold that against you.

It's also easy to find people on LinkedIn who didn't go to your school / isn't in your network, and just reach out. You should be able to get plenty of people on the phone with your background, even if they don't have anything open. When I was looking for a job, I just sent out emails to the heads of Corp Dev at companies I thought were interesting in my targeted geography. I had a few good conversation, but none were looking to hire at the time. 3-4 months later, I get an email from one of them saying they now have an opening, and was able to get an offer.

    • 2
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Funniest
May 17, 2018

Target -> bad GPA. Then BB (how do you get with a terrible GPA?) to -> MM... sounds like someone has had all the doors opened to him/her but couldn't ever deliver. Anyone can sit down and study hard for the GMAT (especially when you're unemployed for the past 5 months...) then reboot their careers with a quality MBA especially coming from a target. But you rather whine on this forum on how that's not an option... you're SOFT bro

    • 8
    • 2
May 17, 2018

Oh really? Boy, thanks for the perspective, I had no idea I already let myself down; that's good to know.

May 17, 2018

There are people in much worse situation than you are, and that have been given far less chances. You just need to man up and do something about it. All I read on your convo is your unwillingness to compromise or change anything of what you're doing. You're applying for six figures competitive jobs against people that are probably more willing than you are. I am just stating facts, stop feeling sorry for yourself.

    • 1
    • 1
May 21, 2018
Macronmania:

Target -> bad GPA. Then BB (how do you get with a terrible GPA?) to -> MM... sounds like someone has had all the doors opened to him/her but couldn't ever deliver. Anyone can sit down and study hard for the GMAT (especially when you're unemployed for the past 5 months...) then reboot their careers with a quality MBA especially coming from a target. But you rather whine on this forum on how that's not an option... you're SOFT bro

There are lots of good reasons for someone to go from BB to MM...to get exposure to a specific industry, like TMT, is a good one. A lot of great tech companies exit too early to be relevant to a BB from a deal fee perspective so there is a lot of interesting tech deal flow in the lower middle market.

Quality of life is another great reason to move from a BB to MM. I've worked at both, and I greatly preferred life at a smaller shop.

May 17, 2018

GMAT isn't rocket science in terms of material. It just takes a lot of repetition and motivation. How did you perform as an IB analyst but can't grasp GMAT concepts?

I am going to wish you good luck and I also think corp dev could be something else for you to look at, but in these roles you are expected to be more or less of an industry expert. Is there a specific sector where you think you would be able to bring a special skill set to a corp dev team?

I still think MBA would be the best route for you as you will be able to regroup and explore your options if you cannot get another shot at a FO role in M&A.

May 17, 2018

Thank you for the a)advice and b)change in tone.

I was fine as an analyst, but the GMAT confounds me in ways I can't really overcome. Or at least, haven't been able to as of yet. It's not like I've given up entirely on that path either, but rather that it's something where the advice is simply "well, take the GMAT" - I'm trying to dual track this, as it were, and the job hunt is considerably more...nuanced.

I'm very open to corp dev...but I just recently got a no from a company in an industry I knew infinitely better than others. Which won't stop me, of course, but there are very few companies in that industry, and for others I feel I know, it's hard to point to a specific skillset (nor am I anywhere near an expert compared to my most recent no).

May 17, 2018

I apologize for the initial comments. Everyone fights their own battles. You came across as a cry baby but you are obviously trying to make it happen. That might honestly be why you are having issues with interviews. You know what they say "fake it 'till you make it" and you should probably adopt a little of that mindset. Coming across as desperate and uncertain can be a real killer. I really wish you good luck, and also remember that sometimes you can do everything right and still fail it's not all in your control so just keep pushing it will pay off (and I still think you should take the GMAT just to see if you could have an MBA as a backup for the fall 2019).

May 17, 2018

It seems like you are sound from a technical and pedigree perspective. It seems like fit might be your issue. I would talk to good friends to get feedback on your personality because no one else is going to give you the hard truth that you need to hear.

May 21, 2018
LikeIdUseARelateableNameHere:

I can routinely get to final rounds, but never, ever, ever, ever close the deal to an offer, anywhere. I never get any kind of feedback as to what is wrong, but I suspect it's that I a)fail to elaborate on my deals b)my startup experience was useless and way too small and c)I don't ask good questions.

I'm not really in a position to provide real help to you, but why are you so worried about your resume and your grades if you can land interviews? I always assumed that your resume doesn't really matter that much anymore after you get your first interview...

May 22, 2018

I'm seeing awful advice being slung around here.

Short the VIX and download fortnite

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

    • 2
May 21, 2018

I'll assume that you've tried this, but I'd try and leverage the folks you've interviewed with - be it interviewers, head hunters, etc. to get the feedback. I would guess that with the number you are involved in, you should be able to get at least a few honest folks who will talk to you about why you didn't get it.

Speaking of, my second recommendation based on your own thoughts I would leverage your friends to setup 'mock' final round interviews for companies, with the emphasis on preparing yourself to be able to ask better questions once you've reached that point. Certainly there are 'stock' good questions you can ask based on your knowledge of the company, but the best are those that build off of what happened in the interview and/or the conversation that you'd had - it might be that you simply need some practice to help improvise in those situations. There's nothing wrong with asking for help and/or practicing until you've got it down.

You should also consider reaching out to a recruiter, career coach or head hunter even to gauge your marketability and/or go over things with you. Depending on the school you went to, career services might have resources as an Alumni to tap into (both network + defray the costs of resume review, coaching, whatever) - I would do that or go to a third party.

Lastly, and I can't stress this enough, do not be afraid/embarrassed/ashamed to practice interviewing as well as prepare as much as possible. I would focus heavily on that - as it seems that might be the sticking point.

    • 2
May 21, 2018

Just a thought, but maybe consider commercial banking (credit analyst or RM-type roles) at an international bank? One of my acquaintances (a friend of a girl I used to date) was laid off from UBS IB and has been working for a few years at a big Japanese bank. He says the Japanese banks "salivate" (his words, not mine) over people who have bulge bracket experience on their resume. I infer that he makes low 6 figures in salary, the trade-off is that bonuses are obviously lower than IB, but at least the job is 9 to 5 and low stress (leaving you plenty of time to study for GMAT, CFA or look for another job).

    • 1
Most Helpful
May 22, 2018

I'm not sure if this has been addressed, but why do you feel you are "running out of time"? Do you mean that you're running out of money? Or do you think that your resume gap will continue to make it increasingly difficult to find a job, in which case, you've concocted this idea of a clock running out on your career prospects? Based on what I have read of your situation, I think it's more the latter, but I'll address both.

In the event that you're running out of money, maybe you'll have to move home with your parents or stay with a friend on their couch for a little while and pick up some hours as a waiter/bartender/tutor/uber driver/store clerk/etc to make ends meet while interviewing for better jobs. Given that you went to a target school despite not having great test scores, you're either an ethnic minority and got in as an affirmative action admit or you went to a great high school (extracurriculars and essays are insufficient for Asians and Caucasians to get into targets without great test scores). Since you didn't mention being an underrepresented minority, I imagine the latter scenario is more likely, especially since that would also massively increase your chances of getting into a target b-school even with a low GMAT. In that case, your parents are likely relatively well-off and will likely float you a bit of cash to sustain you, so I don't think money is your issue at the moment.

Rather, I think you've created an artificial timeline for yourself to get a job. You're at about the right experience level for associate roles, and there are many, many more associate roles than there are VP/Director/MD positions. Since you haven't yet done your MBA, you can apply to pre-MBA associate roles in a variety of capacities. It sounds like you've already been doing that, but keep it up. Four months isn't actually very long at all to be searching for a hyper-competitive job. Keep at it, but don't spend 100% of your time on it. Fixating on anything to that degree is borderline autistic and will probably drive you nuts. Moreover, when you get interviews, your desperation brought on by the anxiety associated with your fixation is probably palpable. It radiates from your posts, so I imagine it radiates from you in person as well.

It's tough to simply become a bit more zen, but you need to relax a bit. Desperation will never get you laid. Everyone can sense it, and it hurts your ability to close. Maybe jerk off before having any interview or take a dump in their offices (in the bathroom, not on the floor). When telling your story, maybe ask if they have any particular questions about your CV before just jumping into your monologue. You didn't choose to leave the BB to go to the MM firm. You got let go, right? Just say the group was downsizing and didn't have room to make you an associate. You don't have to look like a rock star to get hired. Your CV isn't a rock star CV. But you do have decent experience and went to a target school, so as long as you don't lie badly to your interviewers (which insults their intelligence and probably annoys them), you'll be in contention.

I wouldn't put my GPA on my resume if I were you. You don't want to have to explain a low GPA, and since you're 5 years out of undergrad, it's no longer relevant. If the firm is asking for a minimum cutoff GPA, you're not going to get the job anyway, so leave it off, and it almost surely won't come up. As for your work experience, just own up to the fact that you didn't get promoted, dropped down to a mid-market firm because you still quite like M&A, and only left banking to pursue what you thought was a great opportunity in a tech start-up that didn't pan out. That's a 10-second explanation of your career that anyone reading your CV probably already thinks is the case before ever meeting you.

Since you're getting interviews, your CV is clearly not the issue. And don't worry about the gap on your CV. A period of unemployment isn't a bit deal. Once again, just own the fact that you've been out of work for a few months. If people ask what you've been doing, tell them that you've been looking for a job while auditing some classes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling the truth. A far greater number of people value candor over well-spun lies. And if you're not a brilliant raconteur, you're generally better off being candid. After all, if your interviewer imagines you're not being fully honest with them, that might be enough to ding you from the process. If I were guessing, given your level of anxiety about the situation, I would bet that you've been lying a bit, and haven't been selling the lie well enough to get away with it in interviews. Perhaps I'm wrong, but if not, change tack and see what happens.

Don't get disheartened, keep at it, and something will eventually work out. In the interim, perhaps offer some free consulting services to the impact investment funds in your city. They're charitable organizations that have need of I-banking skills, so they might have a project or two for you to work on. Since your network has run dry, you need to expand your network without immediately trying to coerce your new contacts into getting you a job. Philanthropy has long been the back door to the halls of power, and those impact funds always have big-hitters on their Boards.

    • 6
May 16, 2018
brotherbear:

I'm not sure if this has been addressed, but why do you feel you are "running out of time"? Do you mean that you're running out of money? Or do you think that your resume gap will continue to make it increasingly difficult to find a job, in which case, you've concocted this idea of a clock running out on your career prospects? Based on what I have read of your situation, I think it's more the latter, but I'll address both.

In the event that you're running out of money, maybe you'll have to move home with your parents or stay with a friend on their couch for a little while and pick up some hours as a waiter/bartender/tutor/uber driver/store clerk/etc to make ends meet while interviewing for better jobs. Given that you went to a target school despite not having great test scores, you're either an ethnic minority and got in as an affirmative action admit or you went to a great high school (extracurriculars and essays are insufficient for Asians and Caucasians to get into targets without great test scores). Since you didn't mention being an underrepresented minority, I imagine the latter scenario is more likely, especially since that would also massively increase your chances of getting into a target b-school even with a low GMAT. In that case, your parents are likely relatively well-off and will likely float you a bit of cash to sustain you, so I don't think money is your issue at the moment.

Rather, I think you've created an artificial timeline for yourself to get a job. You're at about the right experience level for associate roles, and there are many, many more associate roles than there are VP/Director/MD positions. Since you haven't yet done your MBA, you can apply to pre-MBA associate roles in a variety of capacities. It sounds like you've already been doing that, but keep it up. Four months isn't actually very long at all to be searching for a hyper-competitive job. Keep at it, but don't spend 100% of your time on it. Fixating on anything to that degree is borderline autistic and will probably drive you nuts. Moreover, when you get interviews, your desperation brought on by the anxiety associated with your fixation is probably palpable. It radiates from your posts, so I imagine it radiates from you in person as well.

It's tough to simply become a bit more zen, but you need to relax a bit. Desperation will never get you laid. Everyone can sense it, and it hurts your ability to close. Maybe jerk off before having any interview or take a dump in their offices (in the bathroom, not on the floor). When telling your story, maybe ask if they have any particular questions about your CV before just jumping into your monologue. You didn't choose to leave the BB to go to the MM firm. You got let go, right? Just say the group was downsizing and didn't have room to make you an associate. You don't have to look like a rock star to get hired. Your CV isn't a rock star CV. But you do have decent experience and went to a target school, so as long as you don't lie badly to your interviewers (which insults their intelligence and probably annoys them), you'll be in contention.

I wouldn't put my GPA on my resume if I were you. You don't want to have to explain a low GPA, and since you're 5 years out of undergrad, it's no longer relevant. If the firm is asking for a minimum cutoff GPA, you're not going to get the job anyway, so leave it off, and it almost surely won't come up. As for your work experience, just own up to the fact that you didn't get promoted, dropped down to a mid-market firm because you still quite like M&A, and only left banking to pursue what you thought was a great opportunity in a tech start-up that didn't pan out. That's a 10-second explanation of your career that anyone reading your CV probably already thinks is the case before ever meeting you.

Since you're getting interviews, your CV is clearly not the issue. And don't worry about the gap on your CV. A period of unemployment isn't a bit deal. Once again, just own the fact that you've been out of work for a few months. If people ask what you've been doing, tell them that you've been looking for a job while auditing some classes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling the truth. A far greater number of people value candor over well-spun lies. And if you're not a brilliant raconteur, you're generally better off being candid. After all, if your interviewer imagines you're not being fully honest with them, that might be enough to ding you from the process. If I were guessing, given your level of anxiety about the situation, I would bet that you've been lying a bit, and haven't been selling the lie well enough to get away with it in interviews. Perhaps I'm wrong, but if not, change tack and see what happens.

Don't get disheartened, keep at it, and something will eventually work out. In the interim, perhaps offer some free consulting services to the impact investment funds in your city. They're charitable organizations that have need of I-banking skills, so they might have a project or two for you to work on. Since your network has run dry, you need to expand your network without immediately trying to coerce your new contacts into getting you a job. Philanthropy has long been the back door to the halls of power, and those impact funds always have big-hitters on their Boards.

Great write up. But, dumping in the bathroom? lol

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

    • 3
May 22, 2018

Why did you leave banking to begin with? You must have had a reason for leaving. What has changed, other than needing a paycheck? My guess is that your reasons for leaving are still concerns and it shows in interviews. If I'm right, then try applying for other job types.

May 23, 2018

I'm assuming you're an analyst? You have been one for over 4 years. That's how long you are expected to last unless you go to B school.

If so, the need for B school is a clear solution.