Should I quit my back office paid summer internship to study for the CFA/GMAT/something else

BlockLord's picture
Rank: Chimp | 1

I am a rising senior at at non-target majoring in STEM who has recently started a back office internship in a small Asset Management firm. When I was interviewing for the internship, I was led to believe that if I finished a set of back office work, I could do more "interesting" front office work, and I did not get any other offer, so I took the bait. Currently, it seems as though I will have no opportunity to do anything remotely front office related, but will spend most hours of my summer days as a back office intern.

Sadly, I go to a non-target school, and I worry that I may have to do a graduate program, or obtain a CFA in order to gain the career I am looking for at this point. I am looking to get into the industry however I can, but ultimately I am more interested in working in VC or a Quantitative hedge fun.

Today, I was told that another intern (who is younger than me) was hired to do front office work, so I feel as though I may be completely undervalued at the company, and should just try to do anything else with my time. I have no loans, so I can do a graduate program without too much financial stress (like an MSF).

My real questions are:
Will I be black-balled from the industry if I quit to study for the CFA or the GMAT (I'm in a small, wealthy community)? Should I even consider graduate school? Should I try to find a better internship that is unpaid? Is there a third way that I haven't thought about?

Comments (13)

Jun 30, 2016

Back office might not give you the experience you want right now, but quitting and 1) not having an internship between jr/sr year and 2) trying to explain that during an interview is WAY worse. Suck it up, get the experience, craft your story, and in the meantime try and network/build relationships with the front office guys so you can learn from them on the side and hopefully leverage that relationship (and their contacts) when you're interviewing for FT FO positions in Nov/Dec/Jan.

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Jun 30, 2016

As the above poster said, getting your foot in the door and hopefully a positive recommendation is a major win even if it doesn't feel like it today. If you quit you'll either need to 1) leave the experience off your resume, which puts you back at square one 2) explain in interviews why you quit because you were being a drama queen.

Keep a good attitude and push for more work when appropriate. Hopefully you'll get some opportunities to do some actual front office work. Even if not, you'll learn about the experience and it gives you a building block to jump to a better opportunity.

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Jun 30, 2016

They hired someone younger than you? Good, prove to them you are more mature, have more experience & work harder. The good thing about being an intern is you can take on many responsibilities as a learning experience, finish your tasks and then start asking people for projects or to shadow them etc.

You need to seriously comprehend this: Everything matters & everything is important. So at your internship treat every task, every interaction, & every opportunity as the most important thing you can do.

Also, you are a student, don't waste your time studying for GMAT/CFA etc... Get a high (3.7-9) GPA

Jun 30, 2016

You can study for the CFA, AND work. Especially level 1. It may be more challenging in a Non-Business major, but if you're motifivated enough it is possible. You might as well ride out the internship, it's already half over anyways. You can't even register for level II of the CFA though until you're graduated, so taking it in December of this year won't help you, since you can't register in May of 2017 for level II (if that is when you graduate) and that is not enough time to prepare. I guess unless you bought third party study materials and are motivated enough to study for level II your last semester of senior year.

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Jul 1, 2016

Absolutely do not do this. You won't be black balled or anything but it's not a good move. A: you have plenty of time to study for level 1, which isn't that difficult for anyone who knows something about finance. B: experience in the industry is always a good thing. C: who knows, maybe there's a ft front office opportunity available at your firm if you impress them enough.

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Jul 1, 2016

No, there are so many things you can learn on the job that are transferable, even if content of work is not of your interest in the short term. Nothing beats real world corporate experience.

CFA gives you knowledge, but highly theoretical. GMAT, honestly, is nothing but a hurdle to get into decent business schools.

Jul 1, 2016

Work isn't as fun as school.

But you know what's fun? Getting paid! Having money! Having savings. Seeing your bank account balance go up and your student loan balance go down.

Your first job is not your last job. Many of us did not start in the front office, but many of us got there after a year or two.

It sounds like you are having a tough summer, but part of being an adult is taking responsibility and finishing what you start. I would encourage you to stay.

Jul 1, 2016

I'm from a non-target STEM background as well and I did an Operations internship in the fall at a BB before graduating in the spring, I hustled my ass off and was able to get a post graduate stint (intern to full time hire) at a boutique. I understand that it may be different since its a small AM firm, but don't let the whole back office thing discourage you from pursuing VC etc.

Be glad that you have this experience, learn as much as you can, in and out of the office and network as much as possible; without the hustle it will be hard to find the opportunities you are looking for.

Jul 1, 2016

It's an internship, which means it has an end date. The BEST thing you can do is to totally crush your internship, regardless of how unfulfilling it is and how unfairly you feel you are treated. If you think things are not going in your favor, you should be:
1. Showing up earlier than your colleagues
2. Leaving later
3. Ensuring that each piece of work is finished on time, to perfection

All of the above, at a bare minimum.

If you want to leverage to front office, you should also be doing the following:
Setting coffee chats with a variety of senior professionals in your back office. Make your long term goals known but do not push them. Ask them what extra work you can take on that will get you more relevant experience, if possible.
Ensure you are highly professional and responsive to any interfacing with the front office, middle office or any senior person at your firm.
Ask for a formal mentor in the FO. Reach out directly. Ideally, find someone who has back office experience in their past. LinkedIn can be helpful. Drive the relationship. Have a checkin every week or two. Don't expect them to respond to every email. Try to meet in person at least 3 times over your summer. Ideally this is someone that might be in a position to hire you (i.e. a team lead/MD). Bring ENTHUSIASM for your current role and your firm to these meetings. Ask them what resources are available to learn more about the FO world. When you meet with them, dress like you work in the front office. You want them to see you as a potential future fit.
Find an informal mentor who is 1-2 levels above you and has made the shift. Same as above.
Interface with your peers who have made the transition. Make them your friends, not your enemies. Stroke their ego and congratulate them on the shift and ask what they think you could be doing to do the same. Be someone they want to work with one day.
Do NOT complain about your current job or role. Convince yourself it is valuable experience for a long term transition.

Keep your eyes open for appropriate opportunities. I'd suck up the internship and complete it as expected. Your expectations may not have been what the hiring manager would have expected (I am in a similar role with a grad school internship - my preferences were not communicated and I was left without the project work I had requested. But it's a valuable stepping stone to what I want to do).

I think the CFA is a huge value add but make sure you are willing to put in the time in addition to keeping your grades up (it is a huge commitment). If you sign up, attend CFA events to network further. If you pass L1, this will help you get interviews, but it will not get you a job if you don't reset your attitude. A disgruntled demeanor bleeds through into the workplace.

Finally, set a regular review (once a week or so) with your manager to go over your performance. Come to those meetings prepared with a list of summer goals relevant to your role. Ask them to rate you on those goals. This will allow you to adjust in real time. Remain enthusiastic and positive. It is OK to remind them at the midpoint and the end what your long term goal is and to ask what else you could be doing to achieve that goal, but make sure they feel like you appreciate being on the team.

Even if the door doesn't open for you now, if you are a strong performer and follow the above, you will both find the opportunities when they come and have support for them. After your internship, if you take the attitude above, you can use your new FO contacts either at your firm or to be your references/advocates for a new firm. And you will learn valuable insights that will help you in recruiting, even if it feels like a waste of time. The people who have already shifted to FO have simply made a better first impression or done the stuff above better than you. Take that in stride, it can happen to anyone.

If you quit, this is a terrible signal to someone else who might otherwise be willing to take a chance on you in the future. I'd take one look at someone who pulled a stunt like that and wonder if they'd jump ship the first time they got stuck on crappy FO admin work for a long period or if they'd complain about mundane assignments. The FO world isn't all glamour either. It's long hours and a lot of shit work, especially at junior levels. It may be the case that the firm isn't a long term fit. If that's the case, at least you'll leave with some solid advocates if you act in accordance.

Grad school, VC, etc are all good long term goals. But not the ones you should be focused on right now. Come up with the next best thing that will move you in that direction, whether a FO role in your industry or something else. But you'll find that very soon in your life all hiring is done based on what you've accomplished to date and what your general attitude/pleasantness is. Good hiring managers read between the lines of your BO work and look for qualities, not tasks. Display those qualities no matter how shitty the tasks. In the meantime, don't be afraid to start networking for roles/firms that interest you. Make sure you bring the same passion for your current role and have examples of how the experience is preparing you for your target full time job or future internship.

If you feel like you shouldn't have to follow this advice, that's a clear indicator that you should think about working on your personality actively in school. There may be avenues for leadership, etc that allow you to do this. Get feedback from your peers and professors when you return to school. It will pay dividends in the long run.

One side note as well - be supportive of your peers' success, not bitter. Age doesn't matter in the real world. I graduated late and have always been older than my starting peers, first in PWM and now in consulting. I'm the oldest person in my intern class. Rather than being frustrated with the situation, I have been able to leverage my maturity and experience into an asset for myself AND my younger colleagues. As an aside, I'm 3 weeks into my summer internship and have already been promised a full time offer by two partners. That didn't happen by complaining about the work I shouldn't be doing. I went in dedicated to learning everything that I can and to help others succeed. It was noticed quickly. This stuff is real, and it works. A successful attitude doesn't mean thinking you should be the one that deserves every break. In my PWM role, I also came in from a non-target (barely ranked). I spent two years watching younger peers promoted ahead of me. Then I leveraged my connections with my mentors/managers and had three promotions in two years. Now I'm at an M7 MBA. Being the master of your own destiny means influencing all of the outside factors that affect your ability to succeed in the long run. I'm not bragging here, but I wanted to share an experience that might be relevant to your situation. Just keep your head down, learn everything you can and impress the shit out of people by staying humble and hard working. Fuck, a former BO pwm guy I know just landed a summer internship at MBB in his late 20's. If you keep your attitude straight and remain driven towards achievable goals it will all work out.

Jul 1, 2016

Do not pass up work experience. Internship and CFA / GMAT should be doable.

Jul 2, 2016

Had an unpaid back office internship last summer. Working full-time in FO this summer. Conclusion: do not bitch about it.

Jul 2, 2016

Ok so from what I see, it looks like the community sees me as being too sensitive. That may be the case, but I am starting to see some toxic. Though your advice is right. I need hard experience. Looks like tests are just not worth it right now.

More important details:
1. One of the senior partners did not actually know what VC was. 2. The partners are making some toxic calls that even I, an intern, realize are bad. 3. I actually am working another non-finance internship, so I would not have a gap in my resume if I mess up.

Most importantly,
I found the opportunity to do some real work at a new FinTech start-up a day ago. It just got funding as well.

I realize a lot of you did back office work, often unpaid. But I also realize that you did back office work as college sophomores. What I'm doing now is really an audition for another back office position as I am doing backlog filing the whole summer. It looks more like a part-time job at Starbucks rather than an actual internship.

I am really only asking what the best use of my time is here. There is also a pride thing. I cannot actually bare to tell my family I am doing this kind of work. There is also the fact that I kind of want to be in the fore-front of the future, and I have something else to put on my resume.

Jul 2, 2016
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