So, I've failed, so far...

Hey guys,

So I've been trying to get into finance/investment banking/equity research for quite some time. I have an undergrad in econ and a master of accountancy from a CSU that isn't too high on anyone's radar. I think I've hit the point to where I can admit that I've failed and I will continue to fail unless I do something to drastically change my life position. After speaking with professionals in the ER space, they left me with the inclination to take the CFA exams and use those channels to break in. I'd registered, bought the expensive exam material, studied, and have a test scheduled in June, which I have just decided I am not going to take.
I've decided to redirect my resources and attentions to getting into the HAAS part-time MBA for Fall 2017. I feel like this should have been my choice from the beginning and it will give me the greatest chances of landing the career that I want.
My first step is going to be to retake the GMAT because the first time that I took it I hadn't studied and received a subpar score, which was at least good enough to get me into the graduate program at the State School but it is definitely not a good enough score for HAAS.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear them. I'm very happy with my decision to go for this and skip out on the CFA exams, but now I've got to work my hardest to get into this program.

Region: 
United States - West

Comments (39)

May 25, 2016

Also, someone here sent me a private message asking me how I'm going to do an MBA because I don't have work experience.
Well, I do have work experience as I am currently an accountant and have previously managed a retail store for about 5 years.
Just to clear that up.. I'm 27 years old.

May 25, 2016

WTF dude...you paid for the test...might as well just show up an take it. If you pass great...if you don't so what. It will take one saturday.

Seems like you struggle with following through once you have made a commitment.

May 25, 2016
PiratesSayARRR:

WTF dude...you paid for the test...might as well just show up an take it. If you pass great...if you don't so what. It will take one saturday.

Seems like you struggle with following through.

True, and for that reason I might just take it for the heck of it.
It isn't the following through I have an issue with. What I have an issue with is continuing through with a wrong decision I've made when my resources and attention could be better directed.
You know, sunk costs and all that jazz.

May 25, 2016

you won't get a soft reset from a part-time MBA (I agree with the quora thread btw): https://www.quora.com/How-do-part-time-MBAs-compar... your best bet is definitely full-time M7 MBA for ER - I assume that's what you want, since IB/ER attract completely different types of people.
Take the CPA, why the hell would you give up after paying $ and working hard? Not studying for the GMAT is a massive red flag as to your professional drive.

May 25, 2016
PE_Reaper:

you won't get a soft reset from a part-time MBA (I agree with the quora thread btw): https://www.quora.com/How-do-part-time-MBAs-compar...your best bet is definitely full-time M7 MBA for ER - I assume that's what you want, since IB/ER attract completely different types of people.Take the CPA, why the hell would you give up after paying $ and working hard? Not studying for the GMAT is a massive red flag as to your professional drive.

Are you sure it won't give a soft reset? I would be able to apply for summer internships, have the same career center resources, give the same degree and still allow for networking yeah? I've read the threads about the online degrees and I won't do that but I'm hoping the evening and weekend MBA has more weight than that. I would absolutely love to get into the full-time program, but I really don't see how I can pay my bills and attend school full time. If you can figure out a solution for me to pay my bills, which doesn't include strutting my stuff on street corners for money, I'd apply to both programs. :)

It is the CFA not the CPA. I'm not going to ever take the CPA, even though my degree is in accounting I don't want to stay an accountant lol.

The GMAT was a last minute thing back in 2014 and it was an "Oh crap, I need my GMAT done immediately, when is the next test," so I can get into the State School's grad program before the deadline. Did well enough without studying to get in but I know that's not going to cut it for a top business school regardless of full-time or part-time.

May 25, 2016
IBcurious2:

I would absolutely love to get into the full-time program, but I really don't see how I can pay my bills and attend school full time. If you can figure out a solution for me to pay my bills, which doesn't include strutting my stuff on street corners for money, I'd apply to both programs. :)

They're called student loans bro. Do some research.

May 26, 2016
  1. Cost is not an issue for M7 MBA. Not saying it is cheap but you can always get student loan. Don't do part-time if you have choice. I don't know why you want to stick to Haas tho. It is not a finance school among all top bschools.
  2. CFA is extremely important in ER or equity research. You still have enough time to pass L1 so don't give it up.
  3. Try to focus on the industries that you are familiar with (jewelry, commodities) etc and have some good stock pitches as early as possible If ER is ur goal.
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May 25, 2016
PE_Reaper:

you won't get a soft reset from a part-time MBA (I agree with the quora thread btw): https://www.quora.com/How-do-part-time-MBAs-compar...your best bet is definitely full-time M7 MBA for ER - I assume that's what you want, since IB/ER attract completely different types of people.Take the CPA, why the hell would you give up after paying $ and working hard? Not studying for the GMAT is a massive red flag as to your professional drive.

Given the OPs subpar background (no offense), getting into an M7 doesn't seem like an option.

I would take L1 in June. L2 isn't offered till the following June anyway, so that leaves you a full 7ish months to study for the GMAT and apply to b schools until you would need to start studying for L2. If you get into an MBA program that you're satisfied with, great (and you will be able to include your passing of L1, assuming you pass, on your b school apps, which will definitely be beneficial). If not, you should (hopefully) have L1 completed and can take L2 in June 2017.

If you want to get into an MBA program that will afford you the opportunity to chase the jobs you mentioned in your first post, I think you will need to get your CFA (or have at least passed the first 2 levels) by the time you apply. It will be critical in the development of your 'story' that you pitch to the admissions officers in your application essays.

Also, wouldn't do part time. Part-time programs are not very useful if your goal in getting an MBA is career transition.

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May 31, 2016

At the top schools you would be surprised at some of the backgrounds of MBA candidates. TBH it can be equally difficult to come from HYP / Goldman and get into M7 than it is to come from a unique background. These programs are looking for as many different perspectives as they can get on both the personal and professional levels. I have met just as many non-traditional candidates as I have met traditional candidates in my program. I don't think I would tell anyone that any school flat out isn't an option just based on a handful of data points .

May 25, 2016

Need some senior folks on this thread to give more advice as well. I think taking the CFA would be the main step before jumping into a MBA program. Given everything and how the market is, I would stick and be superbly awesome with Accounting, it is better then being unemployed.

I believe almost everyone can agree that CFA is the logical choice, but I would re-think why you would like to go into finance.

May 25, 2016

I would think long and hard about a couple of things.

  1. Be very careful with your expectations going into the MBA decision. You only get one, and I tend to agree that a part-time program is not the magic reset switch that a full-time (quality) program is. To that end, don't mess around with GMAT prep.
  2. Listen to those suggesting the CFA. Unlike an MBA, there's only one way to get it, and it is looked upon very favorably by the industry (more so in ER than IB). I would say that if you found the CFA material to be very difficult or uninteresting, you should seriously reconsider your interest in ER and perhaps finance in general, depending on the level and source of disinterest.
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May 25, 2016
zanderman:

I would think long and hard about a couple of things.

1. Be very careful with your expectations going into the MBA decision. You only get one, and I tend to agree that a part-time program is not the magic reset switch that a full-time (quality) program is. To that end, don't mess around with GMAT prep.

2. Listen to those suggesting the CFA. Unlike an MBA, there's only one way to get it, and it is looked upon very favorably by the industry (more so in ER than IB). I would say that if you found the CFA material to be very difficult or uninteresting, you should seriously reconsider your interest in ER and perhaps finance in general, depending on the level and source of disinterest.

By don't mess around, what exactly do you mean? I'm assuming you're saying "Take it seriously" or "Don't take it" lol.

The CFA material was great actually. It feels a bit easy, but the material covers a lot of topics,making it a memory game for me. I'm diverse, I love finance, I love investing, and I love adding value to people's lives through my own actions and the work that I do, and if I could do that all day and get paid for it, I would be a very happy camper.

From what I've learned, I like ER, and it is ONE of the target areas that I'd like to be in, but if I ended up in management consulting for a Big 3 I would not be complaining. So, I do still have some uncertainty in my final goals, but I know the MBA is in there. It would allow me the freedom to actually have a choice in what I pursue instead of what I am currently facing aka, "I'll go to whatever company will accept me," as I'll never get into a BB or Big 3 that way.

I'm like 99% sure that I want the MBA. Now though, I'm seriously considering my options for getting into the full-time program.
Thank you guys for the perspective.

May 25, 2016

So if the CFA material was great and easy, why are you not taking the exam you're registered for?

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May 26, 2016

I don't want to further confuse you, but from your response here it seems like another potential option would be CFP. It would most likely still involve more education, but not as much as a MBA and you would still have to pass exams. However, if you truly want to make a positive impact on people's lives through through your actions, CFP would allow a more personal connection with people rather than going to a large consulting firm or bank.

May 25, 2016

I don't want to be a naysayer to claim you can't reach your dreams. That being said, you are coming from an extreme non-target who has managed a retail store for 5 years. I assume this means you manage a Gap or similar type store. If true, in my humble opinion, this means certain doors are almost certainly closed.

I think it will be difficult to get into the type of MBA program that will get you into investment banking (or similar) with your background. If I am correct, it doesn't mean you can't have a successful career, it just means certain career paths aren't going to be yours. I would try to explore some other career paths that interest you that aren't so methodical about the backgrounds they look for when hiring and have meaningful upside to them. Maybe something in sales, real estate, or almost anything other than investment banking.

There are a thousand stories of people with non traditional backgrounds breaking into banking or research, so maybe I'm wrong. However, you will need a great story that hopefully ties in with your current experience to make that happen.

Good luck.

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May 25, 2016
DickFuld:

I don't want to be a naysayer to claim you can't reach your dreams. That being said, you are coming from an extreme non-target who has managed a retail store for 5 years. I assume this means you manage a Gap or similar type store. If true, in my humble opinion, this means certain doors are almost certainly closed.

I think it will be difficult to get into the type of MBA program that will get you into investment banking (or similar) with your background. If I am correct, it doesn't mean you can't have a successful career, it just means certain career paths aren't going to be yours. I would try to explore some other career paths that interest you that aren't so methodical about the backgrounds they look for when hiring and have meaningful upside to them. Maybe something in sales, real estate, or almost anything other than investment banking.

There are a thousand stories of people with non traditional backgrounds breaking into banking or research, so maybe I'm wrong. However, you will need a great story that hopefully ties in with your current experience to make that happen.

Good luck.

Thank you Dick I appreciate the input and advice!
By retail store, I mean a jewelry store, and during my time there, I traded commodities (gold, silver, platinum, and diamonds) and purchased roughly $1,300,000 worth of material while averaging a 35% profit margin, as well as making some big sales numbers while negotiating with clients who all thought they knew more about diamond and gold quality than I did (negotiation is quite fun when they tell me what something is "really' worth) .Worked full-time and went to school full-time for both grad and undergrad.
I mean, I think I have a great story (one of my parents was fully blind before I was born and a family of 5 was raised with sub 30K income, first person from the family that went to college, have never been unemployed since the age of about 15 1/2 working at a fast food chain while in high school), I just hope that that's enough.

The acceptance rate at the full-time program is much lower than the part-time program and I gave the school a call this morning to find out whether I can apply to both programs. You can't, and if you are not accepted you have to wait another cycle to apply. I do have a greater chance of getting into the part-time but if I can get into the full-time program I would likely make the changes needed to make it work, I just don't want to get rejected and have to wait another cycle.

Life man.

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May 25, 2016
IBcurious2:

DickFuld:I don't want to be a naysayer to claim you can't reach your dreams. That being said, you are coming from an extreme non-target who has managed a retail store for 5 years. I assume this means you manage a Gap or similar type store. If true, in my humble opinion, this means certain doors are almost certainly closed.I think it will be difficult to get into the type of MBA program that will get you into investment banking (or similar) with your background. If I am correct, it doesn't mean you can't have a successful career, it just means certain career paths aren't going to be yours. I would try to explore some other career paths that interest you that aren't so methodical about the backgrounds they look for when hiring and have meaningful upside to them. Maybe something in sales, real estate, or almost anything other than investment banking.There are a thousand stories of people with non traditional backgrounds breaking into banking or research, so maybe I'm wrong. However, you will need a great story that hopefully ties in with your current experience to make that happen.Good luck.

Thank you Dick I appreciate the input and advice!By retail store, I mean a jewelry store, and during my time there, I traded commodities (gold, silver, platinum, and diamonds) and purchased roughly $1,300,000 worth of material while averaging a 35% profit margin, as well as making some big sales numbers while negotiating with clients who all thought they knew more about diamond and gold quality than I did (negotiation is quite fun when they tell me what something is "really' worth) .Worked full-time and went to school full-time for both grad and undergrad.I mean, I think I have a great story (one of my parents was fully blind before I was born and a family of 5 was raised with sub 30K income, first person from the family that went to college, have never been unemployed since the age of about 15 1/2 working at a fast food chain while in high school), I just hope that that's enough.

The acceptance rate at the full-time program is much lower than the part-time program and I gave the school a call this morning to find out whether I can apply to both programs. You can't, and if you are not accepted you have to wait another cycle to apply. I do have a greater chance of getting into the part-time but if I can get into the full-time program I would likely make the changes needed to make it work, I just don't want to get rejected and have to wait another cycle.

Life man.

Better story than I thought. Good luck.

I'd try for full-time though. And don't just limit yourself to one school.

May 26, 2016

Hey,

Why the fuck would you not take the CFA? It would be great on your resume considering your lack of relevant finance experience and you already paid for it.... Might as well go for it. I'm going to sound harsh, but there seems to be a lack of commitment on your part.

Also, as other people stated, not taking the GMAT is a huge red flag. Why don't you do the CFA and study for GMAT/Prep for full time MBAs during the summer? Seems like the best course for you to take.

Best of luck,

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Best Response
May 26, 2016

General thoughts in no particular order:

  1. Take the CFA exams. They're going to be the best resource for your candidacy. It's not just about passing the exams that is important, it's a demonstration of someone's ability to focus and and work hard. It's a measurement of work ethic as much as anything else. Knowing you signed up and decided to forego doesn't really bode well for you...
  2. What are you going to get out of an MBA? MBAs and graduate school work should be for those who are prepared to get the most out of it. Just meandering through an MBA hoping it sheds some light or opens a door (being passive) is going to be a waste of time and money. Think of it from an admissions standpoint - would you want you in the program or someone who has demonstrated a real appetite for finance and demonstrated abilities?
  3. I would really expand your search into more roles. ER is dying (for another day), but there are tons of other areas with research to consider. Management research, index investing, etc.
  4. Dear God network. Don't even network for a job, just network to find out what people do and how they got there. Just learn.
  5. Take the damn CFA exam.
  6. Beef your resume. Get on seekingalpha.com and post some research articles. Get more involved in the finance world.
  7. Learn a programming language. Just one. It will work wonders on your resume.
  8. Seriously, take the goddamn CFA exam. If not for you, then at least for anyone else trying to pass to lower the bar.
  9. You're 27 and you've failed along the way. GOOD. Learn from it - seriously. So few people have it figured out when they're 22. I was not one of them. Don't rush into things (like MBA) - really focus on figuring out what will make you HAPPY. Work backwards in your decision making.
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May 26, 2016

All fantastic recommendations. I think a part time MBA will not help you at all...traditionally not great for career switchers. And before you bother applying for any MBA programs, make sure you know EXACTLY why you want to go (something more specific than I hope to advance my position in life). For the top schools, you will not only have to answer that, but also answer why THAT school will help you with these 5/6/7 things you are trying to accomplish.

Also stop selling yourself short. Don't apply to a part time program just because it is "easier". You put some good numbers to your story, and it is unique which helps a ton. Confidence should show through on your apps. And it is totally okay to talk about your failures (i did) as long as you also talk about how you picked yourself up afterwards.

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May 26, 2016

@GoldenEagle2009
Just out of curiosity, why is ER dying??

May 26, 2016

"Dying" is a strong word. And this is biased because I work on the passive/quant side. I think this post does a good job of showing the trends in flows between active and passive:

https://www.thefelderreport.com/2016/05/23/this-mi...
Now, of course this is all cyclical (active draws money during vol/underperforming periods) however, my thought process is that back in the day (70s, 80s,) everyone wanted to be a broker, now there are no brokers (don't chide me for the simplification), and throughout the 90s, it was ER, and now, firms are competing moreso on costs (at the institutional level) and so quant-driven strategies (passive) are gaining more assets. Technology is the cause, and will be the ultimate solution. Institutions are no longer paying excessive fees for alpha because technology and rapid information arbitrage is making alpha nearly impossible to sustain (was it ever?).

So along that path (you get my point) in terms of the job market, I think ER opportunities will continue to shrink. Will they go away? Definitely not. But if I were an undergrad, I would be learning a coding skill and the passive world because there will be more opportunity to apply that skillset there, and there will be continued flows, etc etc.

That's my argument in a nutshell.

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May 26, 2016

Got a good kick out of the multiple "Seriously, take the damn CFA exam" points, but I think that can't be emphasized enough. Plus, you already spent a few thousand on it (for someone perhaps without a job, that's a lot), you might as well.

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May 26, 2016

Absolutely second everything GoldenEagle2009 says here.

May 26, 2016

What you need to do is develop a strategy and make a commitment. Seriously, quit dicking around and focus on one or two specific ways to break into your chosen field and become obsessed with.

May 26, 2016

You've been trying to get into finance for "some time" and haven't yet. Ok.

You realize you need to change up your gameplan since you haven't broken in yet. Good. That shows common sense and self awareness.

You spoke with ER professionals and got solid advice from them. That's great.

You acted on the advice, put time and money into it, and scheduled the test they told you to study for. Brilliant!

You randomly decided to not take the test that industry professionals told you to take and you have invested time and money into. ...what? Why?

I'm pretty confused as to the logic behind this. Do you prefer to be out in the wilderness? Are you just used to it by now? It seems like you're finally on the path and are afraid of it.

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May 26, 2016

I understand the struggle of going to a CSU (I went to CSUF), but I don't understand your decision making process. The toughest part of going to a school that isn't well known (or known at all), is that employers perceive students that go to these schools to be stupid or lazy. There are two ways to get around this, network (AKA make sure they know you rather than a piece of paper, because you will always lose against the well known schools) or get some prestige experience that makes employers worry less about where you went to school (AKA CFA, or get sponsored for the 7 if you are planning to go to the sell side).

Getting an MBA at HAAS seems like a dream scenario, and as a fellow that also went to an unknown school let me pull your head out of the toilet. Why would a top tier college want you? They are going to have the same issues and questions that investment employers have. It seems like you are just kicking the can down the road.

I probably should of started with this, but I am working in ER. Graduated May 2015 undergraduate with a B.A. in Econ and have been working at my position for less than a year. The way I got my position is by networking, mainly on LinkedIn (because when you go to a unknown school there are no recruiters/contacts/resources) having an excel sheet of companies I am targeting, contacts in those companies, and my progress with them. If all you are doing is applying online you aren't going to get a job (but keep tabs of jobs posted online, so you can contact people in those companies). Also, big companies like Goldman aren't likely to higher you unless it is back office, they have a streamlined process that filters out schools like us. The best type of companies to apply for are small to midsize companies where the Portfolio Manager (buy side) Equity Research Analyst (Sell side) makes the hiring decision and you don't have to jump through hoops with HR. I have gotten interviews because a PM liked me and all they had was an operations position, but he wanted to snipe me from operations once a research position opened up (operations team didn't like that idea). Lastly, I had over 20 interviews before I got my job (I consider myself to be a good interviewer lol), but one thing that is very important in interviews is that you are more knowledgeable than your competition (the guys that went to the better schools), because a minor slip up on your part could confirm their bias/concerns about the school you went to.

May 26, 2016

Just take the damn CFA! Seriously, you're only a week away and you won't get your money back. Plus, passing it is a great way to show you're serious and know what you're doing. It won't get you the job but it will help you stand out. Additionally, many of the companies you'll want to work for will want you to take the CFA, regardless of whether you have an MBA.

Since you've already paid for it, the bigger question is why in God's name would you back of NOW?

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May 26, 2016

The CFA exam is purely an exercise in strength of will. It matters. You mentioned you were in accounting, do you have your CPA or the hours to sit if not? Being an accredited CPA carries weight. Even if long-term accounting is a field you are looking to exit I still think the CPA looks good on a resume. Since you seem aloof in your goals you might as well attend law school.

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May 26, 2016

Are you sure it won't give a soft reset? I would be able to apply for summer internships, have the same career center resources, give the same degree and still allow for networking yeah? I've read the threads about the online degrees and I won't do that but I'm hoping the evening and weekend MBA has more weight than that.

Getting a part time MBA, especially from Haas (which is not known as a "finance school"), will do very little to improve your chances at landing a job in ER. The part timers I knew from Haas had little success at switching career fields, regardless of what Haas' admissions / marketing department may say.

What you need to do is develop a strategy and make a commitment. Seriously, quit dicking around and focus on one or two specific ways to break into your chosen field

This is good advice. As others mentioned, you absolutely should take the CFA exam series. If you're waffling on that commitment there is no way you're prepared to go through a top MBA program.

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Apr 3, 2017

Take the CFA. Anyone who has the designation (or is working toward it) knows how much it takes to get and how much you learn along the way.

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May 26, 2016

Fantastic fantastic fantastic advice, all of you. Seriously, I appreciate every single one of you even the tongue-in-cheek posts. I think I am almost out of silver bananas now.

Redbeard, I have the hours to sit for the CPA but an IB associate mentioned to me that IB can sometimes look down on people with the CPA by labeling them as "accountants" immediately and writing them off.

GoldenEagle from my short 1 year stint at Cal Poly SLO, I know C language programming. Is that really relevant to what I am trying to get into? Hated programming lol I made a program that solved Sudoku puzzles by brute force (trying every number) and by finesse (shortest time) but that was back in 2008 so I am rusty on that.

I can see how my posts can come off as me having a lack of commitment and that is a fair assessment for you all being people who don't know me personally, but I can assure you all that that is not the case. I guess the uncertainty started to get to me as I started speaking with people who passed level 1 and 2 but have not had luck with getting positions or even interviews. This frightened the shit out of me.

I will take the CFA L1 test and hopefully be able to use that in my applications process.

By the way, I went to HAAS today to try and reconcile what the full-time and part-time admissions counselors were telling me over the phone. I know they are trying to sell their programs, but the part-time counselors assured me that both of the programs have the same career access (OCR, school events) and the only difference is the timing of classes, just in case anyone was wondering about this. I don't know if other part-time programs were different in that they don't allow access to OCR.
Getting into a full-time program is now my priority though.

May 26, 2016
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