Thank you WSO Community! Q&A/My Story: Target --> State School --> Non-MBA Masters --> MM IB --> Lower MM PE

In short, I recently accepted an offer to join a lower middle market PE firm after a little less than 2 years in IB and, as a longtime reader of WSO, I figured I would share my story in hopes of giving back in some small way to the community that has been critical in my journey over the last few years.

Education / Internships:



I started at a target before transferring after my freshman year to a large state school. I have had to answer countless questions regarding this decision and believe that developing a strong story around all of the considerations and outcomes was critical for recruiting. At both schools, I was a division 1 athlete (major reason for transferring) but unfortunately due to health issues was unable to attain my athletic goals. Further, I was an economics major and had a 3.2 GPA in undergrad.

Internships (undergrad)

After my freshman year, I started an athletic summer camp for elementary school age kids and continued this after my sophomore year. After my junior year, I was able to network my way into a internship at a major HR consulting firm in NYC. This was a great experience as it made me realize some of the things that I did not want in a FT role. Also, I was able to read a lot during this time as my internship was more of a 9-5 and became increasingly intrigued by the IB/PE path.

Non-MBA Business Master (1-year)

Early in my senior year, I realized that given my careers goals and lack of effort put forth in undergrad, it was critical for me to look at 1-year master programs that would give me a chance to bolster my GPA, add some internships to my resume, allow for another shot at recruiting, and provide me with some extra time just to figure out what I wanted to do after college. Long-story short, I definitely have a mixed opinion of the program but it was well worth it as I achieved my goal of graduating with FT offer in IB at a MM bank.

Internship (grad school)

Before the program began, I worked remotely over the summer for an entrepreneur that had worked in IB and technically ran his own firm doing mostly research on a potential venture that he was looking into. I believe getting another internship especially something "finance"-related on my resume was the first domino that would eventually lead to a FT offer. During winter break, I interned for a boutique IB firm in NYC for ~6 weeks. Again, I feel strongly that adding this experience to my resume and the network this helped me to develop were crucial to the FT offer that I received in the spring.

FT Experience (IB Analyst at MM Bank)

After training, my entire class started as generalist and this allowed me to gain experience working with different senior bankers across a range of industries. Eventually, we were put into industry groups and I was lucky to get on a few interesting live deals. I mostly worked on deals in the C&R, Industrials and Business Services verticals doing 90% sell-side M&A with some other advisory work sprinkled in.

Although I tried my best to give the IB career path a chance, I realized pretty quickly that I would make the jump as soon as the right opportunity presented itself. That being said, I was not going to jump at the first opportunity especially as the work/ life balance improved during my second year and the routine became a little more bearable as my staffing sheet filled up with live deals instead of last minute pitches.

private equity recruiting

The Bank I worked at did not have a long history sending analysts to the buyside roles and provided little to no connectivity to headhunters so getting interviews during on-cycle recruiting was a long-shot at best. However, things started to pick up a little during the start of my second year (I am sure this was nothing to compare what analysts get at BB, EBs and top MM banks) and I became more proactive as I realized that I wanted to avoid staying another year in IB. However, I was still fairly selective in terms of the opportunities to which I applied as I started to form a view of the type of roles I was most interested in pursing. When I received a call from the firm that I eventually received the offer, a lightbulb went off and I knew that I needed to do whatever I could to get that offer.

The key takeaways from the process in which I received the offer are the following:

1) Be willing to go above and beyond for the right role (and getting lucky doesn't hurt).

I knew very quickly that this was the role I had been waiting for and I made sure to articulate that in all of my interview. I did my homework so I was able to state specifically all of the reasons I wanted to work at the firm, including: culture fit, deal size, industry, location, etc. Also, I was able to get multiple in-person interviews by offering this as an option. This was a huge advantage for me as it showed I was willing to go out of my way to be there for the interview and I think I make a better impression in person than on the phone.

2) Be prepared for anything but don't forget the basics.

I used the WSO private equity guide and made sure I knew how to do the modeling test and answer the technicals but ultimately the interview came down to fit, talking about the deals I had worked on in detail, and being able to tell a cohesive story about my background and why I wanted to work at the firm.

3) I found that some of the smaller funds really focus on fit.

My new firm really wanted to make sure they could stand being around whoever they hired for long periods of time and that they could trust that person to be a positive representation of the fund. This is not a two-and-out program so they were looking for someone that could be successful at the analyst level and with potential to grow with the fund.

I am sure I left out a lot of details but I am happy to answer any questions regarding my journey in the comments.

Thank you WSO for all of your help along the way and I am sure I will continue to rely on the wisdom provided by all of you on these forums in the future. Further, in terms of preparing for both IB and PE interview the WSO IB Interview Prep Course and WSO PE Prep Packs were both crucial PE interview and would recommended the investment to anyone just starting either process.

Comments (13)

Jan 26, 2017 - 6:11pm

Congrats Rustyboots! Love stories like these. A lot of hustle and a little luck is all it takes. Enjoy the new role.

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Jan 27, 2017 - 4:23am

Rustyboots, congrats on your accomplishment and appreciate you sharing your story!

I was wondering if you would be able to offer some insight/advice to recent undergrads with relevant internship experience in finance but unable to secure a FT offer in IB for whatever reason (GPA, too late into recruiting, interview performance).

  • If the individual cant afford to get into an Masters in Finance program would you suggest to work elsewhere and get an MBA instead?

  • If someone wasnt a first year year analyst but has up to one year of experience in finance how can they leverage that to secure a FT offer?

  • Lastly, when do you suppose would there be any slots open: Feb-April season (start of Spring)?

Sorry for the lengthy post. Thanks again!

Jan 27, 2017 - 10:24am

I think first it is important to figure out the reason(s) why you didn't get a FT offer so that you can address these going forward. How far did you get in the interview process and are you from a target or non-target? If you got to the interview stage, how did you think you performed in these interviews and were you prepared for the behavioral and technical questions? Any more thoughts on what might have been your major hurdles/issues in securing an offer?

  1. What are your full time options? I took out some pretty hefty student loans to get my masters as I viewed this as an investment in my future and didn't like the other options I had out of UG (not saying I necessarily recommend this depending on your situation but there might be some other options out there). Also, I do not have any personal experience using an MBA to break into IB so I will open that up to other WSO members for their input but I would think it depends on a lot of factors like how strong of an MBA program you will be able to get into depending on your career path /gmat score. Also, it is probably worth noting that this is a much longer approach and would take at least 5 years by the time you are able to enter IB as an associate. I think it will be a little easier to provide some thoughts on what your options are once we have a better idea of your background and career options at this point.

  2. Again, I think this depends on what type of role you are trying to lateral from. Are you planning to work in industry or in a non-IB role at a bank? My group hired two more off-cycle analysts during my time with the bank - one from a rotational program and another as an IB lateral.

  3. I received my offer in the Spring because a slot opened up in the group I joined due to someone leaving so I think it is definitely possible slots will open up especially at smaller MM banks and boutiques that hire as needed to fill these slots. It is important to stay on top of postings and your network so that you are aware of openings that become available in the spring.

  • 3
Jan 28, 2017 - 1:07pm

That is a good questions as I found that there is limited information on comp on WSO for funds IB comp.

If this was a two-and-out program or I felt the fund had a sweatshop type culture, comp would have been a much bigger factor in my decision but I view this as a potential longterm position that will provide a pretty good work/ life balance especially compared to some of the bigger funds. Also, I will be in a tier 2 finance city with a much lower cost of living compared to NYC so the lower comp shouldn't be a major hurdle in terms of affording my lifestyle.

If I do not see a strong progression in my comp over the next few years (assuming the fund continues to be successful and I add value to the group), this will likely be a very different conversation.

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Jan 28, 2017 - 4:55pm

Hi rustyboots, congrats and thank you for doing the AMA! Could you go into some detail over the Masters Program that you completed? Also, would you mind going into some detail on how you were able to land the remote entrepreneurship internship and the winter boutique IB internship?

I am currently a senior at a large state college with 2 internships in corporate finance, one in a Fortune 20 and the other in a non-profit. I will most likely end up working in corporate finance for a year, during which time I plan to take the GMAT and apply to MSF programs in the fall. My biggest concern is that I don't know how I would be able to leverage my experience in order to get an IB internship while in the MSF program.

Best Response
Jan 29, 2017 - 5:30pm

If you look at some of my past posts it is pretty easy to figure out what master program I completed but I do feel like it was essential in my breaking into IB (It was definitely still an uphill battle). Personally, I think having one year of experience (especially in finance) before entering the program will be extremely valuable. The combination of 1 year in corporate finance, your previous internships, and another IB internship before you start the program will give you a fairly strong profile heading into IB recruiting compared to your peers. I have outlined my internship experiences below but both were set up through the program and usually didn't require too much (if any) prior experience. I am not sure if all programs offer similar internship programs but @TNA is probably the best person to ask about the MSF/MMS programs (If anyone else has relevant experience please feel free to chime in too).

Remote Internship - I got this by reaching out the career management center (CMC) for the program in the late spring before the program and it just happened that an alumni of the Exec. MBA program was looking for an intern. There were two reasons why a more traditional internship was not possible: 1) like many of the master programs it started in the middle of summer so it was impossible to complete a full 10-week internships, 2) I waited to late in notifying the CMC that I was interested in an IB internship so all of the standard internships the program has set up were already filled and I got lucky.

Winter Internship - This was also set up through my program. There were a couple different options that you could apply for through the program and it was set up through an alumni of the program that was an analyst at the firm.

Let me know if you have any more specific questions regarding the master program but I think you have a strong profile (as long as you score well on the GMAT).

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Jan 29, 2017 - 11:07am

Thanks for posting rustyboots. It sounds like I'm in a fairly similar position as you were when you were still in IB. I'm 3 years in at a boutique MM IB.

I'm wondering what you found to be most effective for keeping tabs on PE groups that had openings? Did you end up using a recruiter, and if so, what agencies did you find most responsive?


Jan 29, 2017 - 5:45pm

I spoke with a number of recruiters but did not build a strong relationship with any specific agency so I won't be able to provide a lot of insights into the best ones to use. Maybe someone else out there who has made an off-cycle jump from MM IB --> to PE can help provide some insights into that topic.

As for keeping tabs on openings, I used my network as much as possible but mostly relied daily alerts through the LinkedIn jobs app for the two cities that I was looking at. There were stretches that I didn't see anything of interest for weeks but did have a surprising amount of success using this method both in terms of finding good opportunities and getting interviews.

I think this worked for me because I had decently specific criteria but it likely would have been overwhelming / a waste of time if you are doing a broad search. Also, my group had not placed many people into PE roles historically so I did not have that group to rely on or their insights in going through my search.

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