This is a total hypothetical but from what I have seen:

The ideal career path on this forum looks to be:
4 years at a top target --> 2 years at GS/MS/JPM ---> 2 years at MegaFund ---> 2 years at HBS/GSW

At this point, you are 28. What do you do after this? I understand that most doors are open but let's say you are looking for money. Is it PE?

If you aren't looking just for the money but also don't want to start your business, what can you do that is prestigious but still earn that 200k+?

Comments (69)

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
Apr 21, 2020 - 3:23pm

Ultimate career path is top-tier prep school --> Harvard --> drop out and start your own company --> billionaire at 23

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 21, 2020 - 3:38pm

It would probably be passions at that point - if you like tech try to go work Corp dev at google, if you like enterpreunership VC, etc

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 21, 2020 - 4:35pm

Exeter --> HYPSW (not SUNY Ithaca or the like) --> 2 yrs at GS TMT/MS M&A/ PJT RSSG (only top groups) --> 2 yrs at a MF --> 2 yrs at GSB/HBS --> work at the pre-CEO position your father is giving you, training you to inherit the family billion-dollar business when he retires.

The other path to this is Exeter (solely through legacy not merit) --> Wake Forest/Babson/any other school that is a safety for rich students who couldn't get in to better schools --> immediately get some bs job in the father's company where he still thinks his son can learn to be responsible --> CEO of a failing company

Apr 21, 2020 - 10:50pm

Your 'other path' is the actual bio of Fred Smith's son. Except replace Exeter with whatever plantation-elitist prep school he went to in Memphis, replace Wake with UVA, and add the fact that he got expelled from UVA. Now being groomed to run a failing company as you said - happens to be the once great company his dad started. Uncanny accuracy

Apr 21, 2020 - 4:36pm

If you dont go to Phillips Exeter you can forget being successful. That definitely need to be at the beginning of the path

  • 3
Apr 21, 2020 - 4:45pm

Andover/Exeter/Deerfield (Target High School) --> Target College --> GS/MS/JPM/EB --> MF PE --> M7 --> Post-MBA PE --> $$$ --> KYS

You can probably do the last first to save some time.

  • 22
Apr 24, 2020 - 12:28am

Another common exit I've noticed is this:

IB > PE > MBA > startup > unemployment


IB > PE > MBA > unemployment (right now)


IB > PE > Tech startup > unemployment.

Seems like a long drawn out path just to reach somewhere most people start out with

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 21, 2020 - 4:54pm

To give a serious answer, you could get on the partner track at a PE firm (big $$), or take some corporate role (often times at a pre-IPO startup for those stock options) with the goal of being a C-suite executive some day. Can also do other buy-side things like HF. But basically the point is that coming out of a top b-school with a top bank and a top MF on your resume basically means you can do whatever you want, so people often do something that actually interests them more than just going for whatever gives the most dollars.

  • Business School in PE - LBOs
Apr 22, 2020 - 7:03pm

Most people try to (and do) land post mba roles. The hf folks generally do it pre mba

Most Helpful
Apr 22, 2020 - 12:56am

As someone that nearly walked "the path" of top target -> top BB -> MF -> HBS but chose not to go to HBS, I can tell you that business school has become significantly less popular and "the path" now really ends with your MF years. The best connected, and top performing associates that want the direct promote take those very few spots (MF years, you'll realize how insanely crowded MFs, UMMs and even some of the very successful MM shops are and either move downmarket or move on from PE. I was ready to make the lifestyle choice given the low odds of success in climbing upwards in PE.

It ended up working out for me as I was handed a nice VP-level Corp Dev role by my former team, added value quickly with multiple tuck-ins and very recently got a battlefield promotion to the C-suite 8 months into the job. A good friend that also followed "the path" has experienced similar success in a Head/Director level Corp Dev role at a fast growing startup and couldn't be happier. Others have moved into Strategic Finance or Operations and are generally happier while still making at least 300k a year working 40-50 hours.

Think about it from the perspective of someone at the end of their MF years. You are 24-27, have 300-500K in the bank and are not married. It's a prime opportunity to enjoy the rest of your 20s with your newfound time, money and energy while still making some serious career leaps. I'd happily be a PortCo CEO collecting high 6/low 7 figures in cash every year with a 7 to 8 figure cash out every 5 years or so working 50-60 hours a week half on the road.

  • Incoming Analyst in IB-M&A
Apr 22, 2020 - 1:14am

Well that last sentence says it all, doesn't it? Not everybody who leaves for CorpDev will be collecting high 6/low 7 figures in cash every year with an (8?) figure cash out every 5 years. You mention the MF, isn't there also a tiny chance of CorpDev being that lucrative?

Apr 22, 2020 - 1:40am

Can you share more about making at least 300k in Strategic Finance or Operations? What type of job is this and at what type of companies?


Apr 24, 2020 - 12:34am

The below are anecdotes on people at least a year or two older than me who were all at different funds.

Frankly, the search fund route is the most unstructured and variable in terms of success levels/speed to first acquisition. The guy I thought would nail it was at a different MF focused on software, but he couldn't even put the capital together for almost a year. He also just barely got his acquisition done in time by buying a "tech-enabled services" business almost 3 years after he left his MF and nearly 2 years post-raise.

Another guy seemed unsure of the search fund route but also had the best deal experience I've seen of any associate at any MF. He had this great network in the medical devices community that he leveraged to not only make his first acquisition happen in just 3 months, but also raised most of his capital from the same executives he was asking for advice from along the way. His company has pivoted to something COVID-19 related recently and is absolutely crushing it. He's 100% the exception and not the rule though. This is also the person, who if they wanted to raise a dedicated first fund, I'd join in a heartbeat as a founding partner.

The last person I'm thinking of had probably the "worst" background in that he didn't go to that great of a school, did his analyst years at a MM bank and was at a fund that was more on the cusp of being UMM. I don't think he even managed to do a single investment either as an associate. He seemed to have the average search experience where took about a year to make his first acquisition (in the packaging industry).

Apr 25, 2020 - 7:10pm

Great post. Tech startups allow ex-bankers/PE to come in as directors and move up pretty quickly since the teams are leaner. Big tech (e.g. FAANG) is tougher since they are so much larger and stratified. At the FAANG firm I used to work at, those in corp finance/corp dev who made $300K+ were usually 5 years post-MBA. The engineers obviously made more at the same level.

May 1, 2020 - 5:21am

It's a trade off. I m personally not a fan of startup. If you're paying 200k for tuition, you'll find more career stability at FAANG if you can crack it.

You might make less but at least your stock options are real money.

Look what happened to the top unicorn during covid like Airbnb and Uber.

FAANG companies only got stronger and could now sweep in and do m&a at discount since most startup are hit hard.

Jun 22, 2020 - 9:20am

what about if you start off in Corp dev and move your way up - or is it easier via the IB/PE/MBA route? currently in Corp dev with low comp and no progression, cant say that it's all sunshine from where I'm from

Apr 22, 2020 - 11:21am

You gotta start earlier than that if you want to make it. As a sperm that's competing for an exit opp into the womb of your father's future partner, you need to be able to quickly assess and analyze the potential egg you're piercing to determine whether this is "the one" or just some one night stand that won't be able to nurture you to reach your career potential, if she even decides to keep you. Further, competition is fierce with thousands or millions of other sperm vying for limited opportunities.

Ultimately, you need to aim to be born to at least an upper-middle class white American family where both parents are educated and with at least one having the potential to reach partner/MD level in finance/law etc by the time you're 18 to allow you to have an inherent professional network. If you don't see the potential in your father nor in the sexual partners he chooses, there's no shame in retiring early on a piece of toilet paper.

  • Intern in PE - Other
Apr 22, 2020 - 11:35am

Now that you have the money/freedom, you might as well take a gap year to reflect on what you really want, try new things ....

Apr 22, 2020 - 4:47pm

I think the whole idea of the ultimate career path is that you get the freedom. You have the financial freedom in that the path is well-paid + it sets you up for future well-paid opportunities. Also you are basically done all your schooling by that point (obvs you can go back for other stuff). But at that point you can sorta do whatever you want (work a lot, work a little, make lots of money, passion projects, etc.)

Apr 23, 2020 - 6:32am

What's the path where you get to afford a place to live somewhere safe and popular?

Imagine going H/Y/P --> GS/MS/JP --> KKR and earning $300k p/a in your late twenties, knowing after taxes, rent and student loans you're never gonna save up enough to buy an apartment anywhere in Manhattan. There's about 5 million of those apartments so somehow you're not in the top 5 million Americans it seems, what happened? Same deal in SF/HK/London etc.

  • 4
Apr 23, 2020 - 11:56pm

Im sorry You earn 300k at 24-25 not late 20s. In your "late" 20s you earn 400-500k + carry (post mba carry is in the 1.5-4m range over 5 years) and can certainly buy an apartment in the next 2-3 years.

Apr 24, 2020 - 12:20am

Career paths are for loser who can't think on their own. Herd mentality. You'll never reach your full potential. Just not going to happen.

The winners carve out their own path by doing their own shit resulting in a non crowded market.


Start a company? No. You buy companies and own their distribution channels. You buy digital assets with your audience.

Climb the ladder? No you build relationship with those at the top in a lateral industry. Then you run private deals with them and leverage the assets they have already built.

You can combine examples 1 and 2 together to multiply your influence.

You can be a managing director as young as 25 if you start thinking like one. Instead of sucking their ass, pay attention to what they're actually doing. Then you replicate their shit. Just know how to build relationship and add value to people outside your space. Run your own show.

Is it easy? Yeah much easier than fighting another hopeless dog just to get a spot at KKR. Your competition is yourself. Unlimited upside potential if you can actually think with you brain.

Climbing the corporate ladder = 1d chess
Starting your business = 2d chess
Leveraging other people business = 3D chess

Select carefully.

Apr 25, 2020 - 8:24pm

It seems like this site doesn't value HF exits as much as the MF or Upper MM PE track. Why wouldn't it be more attractive to join a solid brand name HF after banking, continue to work without the necessity of attending business school, and hopefully preform well enough to advance up the hierarchy? Maybe I'm just ignorant of the space, but it seems like many MF associates spin out after their 2 years and end up seeking positions at top hedge funds. Is it just too hard to get these opportunities after banking and therefore requires the MF associate role on your resume to get the job? Thinking of places like Elliott Management, SilverPoint, Oaktree, etc.

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