Unusual situation, help.

I am currently a senior about to graduate this spring. I have signed with a reputable MM bank for an SA position in one of their southern offices. My overall goal, in the short term, is to land a front office role at a bulge bracket investment bank, wherever I can.

My original post-graduation year long plan was to spend the summer interning in finance (two months at the bank with another month at a middle market PE firm) and then spending a year in China/Taiwan studying Mandarin at a one year program. I have offers from both, and furthermore, both are OK with my unusual post-graduation plan. The bank said to "not take time off" during that year, but I'm studying Chinese at the best Chinese/Taiwanese universities full-time (think Beida, NTNU), so I'm hoping that isn't considered "time off".

However, after doing some research, this is a poor plan. I'm realizing the difficulty of landing a job in HK/Singapore (it will probably take me at least two years of undivided attention to get my Mandarin to ibanking level), and I'm really cutting it close with the dates. Furthermore, I won't physically be in the states during FT recruiting, so I've really isolated myself in that sense.

There are clearly many variables to whatever decision I will have to make, but I think it comes down to two questions:

1) What value will this PE internship really give me? The guys are good, well-connected, and we get along great, but should I ditch it at this point? That's another month to network in New York (or interview early?)

2) Can I afford to go to Asia? It obviously isolates me from the recruiting process, but at the same time It's been a dream of mine to spend some "me time" there relaxing and studying languages, and I think if I don't do it now... I probably won't at all. Furthermore, if I don't go, it may very well kill my eligibility to even participate in the process in the first place, as I'm no longer in school anymore.

To anyone that actually managed to read all of that, thank you very much.

Comments (4)

Mar 25, 2011 - 7:21pm

Just got back to the US after 2.5 years of IB in Beijing.

I would really ask yourself what you hope to accomplish in Asia. Are you ethnically Chinese, or are you going into this blind with no knowledge of the language or culture? If you're taking a sort of dilettante-y self-indulgent approach to it, by all means go for it. If you think you're going to be a baller-ass IBD rockstar because you spent two years picking up some broken Mandarin -- when there are tens of millions of kids your age there who speak the language natively (and English) and already have a network -- you're better off staying home.

HK/Singapore are increasingly becoming subordinate to the mainland capital markets. The trend is basically unlikely to change. HK groups have very little idea of what actually is going on in the mainland. They lack meaningful relationships with much of the CPC apparatus or much of the mainland SOE and SME community, so I would recommend looking for work on the mainland if you're serious about it long term.

Keep in mind you will miss out on all recruiting channels for IB analyst exit opportunities back home (PE, HF, VC, analyst/associate laterals). You will be totally off the radar when you come back and with wages plus cost of living substantially lower in China than in the US, you will have minimal savings.

That's about where I am right now. I got back to the states 2 weeks ago with no job lined up. I'm having decent luck landing interviews at ok firms on mainstreamish job sites, but I think at this stage I am at a substantial disadvantage compared to my peer group which went to the Wall Street BBs and elite boutiques. They had the advantage of an easy recruiting process, whereas I have to work my way in cold and chase people and barely know where to begin (and will probably post a thread soon, haha).

That said, I had an awesome, awesome time in China, and the experience could very well be worth it in the long run, but that book hasn't been written yet.

You can get a Taiwanese Government scholarship for NTU which covers full tuition plus some cost of living. I would recommend looking into Tsinghua or BLCU in Beijing. Taiwanese accents are terrible and unless you're looking to work in semiconductors for the rest of your life, you're better off learning and schmoozing in the PRC.

Feel free to PM me if you have lots of followup questions.

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