What are exit opps really like for MBB Partners?

FPM31's picture
Rank: Baboon | 135

Over the course of consulting recruiting, I was surprised by the number of times somebody suggested to me that if one reaches partner level at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG, they often are recruited to leave to directly become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a Senior VP position right below the C-level. How true is this? Are F500 firms really that willing to bring on somebody who hasn't worked at the company before in such an influential role? What are exit opps really like if you make it to the top of MBB?

Comments (73)

Jun 4, 2014

I think the way to look at it is: If you're good enough to advise those F500 firms for 10-15 years while beating out your top tier peers, why wouldn't you be qualified to run one of those F500 firms?

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Jun 16, 2014

CorpFinanceGuy - to respond to your question "if you're good enough to advise those F500 firms for 10-15 years while beating out your top tier peers, why wouldn't you be qualified to run one of those F500 firms?"

I don't think the skill sets of (1) advising F500 firms as a top MBB partner translate well into (2) running a F500 firm for a number of reasons

For example, managing a team of 4-5 highly qualified/motivated people at MBB + providing advice (which has little risk) is very different than managing 1,000+ employees, setting strategic initiatives (and taking risks associated with them), being accountable for a to a board of directors, etc.

I realize there are examples to refute my skepticism, but I do not think this is very common or easy to do

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Jun 4, 2014

I'm familiar with someone who was a partner at Accenture. He got hired as a CFO elsewhere and was promised the CEO role when the current CEO retires. I think excelling in a highly competitive field like consulting and making partner in that environment gives someone a lot of credibility. Especially considering many of those partners will also have MBAs from top schools. The entire pedigree grooms someone to do just about any job imaginable.

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Jun 4, 2014

One thing I learned during my experience at my firm (Deloitte S&O, so not MBB) is that despite having the same nominal title of "partner" there are really many different levels of partners. At Deloitte they were delineated A-E, and there is a big difference between the levels in terms of roles/responsibilities. A very senior partner might take a very senior role at a F500 (SVP or EVP), while a more junior one might go in at a lower VP level, quite a few rungs from the c-suite. I have seen both cases at the F500 retailer where I now work.

Just based on reading the news regularly, where F500 CEO transitions are typically notable stories, I have never heard of a consulting partner (from MBB or elsewhere) joining industry at the CEO level, although I have seen consulting partners take CEO-type roles of sizable F500 business unit or division.

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Jun 4, 2014

The only direct to CEO of a mid-sized / large public company I can think of is a very senior partner at MBB becoming the CEO of a publicly traded consulting firm. Two other rockstar partners I know of (20-25 years consulting experience, thought leaders for their sector) have recently become Chief Strategy Officers of Fortune 100 companies.

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Jun 5, 2014

John Donahoe, now CEO of Ebay, was at Bain before that. He wasn't "just" a partner however. He was Worldwide Managing Director.

Jun 5, 2014

Why even bother. If you make partner at an MBB at about 36-40 (assuming 2-3 as EM/PL and 4-6 as Director/Principal), you're going to be rich enough to semi-retire by 42-46. Maybe take on a couple projects here and there to stave off boredom, or work at some non-proft, maybe do some teaching (you can be an adjunct prof with MBA+experience).

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Jun 5, 2014
Qayin:

Why even bother. If you make partner at an MBB at about 36-40 (assuming 2-3 as EM/PL and 4-6 as Director/Principal), you're going to be rich enough to semi-retire by 42-46. Maybe take on a couple projects here and there to stave off boredom, or work at some non-proft, maybe do some teaching (you can be an adjunct prof with MBA+experience).

Retire? Umm... no. More like buy a house and pay for your kids' private school tuition in cash. How much do you think you need to retire? 36-40 comes out to about 10-13 years at MBB. If you weren't sponsored the first 4-5 years of that you will still be paying off student loans. Over those other 6-8 years you are looking at a blended average pre-tax salary of say $600k (maybe $400k post-tax, probably a little less). You aren't semi-retiring off of that.

As far as exits, my old boss at a F1000 was a Bain guy brought in as SVP before even making partner. Not saying this is typical but it happens.

Jun 5, 2014

@"Tred1" I don't think you're reading @"Qayin"'s assumptions correctly. He/she is saying if the person made partner between 36-40 and then continued working as a partner for 6 years till age 42-46 they'd likely be able to semi-retire. Provided they were able to get some semi-retirement income streams and side projects to add up to ballpark of 100k/yr, then yeah, I think that'd be a reasonable proposition, and especially if the person had their house paid off and didn't have more than a normalish number of kids.

Jun 5, 2014
Tred1:
Qayin:

Why even bother. If you make partner at an MBB at about 36-40 (assuming 2-3 as EM/PL and 4-6 as Director/Principal), you're going to be rich enough to semi-retire by 42-46. Maybe take on a couple projects here and there to stave off boredom, or work at some non-proft, maybe do some teaching (you can be an adjunct prof with MBA+experience).

Retire? Umm... no. More like buy a house and pay for your kids' private school tuition in cash. How much do you think you need to retire? 36-40 comes out to about 10-13 years at MBB. If you weren't sponsored the first 4-5 years of that you will still be paying off student loans. Over those other 6-8 years you are looking at a blended average pre-tax salary of say $600k (maybe $400k post-tax, probably a little less). You aren't semi-retiring off of that.

As far as exits, my old boss at a F1000 was a Bain guy brought in as SVP before even making partner. Not saying this is typical but it happens.

I used the following assumptions:

1) Graduate b-school at 27-31 (average incoming class age at most schools is 26-28, so the 25-29 range at matriculation should probably cover the majority of students).

2) 8-10 years to partnership post-MBA, thus 35-41 when you make partner (27+8 to 31+10), so 36-40 should probably cover the majority, again. Let's say 4-5 of those are as an A/C and PL/EM, and the next 4-5 as a Director/Principal.

3) During your first 4-5 years you're looking at something like $250-300k weighted average salary + 10-20% bonus, so erring on the side of caution let's say $275k all in pre-tax, $185k net all-in, yearly.

That should be more than enough to pay off your student loans if you're not completely unreasonable with your expenses. Actually since you don't have much time to spend it, and you get most of your costs covered, you should probably have a very decent chunk of cash left. If you don't do anything stupid (like marriage or smth), you're probably even going to be able to buy a house. I.e. school debt 200k, compounded to smth like 300k (wild guess, but probably not too far) + 50-60k a year in living expenses (that's after tax, remember, so that's not too little at all) = ~550k total expenses, against your 4.5*185=832.5k net income over these years. I personally would invest it rather than buy a house, but whatever.

4) So by the time you make Principal/Director, you should be free of debt and with a house/some other investments in place. Now you can marry if you want, or start having kids if you already did etc. Add 4-5 years of a P/D's income, which is not shabby AT ALL, and you should have enough money for your children's trust to pay all kinds of tuitions (unless you're planning to have more than 2).

5) So now you're a Partner, no debt, a house, children covered for the most part, possibly some other investments in place (if you're smart). Assuming median partner comp at $1kk/year, within 5-10 years you should have enough money to semi-retire, for sure (unless by semi-retiring you mean buying an island).

Note that I've chosen assumptions on the lower end everywhere. Real net income would be higher, and 55-60k net living allowance is a lot (equal to blowing the entirety of a $85k pre-tax just on rent, clothes and going out, since almost everything else is covered). Many partners do make more that $1kk (some make substantially more), so $1kk is assuming you're a mediocre partner (not too bad though).

TL,DR: if you're not flushing money down the toilet, manage your assets strategically and do not marry too early/have a lot of children, you can comfortably semi-retire (as in working very little, not spending the rest of your days on your private island) by your early-to-mid forties.

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Jun 5, 2014
Qayin:

Why even bother. If you make partner at an MBB at about 36-40 (assuming 2-3 as EM/PL and 4-6 as Director/Principal), you're going to be rich enough to semi-retire by 42-46. Maybe take on a couple projects here and there to stave off boredom, or work at some non-proft, maybe do some teaching (you can be an adjunct prof with MBA+experience).

Bam. Exactly my thoughts.

At some point I realized I will never have tens of millions, but my current trajectory is "retirement" at low 40s with enough to certainly be comfortable

I guess the main reason to exit at that point is you want more challenge / you get an interesting opportunity

Jun 5, 2014

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Jun 5, 2014

TLDR:

Some people in this thread think that it is unreasonable to live on $100k to $200k AFTER TAX when you make $1M pre-tax.

You guys know that you don't have to spend everything you make, right?

Jun 5, 2014

Great. Use words to make an argument. Blanket "bullshit" is not helpful -- which part do you call BS on and why?

Best Response
Jun 5, 2014

I find this thread pretty amusing because I'm ~40, have two kids, have made good money over the years in a good field (not consulting) and there's just no way I'm retiring now, and I have more money "saved" than some of the examples above. Like @corpfinhopeful and @Tred1 have said basically, life is expensive and much more expensive than you think when you're either in school still or young and don't have kids and all of the costs that come with them. A couple hundred grand a year sounds like a lot to a 21 year old still in school, but it's just not that much money unless you're living in Iowa. Even if you don't go crazy and buy multi-million dollar homes or insane cars, a nicer but basic house near a major city is easily $1MM. A million dollar home sounds like it's going to be a mansion but that's a 4-5 bed in a somewhat closer suburb to a major city, especially in the northeast or California (SF/LA). If you live near NYC in Jersey or CT, property taxes are going to top $30k p.a. on that house and that's not in Greenwich (and entry level houses in Greenwich are $2MM+) or even Summit, that's more like Montclair. If you live in the San Fran area you'd be lucky to not spend 2x that on the house price alone. $25k p.a. for kid's private school-that's more like kindergarten in a less expensive suburb. If you're in NYC, bump that to $40k, for kindergarten, $50k+ for upper school. And that's just school, kids are actually a lot more expensive than that and it's all nickels and dimes but they add up. And forget about saving for college-lord knows what that expense will be in 13-18 years.

$55-60k in living expenses? I don't know what that includes, if you're counting a mortgage or not but leaving a mortgage cost out of the equation, that's $5k/month. You can easily eat up half of that just on utilities, food, gas and the other basics. That doesn't include anything "extravagant" like nice dinners out, which you will want to do because you work hard and your wife will want you to take her out because you work and travel a lot and you enjoy spending time together away from screaming children. Hell, a babysitter for 2 kids is $20/hour. Go out for 4 hours once per week and a babysitter eats up more than 6% of your post tax budgeted living expenses. That doesn't include the $200 (in the burbs, not in NYC, Boston, SF, etc) you blew on dinner and drinks or some other entertainment. And when you go out with friends you're no longer splitting the bill so you'll end up with a $400 tab more than half the time because you work in a high paying job and people look to you to pay.

Regarding family vacations: a week long trip to Disney World for 4 will cost upwards of $10k with hotels, food and park tickets. That's not going to Bora Bora or Portofino on a private jet, that's Disney using miles for the flight. Before my wife and I had kids we'd travel for less but with a family it's really difficult to wing it and believe it or not, seeing my two young sons having the time of their lives at Disney was completely worth the money. Hell, your second vacation of the year when you rent a house at the Jersey Shore (not meathead Shore), the Cape or the Vineyard for 2 weeks (and I'm leaving the Hamptons out of this) will cost you $10k in the rental alone. And you're going to get a place large enough for the grandparents and maybe other family members to come down and guess what? Because you're a consultant at Bain (or in IB/PE), no one will offer to pay you anything. When you have a holiday dinner (Christmas, Thanksgiving) for your extended family and you spend >a thousand on food and booze, Aunt Mary will think it's all equal that she brought over the green bean casserole and guess what again? No one will offer to pay because you're the successful consultant, banker etc.

You don't have to be chasing the Jones' or the Gates' to spend more than you think. For what I have made in PE and what I continue to make I live a pretty low key lifestyle but unless you want to be clipping coupons and skimping on everything possible, life in general will cost more than you think. If you can make consulting, IB/PE or big law partner type of money that you make in NYC, Boston, SF, etc and live in Des Moines, then it's a completely different picture but very few people make that type of money in Des Moines.

I only know one guy who retired at around 40. Formerly an MBB consultant who was recruited by a big hedge fund family because his industry specialty and his education were suited to the sub-fund's strategy. After a few years as an analyst he became a PM, and his direct fund ran something like $3B. Start doing your 2/20's on that amount of money and splitting the 20% with the firm (I think the team got to keep about half of the 20), making 20-30% annual returns and he took home a lot of money. Not just a million p.a. more like 10's of millions. And he lives a very moderate lifestyle for the money he's made because a massive house and fancy cars don't do it for him. That's about the only way people who work in IB, PE, consulting or other high paying fields retire from what I've seen. Not when you have $3, $5 or $7MM, but when you have $30MM. Plus, being 40 myself, I don't know what the hell I'd do if I retired in 3-6 years. There's only so much golf you can play and wine you can drink for a 30-40 year retirement.

If you're talking about retiring mid-50's I'd say that's more realistic. I applaud anyone who can save and not live an over the top lifestyle, but life in general will cost more than you think.

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Jun 5, 2014

Could've used your reasoning 2 hours ago! CorpFinanceGuy.. not hopeful.

Jun 5, 2014

Ok, can't really argue with that, looks like I was wrong.

What I took from this thread is a significantly strengthened determination to never marry/have children lol (not joking in fact).

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Jun 5, 2014

Completely different discussion, but kids are totally worth it and if you had asked me that before I had kids I would have asked you for the shit you were smoking because it must have been good.

And my friends who didn't have kids ended up getting dogs who they treat like kids and blow money on shit like psychologic therapy for their dogs...

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Jun 5, 2014
Qayin:

Ok, can't really argue with that, looks like I was wrong.

What I took from this thread is a significantly strengthened determination to never marry/have children lol (not joking in fact).

Lol @"Dingdong08" comes in with one comment and 15 more years of experience and you instantaneously agree with him. I see how this is.

Jun 5, 2014

I don't recall posting in this thread at all. Did you nean CorpFinanceGuy, or am I becoming senile?

Jun 5, 2014

My bad. Sorry.

Jun 6, 2014

Even though this thread went into a ditch, it was a really interesting read.

As a recent undergrad headed to an m7, this was eye opening. I live on $1600/mo post tax money right now. Post MBA life looks great!

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Jun 6, 2014
AnalyzeThat:

Even though this thread went into a ditch, it was a really interesting read.

As a recent undergrad headed to an m7, this was eye opening. I live on $1600/mo post tax money right now. Post MBA life looks great!

Yep life changes quickly. As a student I lived on a similar budget in a high COL east coast city. Now as an A/C/C in a low COL city my budget comes to around $3200/month (excl. 2k/month in student loans). Once you start making decent money there are just a lot of sacrifices and a lot of arguments with the SO that just aren't worth having anymore. Plus, if you have an SO you are going to need to pay the "you are always traveling" tax.

Jun 6, 2014

From what I've seen the Partners' husbands/wives who do work make great money. A $100k job at a 40%+ marginal tax rate means you're only taking home $60k (I can math). After childcare and extra help around the house, you're working 50 hours/wk for maybe $20k. It just doesn't pencil unless the spouse is making much more.

Jun 6, 2014
brj:

From what I've seen the Partners' husbands/wives who do work make great money. A $100k job at a 40%+ marginal tax rate means you're only taking home $60k (I can math). After childcare and extra help around the house, you're working 50 hours/wk for maybe $20k. It just doesn't pencil unless the spouse is making much more.

Yea, exactly. I mean there are obviously power couples out there, but there's a reason its called the 1%. Both SO's making 1% income is pretty rare. However, just because my assumptions above state that a lot of MBB wives don't work, I think its very important to make sure your wife has a fulfilling role in something other than raising the children. I've seen first hand what its like to have a mom very invested in the kids, and when they leave, the mom wonders what the fuck she's going to do for the next 20 years.

Another point that brj made, if you're a partner at an MBB making $1mm, is it really worth it for the wife to be making an extra 150-200k? Sure, its 20% more income, but pretty much any job with that sort of pay is very demanding and long hours. Cost benefit becomes a huge factor.

Jun 6, 2014
CorpFinanceGuy:
brj:

From what I've seen the Partners' husbands/wives who do work make great money. A $100k job at a 40%+ marginal tax rate means you're only taking home $60k (I can math). After childcare and extra help around the house, you're working 50 hours/wk for maybe $20k. It just doesn't pencil unless the spouse is making much more.

Yea, exactly. I mean there are obviously power couples out there, but there's a reason its called the 1%. Both SO's making 1% income is pretty rare. However, just because my assumptions above state that a lot of MBB wives don't work, I think its very important to make sure your wife has a fulfilling role in something other than raising the children. I've seen first hand what its like to have a mom very invested in the kids, and when they leave, the mom wonders what the fuck she's going to do for the next 20 years.

Another point that brj made, if you're a partner at an MBB making $1mm, is it really worth it for the wife to be making an extra 150-200k? Sure, its 20% more income, but pretty much any job with that sort of pay is very demanding and long hours. Cost benefit becomes a huge factor.

You do realize, some women want the independence and self-fulfillment that works provide, right? Some women don't want to be defined by their husbands career. Finding a "fulling role" in something other than work doesn't cut it for most people. The implicit sexism in this thread is pretty hilarious.

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Jun 7, 2014

My post was gender neutral for a reason. I was actually picturing an MBB partner's husband who gave up elementary school teaching to be a stay at home dad and pursue some passion projects. Male or female, you have to love whatever you're doing to do it for only $20k of take home pay. Wouldn't you have a hair trigger on "fuck it, I quit" with that salary?

Jun 7, 2014

Another thing we forgot.. capital contribution(s) once you become partner. It varies but I've heard $200-300k plus multiple firms have made additional capital calls these last 6 or 7 years. That first year of partnership won't look much different than the last year before you were named partner. Plus, I'm not convinced that an average MBB junior partner is hitting $1MM in years 1-3. That would be an instant doubling of pre-tax take home. I just don't believe that on average.

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Jun 7, 2014

@"Tred1"

I've actually wondered about this. I have good empiric salary data up to EM/PL/CTL-M and anecdotal data for Principal, but my knowledge drops off pretty rapidly when it comes to Partner comp. I've heard the $1M number bandied about for Pa1's, but that does seem like a huge jump from a Pr1 at $300k. Maybe the jumps during ~4 year at Pr at huge.

On capital contribution, I have no MBB data. Big 4 accounting partners typically take a low interest loan from the firm the entire amount (not sure the amount) and pay it back out of their partnership distributions (dividends) over the next few years.

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Jun 8, 2014

Keep in mind that partners are business owners -- when the firm does well, they get paid more, and when it struggles, they get paid less.

Also, because of this, partner comp will vary more from firm to firm (and form year to year!) than associare comp will. This could also be why you're having harder time figuring out the numbers.

I used to work at a different firm. Now I work at MBB. Here is the range of guaranteed minimum comp levels from my previous firm, per terms of their recent acquisition:

Level 1 568k
(Level 1 is lowest partner)
Level 6 1,738k
(Level 6 is highest partner level)

Keep in mind:
* This is the minimum guaranteed. If the business does better, they will be paid more
* This is *average*. At each level, high-performing partners get ~15% more, and under-performing partners get less
* This does not include equity payout for the acquisition, and in some cases significant retention bonuses are above the levels quoted. That said, a smaller minimum retention bonus is included in the numbers ($100k per year...minimum partner retention bonus)
* I believe these guaranteed comp levels would be on the low side of what is competitive for MBB partner comp. I think that two years ago, partner cash comp at this firm was ~40% more than the numbers above due to having a good year. That said, due to the $100k retention, at the low end (e.g., Level 1) these numbers may be competitive with MBB comp
* For reference, a tenured principal (level just before partner) would get $362 total cash comp at this firm, assuming an average bonus rating

Typically, i find that at each level your pay jumps 20-30%. E.g. from associate to manager you get a 20-30% boost. I think the jump to partner is an above-average jump. Really, I think for consulting in general, the economics start to work when you hit partner, and before that it's not an obviously better financial decision than other corporate jobs, especially given the harder work/life balance

Hope it helps.

p.s. I still think retiring in mid/low 40s is very doable, and I plan on doing it ;-P

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Jun 16, 2014
BigPicture:

Keep in mind:

* This is the minimum guaranteed. If the business does better, they will be paid more

* This is *average*. At each level, high-performing partners get ~15% more, and under-performing partners get less

You are contradicting yourself. Is it the minimum or the average? Or is there something I am just not understanding?

Jun 16, 2014
Possimpible:
BigPicture:

Keep in mind:

* This is the minimum guaranteed. If the business does better, they will be paid more

* This is *average*. At each level, high-performing partners get ~15% more, and under-performing partners get less

You are contradicting yourself. Is it the minimum or the average? Or is there something I am just not understanding?

The partners are guaranteed to be paid an amount as if the firm had a certain level of profitability. This was done because there may be some client overlap with the acquisition, and they wanted to establish a floor. That said, within the partner compensation, some will be paid more, and some will be paid less.

I could have been more clear, but really, do the specifics matter?

Jun 16, 2014

It all about the goals.

It's very possible to semi-retire (hell even fully retire if you take a big enough dip in lifestyle) with the income mentioned.

It's also possible to have less than $10 in the bank account month after month with the same income.

Some people have control over money, for others money has control over people.

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

Jun 17, 2014

I don't get how working at MBB for 15 years and then retiring to live on 100k a year is an attractive proposition. If you are happy to live on 100k a year, you can start doing that in your 20's and not spend 15 your prime years making slides 70 hours a week.

Jan 9, 2015

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Jan 9, 2015

Are you still in college?

Jan 9, 2015

Why are so sure you'll make it to partner? Have you traveled 4 days a week for months on end and love it? Have you had to cancel plans to almost every social outing you've been invited to? Do you love the idea have playing powerpoint everyday?

After you answer those questions try this thread again.

The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

WSO is not your personal search function.

Jan 9, 2015
bfin:

Why are so sure you'll make it to partner? Have you traveled 4 days a week for months on end and love it? Have you had to cancel plans to almost every social outing you've been invited to? Do you love the idea have playing powerpoint everyday?

After you answer those questions try this thread again.

why do you say that you have to cancel plans to almost every social outing? aren't you pretty much able to schedule things for thurs night/fri/weekend given a repeating weekly travel schedule?

Jan 9, 2015

You have to pay to be a partner dude...

Jan 9, 2015

Yeah, I'm still in college I did my internship last year and ! am making some 'plans' for careers I like and the potential opprtunities that they can provide. So, I am asking these questions hypothetically just to see if VC is a potential option. I for one do like the travel but doing it after making partner (if i do) would potentially get annoying and i would like to start a family if possible by then. ````it would be great if you guys could answer my question.

Jan 9, 2015
princepieman:

Yeah, I'm still in college I did my internship last year and ! am making some 'plans' for careers I like and the potential opprtunities that they can provide. So, I am asking these questions hypothetically just to see if VC is a potential option. I for one do like the travel but doing it after making partner (if i do) would potentially get annoying and i would like to start a family if possible by then. ````it would be great if you guys could answer my question.

I am at an MBB, post MBA. Here is my advice to you....

  • no matter what you think you know, your best laid plans now will likely not materialise. You are 21 maybe....if I followed through with my plans at that age I'd have married the wrong girl, been in a career I would have hated, and lived in a city that I don't like.
  • focus on substance, not outcomes. You may well have been an intern at an mbb, but that is like a bat boy saying they know what it is like being a pro ball player. it is a long, hard, unpredictable road getting to partner. Hell, i dont know if i can or would want it. You will be in a 2 yr contract as an undergrad hire. Your goal should be developing yourself, not making partner. Build skills. Learn from people. Whatever you do, don't talk about making partner. If an undergrad hire at my firm said that they would be laughed at.
  • seriously, lighten up. Your priorities should be figuring out where you want to travel to, what restaurants to try, what bar to go to. If you are sitting at your computer on a saturday asking this lot about whether or not you can get to vc from mbb (who knows), you just need to go enjoy life more.
Jan 9, 2015

I'm sorry if I came across as being childish, I was just thinking about different career paths. I have a slight tendency to think about the big picture of things but now that I think about it you're right karl_pikington. I shouldn't really be thinking about these things at the beginning of my career. I guess I just got a little to stressed and hung up about my future. Well, i'll be staying off this website for a while. I might come back when I have a more serious issue.

Jan 9, 2015
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Jan 9, 2015