Friday, April 23, 2010

Breaking in from a non-business Graduate School

From a reader:

I graduated from a top 25 public school in 2008 with a degree in Neuroscience. I will be graduating with a MS in Biomedical Science this June from a top research school (not a target). Prior to this year, I never had much exposure to the financial field. However after taking healthcare administration, management, and law courses, I found business to be much more aligned with my goals.

1. As of right now, I would ultimately like to end in finance. Does this require me to start in finance, such as IBD?

Since you will be graduating from a Masters Program in the sciences, it may be difficult for you to directly break into a finance position at a bulge bracket firm. However, alums from your undergrad are well represented at many finance firms, and it would be your best option to start getting on the phone and emailing them about your interest. The more people you talk to, the more likely it is that you will get to assess your fit for the industry and figure out exactly what part of finance (sales, trading, asset management, banking, etc.) that you would like to pursue. Once you figure that out, you will be more successful in telling your story and can begin applying anywhere and everywhere you can. Start at the local to medium sized shops, since you are graduating from a non-business oriented program. You can make the switch to banking/consulting, but you need to be strategic with how you describe the evolution of your interests and why you want to pursue those fields only now and not as an undergrad.

2. I know there are consulting firms, such as PWC, that cater towards health industries. Hopefully my experience in the medical field will help make me a stronger candidate. However will this help my application for IBD?
Yes, definitely look into consulting shops that focus on science, medicine, pharmaceuticals, and other areas that relate to your academic background. You can leverage past consulting experience in the sciences to an IBD role in technology, healthcare, or another relevant field. The transition is made easier once you have some business background on your resume.

3. How possible is it for me to get hired by top firms if I apply now?
Honestly, it's very unlikely to get hired at this moment since A. we're still in a downturn and B. most of the hiring at bulge brackets has been completed (full time hiring begins in August and finished around December). That said, if you get on the phone and tell your story to alums or your other contacts, you may have a good shot at landing positions at firms with less formal recruiting cycles. Don't just rely on submitting resumes through company websites though, as firms receive literally thousands of applications and it's difficult to be noticed that way.

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