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Career Advice...Out of Work...Feeling Lost

Hi everyone,

I’m not sure if this forum receives many messages like this but I thought it may be an okay (and not too hostile) place for me to make a very honest post about my current situation. If you have any feedback (e.g. criticism, humor, advice) are all welcome. Also, if you wish to connect on LinkedIn and have a discussion offline please PM me and I will be more than willing to connect.

I am located in Toronto, Canada, 29 years old and have about five years of work experience in Capital Markets. All salary is in CAD.

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My first “job” was at a bank as a Customer Service Representative (ie. Bank Teller/Sales). I spent eight months at this job as I could only secure part-time employment. However, during this time I did study and pass both levels of the Canadian Securities Course (CSC). My salary was 11 dollars per hour, and T4 read something like $10k per year. Not great, but it was my humble start in the industry.

From the bank I moved directly to a large financial technology firm where I was fortunate enough to secure full-time and permanent work as a Financial Analyst. I was hired at $35k per year with health benefits and a $3k bonus. My tasks involved financial reporting, accounts receivable, and credit control. After proving myself for a year I started to “help” out the corporate development team by preparing DCF and Trading comps models. I was really just learning at this point. After another year my salary went up to $42k and I started building these models from scratch and started doing research for potential acquisition targets.

A year later I was promoted to Senior Analyst and moved directly into the Corporate Development department. My salary was still on the humble-end but increased from $42k to $56k and I received a $14k bonus on top of it, so I was very happy and able to move away from home. My tasks involved tons of financial modeling, and the firm moved me to NYC so I could be in charge of an integration of a firm that we recently acquired. A lot of my job involved business consulting aspects (headcount reduction, debtor management, reforming the business/sales strategy, instituting financial reporting, contract management, and so forth)…I spent about a year just doing this and left the firm in mid-2014 due to a sudden death in the family (my father). I needed time to reflect and heal and think about what I wanted in my life. I was doing 14-15 hour work days and I was burnt out.

I was out of work for about 6 months and I eventually landed a role as an Associate in Research (Private Equity). This was by chance as I had originally applied for the role as Chief of Staff, but lost the job to an internal hire. The CEO (a Harvard MBA grad) was really impressed with me and offered me a position in the research department if I was willing. This job paid $70k/year with a $5k bonus. I was a contractor at this firm and overall the experience was quite good. I learned a lot about the private equity industry and certainly improved my valuation skills.

My contract ended in May ‘16 and I opted to not continue at the firm. I wasn’t really getting along with my boss and the environment was making me quite depressed. I spent the last 5 months studying full-time for CAIA Level 1 and passed in October ‘16.

For the past two months I have been looking for work but have not been successful. Now the crux of it…Unlike the absolute majority of my colleagues on Analyst Forum, I do not have a degree in finance/accounting/commerce…I have a degree from the University of Toronto (a very good school) but in Music (cue laughter, it’s okay)…I was a talented performer and played with some great orchestras but had to leave the industry quite young due to a hand injury.

After initially leaving the music world I did seek out advice from the admissions counselors at the University in Toronto (Ryerson, York, U of T). All of them told me that I am not eligible for a Bachelor of Commerce since I already have a degree. They stated that they do not accept second-degree candidates and that I should simply “do an MBA”…At the time I knew relatively little about the business world so the concept of doing an MBA (and inheriting $50-100k) in additional debt seemed like a laughable idea.

My concerns about my career trajectory/situation:

-Rapid growth, from bottom to solid mid-level…Is it believable to employers without a solid degree to back me up?

-It looks perhaps disingenuous…Not a lot of commerce grads have been as fortunate as me, so recruiters/employers often turn their nose up at my resume.

-A bit of bouncing around/still trying to find myself.

-Can’t get in with the “big” firms like CPP/OTPP/RBC since they like a very “set path”…E.g. Schulich BBA –> PwC –> CFA/CPA etc.

-CAIA is a pretty specialized field…Not many recruiters even know what it is…combined with a mismatched degree it makes me seem like a bit of a mess.

Keep in mind that I am a determined person and everything I have learned on the job and for the CSC and CAIA I had taught myself. I’m just having trouble getting my foot in the door for “any” old job. I’ve applied to $30k/year positions as a payroll administrator and been immediately declined. Similarly, if I play for any Analyst/Senior Analyst job in even non-financial firms I usually don’t hear back. I’ve applied to 167 jobs at RBC and have had 2 interviews and got rejected in the second round.

Losing a bit of hope as I don’t know where to go from here…

Thanks to everyone for reading and offering any advice/criticism/humor.

Cheers.

You’re at a critical point in your career.  You’re at the age where if you don’t go back to b school now, it will likely never be plausible for you.  If I were in your spot I would prepare to apply at the very least.  

In the short term, have you looked at consulting?  It will be hard to find a role at a large financial services firm at this point because you’re competing for the same roles as internal candidates and MBAs.  Consulting or corporate finance may be anecessary easier sell.  

Osirus0830 wrote:

You’re at a critical point in your career.  You’re at the age where if you don’t go back to b school now, it will likely never be plausible for you.  If I were in your spot I would prepare to apply at the very least.  

In the short term, have you looked at consulting?  It will be hard to find a role at a large financial services firm at this point because you’re competing for the same roles as internal candidates and MBAs.  Consulting or corporate finance may be anecessary easier sell.  

Thank you for your feedback. I am going to look into writing the GMAT at the very least. I don’t think a PwC/Delloitte would be interested in me since I don’t have an MBA. Perhaps you meant doing a consulting contract? Even those I’m finding definitely want some sort of piece of paper.