Career Transition Advice

Hey guys, looking for some career advice here. Thank you in advance for all feedback, its much appreciated.

So here’s my background. I’m 27 years old, graduated from a non-target school with a degree in finance in 2015. Since then, I’ve completed the CFA and received my charter in February 2020. I’ve accumulated about 5 years of relevant work experience since graduation. Close to 2 years at a small business valuation firm, where I worked project to project, so I was not a W2 employee. I left there because there was not much of an opportunity to move to a full-time salaried position. From there I moved to a medium sized RIA where I started as a Portfolio Administrator then moved up to a Financial Analyst. I’ve been here for 3.5 years now.

I am now conflicted because I dont know if I want to stay in PWM forever. It appears to me that the resources and just overall focus of the firm are on the relationship management side and that it will always stay that way. I’m also not sold on the culture and leadership. They vaguely talk about growth, but don’t do much to show that’s their real priority and there’s no defined path for getting equity for anyone not an advisor.

Anyways, back to me. I am looking for something where I can really utilize my charter, something a bit more analytical that requires more strategic and critical thinking, but also does offer opportunities to interface with clients and work with others. I’m thinking consulting, investment banking/valuations or private equity would fulfill this desire.

So I am looking for some advice on how to make this move. I’ve been applying online through LinkedIn and company websites. I’ve had a few interviews, but still waiting to hear back. I’d like to get some experience at a larger firm. What would you recommend I spend my time doing? Providing supplemental work with my resume, directly contact some people at the company’s I’m interested in etc. Open to any thoughts, positive or negative in my approach. Thanks.

I would use your valuation experience to get into a larger valuation group, try for big 4. What you can do is try to get someone who is already there refer you (You don’t even have to know them well or at all, if they refer you, you ace the interview, get the job, and work there a certain time, they get a nice referral bonus, so they don’t care).

From there, the work may not be what you want but people from there who are sharp have gone to ER/IB.

Transitions are tricky they require a certain amount of soft skill, significant effort, some degree of hard skills and ultimately a dose of luck. The transition you’re describing is definitely possible although even for someone that has all of pieces you may ultimately wind up just being unlucky. Your age is just young enough that this is possible, if you were much older it would get more difficult.

There are two general paths with the first being the highest probability but having its own costs and acceptance not being a guarantee:

  1. Go to a top tier full time MBA program (assuming you haven’t done an MBA). These sorts of programs are heavily recruited and ideal for people attempting a career transition while bringing a dose of relevant experience. Obviously being accepted into a school and the time and money cost are your biggest factors.

  2. Try to organically work your way into a roll. You are on the right approach there, things to consider are that you are going to need to aggressively market yourself for that role (see below).

Ensure that everything on your resume highlights your relevant valuation experience, really gear it towards that role. If you had other functions, largely ignore them, they are distractors and even if some of the valuation aspects were minority roles, bring those to the forefront. Someone should be able to glance at your resume and then if asked to describe you say “valuation analyst” or some such. Think of it as convincing them to make the correct decision in hiring you because you really are long term the best person for the job.

In interviews sell yourself on your experience but also your desire and ability to learn, enthusiasm for the space and long term value in the role. Your story is very clear, I wanted long term security in a growth oriented firm with room to advance internally (first firm didn’t have that) and I want to be more clearly focused on valuation in a larger group that is focused on that area (second firm didn’t have that), this brings me to your firm and why I’m a great fit.

For linked in, I highly recommend networking by reaching out to people in roles and firms you’re interested in and setting up informational interviews over the phone. Discuss their day to day, challenges in the role, things they enjoy, how the firm’s needs may be changing, what it’s like at firm x, talk about interesting aspects of their background on linked in, how the role and skills of valuation analyst may have changed if at all, can they recommend you to speak with another colleague, things you should be working on, etc. It is fine to frame it within the context of your interest in their firm or a larger firm in general but avoid point blank asking about an open role or anything excessively transparent like that. It’s best to even do these things when a role is not out there, and then always follow up with a thank you note (email, linkedin message are fine). Then just periodically keep in touch unless they seem unwelcome to it. Over time these sorts of seeds tend to mature into good opportunities.

In the mean time, continue to shop roles that are posted, it may take a ton of applications, but all you need is one eventual hit. Also keep these discussions you’ve had in your back pocket because it is helpful in interviews to be well versed in the field and be able to relate questions into past discussions you’ve had (“that reminds me of an interesting point that was made a few weeks ago when I was talking to a contact at X”). It helps the interview flow more organically while you start to really feel like someone within the field who clearly has an interest in it and they start to really see you in that role.

Thank you for the detailed response. This is all really great info. As of now, I would definitely go for number 2.

I’ll make sure to highlight my valuation experience going forward. Since it was more part time, I was actually putting that on the back burner and was focusing more on my RIA experience, but I understand your points and I’ll adjust that going forward.

Three follow up questions:

  1. Do you recommend I go into any of my RIA experience to supplement the valuation experience? Main duties/responsibilities included leading monthly/quarterly re-balancing, took part in client meetings and did presentations to discuss markets/portfolios etc, promoted from portfolio admin to analyst and supervised portfolio admins who back filled me, general research on our model holdings (ETF’s, Mutual Funds and Ind. Stocks).
    One thing I did that I think could help me stand out is I developed my own individual stock screen and valuation model that is now a standalone strategy and is used to help pick stocks for our other investment strategies. I’m thinking I should definitely discuss this, but anything else you recommend?

  2. Also do you recommend any certificates to supplement my CFA. I’m thinking something like the FMVA from Corporate Finance Institute. Or do you think CFA is enough and small things like that wouldnt really move the needle?

  3. Any chance I could use my mix of valuation/RIA experience and CFA to jump straight into Private Equity by using the same organic approach (number 2) or is that too much of a stretch right now?


  1. Including whatever RIA experience you find helpful to your case can definitely be helpful.
  2. Typically I think the CFA is good enough but maybe some form of major accounting designation (CPA/CA) could be helpful.
  3. Jumping into private equity seems unlikely.

Another thing to consider when choosing course of action #2 over course of action #1 is that in both cases the clock is ticking but the door for a top tier MBA is definitely closing as they focus on mid 20’s aged candidates.

You should try applying with investment banking giants like GS, you would have great growth and visibility given your interest.