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Do I make bad career choices?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

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Edited by godofcoffee - 8/9/11 at 11:14am
post #2 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by godofcoffee View Post
Okay, briefly, over the past year, I was faced with the following 4 options. I'm speaking in broad terms to protect the innocent (i.e. me). For reference, I'm a senior due to graduate in about 2 months.

a) Finance. Hedge fund and PE offers. Hedge fund was a-side, PE was b-side (not Blackstone or equivalent). Sweet salary (120-range after bonus), sweet hours for finance (maybe 60/week). Eventually go to business school then return to buy-side.

b) Law. Top-tier school (YHS). Long-term plan is IP biglaw (Fish & Richardson or equivalent), although I really can't say because it's competitive.

c) Technology. Engineering/program management. Social network/major OS producer. Good salary (low 6 figures), great hours (40/week). Long-range plan would be to rise in the ranks, probably eventually join a start-up (or start one).

d) Academia. Scientific graduate school. Probably can't get into a tippity-top program: maybe top-10, but not top 2 or 3. PhD paid for, become a professor, or if not, get a relatively highly-paid job in the private sector. (It's one of very few disciplines where you can do that).

I probably sound like a dickhead for airing all this, because I'm pretty proud of the opportunities that I managed to corral. And it probably sounds implausible that somebody would try to have a thumb in so many pies, but it's all true. However, in what I have been told ex post is one of the stupidest career decisions ever, I opted for b. What would you have done?

I really can't see how going to a top 3 law school is stupid. I can see a long-term strategy of IP law being a little mundane, given the other alternatives, but it's not like your only path out of law school will be a career in 'biglaw'.

It seems that college students these days are under the impression that the 'only' way to be successful is to follow the prototypical career path every step of the way - and that's not really true.

I would say that if you have the opportunity (i.e. you've been accepted) to knock out a top 5 professional degree (JD or MBA) very early in, or pre-career, you'd need a really good reason to not do that.
post #3 of 38
I choose A and am very happy with the decision. Almost everyone I know who works in law is miserable. Several people I know in law are trying to get into P/E. School is overrated. (Both b-school and law).

What is a-side?
post #4 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tj100 View Post
I really can't see how going to a top 3 law school is stupid. I can see a long-term strategy of IP law being a little mundane, given the other alternatives, but it's not like your only path out of law school will be a career in 'biglaw'.

It seems that college students these days are under the impression that the 'only' way to be successful is to follow the prototypical career path every step of the way - and that's not really true.

I would say that if you have the opportunity (i.e. you've been accepted) to knock out a top 5 professional degree (JD or MBA) very early in, or pre-career, you'd need a really good reason to not do that.

Thank you for this advice - I have indeed been accepted and am now just deciding between the top 3. You're literally the first person to tell me that this is a good decision.
post #5 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eml4sker View Post
I choose A and am very happy with the decision. Almost everyone I know who works in law is miserable. Several people I know in law are trying to get into P/E. School is overrated. (Both b-school and law).

What is a-side?

Collegiate, kind-of-fratty slang. Means good (vs. b-side = bad).

All the people I know who moved into finance from law are satisfied with their decision. But they're all MDs at Goldman, so of course they don't. Hopefully if I come out with a legit degree, it wouldn't be too difficult to make the switch if I needed to?
post #6 of 38
When it comes to choosing a career, people are often too rational. They spend too much time thinking about the compensation, the exit opportunities, the prestige. In fact, the best choice is what you think you'll be best at and enjoy doing the most.
post #7 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by eml4sker View Post
When it comes to choosing a career, people are often too rational. They spend too much time thinking about the compensation, the exit opportunities, the prestige. In fact, the best choice is what you think you'll be best at and enjoy doing the most.

+1 imho.
post #8 of 38
Fuck, if you've got options, not law. I think that should be clear.
post #9 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by godofcoffee View Post
Okay, briefly, over the past year, I was faced with the following 4 options. I'm speaking in broad terms to protect the innocent (i.e. me). For reference, I'm a senior due to graduate in about 2 months.

a) Finance. Hedge fund and PE offers. Hedge fund was a-side, PE was b-side (not Blackstone or equivalent). Sweet salary (120-range after bonus), sweet hours for finance (maybe 60/week). Eventually go to business school then return to buy-side.

b) Law. Top-tier school (YHS). Long-term plan is IP biglaw (Fish & Richardson or equivalent), although I really can't say because it's competitive.

c) Technology. Engineering/program management. Social network/major OS producer. Good salary (low 6 figures), great hours (40/week). Long-range plan would be to rise in the ranks, probably eventually join a start-up (or start one).

d) Academia. Scientific graduate school. Probably can't get into a tippity-top program: maybe top-10, but not top 2 or 3. PhD paid for, become a professor, or if not, get a relatively highly-paid job in the private sector. (It's one of very few disciplines where you can do that).

I probably sound like a dickhead for airing all this, because I'm pretty proud of the opportunities that I managed to corral. And it probably sounds implausible that somebody would try to have a thumb in so many pies, but it's all true. However, in what I have been told ex post is one of the stupidest career decisions ever, I opted for b. What would you have done?

Haven't read responses but I'd have chosen A or C. If you're passionate about B, go for it don't look back and good luck.
post #10 of 38
Sometimes, I am thankful that I only have only had one appealing option for most of the career decisions that I have made.
post #11 of 38
Ha, so far I've never had options. The closest thing was really a no brainer. I still ended up in good shape though.
post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by godofcoffee View Post
d) Academia. Scientific graduate school. Probably can't get into a tippity-top program: maybe top-10, but not top 2 or 3. PhD paid for, become a professor, or if not, get a relatively highly-paid job in the private sector. (It's one of very few disciplines where you can do that). I probably sound like a dickhead for airing all this, because I'm pretty proud of the opportunities that I managed to corral. And it probably sounds implausible that somebody would try to have a thumb in so many pies, but it's all true. However, in what I have been told ex post is one of the stupidest career decisions ever, I opted for b. What would you have done?
Given your career ambivalence, I wouldn't recommend science graduate school. It's a pretty miserable experience, and unless you totally get off on research, you're going to hate life. Even if you go to a top school, you can't even begin to count on getting a tenure track position at a decent research institution. The jobs are absurdly hard to get, and any number of extraordinarily talented candidates who went to all the right school, the right postdoc positions, have incredibly publication records, etc, are getting rejected. It's tough, I gave up on academics very early on. You're also not going to even leave school until you're ~28, then maybe a postdoc, then a low-paid associate prof position. Also, everybody should get paid to work on their PhD in the sciences. It's not exactly uncommon, even marginally qualified people at 3rd tier schools get paid. So yeah, I'd say not choosing D) was a good call for you.
post #13 of 38
It seems all your carreer options are based on making a Jewish mother proud...
post #14 of 38
Depends on how solid the buyside shops are. I wouldn't necessarily consider buyside -> b-school -> buyside again as an easy route. Not to mention the uncertainty/lack of advancement opportunities at smaller firms.
post #15 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eml4sker View Post
When it comes to choosing a career, people are often too rational. They spend too much time thinking about the compensation, the exit opportunities, the prestige. In fact, the best choice is what you think you'll be best at and enjoy doing the most.

That's solid advice - that's the main reason I eventually settled on law.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post
Given your career ambivalence, I wouldn't recommend science graduate school. It's a pretty miserable experience, and unless you totally get off on research, you're going to hate life.

Even if you go to a top school, you can't even begin to count on getting a tenure track position at a decent research institution. The jobs are absurdly hard to get, and any number of extraordinarily talented candidates who went to all the right school, the right postdoc positions, have incredibly publication records, etc, are getting rejected. It's tough, I gave up on academics very early on. You're also not going to even leave school until you're ~28, then maybe a postdoc, then a low-paid associate prof position.

Also, everybody should get paid to work on their PhD in the sciences. It's not exactly uncommon, even marginally qualified people at 3rd tier schools get paid.

So yeah, I'd say not choosing D) was a good call for you.

That sounds reasonable. I didn't rely on getting a tenure-track position, because of course it's incredibly difficult and I have no way of gauging how talented I am right now in a meaningful way.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuuma View Post
It seems all your carreer options are based on making a Jewish mother proud...

I'm not Jewish, and that comment strikes me as somewhat racist, but one reason I did settle on law was because my family strongly encouraged me to. I know some people don't have good relationships with their parents, but I do, and making them proud seems as solid a motivation as any.

Quote:
Originally Posted by v.freeman View Post
Depends on how solid the buyside shops are. I wouldn't necessarily consider buyside -> b-school -> buyside again as an easy route. Not to mention the uncertainty/lack of advancement opportunities at smaller firms.

That's correct. My decision not to do a summer internship at a bank choked off my IB and S&T opportunities, though, so I didn't even apply. Broadly speaking, the PE place that I was looking at had a solid record of b-school placement, but the hedge fund favoured more of a rise-from-within path.
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