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Pondering my life - MBA, banking

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
It has never ceased to amaze me how successful, insightful and supportive members of this forum are, so I would like to humbly request for some advice this evening. Like our dear friend CTGuy, I'm reevaluating my life and goals. As many of you know, I am a foreign student who graduated from college recently and am working in the technology department of an investment bank in New York. I work normal Mon-Fri 9-5 hours, working with our internal business users to plan/upgrade/merge computer systems. I don't get involved in programming or the technical details, as those are left to another team of individuals. As a foreigner, I am working under a temporary work permit attached to my company which is valid for 3 years. The work permit can be renewed for another 3 years by any company that hires me, after which I pray a company will apply for permanent residence for me (and I will need to be approved for this by the government). If not, I have to leave the country. Basically, I am quite dissapointed with where I am in life right now. My work is very unchallenging -- any high school dropout can do my job. I get paid enough to survive in New York City (I pay $1300 in rent alone to live in the city) but I am not going anywhere with this type of pay. I have more or less given up on the idea that I can find a career that I will enjoy and still be financially successful. To be sure, financial success is important to me. If I didn't have to worry about money, I would have loved to do a number of things: study with craftsmen in Florence and be an artisan, be an art dealer, or own a custom shirt making business. But to remain in the US, I am restricted to a number of industries that will hire foreigners; these are primarily technology, banking and consulting. I know I want to leave technology since the value is not there anymore (think India and China). So aside from my dream jobs, I am very attracted to the MBA-investment banking-managing director path. I am seriously pondering an MBA. If I do a part-time MBA, my company will likely pay for it while I am working. The problem with this approach is that I feel that I will not be able to develop a good network with other students. I will also miss out a lot on the socializing and clubs that make up a well-rounded education. I studied very very hard in college and missed out completely on all this so I almost want a second chance to be a student. The other problem is that the best part-time program in the country is Stern/NYU. It is not the greatest MBA program. I've always felt very inferior that I didn't attend an Ivy League college for undergraduate studies, and I don't want to settle for a Stern part-time MBA. I went to one of the most demanding colleges in the country, kept a 3.8 GPA, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa but I lack the pedigree, old boys network and whatever else that may seem superficial but does matter in gaining prestigious jobs. If I go for a full-time program, my main concern is that I will be burdened with a huge amount of student loans. This is fine if I get a banking job at the end of the MBA program, but not if I fail to secure a lucrative job or if I have to return to my home country, where I'll probably need to work for 15 years just to pay off my loan and literally starve. I know there's no perfect answer to my questions, but I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts. Are there any lucrative career paths besides the MBA/investment banking track? I've thought about IB sales & trading, but I do not know whether I'll be able to play rough. Thanks gentlemen.
post #2 of 27
A couple words of advice: It's not very easy to go into investment banking when transitioning from a different industry, even with a MBA. Many companies will prefer to hire either undergrads from top schools (Harvard, MIT, Penn, etc...) or MBAs with plenty of IB industry experience. That's not to say it's impossible, but there are many people who are going to have that experience that you will be competing with. My personal recommendation is that since you don't really know which field you would like to go into, I would recommend getting a MBA, going into consulting, which will get you a decent amount of experience, and makes it easier to transition into any industry. Your IT experience will make you a more attractive candidate to a consulting company, and many consulting companys will sponsor and offer PR. I'm not sure what your home country is, but perhaps it may help you as well with getting a consulting job with some of the bigger consulting firms.
post #3 of 27
gregory, where are you from? you may be able to leverage your background, or languages. I would say the stern is a good choice, for a part time MBA, its actually my mid term goal as well.
post #4 of 27
Oh, one other thing. I wouldn't do a part-time MBA if you can afford not to. I am still really close with almost all the people in my MBA class and have networked extensively. Many of the part-time MBA people I know didn't even know all the people in their own class, not much there in terms of networking, and IMO it's not as good for level of education.
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
Sincere thanks for the responses. To respond to some questions asked, I am from a third world Asian country. I would get paid US$600 per month if I go home now. I would prefer banking to consulting. I really would like to get a diverse range of responses so I really hope you will take the time to share your thoughts if you haven't already
post #6 of 27
I'm not saying that you shouldn't go into banking if that's what you want to do, but it will be very difficult to get a good offer from an investment bank unless you are either an undergrad with an outstanding undergrad university with a high GPA or if you have a MBA and prior industry experience. You may struggle to get a below-market offer and even that may be difficult. By going into consulting, you can transition into any functional area with relative ease, even it it may take a couple years.
post #7 of 27
If you can get into a top five B-school, then you really should go the full-time B-school route. The opportunities from a top tier school more than compensate for the costs and risks. If you can't get into a top school, then go with the night-school route. It's not worth the crippling debt to attend an ok school, if you can get a degree with much less debt at night school.
post #8 of 27
Gregory, depending on where your from (and not to be too inquisitive, but there are major difference between the "market value" of different "asian 3rd world countries") you may be able to leverage your background. For instance, I have a friend from a small latin american country who got a great job with a huge bank based on an ok MBA and the fact that she knows the culture and has the accent of that location. she runs the desk in the new york office that interfaces with her home country. right now some "third world asian" countries are really hot. India for instance. on the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands of well educated indians with good English in the US. I would try to find a way to leverage what you have that others don't have, and probrably the only way to do that is to use your background and languages.
post #9 of 27
Gregory, I'm in the same position as you. I did really well on my SATs, went to a really good school where I studied really hard, got stuck with these massive student debts, and yet still ended up in a crappy job where anybody with a truncated education could do it. The pay's not good, and the prospects aren't very encouraging either. I ask myself why I even worked so hard, just to end up where I'm at. Today's college is the equivalent of what high school was 30 years ago. Its expected that everybody more or less graduates from college today. You need to go get some further education to really separate yourself. I got to warn you about when a company nominates you for citizenship. You're going to be stuck with this company, even if a better oppurtunity comes along, when the application is being processed. And, if there's a serious chance that you might end up returning home, could you get a MBA in your original country. A MBA from an american uni would be more presitgious, but an MBA from your home country would probably be cheaper and give you greater oppurtunities to build a network in that country. And, now, for a really stupid question: what is exactly investment banking? What do they do, and what's so special about it that they get paid so much money.
post #10 of 27
Investment bankers have a number of functions, including, but not limited to, putting together the financing for mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs, secondaries, new stock offerings, and are generally involved in raising money for companies who need it. They generally take a flat fee and sometimes a percentage of the deal as well, and in the past were sometimes able to get a percentage of the companies in question although this practice has been stopped as of late afaik. A MBA from a foreign school is only going to help you if you plan on working for non-US companies, as most American employers know nothing about schools outside the US/Canada (and probably don't know that much about Canadians schools either). I disagree with the assertion that a bachelors degree is not going to do it for some people, I (and many people in my class) got jobs with starting salaries > $100k immediately out of my MIT undergrad class, I did go back and get my MBA later, but it certainly wasn't because I thought I could make more money by doing so. Leaving the workforce and abandoning the potential of career advancement and forgoing two years of earning potential to pay $30-50k a year is not a decision to be made lightly but IMO if you are looking to change paths and enter the financial world it is the only way to go, and only a top tier MBA with a great internship will really help you. IB is probably the hardest field to enter for career changers, so good luck if that's what you want to do.
post #11 of 27
esquire, aside from maybe 5 programs, getting an MBA in Asia has only a fraction of the prestige of a mediocre american school. Add on to that that you can't really make a good salary while studying, for the most part, and that some of these schools are even more competative that good american schools to get into. I would rather get a SUNY MBA while working in America that a University of Dhaka MBA. not because you will get a better education, but because the market value will be better.
post #12 of 27
I think even the top international MBA/MSF programs are going to be fairly unknown to US employers, except for perhaps LSE or Oxford/Cambridge... It's all really about alumni connections and name recognition.
post #13 of 27
I always try to look at it this way. I do not have to love my job... But as long as my job affords me the ability to do the things I love then I am ahead of the game.
post #14 of 27
I work in investment bank right now and have an MBA from a top-5 program, so here's my advice: Kai summed it up perfectly - if you're accepted into a top-5 program, then go full time, loans/debt be damned - you will get a 6 figure salary out of school and it really won't be an issue. period. If you can't get into a top top school, then try for a top schools' part time program, get your employer to pay. An MBA is different than undergrad - you generally are almost guaranteed to earn a high rate of return if you go to a top school. It's not necessarily that you're more educated per se (you often are, however), rather that in a world with millions of students, firms see top schools as an inexpensive filtering mechanism that screens candidates for them. When they go to Harvard/Chicago/Stanford/Wharton/Columbia, they know that they are meeting candidates who have already been heavily screened, and have succeeded in undergrad (success at which is proven by them landing good first jobs) and work (success at which enabled them to attend a good b-school). Moving from IT to banking is VERY difficult, especially if you're from Asia. Why? Because certain asian countries produce thousands of very intelligent, motivated, entrepreneurial, etc, etc, engineering students, such that even the top 0.1% are probably greater in number than there are jobs in banking or consulting. I guarantee that the biggest problem you'll face in recruiting has nothing to do with skills, but with cultural sensitivity. Having lived in the US for a number of years, you are WAY ahead of the curve and many of your peers. It can be done, but you will need to prove that you've completely assimilated into the american culture, and are not FOB. While this may sound bad, remember that team work is a huge part of working in a bank/consulting company. I don't mean to sound rash, culturally insensitive or ignorant. Rather, I'm giving honest advice that will hopefully help you. So, in summary apply to full-time progs for the top 8 or so schools. If you get in, then go, cost be damned. If not, apply for top 5 part time progs (nyc, chicago, etc), some of whose classes are even integrated into the full time's (e.g., chicago).
post #15 of 27
I think having gone to a US undergrad will help you to some degree, they're viewed with a bit less suspicion than foreign nationals who went to a foreign undergrad program applying to a top US b-school.
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