Because I worked for Goldman Sachs right out of business school, later worked in investment management, and now consult with companies like BlackRock, lots of people ask what MBA program they should attend if they want a career in finance. And they also wonder if they should go to graduate school at all. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you want to pursue an MBA.
Here’s what it does not depend on: rankings. Rankings have something to do with what business school or finance degree you might want to research, but they won’t tell you whether it’s the right program for you. And rankings are all over the place. A few months ago, I wrote a blog post on this subject with lots of quotes from the Assistant Dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. Tuck has been ranked overall #1, #6, #7, #14, #18, depending on who you talk to, and encourages students to look beyond the actual listing.
Figuring out the Right Path
So which of the top schools might be better in corporate finance, or M&A, or hedge funds, or private equity? Is Wharton better in finance than Harvard, or is Stanford the best way to get a job in venture capital? There are a lot of opinions all over the internet – and many of them are simply wrong. So what should you believe? You’ve got several ways to figure this out.
1. See who is recruiting at your target school. Not everyone gets a job on campus, but take a look at the recruiting list for any school. You can usually find it through their employment report. Here is Columbia Business School’s employment report, for example. The list of recruiters starts on page 10. Or here’s UC Berkeley Haas’ list of companies that have come on campus. Examine it carefully. You might not find some of the big New York PE shops, but you’ll find Cambridge Associates, which for you, might be an even more likely stepping stone into venture capital, private equity, or hedge funds.
2. Visit the schools and/or talk to students about their experiences. With LinkedIn and Facebook, you must know someone who knows someone. Many schools put student contact information right on their website, for example, see this list of student ambassadors from Michigan Ross or NYU Stern. Others, like Harvard Business School, present interviews of students—who are all easy enough to find if you look hard enough.
3. Investigate clubs at your target business school. Columbia’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Club has its own website, and don’t be fooled by the log-in. Just jump to club officers, and you’ll have plenty to work with. More interested in Chicago? Booth doesn’t just have a finance club, it has a corporate finance club, an investment banking club, a PE club, and and even a distressed investing and restructuring club.
4. Talk to actual people in your target industry and find out what paths they took. While the big guys in the PE industry look like a straight shot from Morgan Stanley M&A, venture capital, hedge funds, and other investment firms might have a more circuitous route. Hey, Mitt Romney came to the private equity business by way of management consulting, so why can’t you?
5. Network. This is essentially the same as item #4, but it’s so important that I am mentioning it again. Because you want to hit the ground running once you get to business school, it makes sense to start building your contacts now. Brian DeChesare, an expert on breaking into Wall Street, encourages prospective financiers to “network like a ninja” because, “even if you’re at Harvard you can’t rely on on-campus recruiting.” And even if you get an interview through on-campus recruiting, you want to have friends who can help you actually land the job and do well there.
And in the meantime, have fun with the process. You’ll learn a lot and meet lots of people. And it’s definitely more enjoyable than signing up on e-Harmony.
Don’t forget to check out our new book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting Into a Top MBA Program