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Why You Should Make A Move Before Associate (from a Corporate Development Perspective)


Making the next move following banking is often a difficult decision – trust me, I did it TWICE, and it was FAR from easy, so I get the hesitation that one might have before making such a move. A lot of people think that with age comes wisdom – and under this logic, one should wait before moving to the next role – this would give you more time to reflect on what you want out of your next role, more time to build up your skills, and even more time to develop yourself as an overall professional. Yes, in a perfect world, this would be the best move, but unfortunately for you and me, we do not live in a perfect world. Below, I’m going to highlight some of the key reasons why I believe that moving earlier to your next role sooner rather than later is better:

  • You Are Going to Take a Compensation Hit on the Corporate Side; But This is Easier to Justify on the Junior Levels – Here’s a tip on being human in general – always try to think of a situation from the other person’s perspective. If I’m an F100 recruiter, I want to only discuss the role with candidates who are serious about the offer. When it comes to corporate development, we are all well aware of the pay cut that comes with the territory, but from a recruiting perspective, it’s tough for us to target VPs or higher with offers, just given that the “golden handcuffs” are often already in effect by the time we get to the negotiation stages, and at that point, we’d much rather spend that time discussing the role with another corporate development professional who might be more familiar with the lifestyle and compensation field.


  • Nobody Wants the Leftovers – Be honest with me – who really looks forward to leftover night? Do you really yearn for the lukewarm, mediocre remains of what once was a great meal? Of course you don’t, and future employers don’t either. I want to be upfront with this one – this is not a fair stereotype that is placed on candidates, but it is one that exists nonetheless: often recruiters will view associates attempting to recruit as individuals who could not secure an offer during their analyst stint, and they will often view VPs trying to recruit as individuals who are going to get cut before making it to the Director role (i.e., an undesirable candidate who is getting kicked to the curb). Again, this is not a fair stigma, but it is nonetheless one that you will have to combat if you plan to recruit after your analyst stint. For those of you that plan to recruit post-analyst – make sure you have an answer for the question “why didn’t you actively recruit (or fail to recruit) during your analyst role?”


  • Your Ideal Skillset is Developed in Your First Two Years on The Job; and  Anything Further Bring You Further Away from Your Goal – This might be confusing for some, but let me break this down; there’s an old saying that goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – and with all due respect, there is some truth to this phrase. I believe that, particularly in investment banking, you begin to get too “in the weeds” the further you go into the career, or at least until you reach the apex of Managing Director. I will elaborate further below:


    1. You pick up on all the skills that you need as an analyst, these include efficiency in PowerPoint and Excel, M&A/financing competencies, modeling skills, and basic white-collar common sense, in a year or two
    2. By the time you get to associate, your brain almost begins to enter “auto-pilot” mode. In fact, let’s go ahead and imagine an associate, outside of your best frenemy, you probably think of someone who’s keen about pointing out errors in models, quick to know what certain MDs like, knowledgeable about what resources/people to contact at the bank when it comes to areas like compliance, graphics assistance, etc. However, you’re starting to get an idea as to how these skills aren’t necessarily transferable to other roles outside of becoming a VP at your investment bank, and these are not attractive skills to recruiters
    3. Finally, by the time you get to VP, at this point, it is safe to assume you’re going after that coveted MD role. You have accepted the poor work-life balance, and you have developed a very specialized skillset within your role – but to a recruiter, this is essentially the equivalent of being a “super associate” (i.e., a more specialized worker)


  • You’ll Still Be Learning in Your Other Role as Well – There is a common misconception amongst IB analysts that the moment you get to your next role – you will solely be using your skills that you developed and an analyst, and will basically just be running a whole gauntlet on your new role completely unsupervised. Let me be clear that this is not true in any role (all white-collar and blue-collar roles are essentially some form of apprenticeship), but this is even more so prevalent for the role following your analyst stint. As I mentioned above, in your analyst role, you are essentially developing key white-collar competencies and efficiencies before really getting into the deep intricacies of an industry or vertical. When you cross that yellow-brick road into corporate – you’ll likely be taking this position as a senior analyst or manager, needless to say, enough seniority to run on your own, but not to the point where asking questions or needing guidance would be viewed as silly. In fact, it will often take you more time to “unlearn” the intense specialization that you develop on the senior levels of IB compared to simply starting a new travel on the junior level


Best of luck! I believe that once you reach that first-year mark, at least if you want to go to the corporate side, you’re free to head off to the races ASAP – and there are certainly benefits of doing so. Don’t hesitate – figure out what you want, and take action.


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