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Advice for quant job seekers

So, now, after a long time of being "picky" and not going back to dreaded actuarial work, I've found a position I enjoy (at least presently), to the point that I pull 12+ hour days with my coworkers/superiors noticing it a bit more than I do. I really have to say, despite the fact that the pay is really not in line with the average Baruch MFE salary, I like it here. So now, onto some advice, just about all of it passed down to me from people a lot more successful than I currently am:

1) If your recruiting office fails, it's up to you to find a job yourself. The way I found mine was that I happened upon an opportunity at Doostang (never ever get an account here), looked for people from this firm on LinkedIn, was lucky enough to find a phone number to call at which I'd get a response, and went for broke. Fortunately for me, the person I spoke with was open-minded enough to at least consider me, and after a couple of interviews and sending in some R code, I got a competency assignment, and that eventually snowballed into an offer. Aka: don't be afraid to cold-call people. The worst you can get is a no-response. This advice I got from a Lehigh alum who runs an engineering company in Ohio.

2) In my opinion, I prefer small companies to large ones. In a small company, your contributions will be far more visible, and you'll be regularly interacting with people who are at least successful enough to keep their own company running successfully for a few years. This is opposed to some guy who might have gotten a position through tons of connections, and might have proven himself only competent enough not to get the axe his first couple of years, and hence, he's your manager.

This as opposed to someone hired for having a plethora of talent who's now building a stat arb/options pricing/structuring/etc. group around himself, and you've now become a part of it (and the faster you learn, the sooner you can get more complex assignments from him). Also, in my opinion, the pile of resumes to replace you at an ibank are probably two feet high, so your manager probably can care less whether or not you burn out--but hey, so long as he or she can make you work 80 hour work weeks regularly to make him or her look good, they probably don't care where you go at the end of two years.

3) So long as you're not going to starve or have to live in the shady part of town because those are the only digs you can afford, your first year salary probably isn't important. In a small firm, as you prove yourself, so too will the people who write your checks notice. To put it in perspective, at the last place I interned at, the starting programmer's salary is less than $60,000 (I called my boss for this bit of info), and this is in Manhattan (after all, they're not Goldman Sachs)--but employees can get equity in the company in short order. In short, don't look for top dollar--look for an opportunity to prove yourself. And if the offer really sucks, you can negotiate--or if you really think that the firm has no faith in you, just move on.

4) Use all the tools in your toolbox. There are better programmers, smarter mathematicians/statisticians, better communicators, and kids from overseas that can absolutely outgrind you. Moral of the story? It's only when you combine all of the above, for a cheap starting rate, that you become appealing to employers for your first job. And that advice I learned from reading a Scott Adams article in the WSJ Review section yesterday.

5) Network like crazy. There is a saying that says "it's not what you know, but who you know". In my opinion, this phrase isn't exactly correct either. It's more a case of "it's what you know, *and* who you know". And you may come to know a lot more people if you'd just pick up the phone as I advise in #1. Again, same source as where I got #1.

6) (For you MFE'rs): Think about other industries besides finance. Considering that you'll have decent programming skills and hopefully decent statistical skills, this also gives you ample opportunities in market research (not glamorous by comparison, I know, but if it's a chance to show off your number-crunching skills, why not?), and the internet sector (and probably some other places that aren't coming to mind). In fact, my second Google phone screen interviewer got his BS in OR at Princeton, worked on The Street for a couple of years, then switched right over to Google, and from what I can tell, loves it there.

Now I know that a lot of you are at Baruch, which is very good at placing candidates into very well paying positions before they graduate, but for the *rest* of you, such as I was oh...three weeks ago, well, here's some advice, for what it's worth.
 
Solid post and advice right there.
I would add to the point 5) about networking. If people who are American, speak English well and do not need visa sponsorship stress the importance of networking, getting out there and talking up to people, I think we all agree that as international students who have been here for short time, it's wise to use all opportunities to get out of our own shell and improve our "game".
 
Because they charge you an arm and leg to apply to job postings they simply aggregated from across the web, when instead you can simply look at the job posting, google up the position, and apply that way. Or go through LinkedIn, find some people's names from said company, cold call (I know, dirty words) the company, and try to actually speak to a human being rather than send a cover letter that in all likelihood get rejected because you didn't happen to hit the exact mark. Considering that my closest coworker is the one that approves the interviews for new positions, I had a chance to look at some cover letters, and odds are, in 300 words or whatnot, you're not going to suddenly make someone go "this is the *exact* candidate I was looking for!", and if you go more than that, they just might go "TL;DR" aka Too Long; Didn't Read. Doostang really doesn't help anybody out besides running a job sweeper script and then charging people an arm and leg to use their rather bland job application system (they have a few freebies). So, I say do not pay them a penny.

Edit: Just to clarify about "if the offer really sucks" in point 3: it never hurts to negotiate, period. I negotiated my offer a tiny bit, and once again, after talking to my last internship boss, what I initially thought wasn't in line with what I should have expected, I realized that it actually was a very reasonable offer for a small company. So, rather than say "if the offer sucks", I should have said "if you have concerns about making ends meet", but I can't edit the opening post at the moment.
 
Ilya, I appreciate the clarification.

As I recall, a couple of years ago you were aiming for DE Shaw right after college, that was naive, as expected from a college student without work experience :) But you'll get there, it just takes longer.
 
Educational background:
BS information and systems engineering from Lehigh University's industrial and systems engineering department
MS statistics from Rutgers New Brunswick school of arts and sciences

As for thinking about other companies...I happen to like it here. 2nd week done and even though I haven't been fully trained for my main role yet, I'm using R to crank out data analysis tools to analyze trading strategy performance! It's more data than I've ever worked with in my life, and I'm really enjoying it =).
 
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