Ask Ellen - Job Hunting and Career Development Advice

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen Reeves. Its great to have you here. I am confused regarding how to go about the internship process. From personal experience, I feel that applying directly on company websites or forwarding my resume to their common career portal emails is of no use. If one does not have a contact or a network within the firm, is it better to forward my resume through a recruiter? On the other hand, the recruiter would extract his fee and hence firms would avoid hiring the recuiter's candidate. The process seems so ambivalent.
Faisal, my whole mantra is "stop looking for a job/internship and start looking for a person. The right person will lead you to the right job or opportunity." Applying blindly I feel is less effective than targeting specific jobs and companies and then using alumni and other community contacts and social media to get inside the company, to have informational interviews, and get your name and resume circulated from inside. It takes work but you can usually find someone to connect you. Use Linked-in and Facebook to post a note asking if anyone knows ANYONE at a company you're interested in or where you're applying, and ignore geography; for example, someone in the West Coast office of a company is likely to have some contacts in the East Coast office. Has anyone had positive/negative experiences with recruiters you'd like to share?
 

Zeuge

Member
Faisal, my whole mantra is "stop looking for a job/internship and start looking for a person. The right person will lead you to the right job or opportunity."
Hi, Ellen. How would you recommend that we ensure that a contact remembers us after a networking meeting/information interview? Would you recommend that we follow up every few months (send them interesting articles, talk about the industry perhaps?). Thanks in advance.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Great questions, Zeuge. The key is authenticity. What do you want from the contact? What do you have to offer? Creating a network for the sake of having one "just in case" is not that meaningful. We don't do much alone and it's fine to reach out to ask others for help and to cultivate contacts as long as your outreach is genuine and authentic. I assume you have a business card you've shared with him/her. I recommend cards for everyone, even those who are "just students." Names and numbers written on napkins and matchbooks get lost. I also recommend a personal card apart from a company card with your name and cell phone and personal e-mail address (although this should still be "professional" --not "golf guy@hotmail"; just your name if possible. When you meet someone in a professional context and connect, it's worth handing over the other card and saying "I'd like to stay in touch." While people can find you on Linked In, it's important for people to be able to reach you apart from your workplace. After you meet someone, follow up immediately: "It was great to meet you last night at the XYZ meeting. It was interesting to hear your perspective on .... I look forward to being in touch/crossing paths again in the future." You can set a google alert for the person and if you hear news, send a brief note. ("John, just read that you (or his company) won the Whatever Award--congratulations!)"). Some people recommend contact every few months; I find that personally annoying unless I'm really getting news I can use. If a year after I meet someone, he/she writes and says "Ellen, we met last year when you did your Baruch bootcamp. I wouldn't expect you to remember me but I wondered if I might ask your advice", I am free to answer or not. Apply a version of the Golden Rule--use yourself as a litmus test. What would you find useful? Annoying? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!
 

MRoss

Well-Known Member
Hi Ellen,

When we met you did not like my interview attire. Would you mind answering these questions?

Suit: Black, Blue, Light Color? Stripe, Pattern, or Solid?
Shirt: White or Color? Design or Solid?
Shoes: Lace or Slip-On? Black or is Brown ok?
Beard: I look like a 16 year old when I shave. Should I leave stubble?

Thanks!
 

Mike_B

Member
Hi Ellen,

When we met you did not like my interview attire. Would you mind answering these questions?

Suit: Black, Blue, Light Color? Stripe, Pattern, or Solid?
Shirt: White or Color? Design or Solid?
Shoes: Lace or Slip-On? Black or is Brown ok?
Beard: I look like a 16 year old when I shave. Should I leave stubble?

Thanks!
Although I'd certainly like to hear from the expert, as someone with plenty of inverview experience in finance, I've become accustomed to the following "unwritten rules" of interviewing specific to finance/banks:
Suit: Dark - preferably navy or charcoal gray
Shirt: safest with solid white
Shoes: Lace up generally looks better with a suit - either Black or is Brown fine (make sure your belt matches shoes and socks match pants)
Beard: definitely clean shaven
Other (some obvious) tips: 1) use no/very little cologne or aftershave 2) cut hair, nails 3) no visible jewlery besides watch 4) you generally do not want to be dressed in a more suit expensive than your future boss
 

Mike_B

Member
as a follow-up, my experience has been with banks - the "rules" may be more relaxed at certain hedge funds etc - but i'd say too formal is better than not formal enough (btw i don't mean formal as in black suits or tuxedos)
 

MRoss

Well-Known Member
Shirt: safest with solid white
I wore a pure white CK dress shirt and Ellen told me it was too casual. I'm wondering if it should be white with white stripes or at least a slight design to give it some character.

I know I'm nit picking but I'd rather have the "perfect" first impression "get-up"...
 

Mike_B

Member
I wore a pure white CK dress shirt and Ellen told me it was too casual. I'm wondering if it should be white with white stripes or at least a slight design to give it some character.

I know I'm nit picking but I'd rather have the "perfect" first impression "get-up"...
Thats interesting. I've never heard of solid white dress shirt as too casual. Ellen Reeves would you care to elaborate?
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
MR, I don't remember your shirt exactly but I have seen white shirts that are not ironed, collar unstarched or without stays, not buttoned....so it may have been that your solid white dress shirt was not in the shape it needed to be in, because I'm all for a crisp, new-looking solid white shirt. I always encourage people to err on the side of being too conservative in this industry. Otherwise I agree with Mike B and thank him for weighing in. A few more thoughts: the risk of the black suit is looking like an undertaker, so be careful. No crazy ties. Make sure socks match each other (I always check socks now when I do my interview suit critique) and are solid. Make sure the belt buckle is plain --one of my students was sporting Playboy bunny ears on his belt buckle--maybe the guys at Goldman would have liked it but I wouldn't risk it :)
More to add later on but this is a good start.
 

MRoss

Well-Known Member
Thanks :)

Yeah, the suit concerns me the most. I have 4 suits but I don't think any of them are suitable. One is plain black and the others all have bright stripes...so I was thinking of going to pick out an "interview suit".
 

T.H.

Member
Hi Ellen I am an undergrad finishing in december took an extra half semester in order to be able to finish my degree in finance/econ with a minor in stats. Before i start my masters in the following fall i would like to land a 8 month internship or co op job just so I can get some experience in the industry and see what its like. I have no previous work experience in finance however I have worked as a research assistant at my university. The rest of my summers were spent taking extra math courses. I am kind of nervous for the upcoming semester since i really have no idea where to start. I was thinking of joining the commerce student association at my university and try to network through them. Other than that im not really sure where to start looking. What are your suggestions ?
 

Zeuge

Member
Ellen,
I was wondering what we should do if the we don't meet all the qualifications posted for a job we want but could easily acquire them on the job. Say a job posting says that "strong Java programming skills are required" and I'm a seasoned C++ programmer who's taken a few Java classes a few years ago and understands the main differences between the languages (which are very slight, Java is essentially a simplification of C++). Should I mention in my cover letter that while I don't have the experience in Java that they're looking for, I have strong C++ skills that would translate well into a Java programming environment? Or should I not apply at all?
 

krishnam raju

New Member
Hi Ellen,

I have 8 years of Investment banking experience and am planning to shift to quant, could you provide your valuable suggestions on what are the steps to be taken? i am also planning to take CQF certification.

Thanks in advance for your reply.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Thanks :)

Yeah, the suit concerns me the most. I have 4 suits but I don't think any of them are suitable. One is plain black and the others all have bright stripes...so I was thinking of going to pick out an "interview suit".
My Wall Street MD friend has this to share:

“Think Brooks Brothers if your budget permits it. Otherwise, consider Jos. A Bank and Land’s End. The latter two have business wear that is very reasonable in price and that is popular with Wall Street people.”
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Ellen,
I was wondering what we should do if the we don't meet all the qualifications posted for a job we want but could easily acquire them on the job. Say a job posting says that "strong Java programming skills are required" and I'm a seasoned C++ programmer who's taken a few Java classes a few years ago and understands the main differences between the languages (which are very slight, Java is essentially a simplification of C++). Should I mention in my cover letter that while I don't have the experience in Java that they're looking for, I have strong C++ skills that would translate well into a Java programming environment? Or should I not apply at all?
Never raise the red flag for an employer by talking about what you CAN'T do. It's all about what you CAN do. Everyone learns on the job. You should definitely apply, and in the cover letter highlight how your other talents and experience meet their needs. This is why I focus on trying to get a personal recommendation from someone who can testify to your skills, because some hiring managers/screening programs will look for JAVA, not find it, and move on. But since you've taken classes, you can legitimately list it on the resume, so in your case not as much of a problem. In an interview, what matters most is that when they ask about JAVA, you don't get nervous and insist in a defensive way that you can use and learn it, but rather speak confidently about what you've done in it (even through your classwork), find out what they need done, and spin your answers to how much your background lends itself to what they need. The name of the game is confidence and making what you can't do a non-issue. If every job you're applying for requires strong Java skills, though, then you'd need to start volunteering for some projects using Java --and obviously this goes for any skill or experience you think you need but don't have. Don't keep worrying about it--GET the skills or experience by doing it, even if you have to do it for free for a while or pay for another class if you can afford it.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen,

I have 8 years of Investment banking experience and am planning to shift to quant, could you provide your valuable suggestions on what are the steps to be taken? i am also planning to take CQF certification.

Thanks in advance for your reply.
Krishnam, this is a question for an investment banker turned quant, which I am not--although many of my students have made the switch by getting a degree. I am guessing there's info on another part of QuantNet that might answer your question and I hope you're doing a lot of exploratory and informational interviews with what I'll call IBQs.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen,
Thanks for your offer to help us with career advice. I'm sure you know the "quant" types among here are mostly Asian males, introvert type. The language barrier would be one reason they don't go out and network as much as they should.
What would you advise for them to break the ice and better network/sell themselves?
Tigga, I could write another book on your question alone! It's a vicious circle, right, because the less you interact with people, the less you feel you can, because your language skills and confidence aren't developing if you're not talking with native speakers as much as possible. A few things to think about: 1) Focus on improving your language skills, both passively (listening to the radio, watching TV and movies) and actively by getting involved in some activity you like so you're in a situation in which you have to speak with native speakers 2) Wean yourself away from hanging out only with people like you. This is hard. Often at a school or in a company you'll see people flocking together who speak the same language, are from the same country and background, etc. This is entirely normal and understandable because it's easier, but you've got to break the cycle. Make a point to eat sit at lunch with someone you don't know or to invite a colleague or fellow student to join you. Get into or take the initiative to form a casual conversation group. 3) I ask my more outgoing students to take shyer students under their wing and I tell the shy ones to ask the more outgoing ones for help--same for a company. 4) Set easy goals for yourself: tell yourself you will go to 1 lecture or event you're invited to or interested in this week, and promise yourself to introduce yourself to 3 people. You have to get used to saying politely "May I join you?" but you also have to be prepared if some people aren't so friendly back. Don't take it personally. Recently I was traveling alone, and I made myself go to the manager's cocktail party instead of staying alone in my room. I heard a table of people speaking French, a language I speak, and I went over and introduced myself and asked what had brought them there. After brief small talk, it became clear that they just wanted to be by themselves, so I left and sat back down alone. I admit, I felt a little rejected but the reality is that I hadn't done anything wrong--I was just trying to meet people! A few minutes later, a woman came over and introduced herself and asked if I'd like to join her and her boyfriend. They were great, and the next day even invited me to take a tour with them. So...you win some and you lose some, but if you don't reach out, it's a lot harder to win some. It takes time, and you will go through some uncomfortable periods of time, but if you stick with it, you'll be amazed at how your confidence level will rise, how much your language will improve, and how much fun you can have! I have gone through this process when I moved to France at age 30 and had only passive knowledge of the language. I felt so...well, stupid, in social situations because I couldn't speak. I felt like I had no personality and that people thought I was not interesting or smart. But with time and effort, things changed. And I've seen many people in your situation who have had the same experience. If you know someone like that in your community who seems to have conquered these barriers, ask to talk to him or her or ask someone for an introduction and hear his/her story. I think it will help. Most people are too chicken to leave their "comfort zones", although I don't really like that term. But experience proves that if you do, it will be worth it. Good luck!
 

Carl Morris

New Member
I have what I believe to be a challenging career dilemma that I hope you or one of the members of QuantNet can help me with.

First I want to give a very brief introduction of myself. I am starting my third year of a Ph.D. in Operations Research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I am very happy with the program and the research opportunities in my program, but I have become very interested in a career in quantitative finance, and herein lies the problem.

My program is very strong at what it does in operations research, but has very few research opportunities in quantitative finance. We have an active masters degree program in quantitative and computational finance, but the opportunities do not generally extend to the Ph.D. level. I have spoke to two colleagues for advice, and I have received contradictory recommendations that I hope you can reconcile.

One friend, who recently graduated with a Ph.D. who is now working as a quant, recommends that I endeavor to work as closely as I can with the quantitative finance program director to gain research experience that will help me later get a job. My other friend recommended me to transfer to another program, such as Columbia, which is more closely connected to Wall Street.

I am just beginning to be established in my program, so if I transfer, I will add at least a year to my time in school. Is it worth uprooting myself to try and move to a university with stronger ties? (This of course assumes that I would be accepted by another program.) I believe my current university will give me ample skills in mathematics and programming to succeed in a quant job, but I will have to work a bit harder to build the necessary network. I know the final decision is necessarily a personal one, but I hope that you can at least help me weigh the benefits of each alternative.
 

Andy Nguyen

Member
My experience is that you will benefit in the long term by staying and finish your PhD, getting your programming skills to ninja level, get involved in finance projects through research/unpaid/industry projects. If you have some good computational skills, ask around here and I'm sure some people/employers would need help, especially if they are from small firms.
My logic is that Operation Research opens a lot more doors outside of finance should Wall Street go bust which is not impossible.
Focus on the "skill sets" which is what they hire you for, not the type of niche research you do which is likely academic in nature since this is a PhD program.
 
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