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Ask Ellen - Job Hunting and Career Development Advice

Carl Morris

New Member
Thank you Andy for the informative post. I find your recommendations very motivating.

[...] get involved in finance projects through research/unpaid/industry projects. [...]
I can foresee posting a thread on this topic in the near future, but I will do some more reading on this site and others to ensure it hasn't been discussed already. In particular I would appreciate any advice on acceptable ways of marketing myself. This particular avenue seems very appealing to me to help round out my skill sets and demonstrate my abilities for future employers. But this is somewhat off topic from this thread, so I don't want to get too much more into it.

[...] My logic is that Operation Research opens a lot more doors outside of finance should Wall Street go bust which is not impossible. [...]
Given the rapidly changing regulatory environment on Wall Street and the recent troubles starting in 2008, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this point.

[...] 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.
I look forward to reading more on this forum, others, and researching the industry further to make sure that I develop marketable skills. Although I have many more questions that are more suitable to other threads, I do have a follow up question that I feel is related to career development.

What are the best ways to demonstrate on your resume and in interviews that you have the "skill sets" for the job? Over the course of the next several years, I am sure that I will read a lot books, attend some courses, and even complete a few projects. Documenting project experience seems like a good way demonstrate skills that were used on particular projects, but what can I do if I have a skill that has only been acquired in the class room or from reading?
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Thank you Andy for the informative post. I find your recommendations very motivating.


I can foresee posting a thread on this topic in the near future, but I will do some more reading on this site and others to ensure it hasn't been discussed already. In particular I would appreciate any advice on acceptable ways of marketing myself. This particular avenue seems very appealing to me to help round out my skill sets and demonstrate my abilities for future employers. But this is somewhat off topic from this thread, so I don't want to get too much more into it.


Given the rapidly changing regulatory environment on Wall Street and the recent troubles starting in 2008, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this point.


I look forward to reading more on this forum, others, and researching the industry further to make sure that I develop marketable skills. Although I have many more questions that are more suitable to other threads, I do have a follow up question that I feel is related to career development.

What are the best ways to demonstrate on your resume and in interviews that you have the "skill sets" for the job? Over the course of the next several years, I am sure that I will read a lot books, attend some courses, and even complete a few projects. Documenting project experience seems like a good way demonstrate skills that were used on particular projects, but what can I do if I have a skill that has only been acquired in the class room or from reading?
Carl, what I'd recommend is trying to get actual experience with those classroom skills through projects, as you note; if you have an internship or capstone project for your PhD, make sure part of it involves trying to learn and apply skills you know you'll need on the job market, or if you have time, create an independent study project to get the skills. You can always volunteer to help colleagues, fellow students or professors. Otherwise, you can have an entry like this on your resume: "Coursework included X, Y, Z, including x, y, z...." in other words, list specifics to catch the employer's eye.
 

Tigga

Member
C++ Student
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.
Thanks for the detailed respond, Ellen. Appreciate it. What you suggest that people should not do are exactly what MFE students are doing. No wonder many of them find it hard to network and find a job.
 

Michelle

Member
C++ Student
Hi Ellen,
Do you have any specific advice, suggestions for women in this industry?
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen,
Do you have any specific advice, suggestions for women in this industry?
Hi, Michelle. I do a whole workshop on this topic--do you have more specific questions in mind? I can give you general thoughts but if you have topics or concerns or questions in mind it would help me to focus my answer. Thanks, Ellen
 

Michelle

Member
C++ Student
Do you offer these workshops to the public, outside of those you run for the quant master programs?
 

Carl Morris

New Member
Carl, what I'd recommend is trying to get actual experience with those classroom skills through projects, as you note; if you have an internship or capstone project for your PhD, make sure part of it involves trying to learn and apply skills you know you'll need on the job market, or if you have time, create an independent study project to get the skills. You can always volunteer to help colleagues, fellow students or professors. Otherwise, you can have an entry like this on your resume: "Coursework included X, Y, Z, including x, y, z...." in other words, list specifics to catch the employer's eye.
Thank you Ellen for the advice. I feel that your advice echoes some of what Andy mentioned. I will definitely prioritize finding projects to apply my skills. I have ample time to start looking, so I am glad I asked now rather than later.
 

Tigga

Member
C++ Student
Hi Ellen,
I remember reading one of the suggestions for students who want to learn about an industry is to "shadow someone at work for a day". How can that be done in the finance industry given the secretive/confidential nature of the quant work?
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi--if you know someone or can get an introduction to someone who will let you shadow them, that would be best--you could offer to sign a confidentiality agreement. Then of course there are internships--or you could find out about doing a supervised project for course credit. And barring that, you could ask for a series of informational interviews with several people in one department, which would give you a certain insight into the daily experiences and necessary qualifications.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Since not too many questions have been coming in, I have taken up reading again:)
I am wildly engrossed in the Steve Jobs biography. While he clearly had some--ah, personality issues, shall we say, one of the things that people who encountered him keep talking about is his passion and devotion to what he was doing. If you're not 100% committed to what you're doing, you're going to have a problem, especially in an interview, because nothing convinces like authenticity. The book also talks about his "reality distortion field." Jobs made true what he wanted to be true. He saw nothing as impossible. If you want to be an algo trader, but you don't have any algo trading experience, GET SOME--by offering to do a project for free, by taking a course in which you'll do a project to get hands-on experience, by taking an internship or creating one. Fake it 'til you make it.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
YES/NO/ MAYBE???
Answer I just gave to Byron on a Career Advice thread about accepting one job offer and turning down another if a "better" offer comes along...I will quote myself:
Don't accept an offer and then turn it down for a "better" offer. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. If you think there's a better offer out there somewhere, don't accept this one. It's a smaller industry than you think and people talk. You don't want to tarnish your reputation before you even start. It's about whether or not you are willing to turn down a bird in the hand for something you might want more (to use more cliches) but this sounds like a great opportunity. My philosophy is that you shouldn't be applying for jobs you don't want or wouldn't accept if they were offered to you anyway. For more specifics and basic info on juggling offers, negotiation, salary, benefits, etc. you can find my Nose Ring book in most libraries or skim that section in a bookstore as a refresher course. Good luck!
 

physEcon

Member
YES/NO/ MAYBE???
Answer I just gave to Byron on a Career Advice thread about accepting one job offer and turning down another if a "better" offer comes along...I will quote myself:
Don't accept an offer and then turn it down for a "better" offer.
99% of the time I would say this is true, but if one gets another offer that is much, much better then one should discuss that with both employers, but Don't start an auction!
And if you're not sure the new offer is sufficiently better, then it is definitely not.

Ellen Reeves, How long do you think someone needs to stick it out at a job before moving elsewhere?
 

vinay gupta

New Member
Hi Ellen
I have recently finished MFE and have an offer from to join their trading desk at a prop trading firm. Do you recommend to join Prop trading firms considering they require you to contribute initial capital??
Thanks
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
99% of the time I would say this is true, but if one gets another offer that is much, much better then one should discuss that with both employers, but Don't start an auction!
And if you're not sure the new offer is sufficiently better, then it is definitely not.

Ellen Reeves, How long do you think someone needs to stick it out at a job before moving elsewhere?
Your phrase "sticking it out" says a lot. But let's start with the basics. If you're being physically or emotionally harassed or abused in any way, or if you are being seriously taken advantage of, you need to find a new job right away and report the situation. Life's too short. By taken advantage of, I mean, for example: I had a student who was exceptionally competent and her bosses figured that out right away. They began dumping work well beyond her job description (but part of theirs) on her and leaving the office early while she stayed late every night to finish it. This might sound "normal" but it isn't, and they crossed a line. She got no promotion, new title, or raise and was miserable. Of course I think we should all have jobs we like, but, then again, we aren't necessarily paid to do what we love. They give us money to do stuff that needs to be done whether we like it or not. So how soon can you leave a job? Well, you don't want to get a reputation as a quitter or job-hopper. Often I find that people start thinking about leaving a job before they've really maxed out on what their workplace has to offer. Before you leave, you should know what the next job you want is, so you can try to get another title, a raise, and more experience at your current job to position you for the next move. Perhaps you can take courses or learn another computer language or volunteer for a project you're interested in. You know the ropes and are a known quantity; if things are going well, even if you don't love it, I wouldn't be so quick to start again at the bottom of the totem pole. Set up informational and exploratory interviews with people at all levels where you're working, with clients, and with people outside the company at places you're interested in working. I think it's better to do this while you're still employed. I do think it's worth staying at least a year to see a company through all its seasons and cycles, and then trying to move within the company if you can---but if you can't, you can't, and then it's a matter of saying confidently when asked "why did you stay only x months at Company Q?" that the job did not turn out to be as advertised, it wasn't the right fit, you learned a great deal and made every effort to learn as much as you could before deciding to leave, but the longer you stayed the more you realized it was time to move into a different position and that wasn't possible where you were.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen
I have recently finished MFE and have an offer from to join their trading desk at a prop trading firm. Do you recommend to join Prop trading firms considering they require you to contribute initial capital??
Thanks
Hi, Vinay. I defer to someone with prop trading firm experience or an informed opinion about this--anyone willing to weigh in?
 
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