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Ask Ellen - Job Hunting and Career Development Advice

IlyaKEightSix

Active Member
While I don't feel anywhere near as qualified, I remember I was being asked to do the same once upon a time and talked to a Lehigh alum who was either a VP or MD at Morgan Stanley, and what he told me was this:

"If you win, we'll think you got a lucky fluke. If you lose, we expected you to lose. It's a no-win game."

Not my advice, but something I remember. So, that's my two cents, take it for what it's worth.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
So when no one asks me questions here, I answer questions I have been asked elsewhere. Or I just make stuff up to write about :) I used to be a daily blogger for LearnVest and Jobs for Change and I can't shake the habit.
Today I was asked about Linked-In Profiles. Here are some some thoughts I have about that:

For me, the Linked-In profile is an uploaded version of your modular resume--if you buy into my idea of modules on your resume that can be shifted around and enhanced depending on what you're applying for. Tailor, Tailor, Tailor! What's different is that you can add a professional photo if you choose (remember that if you do, you may be giving employers access to information it's illegal for them to ask about including race, age and gender.) Recommendations should be current--a list of recommendations that are not from this year is too out of date. At least have one from this year to offset older ones. The headers of categories should be tailored to what you're looking for and applying for. As you would for a resume, avoid self-assessment and adjectives that are subjective: "excellent communication skills" or "strong programming skills." Instead, use neutral, unassailable, objective language showing what you have done with that skill: "extensive experience with C++" or better yet, a line about a project you did using it. BE SPECIFIC!

Choose your skill and specialties labels carefully according to the kind of job or internship you are looking for--that means scanning job and internship listings to see what key words and skills the employers are looking for and then using them in your profile. I welcome other thoughts and questions on this topic. In my experience and from asking clients and students, Linked-In is more useful for finding leads and making connections than being an actual source of jobs (apart from Head Hunters scanning them) but I stand ready to be corrected.
 

Ian Kaplan

Active Member
I only recently found out that Prof. Zivot's class will be on Coursera. I took this class last summer and it was very good. The class was a lot of work and consumed any non-work time I had, but it was a really great foundation for the rest of the University of Washington program. I constantly go back and reference the class notes. I can't recommend this class highly enough, although to really get a lot out of the course you will have to dedicate a lot of time (for me it was probably about 30 hours a week).
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Ken, what a great question. I know the beginning of classes is always very busy, but if you haven't gone in to the semester with a job-hunting plan and goal in place, you'll be behind before you begin. Not to worry--now's a good time to start planning, or the first weekend after classes start. Of course it's important to focus on academics. But equally important are the people, because as you may know, my mantra is stop looking for a job and start looking for a person--the right person will lead you to the right job or opportunity. What I've found is that many students don't know their fellow classmates, professors, and administrators well, if at all. The community of your school is so important, and I always tell my students that they--and the faculty and staff-- are each other's best resources when it comes to interviewing if the spirit is collaborative and not competitive. Which might make me sound crazy, I know, but I mean it. Embrace the success of your colleagues and professors. Find out where everyone worked this summer or had internships. If there are 25 students in a class, this means you've got 25 (well, 50) feet in the door already--never mind the families and friends of those fellow students. Now the planning. If you don't know what kind of job or internship you want, your goal for this quarter or semester is to find out. This means setting up lots of exploratory interviews with and through classmates, faculty, former colleagues, connections through LinkedIn, etc. It means choosing a capstone or independent project if your school has one to test out an area and see if you like it. Sit down with your class schedule, block out times for study, eating, sleeping, exercise, family, social and work responsibilities-- and in some of the time left over--very little, I'm sure--begin to schedule coffee, lunch, a drink with people who can enlighten you about what they do and what you might like to do with your skills and interests. Block out some time every week to be reading industry periodicals, attending recruiting sessions and special lectures where you'll meet people in the industry. Don't just show up; introduce yourself to at least three people. Take time every week--but limited time-- to browse QuantNet, Linked-In, and other sites of interest. But if you don't set fixed times each week, you'll find that the semester has slipped away as you tell yourself, "well, I have to review for that test tomorrow....setting up a conversation with my professor or former boss can wait." You may find you need new skills---fine, you'll find out how to get them in a course next semester or through a project or other internship. As you do these interviews, show people your resume and keep refining it. You're building a network of people familiar with you and your skills and interests. Now--if you've already defined some companies or areas in which you'd like to work, you'll do the same thing but you're focused on meeting people in those specific companies or areas. I recommend choosing a top 3 and focus on the first one until you've exhausted all your resources and connections, then move on to #2 so you can stay focused. Another area to factor in: you need to be well-groomed for the interview. The day before an interview is not the time to find out that your suit is stained or has a button missing or doesn't really fit, that your shoes aren't polished, a lace is broken and you don't have the right color laces. Or that you're overdue for a haircut. Once you're job or interview hunting--which you are--you have to be ready AT ALL TIMES to go for an interview on the spot if an opportunity comes up. You have to have rehearsed your "elevator pitch" so that if you're in a social situation you can briefly explain what your skills and interests are and what you're looking for or which areas you're interested in exploring. You have to have rehearsed answers to standard interview questions--plenty of books on this topic, but you can't digest them the night before an interview. So as you can see, this all takes a huge amount of forethought. But if you really do plan ahead, I think you can get to the end of the semester not only having fulfilled your academic responsibilities but exploring yourself into a job or internship.
 

prit

New Member
Hi Ellen, thanks for all the advice you have been sharing on this thread, I have a question regarding GPA. Many firms while hiring state a GPA floor that is acceptable. I have not gone through many hiring advertisements so can you please list what are the major GPA thresholds that financial services/financial technology firms pursue.(Example: 3.5 and above or 3.0 and above)

Thanks in advance !!
 

amanda.jayne

Active 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
I believe that amanda.jayne has some well-formed thoughts here...
vinay gupta

There are many things to consider:
How reputable is the firm?
What training do they offer?
Will you be programming/algo trading or manual screen trading?
Will you have a mentor?
How much capital will you have access to?
How much capital are you being asked to contribute?
What is the payout?
Will they sponsor your licenses?
What products will you trade?
What limits will you have?
What are the fees?
Review the contract - what is the structure? Are you individually liable should the company find itself in legal trouble?
Will you be responsible to repay losses in excess of your contribution?
How long has the average trader been there?
etc...

Realistically you have to ask yourself if you believe you can be successful under these circumstances.

A small subset can be wildly successful. If you fall in this category, such shops can offer higher payouts and, in some cases, more capital than shops that offer a salary. However, most prop traders burn out within a year. Of those who persevere, a large majority find themselves making more than they would doing anything else but are not raking in high 6 or 7 figure salaries - or anything close to that.

Also do the math and figure out how much capital and what sort of volume you would need to be pulling to sustain your cost of living. Consider that you will be wrong more often than right. 50-100k capital for $0.10 scalps after fees won't get you far.

I am also of the belief that equities are dead and there is limited money left to be made there by the novices but ymmv.

Furthermore, as t->inf lim Value(MFE) = 0

That being said, I learned more about myself trading than I had my whole life before. It's a hard thing to explain but best described as raw emotional response. For me, it became more of a game against myself. Too much uncertainty for my ulcers ;)

I always tell people if you to be a trader - truly WANT to be a trader - and you understand the risks inherent and will not let anything get in their way then by all means do it.

I don't believe in regrets.

In the end, ask yourself:
How do you measure success?
What transferable skills will you be taking with you?
What is your fallback plan if things don't work out?
What is your stop loss? When do you get out?
 

vinay gupta

New Member
Thank you very much for this detailed reply Ellen. I will ponder upon this particularly the last points mentioned..Very helpful
cheers!!
Vinay
 

Cylen

New Member
Hi Ellen, I was advised to post here regarding disclosure of Autism on a resume/cover letter or leave to an interview if at all. It's a hugely misunderstood topic by a lot of people, but does have some redeeming features (in my case at least) for a job in quantitative finance.

Where should it go, if anywhere? (Confirmed diagnosis by a private specialist).
 

CNS

New Member
Hi Ellen. I plan to do my masters in quant finance somewhere in the US next Fall hopefully. Now, I would really love to know how the career fairs and the whole on-campus recruitment works in the US. I would be interested in a S&T role in any bulge bracket IB. How do I present myself to the recruiters. What kind of questions could I ask that would portray my interest in a S&T role. Also, there would be so many people there and the recruiters possibly won't have much time to talk to each individual person right ? So, how do I carry about the conversation as briefly as possible and at the same time impress the recruiters. Any specific tips you would want to share ?
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen, I was advised to post here regarding disclosure of Autism on a resume/cover letter or leave to an interview if at all. It's a hugely misunderstood topic by a lot of people, but does have some redeeming features (in my case at least) for a job in quantitative finance.

Where should it go, if anywhere? (Confirmed diagnosis by a private specialist).
Cylen, I agree with the rest of the advice you got. I see absolutely no need to disclose or discuss this unless you need to explain something that would be distracting or puzzling to the interviewer. Autism IS highly misunderstood and many employers might run the other way. This is true for any medical condition. Unless you need special accommodation, there is no reason to raise a red flag for an employer, particularly in a highly competitive market. And even then, unless it's an obvious disability, I'd get the job first and discuss the details later.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen, thanks for all the advice you have been sharing on this thread, I have a question regarding GPA. Many firms while hiring state a GPA floor that is acceptable. I have not gone through many hiring advertisements so can you please list what are the major GPA thresholds that financial services/financial technology firms pursue.(Example: 3.5 and above or 3.0 and above)

Thanks in advance !!
I'm guessing someone has a list--can anyone help out here? But if you're serious about a firm and you're below the cut-off, I wouldn't give up--I'd try to connect to people who could get you into an interview situation so you could impress an interviewer with the experience you have and highlight your other skills and talents.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hi Ellen. I plan to do my masters in quant finance somewhere in the US next Fall hopefully. Now, I would really love to know how the career fairs and the whole on-campus recruitment works in the US. I would be interested in a S&T role in any bulge bracket IB. How do I present myself to the recruiters. What kind of questions could I ask that would portray my interest in a S&T role. Also, there would be so many people there and the recruiters possibly won't have much time to talk to each individual person right ? So, how do I carry about the conversation as briefly as possible and at the same time impress the recruiters. Any specific tips you would want to share ?
I will defer to anyone who can tell you more about S&T role questions, but here are some general career fair guidelines.
HOW CAN YOU STAND OUT AT A CAREER FAIR OR RECRUITING EVENT?
Career fairs and recruiting events can feel like insane, giant meat markets. You are not going to have just one interview (unsettling enough); you may have a dozen impromptu interviews! Just as you'd prepare for a regular interview, prepare for the fair. Try to find out in advance which companies will be represented and who is representing the company. Research the companies and reps as much as you can. Get a good night's sleep and come having eaten a good breakfast or lunch. A growling stomach is uncool; so is fainting. Remember these tips:
1) Dress neatly and presentably with some memorable but not outlandish detail: a good tie for men (no cartoon characters or crazy ties); a great scarf, bright color or interesting piece of jewelry for women.
2) Be extremely knowledgeable about the company and ask intelligent questions. Ask to set up an informational interview at a later date because you're so committed to the company whether the jobs listed (if they have specific openings) pan out or not. But be well-prepared for what could be a real, on-the-spot interview! You must have rehearsed your 30-second pitch and with concrete, brief examples, be able to convince the recruiter what you can do for the company. Your delivery must be enthusiastic and energetic but authentic.
3) Make sure you know with whom you're speaking so you can spin your pitch accordingly. Is this an HR person? The person for whom you'd be working? Be sure to get his/her card or title so you can thank the person and follow up.
4) Have an excellent resume and cover letter tailored to the company's needs and to a specific job description if there is one (i.e. find out what might be available on line ahead of time). You can bring several versions of a resume targeted to different companies and jobs. Just be sure to note for yourself which resume you've given to which company! Have a business card as well. Don't pass out your materials to every single recruiter hoping the numbers will be on your side. Figure out which companies you'd really like to work for and target them.
5) Do not be the person who hogs the booth or table, takes up all the recruiter's time, or keeps circling back like an animal stalking its prey. It's hard to do these fairs. Instead, be the person who asks (if the rep is alone and can't leave)--"May I get you a glass of water?" If you are engaged in a great conversation but there's a line of people, say "I'd like to talk more but I know other people are waiting. Could we exchange cards and set up a phone meeting or another time to talk?" And if you see shy colleagues or classmates waiting on the periphery, too timid to break in, please be the person who says "May I introduce my classmate John?" GOOD LUCK!
 

Joy Pathak

Swaptionz
Wow... went through the threads and learn't a lot! This is pretty awesome. Thanks Ellen and Andy for setting this up.
 

Ken Abbott

Managing Director
Wow... went through the threads and learn't a lot! This is pretty awesome. Thanks Ellen and Andy for setting this up.
I agree,mJoy. Theres a lot of value here. I've known Ellen since before many of those posting here were born (in deference to Ms. reeves, I won't say exactly how long. She is one of the best connected people I know and I can assure you she knows whence she speaks.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
NEW SKILLS FOR NEW JOBS
The other day CNN asked me for some tips on getting new skills in this economy so I wrote this up and thought I would share them here:
#1 Know Which Skills You Need and Why
Don’t just “get new skills” for the sake of having them. Do enough exploratory and informational interviewing to determine exactly what job or promotion you want and what skills you need to get them.
#2 School is Cool, but Combine Theory with Practice
You can take courses at community colleges, university extension schools, on-line, at public libraries and community centers, boot camps and seminars, but don’t forget that many skills are best acquired and developed through an internship, volunteer experience, or project associated with a course. Learning a new skill in context and using it actually to do something is better than boasting purely theoretical knowledge. If you are currently employed, see if your employer offers professional development funding or training. Find a problem that needs fixing in your workplace or your community and volunteer to solve it to get hands-on experience.
#3 Be Able to Demonstrate Your Skill for the Employer
In an interview, explaining how you used C ++ to solve a specific program is better than just saying that you've taken courses in C++. Know enough about what the employer needs so you can be specific about how you’d use your skills to accomplish what he or she needs done.
#4 Transferable Skills Are Key
Don’t forget about skills you already have; just learn to talk about them differently. Learn enough lingo for your target job or industry to be able to talk about the skills you do have in terms the employer can understand. If you served on a committee to hire a new director for a non-profit where you volunteer, you have “search” and “recruiting” skills. If you called a list of families in your community to donate goods or money for hurricane victims, you have “cold-calling” and “fundraising” skills.
 

CNS

New Member
Thanks for the valuable advice. I will come back looking for you in this forum again if I have questions. :D

I will defer to anyone who can tell you more about S&T role questions, but here are some general career fair guidelines.
HOW CAN YOU STAND OUT AT A CAREER FAIR OR RECRUITING EVENT?
Career fairs and recruiting events can feel like insane, giant meat markets. You are not going to have just one interview (unsettling enough); you may have a dozen impromptu interviews! Just as you'd prepare for a regular interview, prepare for the fair. Try to find out in advance which companies will be represented and who is representing the company. Research the companies and reps as much as you can. Get a good night's sleep and come having eaten a good breakfast or lunch. A growling stomach is uncool; so is fainting. Remember these tips:
1) Dress neatly and presentably with some memorable but not outlandish detail: a good tie for men (no cartoon characters or crazy ties); a great scarf, bright color or interesting piece of jewelry for women.
2) Be extremely knowledgeable about the company and ask intelligent questions. Ask to set up an informational interview at a later date because you're so committed to the company whether the jobs listed (if they have specific openings) pan out or not. But be well-prepared for what could be a real, on-the-spot interview! You must have rehearsed your 30-second pitch and with concrete, brief examples, be able to convince the recruiter what you can do for the company. Your delivery must be enthusiastic and energetic but authentic.
3) Make sure you know with whom you're speaking so you can spin your pitch accordingly. Is this an HR person? The person for whom you'd be working? Be sure to get his/her card or title so you can thank the person and follow up.
4) Have an excellent resume and cover letter tailored to the company's needs and to a specific job description if there is one (i.e. find out what might be available on line ahead of time). You can bring several versions of a resume targeted to different companies and jobs. Just be sure to note for yourself which resume you've given to which company! Have a business card as well. Don't pass out your materials to every single recruiter hoping the numbers will be on your side. Figure out which companies you'd really like to work for and target them.
5) Do not be the person who hogs the booth or table, takes up all the recruiter's time, or keeps circling back like an animal stalking its prey. It's hard to do these fairs. Instead, be the person who asks (if the rep is alone and can't leave)--"May I get you a glass of water?" If you are engaged in a great conversation but there's a line of people, say "I'd like to talk more but I know other people are waiting. Could we exchange cards and set up a phone meeting or another time to talk?" And if you see shy colleagues or classmates waiting on the periphery, too timid to break in, please be the person who says "May I introduce my classmate John?" GOOD LUCK!
 
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