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Ask Ellen - Job Hunting and Career Development Advice

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Questions about job-hunting, your career path, workplace issues, interview and review preparation, salary and benefits negotiation? Ask Ellen Reeves, one of the contributors to QuantNet 2012-2013 International Guide to Programs in Financial Engineering.

Career and workplace advisor Ellen Gordon Reeves is the author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job, featured in media including CNN, CBS, EXTRA, Fox, ABC, @katiecouric, NPR. She consults to programs including the financial engineering/risk management programs at Baruch College and The University of Washington, preparing students for the job market.

Reeves is the creator of Extreme Professional Makeover: Boot Camp for Job-Hunters, and Do-It-Yourself Professional Development (DIYPD): Making Your Workplace Work For You.

The following is one sample tip from a comprehensive career advice guide Ellen wrote for the upcoming QuantNet 2012-2013 International Guide to Financial Engineering Programs (release September 2012)

I am a non-native English speaker and worried about interviews, particularly phone interviews—or conversely, I am a native English speaker but can’t understand the accent of my interviewer. Any tips?

  • Don’t Pretend You Understand If You Don’t
    Everyone has an accent. It’s important never to pretend you understand what someone is saying when you don’t.
  • Be Direct with the Interviewer
    At the beginning of the interview, say, “As you can probably tell from my accent, I’m not a native English speaker, and I can function perfectly well in English, but I hope you won’t mind if I ask you to speak slowly or to repeat things.” This is especially important for phone and video or Skype interviews.
  • Improving Your Accent: Listen to NPR
    If you are interested in working on your language skills and accent—and this goes for native speakers, too-—listen to National Public Radio (NPR) hosts (not the guests!), most of whom speak clear and standard English.
  • Tackle One Language Issue at a Time
    Don’t try to tackle everything at once; choose one issue to work on, for example the “th” sound in “the.” Practice saying words with “th.” Exaggerate the sound by 1) Making sure your tongue licks the bottom of your top teeth, 2) Placing your forefinger in front of your mouth, and 3) Making sure your tongue touches your finger as you make the “th” sound.
 
Hi Ms. Reeves,

I hope you're well. I have been accepted to the MFE at Columbia University for Fall 2015 but I am a bit unsure of my career prospects upon graduation as I've not yet seen any great testimonies about the careers service. And it the employment prospects really seem subpar as opposed to CMU's MSCF.

Do you think it's really worth the investment of $100,000 at Columbia?

Many thanks in advance,

Praveen
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Praveen, apologies. I've been away from QuantNet since the end of January but I'm back! Please let me know where you enrolled. If you ended up in NYC at Columbia, we should talk! I hope things are going well wherever you are. Some of the top MFE programs are much less expensive than others with not only top flight reputations but also incredible placement rates for both internships and full time positions. Having a strong MFE alumni community is another essential component. I assume you checked those kinds of facts and figures as you made your decision. Best, Ellen
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Dear Quant Net Community: In a few weeks I will be giving a now-annual seminar on dining etiquette and etiquette for interviews over meals. Please let me know if you have any questions you'd like answered on this topic, if you have stories to share (the more embarrassing the better--cited anonymously if you prefer, of course...) or tips and resources for fellow readers. My favorite anecdote: When I told one of my MFE classes that "You shouldn't talk with your mouth full," one student raised her hand and asked, "Ellen, then what percentage of food may we have in our mouths when we talk?" I loved it--a very "quant" question. And of course the answer is... 0 percent! :LOL:
 
Hello @Ellen Reeves. I am currently working in an investment model validation role at a large life insurance company and am interested in eventually transitioning into a quant/HFT role. I'm not sure where my resume/experience may be lacking and am looking for advice on what to do to ameliorate it and possibly how I would go about successfully getting at least phone interviews for some of these spots. Can I send you my resume for your review? Thanks.
 

Ellen Reeves

Career Advisor
Hello @Ellen Reeves. I am currently working in an investment model validation role at a large life insurance company and am interested in eventually transitioning into a quant/HFT role. I'm not sure where my resume/experience may be lacking and am looking for advice on what to do to ameliorate it and possibly how I would go about successfully getting at least phone interviews for some of these spots. Can I send you my resume for your review? Thanks.

Hi--can you send me a message with your e-mail address? But in any case, the best thing to do (general advice for all readers) is to have your resume reviewed by someone already in the field you are looking to enter. Using QuantNet and LinkedIn, you should be able to connect with someone who would be willing to have a brief informational interview. I always advise clients and my students to use a draft resume as a concrete tool as the basis for an informational or exploratory interview. This way, you have an immediate and clear request to make of someone: "I am looking to transition from x to y, and would like to ask if you'd be willing to have a 10-15 minute phone call at your convenience. I'd like to ask you about your role at Z company and hope you might be willing to review my resume from your insider and expert perspective so I can best position myself as an eventual candidate. I hope I may be able to return the favor at some point." This tactic not only draws on the person's expertise, but it offers a clear agenda for the conversation and request, and it focuses the reader's attention on you and your capabilities and background. In the best case scenario, you not only get expert advice to refine your resume, but the reader may say, "Actually, I know of an opening..." or "I know another person you should speak with" etc.
 
Hello Ms. Reeves, I have a question. I have an MFE from a top program (in terms of quality of teaching l/ programs commitment towards continued improvment etc). I have been unmployed due to visa issues for close to 2 years (not my programs fault as I don't have a visa to grant me permission to work) How do I explain this to recruiters going forward? Will they be able to understand this barrier or am I practically screwed(pursue a 2nd financial engineering masters)? I have been spending my free time programming and studying etc and am significantly better in quant subjects than I was when I graduated. I will have permission to work exactly in 90 days. I feel like this visa crap has hindered my visa and possible job prospects. Any suggestions you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
 
Hello, im from Greece and i want to do a MSc abroad in CS (Machine Learning) or Maths (Quant Finance). Im currently studying CS and i would really like to get involved with quantitative trading.
UK is probably the best choice atm but im really confused with Brexit so i think im gonna stay in continental EU.
Netherlands has a lot prop trading/HFT/market making firms in Amsterdam.
Switzerland has some very big commodity trading firms and hedge funds and lately has become a crypto hub.
France, Germany and Luxembourg might have some quant stuff going on too but i dont know much. Any ideas/opinions/thoughts? Please enlighten me!!!
 
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