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I have been networking quite a bit (students, analysts, associates, VP's+) and a common theme that comes up is 'reading/researching in your free time'. Many of the people I have spoken to read financial market books, invest in stocks in their free time, know a lot about what's happening in the financial markets etc and seem to be on ball with exactly they want to do with their life.

I sometimes look at them and think 'oh crap I see why I'm not landing interviews - I probably am doing 30% of what they are'. Does anyone else feel this way?

Does anyone feel like the recruiting system doesn't really give you time to seriously think about what you want to do with your life and you are categorized/pressurized to choose early?

How do you truly decide what you want to do - at least short term in your life - when the level of competition for a role is so high that you stand a very little chance of even experiencing the type of work that you may enjoy?

Would love to heard your thoughts. :)

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Comments (21)

  • Waymon3x6's picture

    I am only a college student, but for me, I started to read about the financial markets in high school and investing became a hobby for me. That hobby lead me to a business school, which in turn lead me to learning about the different paths in finance to choose one that interests me the most.

    I think you need to know what you want to do before you start the recruiting system so your point about how it doesn't give you enough time to think about what you want to do is invalid in my opinion.

    Everyone else will tell you to follow what you enjoy and money will come. If you don't think you're good enough for high finance and don't believe you would be happy doing it, then maybe you should look into other areas that interest you. Good luck.

    "I like Ackman," Mr. Icahn said. "I'll tell you why I like him. Anyone that makes me a quarter of a billion I like."

  • Small Pond Big Whale's picture

    I see what you're saying and I think the key words in your post are "short term". No one expects you to find the type of work you really enjoy on your first job. If you do, that's awesome. But the point of internships is to test the waters. Even with you're first couple years out of college you can move around and try new things. If after that it doesn't work out, you can go to grad school and change it up again!

    But once you do decide what you want to do short term, you have to put everything into it. No matter what you want to do and no matter how many times that changes, if you don't give it 110% you're not going to get very far. I decided I wanted to do finance sophomore year of college, before that I had no experience. I threw myself into it (read want I could, joined clubs, etc) for a year and half and just landed a BB internship from a non-target.

    Side note, I guarantee that all of these people who you think are so sure of themselves, aren't.

  • In reply to Small Pond Big Whale
    nontarget kid's picture

    Small Pond Big Whale:

    But once you do decide what you want to do short term, you have to put everything into it. No matter what you want to do and no matter how many times that changes, if you don't give it 110% you're not going to get very far. I decided I wanted to do finance sophomore year of college, before that I had no experience. I threw myself into it (read want I could, joined clubs, etc) for a year and half and just landed a BB internship from a non-target.

    I have literally the same story. Decided on finance during sophomore year, read books, networked, got some work experience, and now I'm looking forward to a BB internship as well.

  • Value Sleuth's picture

    Realize most people are bullshitting regarding how much research they do outside of class.

  • rufiolove's picture

    OP - I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up if that helps assuage your worries at all... I'm just faking it until I make it. Realistically, if you aren't sure what you want to do, you might as well do something that challenges you and helps you develop some analytical and people skills. You can do this in numerous industries so don't think it has to be finance / banking / mkts... My ultimate goal long term is to be my own boss, but I wanted to learn what distinguishes successful businesses from unsuccessful ones and this career path provides a way to develop the analytical skills to perceive those distinctions.

    Don't worry too much, just be willing to work hard and keep an open mind. If you are teachable, have a positive attitude, and are willing to work hard, you will be ready when you find what you want to do.

  • In reply to rufiolove
    Viktri's picture

    rufiolove:
    OP - I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up if that helps assuage your worries at all... I'm just faking it until I make it. Realistically, if you aren't sure what you want to do, you might as well do something that challenges you and helps you develop some analytical and people skills. You can do this in numerous industries so don't think it has to be finance / banking / mkts... My ultimate goal long term is to be my own boss, but I wanted to learn what distinguishes successful businesses from unsuccessful ones and this career path provides a way to develop the analytical skills to perceive those distinctions.

    Don't worry too much, just be willing to work hard and keep an open mind. If you are teachable, have a positive attitude, and are willing to work hard, you will be ready when you find what you want to do.

    I agree with rufio but I'd like to add that not knowing what you want to become doesn't = not knowing what you like/dislike - you should like some part about your job, aside from the paycheck, or you'll be miserable.

    - V

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  • GoodBread's picture

    I agree with this to a large extent. I hadn't even heard of investment banking until I was going into my senior year in college (I was 19) and it was basically too late. Then again, the only banks that came to my school were Lehman and Bear so I guess that wasn't necessarily a bad thing (I was talking to Bear equities people in early Feb '08).

    But since then, I've worked three years in a garbage back office job and am now finishing an Msc. in Finance in Europe. It's taken me that entire time to get a good idea of what I really want to do and that wasn't without putting a lot of effort into learning as much as I could about IBD, markets, hedge funds, commodity trading, etc...

  • triplectz's picture

    Some of what they're saying (especially at the analyst level) is, well, kinda bullshit. Worked at a BB over the summer, and I can say for certain that the FT guys there definitely weren't keeping copies of Liars Poker at their desk, and I really doubt that they could even tell you what happened in the stock market that day. Bankers are removed from the day-to-day goings on in finance. Like, I definitely read fewer articles in the Journal and NYT than I did before I started. (This is completely different from S&T obviously, since you leave and breathe market minutiae.)

    I'd focus on getting the job first. Prepping for interviews, networking, nailing the techs, etc. You can go more high level from there. (That being said, I think A Random Walk Down Wall Street should be mandatory reading for everyone entering the finance profession.)

  • jntheriot504's picture

    Having spent nine years in the militarty and coming up on the last year of my enlistment it has taken a great deal of time to figure out what I have wanted to do. During my time in I completed two graduate degrees in international relations and applied economics. Obviously, they were from non-target but I made the best of my situiation; which is must as excuses are lame and no one will respect them. Another thing I have done (on my own dime) was travel. Traveling from Iceland to the Ukraine, Turkey to Neapl (this May). Doing this gives you better persepctive of the world and a deeper understanding of who you are.

    It has been through reading books and articles/blogs on this website that I decided a career in finance was not for me. I have decided on a career in international development, as it truly incorporates what I enjoy doing; even if the pay is substantially lower. I did learn early on as I accpeted a $60,000 re-enlistment bonus to continue doing air traffic control for another four years (even though I hated the job) that money will not lead to happiness. I would bet that most people don't have a true understanding of what they want out of life until they are in their late 20s early 30s. Even then they are probably still unsure as life continues to teach you new things and open new doors you were unaware before.


    "I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though."
    -- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

  • FPM31's picture

    I completely agree with this; I felt like many of the options I had for summers after freshman/sophomore year that would have allowed me to "test the waters" would have made me less competitive for IBD and top management consulting jobs (for example, internships in the nonprofit space, or time spent aimlessly wandering around Europe). Instead, I busted my ass to get an IBD internship sophomore year, and am reaping the benefits now as a junior. I'd do it all over again the exact same way as I had to, but the pressure to get competitive before you have fully figured yourself and your career trajectory out is definitely there, in my opinion. It doesn't need to be this way, by any means, but when the competition is so on top of their stuff from such an early time, you sort of have to be as well.

  • Sandhurst's picture

    Pretty much everything that's been said has been good.

    I'll add the following observation: it's really impossible to know your "passion" until you're knee deep in it. Sure, you might be interested in "business" or "markets" or whatever, but at age 22 there's no way you can anybody can honestly say that "I know that banking is my ideal career." It's just not realistic. You're still young enough that this "passion" might just be a novelty that will eventually wear off. What is realistic, however, is chasing whatever does turn you on, as far as you can tell today.

    Ultimately, you're not going to "go anywhere" with your life unless you pick a direction and start moving. If finance seems best now, embrace that. And also embrace the reality that with new information, you may realize something else is superior. So long as you're prepared to jump when this moment presents itself (obviously after appropriate consideration), what's the downside?

    "There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."

  • TheSquale's picture

    If you find a job you are passionate about that's great. If you don't, well you don't. There is a lot more people doing something they dislike than people doing something they enjoy doing. Not everybody find hapiness in their job and you know what that's great because there are a hell lot of other opportunities to enjoy yourself out there you will for sure find one that will please you. Just keep your eyes open and get ready for any opportunity.

  • In reply to Sandhurst
    SirTradesaLot's picture

    Sandhurst:
    Ultimately, you're not going to "go anywhere" with your life unless you pick a direction and start moving.

    well said.

    adapt or die:
    What would P.T. Barnum say about you?

    MY BLOG

  • rpc's picture

    Just finished going through SA recruiting and a common interview question was "If you had enough money to never work, what would you do?" The point of the question was it should be something related to finance because work is so brutal and competitive that if you aren't truly passionate about it you'll be left behind. That is what leads people to read about it in their free time. That being said, most people embellish about how much they read/research/invest etc. and about how sure they are regarding their future.

  • kyleyboy's picture

    If you want to be able to do something you actually have to want to do it. You have to be serious, and you have to be better than everyone else. Life has never been something you can just waltz through and expect to be succesful. Maybe 40 years ago the barrier for entry was lower but things have changed. You need to just jump into something with a positive attitude and work harder than everyone. From what I have talked to you about it seems you like the investing/hedge fund side of things. I reccomend you work your ass off to try to get there. Might be best to do something like IB first or go to a small fund like I said in PMs. Someone above me made a comment about people not actually researching a ton on their own time. Maybe most people don't but I can assure you that I do. As dumb as it may sound I spend a lot of time reading about finance related stuff, mostly because I am actually interested in it. It is something that I really reccomend if you want to be able to break in. My dad became succesful in his field by spending that extra time he had reading extra information and trying to soak up as much extra information as possible that the other people did not know. This went a long way for him and people can always tell who knows their stuff vs who does not.

  • In reply to rpc
    Sandhurst's picture

    Note: this post is off topic, and not helpful. Unless you believe humor is helpful (as I do).

    rpc:
    Just finished going through SA recruiting and a common interview question was "If you had enough money to never work, what would you do?" The point of the question was it should be something related to finance because work is so brutal and competitive that if you aren't truly passionate about it you'll be left behind. That is what leads people to read about it in their free time. That being said, most people embellish about how much they read/research/invest etc. and about how sure they are regarding their future.

    I once got a variant of this question, along the lines of: "if you today learned that you would never make it into banking, definitively, no matter how hard you tried, period, what would you do?" This begs a different sort of answer. What is it, you ask? Long story short, it's not following Barbara Streisand, concert to concert, across the country. I'll leave you all - feel free to think about it as you talk amongst ya'selves.

    "There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."

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