7/19/16

Hey monkeys, I'm on a plane from CLT to PHX, and I have wifi, and I'm not in the mood to work on my book. I like giving you guys some of my more thoughtful newsletter articles every once in a while, but I've never directly contributed to the forum. I have a few hours to kill, so I wanted to share my thoughts on how to get a job on Wall Street (which is what we are all here for).

It is hard, almost impossible to get a job on Wall Street if you are an outsider. And, if you are in school, and you have no Wall Street experience, you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground, no matter how many books you have read, and you are going to sound like an idiot in an interview. There are no two ways about it. The good news is that many people are in the same boat and will sound like idiots in interviews. The bad news is that some of these people know guys on the inside.

When I started at Lehman, plunked down in the 2001 Associate class, the first thing I realized was that everyone seemed to know each other. Lots of my classmates already knew people at various places in the firm. Partly this was because some of them were interns the summer before, but also, rich kids tend to know other rich kids from the Tri-State area. It's a small community. People know each other. That's a fact, and you can't do anything about it. All you can do is to work on making yourself a more attractive candidate.

So going back to when I was in business school, in 1998 or 1999, I tracked down the one and only guy I knew who was a trader, called him up. He told me that I had no shot and I should just give up. Actually--he did have one piece of advice--he said I was going to need a story on why I wanted to become a trader, and it was going to have to be a good one. Then he hung up, expecting never to hear from me again.

I went to what you call a very non-target school, and I was fully aware that the bulge-bracket banks didn't recruit there (even the local broker-dealers, like Montgomery or H&Q or Sutro didn't recruit there), so I decided I was going to have to do it the old-fashioned way--by working my way up from the mailroom. Not quite--I got a job as a clerk on the trading floor, fetching coffee and sandwiches and entering in trade tickets and running risk reports.

But then something interesting happened. While I was fetching coffee and sandwiches and entering in trade tickets, I started to learn a lot about options. I mean, I was working on the damn options floor, I was immersed in it. It's like the best way to learn French is just to live in France for a year. So I got really smart about options even though I never had any formal quantitative instruction like the kind people get when they go to University of Chicago. So when I was in that final round interview at Lehman, and the head of interest rate derivatives started asking me options questions, and I got them right, he was stoked because the whiz kids from Wharton never did, because they only had textbook knowledge, not practical knowledge.

Getting the interview was another matter entirely. That was a function of pure aggression, like, cold-calling recruiters, something I don't enjoy.

My intern at The Daily Dirtnap is off looking for jobs this week, in Boston. He is lucky, because I was able to introduce him to people. This makes him an insider, not an outsider, and he doesn't have to work as hard. He's tried on his own. Non-target school, average resume, no chance. But he is gaining experience working for me, and won't sound so dumb in an interview.

There is a life lesson here. It's not a matter of luck. You have to make your own luck. Mailing in a resume is a million to one shot. For every Bieber and Upton "discovered" on YouTube, there are a lot of people sitting at home, waiting for something to happen to them. But nothing happens to you in your apartment. And if you can't get in through the front door, then you get in through the side door or the back door. And sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes years of fetching coffee and entering in trade tickets. I think younger people don't understand this. The back office or middle office job can be a huge stepping-stone, even if you have to suffer occasional indignities from bankers or traders. And these days, working at a small or mid-size firm can be just as good, or better, than a BB.

And if all else fails, and you don't get the job, there are a lot of other ways to make a lot of money in this world. You just have to be a little more creative.

Mod Note: Best of WSO, this was originally posted December 2013.

Comments (90)

Best Response
12/12/13

I would give you a SB if I had one, thanks for the encouragement :) - back to work

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3/25/14

chimparoo:

I would give you a SB if I had one, thanks for the encouragement :) - back to work

Second that.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat.

3/26/14

? but you do, your account still shows 1 WSO Credit left, so you can reward away :-)

12/12/13

+1

It's only getting harder too.This site makes it difficult for people to realize middle office and back office jobs are great positions out of college, just not the best.

Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."

12/1/14

"It's only getting harder, too" - true that, in finance. Everywhere else making money is getting easier IF you're creative enough.

12/12/13

Great post. +1

12/12/13

Very nice post +1

12/12/13

SB+1 for you Jared. Great insightful advice! Yes, younger candidates esp. should see merit in starting somewhere. Just get on and go from there.

12/12/13

Jared Dillian:

There is a life lesson here. It's not a matter of luck. You have to make your own luck. Mailing in a resume is a million to one shot. For every Bieber and Upton "discovered" on YouTube, there are a lot of people sitting at home, waiting for something to happen to them. But nothing happens to you in your apartment. And if you can't get in through the front door, then you get in through the side door or the back door. And sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes years of fetching coffee and entering in trade tickets. I think younger people don't understand this.

Great. Great. Great.

12/12/13

solid post
+1

12/12/13

Thanks, Jared. I'm inspired but what about the fact that if you go into middle or back office roles that you can become labelled very easily as a middle or back office person and find it almost impossible to break out of that perception that you're the technology (or operations or accounting) person? This forum is filled with horror stories of people getting labelled and stuck and unable to escape their middle / back office roles after a few years in the industry.

Pigeonholing workers seems to be very intense these days (probably because everyone and their grandmother wants to work on Wall St.) and as someone in grad school trying to break in I've actually avoided applying to any back office roles for fear of the back office trap.

12/12/13

Anyone I know who went to trade support who wanted to come down to the desk, came down to the desk. The reality is that most people in the back office are perfectly content to stay in the back office. So it's not hard to distinguish yourself.

12/12/13

Thanks, it's great to hear that.

12/13/13

Thanks for the post...impressive collection of SBs...already ranked in the top #30 all time: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/highest-ranked-disc...

Also will be the headline post in our Weekly Wrap newsletter this afternoon...

12/12/13

Excellent post, and great story. Thanks so much for sharing, it's very encouraging.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."

12/12/13

+1. Great advice and encouragement

I would agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

12/12/13

Jared Dillian:

There is a life lesson here. It's not a matter of luck. You have to make your own luck. Mailing in a resume is a million to one shot. For every Bieber and Upton "discovered" on YouTube, there are a lot of people sitting at home, waiting for something to happen to them. But nothing happens to you in your apartment. And if you can't get in through the front door, then you get in through the side door or the back door. And sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes years of fetching coffee and entering in trade tickets. I think younger people don't understand this. The back office or middle office job can be a huge stepping-stone, even if you have to suffer occasional indignities from bankers or traders. And these days, working at a small or mid-size firm can be just as good, or better, than a BB.

And if all else fails, and you don't get the job, there are a lot of other ways to make a lot of money in this world. You just have to be a little more creative.

Cool story! That is similar to what Soros did. He mailed every fund in London until he got a job as a bookkeeper; he proceed to work his way to trader. From there he went into ER. After that he started a HF.

I do have a word of caution. For every Bieber there is a Tebow. Sometimes untalented people seem to succeed effortlessly while extremely talented people flounder. To his credit Bieber is a master marketer. He knows how to manipulate people to his advantage. On the other hand, Tebow is too nice.

What do Bieber Dimon, Walter White have in common that Tebow does not?
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jamie-dimon-is-wa...

http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/05/13/j...JPMorgan/

"He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." -- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

12/12/13

Thanks for the post. I had a terrible day at work due to our regional manager being very hard on us, my contributions towards my performance exceeded in year 2013 and essentially which led to increase expectations, work in a retail environment, I will def take your advice to break out of it, I do need your suggestion on how to handle this situation where expectations are higher however clear path of promotion is not clear since he would rather keep me because of my performance. Sorry it was bit irrelevant to your original post

12/12/13

Good read, good read

12/12/13

Good post, thanks!

The hills are alive with the sound of horsepower! - Jeremy Clarkson

12/12/13

Good write-up.

The strangers in this town They raise you up just to cut you down
12/13/13

Jared, hurry your ass up and pump out your next book. When I first picked up Street Freak, I couldn't put it down and finished it in 2 days (my best personal record with reading).

12/13/13

Great advice. This is just the kind of hustle and entrepreneurial spirit we believed in at Lehman. You are doing your part to pay it forward and for that, I deliver you +1 SB.

12/13/13

awesome post. best read this week.

12/13/13

hustle hustle hustle. Make your own luck, love it

12/13/13

Bobb:

hustle hustle hustle. Make your own luck, love it

That's a quote from Batman

The strangers in this town They raise you up just to cut you down

The WSO Advantage - Land Your Dream Job

Financial Modeling Training

IB Templates, M&A, LBO, Valuation.

Wall St. Interview Secrets Revealed

30,000+ sold & REAL questions.

Resume Help from Finance Pros

Land More Interviews.

Find Your Mentor

Realistic Mock Interviews.

12/13/13

Great Post, Thank you

12/13/13

Great post, very motivational.

The Auto Show

12/13/13

Thanks for the crazy.

Quick question, if I may; why do antisemites love the CapsLock?

Thanks in advance.

12/13/13

Respect

12/13/13

In the 80s ,90s and 2000s,financial engineering shine,moving assets around,restructuring,selling,buying real assets is the place to be,so someone bought sears and kmart and see all these real estate properties which they can sell and make good money,to hell with retailing.
Now e commerce rules and we will see plenty of physical bank branches,malls,strip malls for sale and factories?
they are old and antiquated and would be demolished.
Do we need an army of investment bankers travelling around the country advising ceos what to do?
we do,but we dont need more,we need less

12/13/13

the hustler always wins, end of story! Thank you so much for taking time to share this post and reminds us that the person who wants it the most gets it eventually!!

12/13/13

Good read, thank you OP.

12/13/13

my,Dick Fuld is here,is that really him?

12/14/13

I love the post! Honestly, I am from Non-targets with no contacts. We don't take offers, we earn for it.

12/14/13

why even bother to look for a job?
Let the job comes to you??

12/14/13

Great post! +1 SB
You are so right about the last part - one cannot simply wait for the opportunity to run over him while sitting at home or something, opportunities have to be created.

12/14/13

you guys just dont seem to get it.
let the job finds you not the other round of you looking for a job.
If you can grasp what I am saying,you will be gainfully employed in no time

12/14/13

jl2:

you guys just dont seem to get it.

let the job finds you not the other round of you looking for a job.

If you can grasp what I am saying,you will be gainfully employed in no time

wise man, thank you for your touch of infinite wisdom.

12/15/13

great post. very inspiring to someone like me, who is coming from a very non-target. moral of the story is if you want it bad enough, do what you got to do to get there.

12/15/13

Nailed it.

12/15/13

Much needed inspiration, thanks a lot Jared.

Jason Yeung
Rutgers Business School
Candidate B.S. in Accounting
Candidate B.S. in Economics

12/15/13

Have to echo the importance of a good story. Nothing is more of a turn off for me than talking to someone who wants to be in private equity/ finance to make money. A true interest/ passion for the industry shows and and is more important to me than a resume (although it takes a good resume to get in the door usually).

12/15/13

A lot of people are disappointed when they get nowhere after shooting dozens (or hundreds) of resumes. I think it makes more sense to make yourself useful, develop a niche, and solve a problem to where your utility ranking improves. If your work becomes known and recognized, you'll get a job sooner than later.

"I like money (as do most females) but love is...great :)"-student
Is the Bull Chasing a Bear

12/16/13

Hey, Jared Dillian. What a great post. I would of gave you bananas if I could. I'm from a non -target school in the northeast. I have been out of school for a couple of years now. I was wondering if you can mentor me. . Ciao

12/16/13

bar none:

Hey, Jared I was wondering if you can mentor me.

LOL
12/16/13

@"Jared Dillian" : Whoa whoa whoa...you're writing another book? Monkey's Review time!

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

12/16/13

FYI I read your book Street Freak.

12/16/13

That's the way

12/18/13

GREAT SHARE.

12/23/13

Thanks for this post. I'm from a non-target and it is becoming clear that this will be a pretty steep uphill battle but this insight has been inspirational. Thanks again

12/23/13

@bmcpherson77: Was a non-target too but broke into FI - Never think it's not possible.

12/23/13

@TraderDaily : thanks. Just gotta keep the networking train rollin' and keep my eyes open for anything that will give me a leg up.

12/25/13

love stories/posts like this, gives me motivation. anybody know any links/stories that show doing whatever it takes to break in? see the gary cohn story http://www.businessinsider.com/how-gary-cohn-got-h...

12/26/13

I can resonate with this post on so many levels. I believe wholeheartedly that you have to make your luck in this world.

1/5/14

Awesome post. Thanks, Jared.

1/5/14

Inspiring!

1/6/14

This is an amazing post. Thanks for sharing.

1/8/14

Nice post +1

1/8/14

Good job - enjoyed reading your thread. +1

1/10/14

Thanks for your post Jared, great thread :)

Money never sleeps.

1/11/14

amazing read

2/15/14

Short & concise. Perfect

5/9/14

SB+1. Respect from a non-target kid who is trying to break into Wall Street.

7/31/14

Nice and interesting story

7/31/14

Fantastic read

9/9/14

Excellent Advice.

11/27/14

Great post!

11/27/14

great post!

12/1/14

Thanks man, this was much needed on a Monday at my deadbeat job. Gotta keep working!

12/1/14

Thanks man, this was much needed on a Monday at my deadbeat job. Gotta keep working!

12/1/14

Inspiring!

12/2/14

Thanks for the post Jared, excellent piece

12/2/14

I wish I had seen something like this when I was a 20-year old college student who was horrified over the fact that I was at a non-target undergrad.

12/3/14

@"Jared Dillian" Great post!! Thank you

12/4/14

Great post!

Going to go make my own luck now...

12/4/14

Great post!

Going to go make my own luck now...

3/17/15

idt

4/5/15

As a student from non-target, this post is definitely a great motivation for me. Thank you.

9/13/15

Someone asked me last weekend how do I get a job in finance, I said it's relatively easy. I'll tell you how I did it and hopefully it will help you on your journey. I came from an EM country, and arrived in the midwest for my undergraduate at Northwestern. I was a Computer Science major, and decided in my fourth year to do Economics also. I didn't know what a Investment Bank was until the January of my graduation year. So given this limited planning and foresight, I made Managing Director at Goldman Sachs at age 34. I'll tell you how I managed to do it.

Step 1: Start reading books, magazines, newspapers to do with finance - choose whichever branch of finance you want to go into and understand the lingo. So for example, since I wanted to do Sales & Trading, I read the Financial Times, the Wall St Journal, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune. Anything I could get my hands on to get the lingo.

Step 2: Find all the movies you can find on the industry, watch those too. All careers are specific tribes, with their own cultures, languages, short hand. You need to learn the lingo before people will take you seriously. You want to sound and look like an insider.

Step 3: Find the opportunities. Talk to friends, talk to family, read the newspapers, look at job websites, look at the websites of the companies you are interested in working for, call your university career office.

Step 4: Learn to write resumes and cover letters. Best way to learn is to see a lot of samples. Build expertise in doing this. Go work in the Career Center if you need to.

Step 5: Learn to interview, the trick to this is just practice, practice. Do lots of practice interviews, do informational interviews, even apply for jobs you don't want. Its important to just get a lot of hours on the board. Figure out your weaknesses, and figure out your strengths. Make sure you highlight your strengths in each interview.

Step 6: If you have done steps 3-5 well, then you will get a few job offers. Don't agree to any offers until you have received them all, then compare what's on the table in a rational manner. These offers are not final, remember there is always room to negotiate. Negotiate. Once you have maximized the opportunity, make a decision.

Step 7: Show up at the job. Remember at the beginning you know close to nothing, so you are being paid to learn. Make sure you learn. Ask questions every day. Find 5 new people to meet everyday. Figure out how to help them.

Step 8: Figure out what drives your boss and your boss's boss. What is important to them, what are their goals, how do they operate. What are they trying to achieve. Once you understand their goals, help them achieve those goals.

Step 9: Keep learning new things, keep reading, keep your eyes open for new opportunities, figure out how to keep your name out there. Keep growing your network. Treat it as a career marathon, not a sprint. Its about staying in the game as long as possible, so make it fun.

Books you must read:

Never eat Alone (Keith Ferrazi)

The Start Up of You (Reid Hoffman)

Influence (Robert Cialdini)

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

Finance is about people, not numbers.

What I Learnt on Wall Street

10/1/15

Nice post!

10/20/15

Thanks for the encouragement!, solid Advice!

"You adapt, evolve, compete or die." -Paul Tudor Jones

2/17/16

+1 Appreciate the words

5/26/16

Thanks, Jared. To the point and simple reply to something very complex (at least for the candidates). Though from a target, I have been in the same position as you described for quite some time. Just joined WSO and I occasionally turn to your post on not-so-great days.

5/31/16

Great post, thank you!
Same rules apply to people willing to enter large commodity trading firms. You have to know people.

5/31/16

"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." Mayer Amschel Rothschild

Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.-John D. Rockefeller

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