This inquiry came in from Todd:
First off, I’ve been watching your EOT course again and you do a great job of giving a solid intro to all the different aspects of trading. I recently graduated with an economics degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and I’m looking for a job related to trading and the markets. I was wondering if you could offer some advice on where to look, what kinds of firms to seek out, etc. I’m open to almost anything (although I’d prefer not to be a broker) and looking for some place to get started. Hopefully, I can find a job related to futures and/or forex. I find these two markets more interesting than stocks.
Any advice/suggestions you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
My own experience with trading and financial market careers is rather narrow, so I can’t offer much in the way of breadth of specific advice on that, but I’ll share what I’ve got. Hopefully other readers who have been through it all themselves will chip in with comments of their own.
When I came out of undergraduate I found a job as a junior analyst. While I don’t recall exactly how I came to apply for the position, I’m pretty sure it was through a newspaper listing (maybe Wall Street Journal). Obviously, I don’t know the credentials of any other candidate being considered. What I do believe, though, is that my membership in the Market Technicians Association very seriously impressed the folks with whom I did my interviews. That was something they clearly hadn’t expected to see from someone just coming out of school. I’d venture to say that’s probably still true today.
My academic credentials weren’t spectacular. I had about a 3.3 GPA from an average state school. I’d been treasurer of the finance club and active in some other business school organizations. I’d also been working as a cashier for pretty much the whole time I was in school and was a member of the National Guard up until my last semester.
I’d had some personal stock trading experience, but nothing of any major consequence. I was pretty well read on the subject, though. I could talk the talk, which probably gave me a leg up. It really should come as a surprise that if you can speak the same language as your prospective employer you’ve got a better chance of getting hired.
These days there are a huge number of different types of financial firms from small research and trading shops up to the big investment banks. They are located all over the place, so you don’t necessarily have to think just of a select few major metropolitan locations, as was the case back in the day.
My suggestion to anyone looking for a job in the business is to look at things from three perspectives. One is the training programs the major institutions run – primarily for those just out of undergrad or MBA programs. Another is the job listings of financial firms. The third is the classified listings on sites like www.efinancialcareers.com and such. They all will help to highlight the types of positions out there and the kinds of qualifications employers are after.
Importantly, think about the type of job you’d like to have down the line, not just the one you want now. If you’re thinking about getting into portfolio management, for example, look at the job requirements for those types of positions, then back out a job path to get there and look at the type of job(s) you would need to be in between here and there to get the credentials you’ll need.
What I do not recommend is going straight from undergrad to grad school. It’s a waste. The time you spend in the job market between the two makes the graduate work more meaningful and helps in the job market when you’re on your way back into the real world.