Thursday, January 5, 2012
An Open Letter To Young Job Seekers
In the next 12 months, I’m going to need to hire at least one person. If things go well with my business, I could end up needing to hire four or five people. But in this economy that seems unlikely. Without a clearer picture of the future I wouldn’t take that kind of chance. So I will probably only be hiring one this year – and hopefully the rest in the next year or three.
Almost all of the positions I’ll be filling will be entry level positions for people with a college degree. Experience in the field will not be required. But any experience which demonstrates your persistence, your attention to detail, and your ability to solve problems or to act independently will be considered. It can be in any field or process. I’m really just interested in learning about your character.
If you majored in Education, English, Journalism, Sociology or any of the “studies” (Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies, etc) then you won’t be considered for this position. You've already told me everything about your character that I need to know. If you’re one of those people, working in Finance probably wouldn’t suit you anyway or you would have majored in something else. Besides, as far as I’m concerned people with Math, Finance, or Engineering degrees have learned ‘real things’ while those with the majors listed above, really have not. I know you probably feel differently – but I’m the one doing the hiring.
The job I’m filling will not have a huge salary by Wall Street standards – entry level jobs never do. But it will be a way to begin a career. I know many people who started out with similar positions and ended up making millions. So it’s definitely considered a position with a future if you do it right. You’ll need to be very good at it, and to be frank, you’ll also need a little luck. Everyone on Wall Street is above average, so you’ll need to do better than them. But it is definitely a position that can lead to a six figure income – maybe much more.
In this position, you’ll take on all the tedious, annoying and dull tasks of my job while I spend more time on the fun, interesting, and intellectually challenging tasks. It doesn’t work that way because I have more power than you – it works that way because I know how to do the more complicated and subtle tasks and you don’t. But if do the tedious parts of your job well and convince me that you would be worth the investment in time and effort, I’ll teach you the interesting parts too. They’ll become part of your portable skill set and will make you more marketable, leading to more money for you.
You may have gotten it in your head that the perfect job would be working for some non-profit group. You may even think of working at a hedge fund as being morally repugnant somehow. You may have heard in the media that we cater only to the rich, and that we are a secretive industry that tries to avoid being regulated. That may have made you suspicious of our motives or make you believe that we are out to take advantage of the unsuspecting in some way.
But the truth is, what we do in the Hedge Fund industry is as close to an unambiguous good for society as anything ever gets. We provide a very rare and valuable service for our investors, and only make money if they do. Our investors are usually pension funds and other professional investors who are as informed about what we do as we are, so we take advantage of absolutely no one in the process of performing our jobs. That’s more than many retail stockbrokers or financial analysts can say. More than that… we are not too big to fail, and never have been. And of all the areas of finance, the Hedge Fund industry is the only one I can think of, which can make all those claims.
A friend once asked me what the best way is to get to a senior role on Wall Street. I’ll repeat exactly what I told him for you. I said:
“Be a useful tool, to rich and powerful men.”
If you are the kind of person that someone rich and powerful can rely on to make things happen the way they want them to, then you will eventually be rewarded for it. Finding reliable people is the hardest task in the world for men of influence. And if they find one in you, they will help you get ahead... just like someone almost certainly once did for them. The truth is, no one does it all alone… even the people who want you to think that they did. And if you are destined to get ahead, then you won’t do it alone either.
But none of that really applies to an entry level staffer. At an entry level you want to demonstrate your good reliable character, and learn as much from others as you can. No one expects you to have all the answers – they don’t even expect you to have all the questions. They just expect you to perform your assigned tasks without any serious screw-ups, to keep your eyes and ears open, and have a good attitude. I know in the schools you’ve been told that you’re one in a million, but that means there are a thousand people in China who are just like you. And like it or not, until you build some useful skills, they are all your competition.
If you learn fast – that will help. If you learn correctly, that will help too. And over time, the opportunity to stand out will come to you. Time is on your side when you’re young. So be patient, and be ready to rise to the occasion when the occasion demands it. It does eventually for everyone who really deserves it.