Hello and Happy New Year everyone!
(originally posted as a comment but I’d like more people to see it and provide their views).
Although I live in London, I find myself completely stuck in a mediocre job and I don’t know how to break out of this circle. London indeed offers more opportunities than any other city in the UK and probably in the entire Europe. However, it seems that a lot of it is based on pure luck and personal connections/non-transparent recruiting (aka “networking”).
I have seen young people making brilliant careers (Bachelors Degree => 2 years in a bulge bracket bank => credit hedge fund), being less than 25yo, no Masters, no CFA exams, nothing.
Others get into front desks of the bulge bracket banks straight out of the uni without seemingly being better or smarter than many other guys.
Many of them didn’t even do the L1 CFA exam and some of them don’t even know what this is (especially traders).
Let’s face it – most of the candidates pursue the gruelling exams to eventually land a well-paid job (let’s say £70k+) and a good bonus (let’s say 40%+), at Associate level.
I am about to start preparing for an exam an June. And I think about it: the amount of time, health, nerves, managing your work/study/life balance that goes into it is HUGE. How do I know that in the end of the day it will worth it? Football analogy: that’s like training every day to become a top goalscorer in the world and then just sit on the bench. In my circle, there is very limited evidence of landing well-paying job/prosperity and passing the CFA exams. Although such examples do exist, I must admit.
I am facing a dilemma here, my choices are:
1) take the exam and subscribe to no weekends, very little time off, putting more strain on relationships with colleagues and friends;
2) shun the exam and spend the time on hard networking, extending personal relationships, attending industry and career events and applying to every opportunity there is.
Not an easy choice, would love to hear your opinions. Thanks.
Hiya @agent1 – good to see the new year post!
Just replied to your question in another thread, I copied it here again for reference:
@agent1 – I can understand your frustration here.
Tell us more about what you do, we’re based in London too and would be familiar with the context of work/job market etc. What do you do now and what are you looking to switch into?
Although they are random instances of pure luck, I’m a firm believer that luck comes with preparation meets opportunity. Whether you decide to take option 1 or 2, significant amount of time is needed for preparation in order for things to work. The difference being option 1 is more structured and measurable (and in a way straightforward) compared to option 2.
Look forward to hear back from you
I think it’s always a personal choice. It’s difficult to decide for others whether a social life comes before career development. But the easier comparison is when comparing with networking etc – generally networking practice should be prioritized…they don’t come around often (for me anyway) and they don’t take a lot of time!
@agent1 I suppose it would be helpful to find out if the CFA (or even passing L1) would really open up greater opportunities for you. For example, is it a frequently occurring term in the job specs of the jobs you would ideally like to do? Are any of your school or university classmates in finance in similar jobs and can you get in touch with them to find out more, and do networking at the same time?
“…pure luck and personal connections/non-transparent recruiting (aka “networking”).” You hit the nail on the head there — my thoughts exactly! I hate it that we don’t have a fair playing field, that who you know should count for more than what you know.
Great post @agent1.
I personally feel as a young professional in such a competitive field the CFA would be a good investment of your time. That of course would very much depend what you want to do. I know people in banking that don’t know or vaguely heard of the CFA. However in the fund industry the CFA while not essential would be a big plus.
Like @Sophie said what field and sub-sector in finance are you trying to get into?
@agent1 Maybe it’s just me but I think that besides having great skills one needs to acquire a solid education. When I was a kid, things like ‘A’ levels were like big deals. But now, you see young people with 2 or 3 degrees minimum and many of them still can’t find jobs. Its very important to move with the changing times. I think even though experience and networking are very strong points, you need to have very good qualifications as well. I know that this means at this point in time it will mean sacrificing your social life. Basically it will be social suicide. But it is truly a good investment for your future. You have to make sacrifices in your present to have a future. And friends seriously good friends are going to stick no matter what 🙂
Career progression is based generally on skills and office politics. Getting the foot in the door is often a result of “who you know”.
Also try not to get caught up with making comparisons to others. Particularly based on age.
For example, the same time the young 20-somethings were furnishing their penthouse offices, some of us had “real” jobs, working our tails off in god forsaken corners of the world and earning bugger all while some guy on the other side throws bullets at us.
So yeah, when a 20-something IB guy is smugly asking why it’s taken this long to get where I am, I compliment him on his natural brilliance and leave it at that.
Don’t begrudge others’ success, and similarly don’t begrudge your own success and experience. Everyone travels a unique path. Try to make sure yours is a good one.
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