Setting Goals for Your Hedge Fund Career

It is a common conception that a way to advance in life–especially in your education or career–is by setting goals. Having a goal, like becoming an executive or making a profit in the first year running a start-up, gives you something to strive for. At the end of the year, most of us end up wondering why we still have not achieved our goals. Goals are important, but you need to take concrete steps to reach that goal. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply setting a goal and not doing much to reach it.

Setting a goal for your hedge fund career is important in establishing where you are now and where you want to be in the future. The following is an example of a step-by-step plan to advance your hedge fund career. Every person’s goals will be different but the process is important in getting what you want.

Step 1: Where are you now? How can you decide where you want to be if you do not know where you are now? It is important to assess your current situation and figure out if you are satisfied at your current position or if you would like to move up. Some people are lured by the high pay and reputation of hedge funds but years later once they enter the industry they realize their last job was better. So really look at your current job–whether it is inside or outside of a hedge fund–and decide whether you really want to leave this position or if you are actually satisfied there.

Step 2: Where do you want to go? Assuming you’ve decided to enter the hedge fund industry or advance your existing hedge fund career, you have to ask yourself: Where do I want to go? I believe that many of the obstacles we face in life are self-created. Advancing your career is a question of whether you want to put in the necessary work. For some, it is easy. For others, the task is arduous and requires a lot of effort for a little payoff. So assess your own motivation and commitment to advancing your career and set a realistic goal based on that. You may want to move into a more senior management or head trading position in the firm but you are not willing to get the (sometimes) necessary MBA or advanced quantitative or mathematics-related degree. Figure out where you want to be and take steps to get there.

Step 3: Develop a Strategy. The world of hedge funds is highly competitive. You will have a tough time making it into a hedge fund without a well-thought-out strategy for reaching your goals. Whether you already have a job in the hedge fund industry or you are looking for your first, you will need a plan. I have written previously on developing a strategy for advancing your hedge fund career. Here is a summary:

  • Become a student of the hedge fund industry by reading news articles and following blogs (like HedgeFundBlogger.com); joining a local or online hedge fund networking association; frequently having conversations with securities traders and hedge fund professionals.
  • Narrow your search to 1-2 positions taking into account what role or strategy you are most passionate about; what fits your unique abilities and qualifications best; salary; location; competitiveness of industry etc. For example, if you have a Masters in Economics and worked overseas at a bank, you may look at global macro funds that fit your expertise more than, say, a merger arb fund.
  • Find a hedge fund mentor. Look for someone with experience in the industry and reach out to finance professors, family, friends and past associates.
  • Develop Your Unique Selling Proposition; discover what makes you more valuable and different from other candidates. Consider special skills, second languages, valuable experience in a related industry, designations or awards etc.
  • Find a hedge fund internship if you are having trouble landing a paid position at a hedge fund.
  • Develop your hedge fund resume and interview skills.
  • Improve your education with an MBA, finance degree or professional designation that give you the background necessary to stand out as a hedge fund job candidate.
  • Land the unadvertised hedge fund job through cold-calling funds; exchanging e-mails with hedge fund professionals; attending networking events; offering to work for a free trial period; or other strategies that less driven professionals may not pursue.

Update your resume with new qualifications and experiences you’ve added since executing on the other steps in your plan as well as feedback from your mentor and interviews. Reach out to professionals you have met during your research for potential job opportunities. Check back with funds you have spoken with previously. This is a loose set of suggestions for advancing your hedge fund career and should be adjusted based on your chosen career path.

Step 4: Stay with your strategy.

In my experience, the most common reason for not getting a job in the hedge fund industry is that the person gave up too soon. It can be really tough and even demoralizing to interview with firms and get rejected. But it is a learning process, listen to their reasons hirers give for not selecting you and adjust your strategy to improve the areas you are lacking in. You may feel like you are wasting your time but you will absolutely be wasting your time if you give up at the first challenge you face. You may need to take a less desired job in the mean time before you get the one you want, but you should still be working toward your goal during this time.

Step 5: I reached my goal, what now?

Congratulations, you’ve reached your goal. But now you may be wondering what to do next. If establishing your goals and developing a strategy to achieve them has worked for you, continue to assess your situation and find new goals. I do this regularly to ensure that I am never treading water. It is always helpful to be working toward a goal.

I hope this has been a helpful guide to advancing your career in the hedge fund industry by setting career goals. For more hedge fund career articles, training videos, a career guide, resume coaching and other resources join the Hedge Fund Group association or consider our self-paced hedge fund certification program: HedgeFundCertification.com

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