If you’re trying to get a job in finance, you might think you want to work for a top hedge fund. I want to warn you that this could be the worst move you make.
I was a top student. I went to one of the world’s top universities and I always wanted to be a trader. When I graduated, I got a job with a trading house and developed a strong trading record. I planned to study an MBA and maybe move into a bank or a hedge fund. Then, I was approached by a brilliant trader at one of the world’s top hedge funds. He asked me to join him. It turned out to be a huge mistake.
It’s a cliché to say top traders aren’t good people managers, but it’s a cliché for a reason. The guy I worked for is and was an exceptional trader, but my experience was that his people skills left a lot to be desired. And because he’s such a good trader, he’s the boss.
I never knew where I stood with him. After inviting me to join him and praising my talent, he suddenly questioned why he’d hired me before I’d even started trading. I’d agreed holiday leave before I joined and he denied we’d even spoken about it (after I’d already booked the holiday). And before I’d even begun trading he announced that he wanted to downgrade my status to that of temporary staff. .
I didn’t know what to do. It was the wrong time of the year to apply for an MBA course. I didn’t want to leave immediately (it would look bad on CV). I had no security.
All this time, I was working hard. 12 or 13 hour days. I started trading and I made some money. I was told that if I made some serious money, I might be able to stay. Foolishly, I accepted the challenge and lost a small amount of money, even though I was still up overall.
Seven months after the hedge fund job that was supposed to make my career begin, it was over. That was nearly three years ago and I haven’t been able to find a new job since. Potential employers look at my short tenure in my last role and assume something went wrong. When I have interviews, I’m asked to provide a reference from my former boss and things go no further. The hedge fund I worked for didn’t seem to have an HR function I could appeal to for help – there was no exit interview and when I approached them, my emails were forwarded to the trader I worked for.
That one hedge fund job has somehow, therefore, turned out to be a defining moment of my career. No one looks at other aspects of my performance. All that seems to matter is that short stint at that top fund. I never imagined it could end so badly.
Roger Smith is a pseudonym. This article was written by eFinancialCareers based upon his experience. Some elements of the account have been excluded and this is therefore not a full representation of what happened.