So you’ve got the perfect long-term career plan. Graduate from a good school. Get a good GPA. Move into a relevant business role after graduation. And then eventually land the job of your dreams. Well the good news is that having a career road map means you’re far more likely to get there. But there’s also bad news. The bad news is that vast majority of these plans tend to get disrupted pretty early. And so while career road maps are one of the most critical pieces of long-term success, in my opinion, there one thing that’s a bit more important.
In today’s society, the ability to adapt is critical. Information changes by the second, competitors consistently enter the markets, and business plans are disrupted causing changes and conflict in the workplace. And so the ability to adapt to change has become a necessity, not only true in your day to day activities at the workplace but also more broadly, as you consider your longer term path to career success.
In a recent question, one of my readers was recently let go from his job and so he was balancing a new job prospect on the horizon and also thinking about business school. So he wrote me and asked me for a bit of advice. Below is his question and then below that my response.
First off, you have a fantastic website. You seem to have a knack for connecting a lot of people, sharing good information, and then connecting people with that information. Thanks for that.
So here’s my situation. I graduated from college in 2008, where I studies Business and Finance. Upon graduation, I worked at an investment firm as a client services analyst for about a year, but unfortunately got laid off when the economy went south. When I was hired, I had the goal to eventually become a wealth advisor, but at the time, there were no investment analyst spots open and they told me that this position was also a typical path to an advisor at their firm.
About six months after I was hired, the company did hire someone for the other position, instead of moving me to that role, and ironically that person still has a job today. I was bummed for a bit, but sent out a few resumes and recently got an offer for another client services position, which seems to be a bit less technical but pretty similar. The firm is similar but smaller and they manage a lower number of funds.
I am trying to decide if I should take the new position I was offered, or continue looking for something more quantitative and investment-oriented. Most positions at bigger firms seem to be looking for college grads, so I’m not certain how I can move into this role. I was also wondering if I should I considering getting my MBA? Or if I should try getting a CFA? Or again, I could just take the offer, and start all over again?
Also, do you think networking helps in the investment management world? I have not spent much time doing that, but after reading your site, it seems as though I should be. Please advise.
Thanks in advance for taking the time.
Thanks so much for your question and for reading my blog. I appreciate your kind words, and I hope you’re right about being able to connect with a wide range of people. Fortunately, I’m continuing to get more hits and responses as time goes on, and I hope you continue to keep reading, even after you find the perfect job!
So after reading your question, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of factors to consider: (1) the economy, (2) your short and long term career goals, (3) MBA or CFA qualifications, (4) and then the situation at your last job. Bringing all of these factors together and quickly make a decision now.
I remember having to make similar decisions over the past few years, and suspect I’ll be making them as I continue to progress in my own career. Often times it feels like a herculean task with a lot at stake if you make the wrong choice. The good news here is that there’s not a whole lot of pressure, given you’ve got a job waiting for you if you decide to take it. In any event, here’s how I like to think about the issues. In context, hopefully it’s relevant for you as well.
1. Nowadays, many people are making decisions based on the economy. In my view, that makes a lot of sense, especially for younger professionals like you who have not hit the “two years experience” threshold and that may not have quite as much cash in the bank so may not want to spend too much time off. In my personal experience, I know a couple of recent graduates who lost their jobs right after joining their companies and really struggled finding their next position, because they didn’t have the months/years of experience to bring to the table. In that sense, taking the job might be compelling. On the other hand, there’s definitely something to be said about taking your time, having a little patience, doing your research, and really finding the right company and the right role. One thing in your benefit is that it looks like you’ve gained some real technical experience in your last role (and in your academic career) so some companies will really value that if you decide to hold out.
2. Generally heading toward your dream jobis a multi-step process, including both the short-term (i.e. immediate next steps) and the longer-term (years down the line). The important thing here is to be sure that your ST goals align with your longer term vision. In this case, you have the option of hopping into another client services role at a different investment firm, and although it may not be a substantial step forward toward your dream job as an advisor, it is very related and seems to fit your story pretty well, while also providing you with a unique set of experiences to draw from once you do become an advisor. If I were in your position, I might do some more fact finding and see just how related this role is to your last role–degree of technical skill involved, contacts with advisors, actual client contact, how much of a sales role–and then reflect on how happy I’d be in that role.
3. (A) Many people choose to MBA when these sort of transitions don’t work out according to plan. But on average, folks in these positions tend to have closer to 4 or 5 years of experience as opposed to one year. And although some schools are taking early career candidates (CLICK HERE for my post on early career candidates) most still look for more than one year of experience and also a more compelling rationale for going early outside from being let go at work. (B) Further, it’s also important to do some research at some of your target schools to see how many MBAs actually go into wealth advisory field. In my experience, you certainly don’t NEED an MBA to be a wealth management professional. For example, when I worked at Morgan Stanley years ago, neither the 28 year old VP I worked not the Associate I worked with had MBAs, and at the time neither intended to go back and get one. On the other hand, some people still get an MBA before going into the field, including a Northwestern JD-MBA in my program who accepted an offer at a bulge bracket firm for after graduation. (C) And finally, your thoughts about the CFA make a lot of sense, especially for the investment industry, where at some firms the CFA can be a proxy, or even preferred over an MBA. I’d suggest doing a bit more research to see what you can find in regards to this firm.
4. Given all the competing considerations above, I wouldn’t lose to much sleep over what happened at your last company. Unless there’s a contract with the company that included a specific term for length, or an agreement to move you to the new position (pretty unlikely), companies often tend to have discretion with hiring and pay decisions, and in the end, I suspect that your energy may be better spent sending out resumes, meeting with employers, and networking with people in the industry … as you already suggested.
In sum, yes strongly consider the new role and start networking. I write about networking on my site a lot (CLICK HERE for recent post on networking), but in short, you can start by reaching out to those in your close circles. Speak with them. Get information. Then expand your circles and get more information. It’s constant and ongoing. The one thing people forget, though, is that the best time to reach out and expand your circles is when you don’t actually need to. So, if I were you now, I’d tread water carefully because you don’t want to come off as someone on the prowl, simply out for personal gain. And even if it did get you helpful information now, it likely won’t be useful in the longer run.
That’s because the best networkers are those who aren’t only out to build their own networks and find their own jobs, but they’re also out to help others get connected and find information as well. And in the end, they probably spend a lot more time helping others than they do themselves.