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Hedge Fund Career Mistakes

I have worked in the hedge fund industry for years and I have provided career coaching to hundreds of professionals.  In the following video, I provide you with the top five hedge fund career mistakes that you should avoid.

Video Transcript/SummaryThe strategies and tips provided within this video module include:

  1. Don’t be annoying.
  2. Don’t be overconfident.
  3. No long resumes or emails.
  4. Generic is boring.
  5. Passion is not enough.
Transcript of Hedge Fund Career Mistakes:

Hello, this is Richard Wilson. Top 5 big mistakes that career professionals make while trying to work in the hedge fund or private equity industries. So to start with, let’s move to the PowerPoint here. All right. So the top 5 mistakes from a high-level are basically don’t be annoying, don’t be overconfident, no long resumes or e-mails, generic is boring and passion is not enough. So we’re going to go quickly into each of these areas and then kind of summarize it at the end.

So first not being an annoyance. Many professionals that want to work in the industry are very persistent because it is very competitive to get a position especially when you’re trying to get your foot in the door in the first few years of your career. And what happens is you exponentially become more annoying to the more valuable contact you’re trying to get in touch with because the more valuable they are to work for, probably the more busy they are and the faster time goes by for them, and the more e-mails and the voicemails they get, and if you send them three e-mails in the same day asking if they got their previous two e-mails, they’re just going to delay all of your communications and not want to work with you because you obviously don’t respect their time or you just don’t live in the same reality of things being very busy and you have to be patient for them to get back to you.

We would suggest following up with somebody every 12 days, anywhere between 10 and 15 days would be fine. Just don’t make 2 or 3 phone calls in the same week or send three e-mails in the same week, that’s not going to help you but there are other things you can do to improve your chances of being hired. So the first mistake, don’t be annoying.

The second mistake, don’t be overconfident. Somebody e-mailed us last week saying that they were a brilliant salesmen, that they were a genius, that they were like a God in their industry of sales and they wanted to work in hedge fund sales. And what happens is, is it comes off as something that can hurt your chances in two ways if you’re overconfident. One, it shows that you’re maybe trying to overcome compensate for not having something, for maybe not having any relevant experience or not having some basic skills. But more importantly most people in the industry who are successful know that as soon you learn something, you find three more things you know nothing about.

For example, my background in capital raising and marketing for investment funds, I raise millions of dollars and I’ve learned a lot of things but only in the past year and a half have I realized that the writing of persuasive e-mails and writing of sales letters and writing the marketing materials and the actual words you use can be very powerful and there’s a whole niche industry around sales copywriting and being an expert at writing effectively that I didn’t even know existed 45 years ago. And just an example of once you learned something, there’s always 4 more doors to open. So saying that you’re an absolute genius or that you’re brilliant just comes off as you’re not having learned enough to know that you don’t know a lot yet because the more that you know then the more you don’t know.

So hopefully it’s not too confusing there. So the third thing is remember the mistake you should try not to make, is not to have too long of a resume or too long of an e-mail. Your resume should be one-page long at the very longest, never more than one page. You should have all of your bullet points and action items for each job that you’ve held very clearly written so that you don’t waste the time of the person reading your resume. Take off all the extracurricular activities that aren’t relevant. Take off the 8 eight bullets points in each job position. Take off the jobs that aren’t related to the job you’re trying to get and just make it very clear and very straight forward, who you are, what you do, what you can’t do and why you’re valuable to that firm.

The same with your e-mails, don’t write 6-paragraph essays because nobody will want to read them. And again, the more busy and valuable that contact is, the less they’re going to want to read a very long e-mail, so you’re naturally going to attract the employers that you’re probably least likely to want to work with. So you want to keep your e-mails very short, have one sentence on who you are, one sentence on why you’re e-mailing them, one sentence on how you could help and then a sentence or two on an example of how you’ve helped in the past in a similar situation and usually keep every e-mail very short but end with what you want them to do, like you want to meet for coffee, you want to meet at their office, you want a phone interview, have an action item at the end of the e-mail and don’t ask 20 or 30 questions. Just have one action item.

The next mistake that people make is being too generic. They show passion but there’s nothing unique about them. A good example that I heard a recent sales trainer use was if you go into a grocery store and you’ve just got a pounding headache or a migraine, you’re not going to go to the shelf and look for or pick out a big blue bottle on the top shelf that just says medicine, you don’t want medicine, you want the little box that says “fast-acting migraine relief” or “fast-acting headache medicine.” You want something really unique that solves a unique problem that provides you an exact value or something tangible, something specific. Lots of people I think don’t get hired because they look generic,. They look like the blue bottle of medicine and nobody needs that and nobody wants to pay for that.

So you have to position yourself even if you’re working for a fund that values diversity of experience or skills, that’s fine but then you have to brand yourself as having three unique skills and three unique medicines and things you bring to the table and not something that’s just generic. The last thing to watch out for is focusing too much on the fact that you’re passionate to get into the industry. Our firm alone gets over a hundred internship applications a month over a thousand a year and probably 500 out of 1,000 are very passionate about working in the industry and that’s just is so common that they’re passionate about it. It’s not that it doesn’t mean anything, it does mean a lot but that’s not enough.

If you focus too much on just the fact that you’re passionate about it and you’ll do anything to get the job, you won’t get the job. You need to have other things going for you. You need to focus on getting the employers attention whether that’s knowing somebody in common, being in a networking event and meeting them in person, having some connection with them or something that will catch their eye, catch their attention. You need to have a brand, the combination of your experience, your internships, your research. It has to combine in something unique, something that’s not too generic, blue bottle of medicine.

The next, you have to have something tangible, approve an example, something you’ve done in the past for a past client, for a past employer, something that you’ve done research on and you’ve created that could be a tool to this organization and help them make more money. And then the last thing is you have to have some sort of risk reversal offer in place. So you have to have something that’s going to take the risk off of the table for them, whether that’s working for 4 weeks without pay or working without pay till they realize you’re so value, they want to pay you to make sure you don’t leave. Those can all be tactics that you can use within your career.

Within my career, I’ve actually used a lot of these tactics, for example one time we’ll get in a third-party marketing job, I wanted to work for a certain firm so I reference a couple of people I’ve met in person that he knows that are friends of his in the industry and they had recommended I meet with him, so I referenced that. I got the first meeting, I sent in e-mails following up saying specifically how I think I could help on his team after I learn more about what he does. After that, I knew that hedge funds and investment funds in general create pitch books to market themselves and those pitch books have very exact sections to them. You know 15 or 20 things have to be in that pitch book.

So what I did was I created a pitch book for myself and I pretended like I was a hedge fund and put together this pitch book, so every page normally would tell you something about the pedigree of the team. I talked about the pedigree of myself where it talks about the education of the team or their investment process. I talked about what I had invested in myself, where we talked about performance. I talked about my performance and past jobs. So I did a couple of things that, first of all, it helped me get the job and it also showed that I was familiar with what a pitch book was, how it was structured, why it’s used. It just showed a lot of industry knowledge and I showed commitment. I had obviously spent 10 to 15 hours preparing that.

I think that went a long way in helping me to get the position. The last thing I did there was work for free for 4 weeks. And after 4 weeks they saw that I was worth keeping on and they hired me and I got the position. And this was a firm that was not advertising an open position. They were not hiring “anybody.” But I got it, and I think anybody can kind of follow this formula and this process but there are things that can hold you up. So once again, top 5 things to watch for that can hold you up: Don’t be annoying, don’t be overconfident, don’t write long e-mails, don’t have a long resume, don’t be generic, don’t be the blue bottle of medicine and passion is not enough. Don’t just be passionate when you communicate with potential employers.

Get their attention, have a brand around yourself, provide tangible proof and examples of your work and then remove the risk from hiring you. And I think if you can avoid those 5 career mistakes then you’ll be ahead of at least 75% or 80% of the people you’re competing with for positions. So that’s all for today. We’ll be coming out with many more videos very soon.

These five mistakes are some that I see made all the time by professionals trying to start their hedge fund career or simply climb the ladder at a hedge fund.  It is important that you avoid these hedge fund career mistakes in your hedge fund career.    

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