The Ultimate Guide for Starting Your Career at a Hedge Fund: Your First Six Months

July 25, 2017

In any industry, the most challenging part of building your career is always the first step and the first decisions made once you start your career. To help, Citadel is launching its first Ultimate Career Guide to provide career advice and checklists to help you prepare for this transition no matter where you are in your career. Through this Guide, we’re offering you an inside look at the advice our associates and recruiters give to candidates and peers.  While this Guide is intended primarily for investment and trading professionals, we believe much of the advice and perspectives provided are of value for professionals in other disciplines, such as software engineers and quantitative researchers. Each week this month we’ll publish a new chapter to this Guide. In this chapter, we dive into accomplishments and milestones you should strive to achieve during your first six months at a firm to push yourself further in the career development process.

Learn the firm’s infrastructure

Throughout your first six months, one of your objectives should be to audit the firm’s resources and discover what is available for you. At Citadel, we take pride in our tools, libraries, and training programs that we share with our employees. However, all the resources a top firm offers are useless unless you find a way to use them to achieve your goals. Schedule time on a monthly basis to review whether you’re taking full advantage of the resources at your disposal.

The Citadel approach: Because we understand that professional development is not an overnight process, each year we facilitate a number of in-person training days and more informal forums for associates. With small breakout sessions and fireside chats, these programs are designed to help foster a culture of continuous learning. In addition, associates also have access to a digital library with hundreds of best practice documents from prior training days.

Network with team members and constantly solicit feedback on how to excel

Along with your manager, you should actively set up meetings with other team members during your first six months at a firm. Set a goal of meeting a certain number of team members across functions such as risk management, quantitative research, and technology. Carve out time to network with these team members. As you make investment decisions, you’ll need trusted colleagues who can critique your arguments and point out potential flaws in your hypotheses and logic. Without building a strong coalition of people in the firm to bounce ideas off of, your investment decisions will be less robust – that is, potentially blind to important investment perspectives and/or risk considerations.

Remember that you, as an individual, should work with your firm and manager to map out a customized set of milestones for career advancement. Keep in mind you are probably not the first person to develop these goals. You should consult with your predecessors or others who were in similar positions to learn any best practices. This will be a fast way to climb the learning curve. Develop goals for both performance and skills to master. Write down your goals so you can track them. Meeting with other individuals will help fine tune the goals you plan to tackle in an efficient manner.

Ask lots of questions

It’s important to always stay curious and ask probing questions to fine tune your understanding of the dynamics that drive the performance for companies and, more broadly, industries you cover.  In addition, you should be consistently asking questions about the infrastructure you can tap into and how best to use that infrastructure. By picking the brains of your colleagues with smart questions, you’ll bolster your own knowledge of the industry while simultaneously challenging them to think equally critically.

Throughout your career, don’t just ask questions of others but also ask them of yourself. Take the time for honest self-reflection to ask yourself what thinking led to a successful idea for your team, or in other cases, led to an unsuccessful hypothesis. In addition, play devil’s advocate to yourself as you try to understand the driving trends in an industry. Poke and prod to ensure you’ve tested your own assumptions.

Here’s a summary of our tips for your first six months at a hedge fund.

Starting Your Career at a Hedge Fund

We previously provided advice for your first week at a hedge fund. Next week we’ll review what you should focus on for the remainder of your first year at a firm.