How do I know if I'm made for this career? Are you passionate about finance or are you doing it for $?

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cfaretaker's picture

In high school, I was a big computer geek. I enjoyed it and I feel that I’m a “natural” at picking technical skills up quick. 

I came from a poor family and was the first to go to college so I was very far removed from knowing anything about investments, stocks, markets, or anything related to that. 

I went to college and graduated with a technical degree. I started working as a business analyst for a F500 company. As we are (or were) all enamored with the finance industry, I started the process to start making the move from the first job. I got lucky and joined a hedge fund as a macro analyst. I looked at macro data and tried to come up with investing ideas. The problem was that, there’s just so much information to digest each day and be up to date on everything possible for when people ask you questions, and I had trouble picking things up. It didn’t come “natural” to me. Computer/IT skills I can pick up much quicker than others, but not this. 

I enjoy the markets but I’m not sure if I’m passionate about it. This experience at the hedge fund left a sour taste in my mouth but I also don’t want to be a permanent IT guy as a career. I want to use this hedge fund work experience but I’m questioning if I’m made for this career path. 

Are you passionate about the markets or are you just following the herd? 

Interested in hearing from market related professionals because I think it’s a different level of committment/passion compared to corporate finance, accounting, ER, and less stressful desk jobs like that. 

numi's picture

Before going to business school, I actually thought I would come out of my MBA doing something totally unrelated to finance. I’d worked in long only, sell-side research, and private equity/LBO’s before business school. But it was only after I recruited for a bunch of stuff and realize that I never felt totally “passionate” about something that I decided to go the hedge fund route, and have been happy with my decision ever since. For me, a big part of figuring out what I was passionate about was looking into a bunch of other stuff and realizing I *wasn’t* passionate about all the rest.

Now, different people have different thresholds for what’s considered “passionate.” For me, there’s usually only one way for me to go, and that’s “all out.” I’m an extremely competitive person (more within myself than with anyone else, really) and if I can’t give something my all, I’d rather not bother. Now, I know you can’t always “love” what you do, but in my case I find myself living and breathing what I do. Some examples might be that in my downtime, I sometimes will browse investing news and create my own stock write-ups. I’ll also print stuff out and read it on the train. I find myself constantly curious about how the world works, how businesses make money, and how the consensus view may be misperceiving an investment opportunity. Basically, I come to work every day feeling like I’m getting paid to do what I like.

Now, there’s a reason why it’s called work – of course I have to do some things that might not always tickle my fancy, and sometimes I get pushback on things that I’d give myself the bright green light were I managing my own portfolio. But I look at this as a growing experience because at least the pushback is reasonable and I’m constantly learning new things. So yeah, basically the difference is that instead of sitting in my bedroom doing stock research, I find myself at a place where I’m with a bunch of like-minded people doing the same thing and I’m energized to come to work every day in hopes of finding “hidden gems” in the market.

Your moves may vary, but this is how I “know” (at least for the time being).

pdub's picture

i have asked myself this question recently, too.

what made me begin to question it was when i happened to have two mid week vacation days planned to take care of some stuff and just relax. at about 10pm the night before i had to go back to work i was setting my alarm and realized i had no idea how the markets had done since i left work 2 days ago.

i struggle with whether thats natural, because we all need to just get away sometimes, or if that was a reality check that im not really that passionate about it, i just work in it.

i truly feel like theres 3 different levels:
just a job
preferred line of work
passion

i think i may fall in the preferred line of work category. im interested enough that i want to work in this day in and day out. i enjoy pouring my time and energy into it for a paycheck, but im not doing it because i want to be/expect to be rich. when i get home though, i check out. this may have to do with my only investments being in a 401k through mutual funds, so im not using my own time to find “gems” because i couldn’t buy them right now anyway. who knows.

NANA Hachiko's picture

^I agree and i always tell people that, if you are VERY lucky, like winning a lottery kind of lucky, your job happens to be your passion.

Then for the rest of us, you either do something that is fun and what you enjoy doing but make little money, or do something you are good at and can make you some or a lot of money but not necessarily anything you are passionate about.

The truth is, a job is just a job. Even the most amazing career gets mundane after a while. Most of us can only be passionate about something for so long. And if you happen to be in a career that you love, and i think you should go as far as you can, but knowing that you may need a plan B one day when it’s no longer the case. I think there are people who enjoy the thrill in finance, but there are more people passionate about money!

I am lucky i am not THAT passionate about money, and i wouldn’t kill myself to get rich. I am in the happy middle, i like my job, not my passion, but i look forward to doing a great job and i leave work with a smile. i find passion elsewhere… life should accomodate more than just a career.


NANA

cparks87's picture

Have you considered something along the SAP or Oracle FICO route?  You get to combine both worlds, IT and finance/accounting.

blackomen's picture

Well, I don’t even have any hobbies that I’m so passionate about that I can commit to 60+ hours a week indefinitely..  but when monetary rewards come into play, it’s a whole different ballgame.

Never underestimate the power of having a thick skin.

PistolPt's picture

I’m doing this for the benjamins….

hpracing007's picture

“I’m in the check cashing business” - Floyd Mayweather

This ain't no tall order, this is nothing to me. Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week

Greenman72's picture

You needn’t worry about your reward.  If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive. 

You guys are quite the mercenaries.  I wonder if you care about anything.  Or anybody. 

Don't mistake lack of talent for genius. --Peter Steele

NANA Hachiko's picture

blackomen wrote:

Well, I don’t even have any hobbies that I’m so passionate about that I can commit to 60+ hours a week indefinitely..  but when monetary rewards come into play, it’s a whole different ballgame.

That is what i fear for myself.

i always tell my friends, do not give up on (looking for) your passions!!! it can be painting, music, gardening, photography, anything!!!

Because those are the things that will keep you happy for the rest of your life, things you look forward to doing in the morning and want to wake up for! Not a big bank account!

NANA

hpracing007's picture

What sorts of hobbies do finance people have? From the small sample of people I know, they all seem passionate about golf, which doesn’t appeal to me personally.

This ain't no tall order, this is nothing to me. Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week

NANA Hachiko's picture

hpracing007 wrote:

What sorts of hobbies do finance people have? From the small sample of people I know, they all seem passionate about golf, which doesn’t appeal to me personally.

I don’t like to categorize myself by what i do as a profession, i’d like to think i can have similar interests with a photographer, a model, a doctor, a teacher, or a housewife!

perhaps i always have interests growing up, say piano for example, and i still play piano regardless what i end up doing in my career.

so if you don’t like to golf, play tennis! do yoga! run a marathon!

Dare to be different! ^_^

itera's picture

Greenman72 wrote:

You needn’t worry about your reward.  If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive. 

You guys are quite the mercenaries.  I wonder if you care about anything.  Or anybody. 

What happens if Han wanted Leia as the reward :P

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

andytrader's picture

If you are just starting, unless you are in top 1% of grads from top university you have a better chance becoming wealthy outside of finance than inside of finance.  Start a company and create value.

Palantir's picture

I think you answered your own question. Stick with computers that’s where your interest is. You should join a field bc you enjoy the actual day to day work, not because of the glamour associated with it. You do not become a developer bc you wAnt to be Larry page but bc you like the actual work of writing code.


just IMO….

Cities teem with evil and decay, let’s give it a good shake and see what falls out!!

brain_wash_your_face's picture

Create value, talk about a ubiquitous meaningless catch phrase.  Like Numi, I believe that if you really care about something, whether or not you are passionate about it, then you will strive towards excellence in that endeavor.  If you achieve excellence then rewards, both psychological and monetary, will follow.  First focus on something at which you can realistically strive to be excellent.

“Some people make shoes. Some people make houses. We make money and people are willing pay us a lot to make money for them.”

iscrisisgood's picture

recently i join an oil and gas company doing valuation and corporate finance job. It’s very specialized line of work where I have both love and hate issues with this job. I love it because it deals with investment/finance/accounting function of work, but I hate it because in order to come up with something useful and realistic you need to get real good inputs from petroleum engineers/geologists to tell you in details, and currently I don’t have that support from the team and in the long term, no matter how many years down the road, I a finance professional will still never be a petroleum engineer to understand all the technical side of the field. So I will never be my own boss and be independent. Furthermore this is an extremely competitive industry and depend much on the nature/resources.

I have just started this job only for 3 months and dont feel like I want to build a career in this industry in the long term, but my boss is super great (best-est ever boss that I have met so far) - super smart, experienced, supportive, caring, funny, etc. I’m sure I will learn great deal from him about biz and investment side, but along the way I also have to handle day-to-day frustration of facing the small detail issues of the current assets, which I have little control in. Salary is not great at all, less than what I can make elsewhere or even in previous job. Should I stay put or should I jump? Does jumping after 4-5 months working in the company is a very bad sign in my CV / or in the view point of interviewer? :(

numi's picture

Staying that short does look bad, and especially if you have a boss that you feel like you really respect and get along with, you ought to stick it out for a year. Many times, having a pleasant manager can help you overcome some compensation issues. That being said, you ought to let him know before mid-year reviews any concerns you have about compensation and see what they can do about it. I also agree that if you’re interested in investing, staying in this position too long won’t help you because as you noted, it’s not a first-line role – the engineers will always be at the forefront.

iscrisisgood's picture

thanks much Numi for sharing your thoughts. I have had carried this burden of doubts that whether I am wasting my time doing something that I don’t really aspire to work on in the long term, and that many knowledge I’m going to acquire in this job is going to go obsolete as soon as I quit this job, but I guess as long as 20-30% of the knowledge and skills I gain is valuable and important for long term career later, it’s good enough. I keep myself contented for the next 1 year then.

sometimes hearing another voice to empathize on one’s situation really helps. Numi you saved my soul.

Lachupacorpus's picture

Honestly, I dont think finance will give anyones life meaning. Its work that one should do for living and not let it define ones Identity. As far as liking it to the extent of passion is concerned yes it can be interesting specially the planning parts. 

blackomen's picture

NANA Hachiko wrote:

blackomen wrote:

Well, I don’t even have any hobbies that I’m so passionate about that I can commit to 60+ hours a week indefinitely..  but when monetary rewards come into play, it’s a whole different ballgame.

That is what i fear for myself.

i always tell my friends, do not give up on (looking for) your passions!!! it can be painting, music, gardening, photography, anything!!!

Because those are the things that will keep you happy for the rest of your life, things you look forward to doing in the morning and want to wake up for! Not a big bank account!

NANA

My “dream” job would have no deadlines, no work schedules, no politics, and no hierarchy.  No matter what profession I choose to put food on the table, I’ll have to deal with the aforementioned undesirable aspects.

 Unfortunately, no such job exists whether in Finance or other fields.

But when money comes into play, I’ll easily put up with them, especially if it’s a profession I’m pretty passionate about (i.e. Finance.)

Never underestimate the power of having a thick skin.

NANA Hachiko's picture

blackomen wrote:

NANA Hachiko wrote:

blackomen wrote:

Well, I don’t even have any hobbies that I’m so passionate about that I can commit to 60+ hours a week indefinitely..  but when monetary rewards come into play, it’s a whole different ballgame.

That is what i fear for myself.

i always tell my friends, do not give up on (looking for) your passions!!! it can be painting, music, gardening, photography, anything!!!

Because those are the things that will keep you happy for the rest of your life, things you look forward to doing in the morning and want to wake up for! Not a big bank account!

NANA

My “dream” job would have no deadlines, no work schedules, no politics, and no hierarchy.  No matter what profession I choose to put food on the table, I’ll have to deal with the aforementioned undesirable aspects.

 Unfortunately, no such job exists whether in Finance or other fields.

But when money comes into play, I’ll easily put up with them, especially if it’s a profession I’m pretty passionate about (i.e. Finance.)


If you are passionate about finance and do not dread working long hours and the stress, then you are 1000 miles ahead of everyone.

I certainly can’t say that for myself.

But i do think that work is work, it provides me with some satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment on top of money. So i am not saying it’s all bad, though i have to say, i do not work extra long hours and do not get paid THAT well, i am definitely balancing the two.

I think my dream job is to do something meaningful, to me or to other people, something that i can proudly tell people i’ve done to make people’s lives better. Even if it’s hard work or long hours i still would be happy to do it, given it is something i can physically do and not harmful to me in any way.


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