Two Weeks Notice

During my first two years at college, I was ahead of the game. I obtained junior standing by sophomore year. I applied for internships and entry-level finance jobs and got my fair share of interviews. I applied to be an assistant resident advisor and made it to the final round of interviews. I didn’t land anything, but I was given a fair chance, and I knew something else would come up. By the time junior year began, the market tanked. The financial industry and job market were in pieces. I was just finishing up my finance major, so I was applied for advanced positions in addition to the jobs I was already applying for.  But something changed. The same resume and experience that earned me interest before was no longer useful. I no longer could get a response, not to mention an interview.

 

Here are some rough estimates for the last 5 years:

Serious applications to entry-level finance jobs and internships I am qualified for: 800

Since I graduated college with a B.S. in finance: 700

Unpaid positions: 90

Applications to places like Barnes & Noble, JC Penney, Walgreens, Best Buy, coffee shops, medical supply couriers, and anything else under the “Etc.” category: 220

Jobs applied for this year: 200

This summer: 120

Temporary agencies and recruiters I have been in contact with / worked for: 7

 

Here are the results from the 1000+ total job applications:

No response: 860

System-generated “We’re not interested”: 110

Real person “We’re not interested”: 20

Face-to-face interviews: 3

Phone interviews: 2

 

Jobs: A graduate assistant position and a three-month unpaid internship

 

Yes, I have tried networking, and people have put in a good word for me for an open position. This at least gets me a phone call or an email, but it ends up with “You seem smart, but we’re looking for someone with more experience” every time.

I thought once I got graduated college, things would change, but they didn’t. I thought once I got a graduate degree, things would change, but they haven’t.

If I were at least getting interviews and responses like I used to get, I wouldn’t mind the “just keep trying” mentality, but let’s face it: I’m not even close. 0.5% of the time, I get an interview. So far, I have had two very good experiences, but only one single interview from a real entry-level position. That is 0.1%

I have not restricted myself to a specific location or hours. On the contrary, I have applied for overnight and weekend positions, positions in North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Europe, Australia (besides almost every city in Illinois, Florida, and California) and many more.

For those of you who are facing a much better job market, or who grew up when things were much easier, please stop saying I am looking for that “perfect job,” because I’m not. Yes, I have been very confused, but this kind of success rate will make a person question things, will it not? Yes, I have been lucky enough to get to travel and do some fun things. When you’re constantly stressed and depressed and tired of failure, it is okay to take a break and actually try to enjoy yourself, is it not? For those of you who think I’m enjoying “funemployment,” that lasted about one week. It’s not fun. I am not happy having this much spare time. Most of my time is spent trying to make myself more marketable or applying for jobs or stressing about life and trying to find some sort of peace in this crappy situation. I get more worried every day that goes by that I don’t have experience, that I haven’t even started the career path yet. I’m going to be 140 years old by the time I have enough “experience” if things continue like this.

To those of you facing a similar situation, I empathize with you. This really sucks. To those of you who think you have it bad but really don’t, you’re lucky. I envy you.

Almost 5 years of this, and I have been in and out of school and states and countries to delay the inevitable reality of trying to pierce this veil, but there is no more hiding. I am as ready and eager and willing as I can possibly be, yet absolutely nothing has changed.

I just passed Level I of the CFA. Congrats, Curtis! The pass rate was 38%, and I truly didn’t think I did my best, but I am happy to have been successful in something that I worked so hard for. Registration and books for Level I amounted to $1,300. I just paid $1,100 for Level II, which is offered next June. If I am lucky enough to pass that, there is a Level III the next year. If not, I wait another whole year to take the June Level II exam.

I started an LLC to manage investments, but in order to make even a little money in this industry, you have to manage millions of dollars. I have to obtain licenses and pay lawyer fees and register in multiple states and fill out hundreds of pages of paperwork. It is almost impossible for a small fund to make money in this industry since 2008, and I don’t expect to make my costs back anytime soon.

My point is this: the finance job market tanked in 2008, right when I was looking for jobs. I didn’t gain experience in this time because there wasn’t any to be had. Now it is impossible to find even a finance internship, and when I do finally get to talk to a real person, they tell me I don’t have enough experience.

At what point am I supposed to call it quits? I’ve been “hanging in there” for years to no avail. I am wasting valuable time for something that isn’t there. I have to face the reality. Should I say goodbye to finance? Should I continue paying thousands of dollars and spending months intensely studying for a well-known designation that is not gaining me any attention? I don’t even know what to say about the Panera interview I can’t even get.

I am close to giving up. Many of my problems and much of my spontaneity and transience have resulted from this job situation. I am tired of it – anyone would be. I do not feel like a real person when I’m continually treated like nothing.

I will give finance just a little bit more time; I think two weeks will be a good gauge as to where I stand. If nothing has changed by the end of those two weeks, I am re-evaluating my life and placing finance much lower on the priority list.

I don’t have many strengths that easily translate to careers, but I do have many strengths. I can’t change myself overnight, if that is necessary. I would like to work with what I have, yet that is just not working. I wish there was something I could just go do right now, and I would do it.

Yep, I’m complaining, and I have a right to. I am weird and crazy and different and shy, and I have brought some of this upon myself. I deserve more, though. The next two weeks could determine the rest of my life.

Just a rant.

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Why I Passionately Love My Major

Rant number 1: Getting past security. Security being the forces between me and a job.

I’ve been struggling to find finance jobs. The only ones available are mislabeled accounting jobs and finance sales, which has been the case for years. There are a few other openings, but it seems only an exclusive list of guests are allowed even in the waiting area. A couple days ago, I received this email after I sent in a resume and made a brief phone call asking about the position:

 

 

“Thank you for your continued interest in the Investment Banking Analyst Intern position with XX Partners. At this time we will be moving forward with other candidates for this position.

We do believe, however, you are on the right track, but that you could benefit from more financial modeling experience. We would like to formally invite you to attend a free 4-hour online investment banking training session hosted by XX Edge.”

 

 

This did not settle well, and you’ll see why in the following response from a very ticked off Curtis:

 

 

“Sophomores, juniors, and recent graduates are considered for this position. I received a B.S. in finance in 2010, and I just received my M.S. in financial analysis. I don’t appreciate being told I need more financial modeling experience when 1) I have more schooling in finance than most people you are considering, and 2) you did not care at all to ask what modeling experience I have.

In no way, shape, or form was there any semblance of an inquiry into my financial modeling experience, and not once was it mentioned in the application process or the phone call I made.

Thank God the session you mention is free, though, and thank God it asks users to sign up for a paid service before the initial session begins! Thank you for the offer, but please do not insult my intelligence by using such an excuse to get me to consider spending even more on a major / career path that has proven to be a moneymaking machine for the involved beneficiaries (graduate school, the CFA program, licenses, finance journals, and training courses).

Bright young finance job hopefuls would rather be told the truth; we’re lied to enough in this profession. Please either put in the effort to look into something you require out of applicants, or do not tell them they are lacking in it as an excuse for your laziness and greed.

Thank you, and have a nice day.”

 

 

This might seem a little mean and unnecessary on my part, but if you knew the nature of my frustrating years of job searching – add to it the fact that this kind of impersonal drivel is the only thing I can seem to elicit from people in charge of hiring – you would understand.

And this is an unpaid position.

 

 

Rant number 2: Selling myself.

I did not sign up to be a salesman. I signed up to be me, Curtis, and the task of marketing myself is wearing on me.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, online resumes, and the like are ways for us to express ourselves to the world in a creative way. We can show who we are instead of being just a name. The problem is, we know potential employers are using social media more than ever to screen applicants. With the potential for these secret third-party views, we can’t simply be “ourselves.” At least for my generation, we must leave out certain details or glorify others. This has become a game of exaggeration and borderline lying. Character is who we are when others aren’t around. Character is what matters, not who we are when we know others are watching. I hate lying or exaggerating or leaving out parts of myself just to compete with others who are doing the same in hopes of being recognized.

Regardless of how effective resumes and job fairs and related social media can be, my hatred for the system might be a reason I haven’t found a job yet.

I don’t exaggerate about my abilities. I don’t have much job experience, and I don’t meet certain minimum requirements. This is not a lack of confidence on my part – I have been told these things on numerous occasions, plus I tend to be honest in describing myself to others.

Here is an email resume critique I just received:

 

 

“Dear Curtis,

I’m the ABC resume expert who was assigned to evaluate your resume. I reviewed your resume with the goal of giving you an honest, straightforward assessment of your current resume, and not a judgment of your skills and qualifications.

Having worked with many candidates at your career stage, I have some insight into what you are probably looking for in your next job. Most of my recent graduate clients have course work, internships, and real work experience that if positioned correctly, make them ideal candidates to skip over entry-level job openings. By targeting jobs which give opportunities to gain hands-on experience right away, you can fast track your career instead of starting at the bottom.

Ironically, most job seekers at your stage in their career write resumes that are targeted toward a job that is below their level of education and experience. Their resumes are full of the tasks they performed and responsibilities they had, but these do not tell the recruiter or hiring manager the impact that their recent degree can have for a company. They don’t highlight their areas of expertise and as a result they do not distinguish themselves from the hundreds of other applicants seeking the same job.

So, let’s get started with a review of your resume:

Here’s the good news: My first impression of you is that you have an impressive array of skills and experiences. You’re an up-and-coming Financial Analyst with a lot to offer an employer. Now, here’s the bad news: Your resume does not pass the 30-second test, and the content is not up to the standards expected from a candidate like you. Countless studies have proven that resume quality is the key determinant for interview selection of qualified candidates. Your resume needs a boost from a visual, content, and overall writing standpoint to engage the reader. It needs to make them want to meet you.

Curtis, your resume is missing key elements that we see on the best resumes at your level of experience. Here are the major issues I see on your resume:

YOUR RESUME’S VISUAL PRESENTATION

We’ve all been told that looks don’t matter as much as substance, but in the case of your resume this just isn’t true. I found your design to be visually uneven and crowded. The appearance is not polished, and it doesn’t say “up and coming Financial Analyst.” The ideal resume design is clean, and uncluttered, with effective and strategic use of white space. Remember your resume is your marketing tool and is the first impression a potential employer has of you. Now – think about how generic brands are marketed versus the name brand. Packaging, advertising and branding are all carefully selected to attract attention and convince you to buy. Your resume should do the same thing- you want to be the brand name product. I’m concerned that your resume is not selling your brand and does not stand out against other candidates.

THE CONTENT OF YOUR RESUME

While reading your resume, I imagined myself as a hiring executive, looking for that ideal Financial Analyst. I asked myself if I could easily pick out your key attributes, experience, skills and accomplishments. A recruiter will do this to quickly decide if you’ll be successful in the job role. Critical elements in your resume may be holding you back and I have listed a few observations here:

For someone in the early stages of their career, an objective statement at the top of your resume makes good sense. An objective statement tells a prospective employer what position you are seeking, and should also reflect what you can bring to the company. An objective statement should be concise and clear, but not limit your opportunities.

From the way the resume is worded, you come across as a “doer,” not an “achiever.” Too many of your job descriptions are task-based and not results-based. This means that they tell what you did, instead of what you achieved. This is a common mistake for non-professional resume writers. To be effective and create excitement, a great resume helps the hiring executive “envision” or “picture” you delivering similar achievements at his or her company. Here are some examples of task-based sentences in your resume:

  • Worked with company finances to develop a working model for the future
  • Performed research to find early adopters and potential investors

Employers want to know about your previous contributions and specifically how you’ve made a difference. More importantly, they want to know how you are going to make a significant difference at their company.

When I read your resume, I didn’t find compelling language that brings your work to life. I saw many passive words and non-action verbs. Phrases like “performed” and “worked with” are overused, monotonous, and add no value to your resume. Strong action verbs, used with compelling language to outline exemplary achievements, are essential parts of a well-constructed resume.

Now, let’s put it all together. Here’s a real life example taken from a former client’s resume. By changing the language, we helped improve the perception of the candidate.

  • Passive language/ Doing: Negotiated contracts with vendors
  • Action language/ Achieving: Slashed payroll/benefits administration costs 30% by negotiating pricing and fees, while ensuring the continuation and enhancements of services.

A change like this makes a dramatic improvement.

THE WRITING ON YOUR RESUME

It’s easy to overlook errors in your resume. They could be typographical errors, inconsistent verb tenses, grammatical errors, punctuation problems, or misspelled words. You’ve rewritten the resume and proofed it multiple times so you may not notice the issue. But errors can be the kiss of death for your resume. Recruiters are reading your resume with fresh eyes, and they’re experts at finding errors. A misspelled word or punctuation error may not seem like a big deal, but to an employer these errors demonstrate unprofessionalism and a lack of attention to detail. That’s not the impression you want to leave.

MY RECOMMENDATION

Your unique skills and experience are good. But your resume, as it’s currently written, is not likely to get you the attention you deserve. I understand it can be uncomfortable to hear, but if you want to get hired or further your career in today’s super competitive job market, you must nail that first impression. And your resume is the ticket you need to do it.

That’s why I recommend that you have your resume professionally rewritten.

Research, as well as feedback from thousands of our satisfied customers who’ve had their resume rewritten by one of our Certified Resume Writers, told us this: A professionally written resume results in two to three times more interviews. What’s more, job seekers who have their resumes rewritten by ABC feel dramatically more confident in interviews. It’s as if they have an extra skip in their step and they can’t wait to show it and upload it!

Why not have a friend or colleague help write your resume?

Many employers now use automated tracking systems to evaluate and screen their incoming resumes. To be “processed” properly by one of these systems, a resume must be built with the right structure, keywords, and format. This is known as keyword optimization, and most non-professionals are not well-versed in this technique.

However, our industry-best resume writers are continuously updated on the newest trends, keywords and phrases. They work directly with hiring managers, recruiters and HR personnel, so they know precisely what kind of resumes and cover letters get their attention. And ABC resume writers don’t use templates! Your resume is written to capture your distinctive skills, personality and industry.

Special Offer on a New Resume
If you purchase our resume service, you’ll pay only $349.00 with the option to spread out your payments in five (5) easy installments of just $75.00. Order today!”

 

 

Wow, five easy installments, you say? Good thing it shares that feature with ridiculous infomercial products. And it’s not like I have to spend an insane amount of money on other finance-related things.

I don’t think much commentary is necessary. I am not going to respond like I did with the other email, but this is ridiculous. I can’t stand this aspect of the business world or the job hunt. I don’t want to exaggerate or add action verbs for the sake of glorifying a piece of paper. Maybe I will change my resume a bit, but I will do it with the feeling that I’m selling my soul to the devil.

Sometimes I contemplate why I’m doing something 75% of which I despise, but maybe I’m just tired.

 

One of these days, this nonsense won’t be an issue. One of these days.

Chicago Luck

I have great luck in Chicago. Tonight, I came downstairs from my friend’s place, at the corner of a busy intersection and right in front of apartment and business doors, to see a single wheel attached to the sidewalk bike rack with a U-lock. Yes, that was where my bike was parked. I purchased that single-speed bike new two months ago and absolutely love it. I have been using it like crazy while being unemployed / being a student. Thank you, idiot, for stealing my bike. Stupid moron.

I have to admit, the people here are really good at what they do. To be able to pull that off in front of endless people walking by, other bikers, cars stopping and going, etc. is pretty impressive. Also, are there any whistleblowers out there?? Someone had to see at least part of this happen, or the aftermath: someone carrying a bike frame with a wheel missing. Chicago is notorious for its bike thieves, and this is one of the few times I parked mine outside for more than a couple hours. Of course, I pay for it.Yes, mine could have been locked more securely, but come on, what are the chances?

This is not my first brush with bad luck Chicago things happening to me in a short period of time. Not too long ago, I drove to see my friend, the same one as today, at his old apartment. I arrived at dinner time and parallel parked right in front of a busy four-way stop and some nice restaurants and bars, with big windows. With people sitting there, looking out at the cars. I made the mistake of leaving my GPS on the windshield. I realized it while we were playing a game upstairs, and if I looked out the huge window, I could easily see my car parked right in front of his place a floor below. “Curtis, you know this city is notorious for GPS thieves, right?” “Ehh I know, I should have put it away, but what are the chances? I will go down a little later and put it in the glove compartment. Or with my luck, it will probably be stolen already. Ha ha.” And we both agreed it would be perfectly fine to get after finishing dinner and the stupid game. Long story short, we went downstairs later in the evening, and my passenger window glass was all over the sidewalk, and my GPS was gone. Folks, this is in less than two hours, at the end of rush hour, in partial daylight, on a well-lit street, in a car with an alarm. As I was checking out the damage, many people walked by on the sidewalk, and about seven cars were stopped at the stop sign literally right next to my car. Where were these people when my car was getting broken into, and where was my alarm? Well the thief bypassed the alarm system, but how he/she avoided suspicion and was able to pull this off is a mystery to me.

So is there anything else that Chicago is notorious for that I should know about (besides gang violence)? Because I will probably experience it, as quickly as possible. The laws of probability don’t work for me, and this is true in many facets of my life. Yes, I was a little negligent in these circumstances, but it’s like I didn’t even get time to learn my lesson. I had previously only left my GPS out once or twice. I have locked my bike up better almost every single time. Thank you, Lady Luck, for teaching me such abrupt lessons, without cutting any slack. I guess you hold me to a higher standard.

This is the second bicycle I have ever had stolen. The first one was back in grade school and meant the world to me, as is common at that age. And I had that one a long period of time and took it all over the city and to Utah and Colorado and Wyoming, etc. with my dad. So this is not as important of a loss. Plus, I got this for a pretty cheap price, since it is a basic model. Life could be worse. But this was a very depressing end to the night.

I got mugged in Las Vegas before. That sucked. Not really mugged, but just threatened and had my money stolen. That is another story, but it was one of the worst nights of my life. Anyway, I can say I experienced the Big Three: I have been mugged, I have had my car broken into, and I have had my bike stolen. Even though these suck, if they are the worst things to happen to me, I can’t complain about my life. I am alive and healthy, and someone in the world has a decent bike, a nice navigation system, and 80 dollars they otherwise wouldn’t. I am doing Robin Hood a favor.

The TI-83 Taboo

The Texas Instruments TI-83 scientific graphing calculator is an object of both affection and hatred for me. That was the calculator to have, back in high school. Especially the clear one (the TI-83 Plus silver edition) because it looked cool. Playing games during class was the hip thing to do: my favorite was dodgeball and whatever the icicle one was called. And, of course, Tetris.

Once college and finance classes came around, I found myself having to deal with other calculators. Finance professors like when students use financial calculators, and their reasoning for not allowing the TI-83 is because students can easily program them to assist in cheating. So students like me, who had no intentions whatsoever of even dreaming of programming the calculator to cheat, nor did I know how, were punished for the tiny number of people who actually did this. And if someone is smart enough to program a calculator, they probably don’t need it to cheat. The people who cheat most likely got the programs from the internet. The people who actually knew what they were doing in finance classes had no reason to cheat, and I can’t think of many ways you could cheat any finance calculations anyway.

It only bothered me a little that teachers were taking this precaution, until I realized how visual I am. Imagine typing a long research paper. Let’s pretend you can only see one word at a time, then it goes away once you start typing another word. No matter how sure you are of your good typing skills and vision, you still have the thought in the back of your mind that you could have made a mistake. How annoying would it be to have to write a paper like that? Well, that is how I feel when I use calculators. I am so obsessed with accuracy and seeing exactly what I input. Only after being sure of what I have entered can I trust the output. And with some functions such as present value and future value of money, you need to input multiple things, like years or months, payments, interest rates, etc. You’re telling me I am supposed to enter in a long array of separate things and just hope the computed result is right, without seeing exactly what went into it??

Screw the teachers. With the TI-83, the keys are big and spread out and the screen is huge. The screen holds so many numbers. No need for memory functions. No need to remember what you pressed last and hope it is right. Everything is on the screen for you. Everything you typed, easy to read. You can trust your answer when you see everything you put into the calculator. I have missed test problems before because of  a stupid calculator. One of the inputs, which is somewhere hidden in the calculator’s memory, was wrong, and if I could see it, I would probably have corrected the error. In my mind, it is not fair to just rely on something so loosely to come up with such important answers. And double checking is not exactly the easiest thing in the world in finance. In fact, sometimes you just have to hope you did it right the first time. That’s so stupid. In real life, computers do this work and, in the rare instances someone does use a calculator, more power to them if it is a TI-83 programmed to cheat, or to speed things up and come up with the right answer.

With the thought of actually missing test or homework problems because of not being able to see everything I put into a freaking calculator, and blindly relying on less than optimal technology only because of a few other idiots who cheated, I started losing my mind. In such an art, with the need for accuracy so imperative, it is not fair to use a dumb financial calculator. Naturally, I started sneaking in my TI-83. Teachers would come around and check our calculators, and I would put out my financial calculator for them to see. When they passed by, I would reach under my desk and pull out a hidden TI-83, the love of my life. I essentially cheated, even though I only used the calculator for its intended purpose. It felt even better because it was so wrong. But I also was making a stand for what was fair in my mind. I did get caught a couple times, but played the innocent, unaware card, which is so easy in classes with stupid business majors who are horribly inattentive.

Yes, because of a select few who cheated with their TI-83 calculators, I became a criminal every time I did financial calculations. It’s ridiculous that one of the most useful calculators in the world, especially advantageous to finance, cannot be used in any freaking finance class. I like to consider myself a patriot, though. I will defend my inalienable right to use a TI-83 and to be sure of the computed solution. Keep your heads up, fellow TI-83 supporters.