Passion Versus Practicality: Which Should Win In the Job Search?

Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on April 13, 2009

With the economy in turmoil, many MBA graduates are finding the job search tough going. To give readers some insight into the strategies they’re pursuing and the difficulties they face, BusinessWeek has recruited four out-of-work MBAs to write about their experiences for a new feature called “The Hunt” that will appear periodically on the Getting In blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.

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By Grant Garcia
“You want a job in finance right now? Are you serious? You’d be better off doing business consulting in this market.” This was the response I received after introducing myself to a group of Wall Street traders this spring. “The industry has changed,” one of them commented. “Instead of doing trading you should join a start-up, or better yet, spend a year working as a ski instructor.” Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re trying to land your first job out of graduate school.

At that particular moment I was the only MBA student in attendance at an annual trading conference in the northeast. Surrounded by some of the industry’s most talented professionals, I was poised to make the most of a great networking opportunity. I proceeded to deliver my pitch about why I went back to business school to break into finance, how I spent the last two years following the market’s every move, and how my internship experiences prepared me for my first job on a trading desk. I could tell by the look on their faces exactly what they were thinking; in the worst economic climate in U.S. history, this guy wants to get into sales and trading. Sure enough one gentleman discretely whispered to me, “Better luck next year.”

I hear these comments all the time, but you must understand that sales and trading is my dream job. From the first day I set foot on a trading desk to my first visit to the NYSE, I knew this business was for me. We all have dream jobs that cover a vast spectrum of industries, and mine just happens to be quoting bid-ask spreads on the major exchanges. Like so many people, I didn’t find my dream job until I spent time in a career path that was clearly not the right fit. That’s when I decided to take a chance and go back to school for my MBA. It was an easy decision for me because it was the most direct path to a career in the financial markets. I made the most of my education by taking courses to fulfill a finance concentration, and used what I was learning in class at two finance internships throughout my first year. As a University of Richmond alumnus once told me, “Always hustle and be ready do whatever it takes to get a job in trading.” And that’s exactly what I did. When you have a dream job, you find yourself doing everything possible to make it a reality.

The big problem with my dream job is that every time you read the news hundreds, if not thousands of jobs are being cut from major financial institutions. I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to watch friends, classmates, and colleagues fear that they will be next to be let go from their sales and trading jobs. I frequently speak about my job search with industry professionals and a common response I hear is to pursue a different career path. It’s very frustrating to constantly be told that I should put aside my dream job just because this year the market took a turn for the worst.

I understand that this recession is different than those of the past. Jobs that came back as a result of the bull markets that followed the crash of 1987, the collapse of Long Term Capital Management, the Russian and Asian financial crises, and the dot com bubble bust offered graduating MBAs opportunities to find employment. In the past, many students were able to fill seats on trading desks left empty as a result of downsizing and layoffs. But, the severity of the current subprime crisis leaves me doubtful about a similar return for the financial job market. The fall of multiple prominent Wall Street institutions paired with the tightening of government control has caused an overwhelming amount of job loss and an unprecedented amount of industry consolidation. At this point, it’s hard for me to believe that a market rally would actually trigger widespread hiring across Wall Street.

With less than a month away from graduation, I could easily take the advice to enter a different industry. However, the thing about dream jobs is that once you’ve found your passion, you have no reason to look elsewhere. It’s taken a lot of hard work and risk-taking for me to be this close to realizing my dream. Despite frustrations with finding a job in the industry, I refuse to change my plans simply because of the economic downturn. Sure, it’s going to be much harder to find a job this year, but staying true to my dream gives me the motivation to stay positive about my search.

Reader Comments

Col. Ray J. Garcia, USAF (Ret)

April 18, 2009 1:49 PM

Great article! I was told that my dream of being a military pilot was impossible. My high school math teacher gave me a passion for math and science that opened doors I didn't even know existed. There were tough hurdles, butI became a fighter pilot, and moved up to the Space program of the Air Force. In these times, think wisely - but "hold fast your dream."

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