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Citadel Ultimate Career Guide: Starting your career at a Hedge Fund

Book open Reading time: 5 mins

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. How do you excel at this new career? What does it take to position yourself for success in the industry? Whether you’re about to graduate from school or are preparing to move on from another financial services firm, these are probably some of the questions that are crossing your mind as you think about building a career in the hedge fund industry.

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. We’ll begin by providing you with guidance on getting ready for your first week in the industry.

Your first week often sets the foundation for the months and years ahead. This chapter teaches you where to focus your attention during this critical time period. Think of these tips as a checklist to get ready for your career as you transition from another firm or school.

Work with your manager to clearly define what your role will look like

While this Guide provides a career compass for you, you’ll want to customize your path and milestones with your manager.  During your first week, you should spend time with your manager to clearly define and document your role. Take careful notes and ask questions during your first week to ensure you understand what will be expected of you over time. You should discuss the following topics with your manager:

  • Responsibilities to focus on
  • What success and failure looks like
  • Milestones for achievements
  • The sequence of skills to build

After internalizing your role and the path forward, focus on understanding how the team performs various tasks. Take in this information and think about ways you can continue to assist the team in a meaningful way. Citadel associate Michael Herman shared, “I talked with my manager early on about what role I would play. Those discussions gave me a good understanding about when I would take on coverage responsibilities and engage at management meetings. If you want to hit the ground running, you need to document your responsibilities with precise language and understand when your role will evolve.”

Beyond this, during your first week, you should take time to immerse yourself in firm material that outlines the answers to:

  • What technology, datasets, tools, and resources will you get access to?
  • What types of formal training programs are offered to new associates?
  • What opportunities are available to network with cross-functional team members?

After you’ve read about your firm’s approach to enabling you with these resources, programs, and tools, talk to your manager about how to best take advantage of what’s offered.

Establish a communications cadence with your manager

More than most industries, the hedge fund industry is set up to facilitate apprenticeship relationships between team members and their managers. Your manager will teach you about a specific investment process over time and expect that you master that process and improve upon it. Within your first week, you should demonstrate that you’re ready to act as an apprentice to your manager and your team.

Utilize your manager effectively to ensure you’re systematically learning from them. Take the time during your first few days to schedule weekly or monthly meetings with your manager to build a rapport and track your progress. Find out from your manager what their preferred communications cadence would look like. As your schedule fills up, you’ll be thankful you took the time at the start to build a strong foundation of communication with your manager.

Below are some tips for building a rapport with your manager:

  • Set weekly or monthly progress meetings.
  • Develop an agenda for these progress meetings that enables you to simultaneously get feedback, track milestones, and ask questions.
  • Try to understand what opportunities and challenges your manager deals with most frequently.
  • Let your manger know you’re looking forward to sitting down over the weeks and months ahead to map out specific milestones. At the same time, don’t overlook the importance of coming prepared to these meetings with a proactive draft of your career map.
  • Ask critical questions about stocks or assets that you cover.

Solicit feedback on how to be effective with your time

Your ability to manage time wisely will likely be the most important skill you develop early on. You’ll have to make decisions about how to prioritize reviewing earnings statements, datasets, and research. Take the time to get organized, seek advice from your manager and other team members, and determine the best solution to manage your time effectively.

Beyond building and maintaining models, as well as reviewing research and data, you’ll have to think about managing time spent in meetings and networking within your firm. Take the time to observe how other team members manage their busy schedules and solicit ideas from others. Proactively make a recommendation to your manager about how you specifically will allocate your time. While your manager will give you some guidance upon joining, you should go the extra step and detail out how you plan to manage your own time.

There are many critical elements to effective time management and high productivity. One of the first steps is to determine and to rank your most important objectives or priorities for the day. Once you’ve established this ranking, ensure that you carve out the time to complete these tasks. If you’re unsure of how to prioritize your projects, you should consult with your manager to get clarity. As we all know, our days can become filled with inefficient uses of time – if we fail to put a plan in place.

We recommend blocking off time in the morning for your most important work. When those blocks need to be used to listen to earnings calls or assess specific events, make sure you still commit to a specific time for your most important work. In addition, you should document a “week in review” that highlights your personal lessons learned.

Commit to the highest ethical standards for your career

The trust of your investors, firm, and team members is based on a shared commitment to the highest ethical standards in the industry. Without that shared commitment and trust, your career can only go so far. At Citadel, we expect that you will act ethically and know when to talk to your manager or Compliance about any behavior you observe that might straddle the line of being ethical. Ken Griffin, CEO and Founder of Citadel, explains that the aim is to “win with integrity.”

During your first week, tell your manager that you want to make sure you fully understand the policies and guidance of the firm. He or she should point you to resources that can supplement the mandatory training that the firm provided.