Career Risk

My friend Sean penned this piece for Medium.  Definitely click over and read it.

If you are interested in becoming a trader, you might want to read it.  Back in 1986, when I decided to quit my job at 3M and go to the trading floor, I checked out some books from the library that were sort of “anti-trading”.  I did it to get some perspective.  I don’t recall the names of the books.

If you are a computer guy, and can code it’s different.  Those guys can find other gigs if they get sick of trading because they can code.

We were automated out of jobs.  I hear a lot of people worrying about taxi cab medallions losing value.  No one is shedding any tears for traders who owned trading rights valued at $1M which fell as low as $300k.  Someone told me, “You still had $300k” but in the same breath said Uber shouldn’t be able to compete with cab companies.

My experience is similar to Sean’s since leaving the floor.  It’s terribly difficult to make money trading.  There is no edge on a screen.  As a matter of fact, you are retail.  But, the hardest part might be fitting in.

The trading floor was a special place. Misfits could find a home there.  Anyone could find a home there if they tried.  We knew full well it was not the “real world”.

The real world is different.  As Sean says, I’ll tell you what happens: You discover that you have a resume that makes a dry desert bed appear fertile. You discover that you have little or no transferrable skills that “check the right boxes” for recruiters and machines that scan your online job application. You find that you’ve spent little time “building your network” because you’ve been solely focused on building your trading account because that was what was supposed to take care of you — until it doesn’t anymore. And then you find yourself seemingly alone, without options, without savings, and desperate. That’s where I find myself today.”

This is true for Sean, and it’s true for me.  It’s true for anyone who worked a long time on the floor or who traded their own money off of it.

There are plenty of trader friends of mine that cannot find jobs.  I know people that served with me on the CME Board who are seen as unfit for other corporate boards even though when we were on CME’s board, we actually did a lot of the operating of the company.  Navigated a lot of stormy political waters too.

I read an article the other day where one trader who was used to making money and dealing with customers was cutting meat for minimum wage at a grocery store.  I think this is why a lot of old floor traders went into the real estate business. It’s an easier transition.  Corporates, hedge funds, or any other organization doesn’t know how to hire them.

I do know most traders are pretty social animals.  Most of them could become great sales people or business development people if they were mentored or taught.  If you know of an opportunity that you can pass on to Sean, ping him and pass it on.

  • Jeff, I was just reading one of your old posts (because I had linked to it in an old post of mine, lol) and I think it’s also relevant:

    My heart goes out to Sean.

    • All traders confront the same thing. Even me. Even with a Chicago Booth MBA.

      • I think it’s a mid-career challenge for many non-traders, too. Nobody talks about it.

        Yet many of my bschool classmates are self-employed (21 years out of school.) And knowing what a slog that is, and how unsuited most people are for it, have to assume that it’s not a first choice for many.