Geoff Gannon October 12, 2010

Getting Started: What Should a New College Graduate Do to Get a Career in Investing? – 2 Tips

A reader sent me this email:

I graduated college this past May and I am working in finance in Manhattan…What type of work experience would you recommend for a recent graduate other than reading SEC filings and managing their own portfolio?

#1 Write a blog.

Each of the 5 investing bloggers I interviewed said blogging makes them a better investor. Write about the stocks you’re studying. Tell people what you find in the SEC reports. And tell them what you think it means.

If you give out your email address – like I do – you’ll get emails. Trust me. You’ll hear from professionals, amateurs, students and everyone in between. And if you blog about a stock they own: they’ll tell you what you got right and what you got wrong.

I don’t allow comments on this blog. That’s not because I’m trying to limit speech. It‘s because I‘m trying to increase the number of emails people send me.

When the subject is stocks: most people are more comfortable emailing you. Most the bloggers I interviewed had the same experience I did. You’d get comments. But the best comments came from emails. Some of this is legal. Most of it is cultural. People like to talk stocks in private.

#2 Write Research Reports

When Benjamin Graham came to Wall Street he was a 20 year old college grad. He’d been offered 3 teaching positions at Columbia: Math, English, and Philosophy. He was clearly suited for an analyst job. Guess what? The firm that hired Graham made him a bond salesman.

So how did Graham get an analyst job?

He wrote a research report about the Missouri Pacific Railroad. No one paid him to do it. He just did it. A friend of his shared it with another firm – not the one Graham worked for – and they liked it. But they weren’t interested in shorting the Missouri Pacific. It wasn’t the idea they liked. It was the author. They offered Graham a job as an analyst.

Graham’s bosses realized they had to make Graham an analyst if they wanted to keep him.

And I didn’t tell you the most important part of the story. The firm Graham worked for didn’t have a statistical department before Graham. They didn’t have analysts. They created a new job for him. Because they saw he was good and wanted to keep him.

The job you have now probably doesn’t let you do the work you want to do. It probably doesn’t let you show people what you’r best at. So use your free time to do the work you want to do. If you’re good at it: someone will pay you for it one day.

It’s hard for people to see you’re good at something if the job you’re in doesn’t let you show those skills.

Make report writing a hobby. It will make you a better analyst. It will make you a better writer. And it will give you something to show people who can get you your dream job.

It’s also the easiest way to connect with other value investors. If you analyze a stock on a blog – or in a report – other value investors will be interested in reading what you write. They’ll share their ideas with you.

All this depends on what your job is and what you want to do. Use the job you have to support you. But make sure you set aside some time outside of your job to do the work you really want to do.

Some people fool themselves into thinking that because they’re working in the right industry – or for the right firm – they’re already on track for the career they really want to do.

But remember Benjamin Graham’s example. Or Warren Buffett’s. After Buffet got out of Columbia and before he went to work for Graham-Newman – he was a stock broker.

I’m not sure that was a useful experience. Buffett didn’t have a lot of choices then. Graham wouldn‘t hire Buffett at first. So Buffett kept sending ideas to Graham. And he wrote some pieces analyzing stocks.

Doing everything I’ve said here really doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour a day. Take that time each day and write about stocks outside of work.

The internet makes that easy. Feel free to send me anything you write. I’ll give you my thoughts. If it’s good – I’d be happy to share it on the blog.

That goes for anyone. Send me your investment writing and I’ll send you my honest thoughts.

Talk to Geoff about an Investing Career