A few weeks ago, I was talking to a recruiter about a job at a hedge fund. We’d been introduced through a mutual friend, and he hadn’t seen my resume. So, after half an hour rehashing my background, skills, the market, et cetera, I decided to get it out of the way:
“Will it be a problem that I don’t have a degree?”
“No, not really. They’ve considered a few candidates without MBAs.”
“I don’t have an undergraduate degree.”
I never earned an undergraduate degree. Thanks entirely to this devastating career handicap, I recently spent two and a half years working as an analyst at one of the world’s best-performing hedge funds.
If you’re going to work at a top hedge fund, there are two courses of action I recommend:
- Getting a good GPA and test scores in high school, attending a target school, getting internships at prestigious banks, spending two years substituting Venti red-eyes for sleep as a junior banker, then getting an offer, or
- Getting unhealthily obsessed with stock picking at an early age, parlaying that into a terrible high school GPA and an unsatisfying college experience, then dropping out, working in a totally different industry, writing a blog and email newsletter about stocks, getting recommended to a portfolio manager by two different blog readers, and then getting an offer.
While choice #1 is very popular, and seems to work for the top 10–15% of people who pursue it, choice #2 worked 100% of the time for me.
My journey to SAC started with a book and ended with a coin toss.
How to Waste a Competitive Advantage: A Short Guide to High School
Over the summer before my freshman year of high school, I wound up reading Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist. Then I read it a couple more times that summer for good measure. I’m not entirely sure why the story clicked for me, but it probably had something to do with Warren Buffett being a shy, unassuming nerd who managed to pile up billions and billions of dollars by locking himself in his room and reading all day.
I felt gypped. I’d been doing that for free!
After the third or fourth reading of Buffett, I ordered a big stack of annual reports and started…