By James Cramer
About 95% of the people I interviewed about going to work at
, when I recruited at that great firm, did not have a clue about Wall Street.
Most of the people who email me about wanting a job in this business don't have an inkling about what Wall Street is really about either. So for the neophytes out there, here is your "all-in-two" 1,200-word map of the secret world of Wall Street.
First, the stock market side of Wall Street is divided into two groups: the buy side and the sell side. May sound obvious to some of you, but knowing this simple fact already gives you the edge on most people. The buy side is made up of mutual funds, private money managers and its hedge fund subset. The sell side is made up of sales -- divided into institutional sales and individual sales -- and trading.
Both the buy and sell sides have research analysts who analyze securities. The buy-side types, often called portfolio managers, make decisions that are passed on to the traders at their firms. The buy-side traders then give orders to the salesmen on the sell side or directly to the traders on the sell side if you are a big gun.
On the sell side, the ideas are generated by the research department, which are then passed on to the salesmen who relay them to the portfolio managers on the buy side. The sell-side traders also relay those ideas. This is the merchandising of ideas off the research call.
All of this relaying of information and stock ideas tends to happen between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., but can happen throughout the day. These sales guys can't just make calls in the morning.
In my opinion any one of these jobs, or even assistants to any one of these jobs, should be your goals to get in the biz. Again, the key is don't get cocky. Get a job and get in the door. Then you can show people what you can do.
Take the example of my wife, Karen. She started as a research assistant, on the buy side, right out of Stony Brook. She had taken some economics and it seemed like something good to do. She helped portfolio managers put together reports and she did a bit of research gathering about stocks.
Soon a position as a research assistant to a top portfolio manager opened up. She took it. Six months later the portfolio manager went to a very aggressive buy-side hedge fund. She went with him. He got fired almost immediately. She asked to stay and landed as a trading assistant answering phones, taking notes and checking trading sheets for accuracy.
She started subbing for some of the hitters, like an understudy on Broadway. She figured out little ways to make money. A year later she was a bona fide trader with her own p&l. (Okay, I've dropped into jargon again. That's just the profit & loss. Once you're in the business about eight seconds, you'll discover that the world revolves around the p&l. But back to the story. My wife.) A few years later she's teaching me how to trade. We get married, run our own firm. She retired at the top of her game after ten years of great trading.
Her story is not unusual; in fact it's emblematic of how to catch on. Remember, she had no b-school training. No accounting. No corporate finance. No big Ivy League sheepskin.
Just raw hunger.
That's what it takes on Wall Street.
James Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of
. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback, emailed to