By James Cramer
If I wanted to get a job in the stock business I would start going to school at night -- to learn Spanish or Portuguese or maybe Chinese. Absurd? Hardly. You can catch on at a first-class brokerage house or buy-side firm in a flash if you know a foreign language cold and have some facility at looking at annuals and speaking to executives in their language. You could be a partner faster than any domestic guy could make vice president.
It sure as heck is a faster way to catch on than going to business school at night.
As the Internet grows in importance, many of the traditional jobs in this country, assistants, margin people, back-office helpers, even research assistants, will be cut back or phased out. I'm no visionary, but the early returns on electronic trading say that in a couple of years most trading will be done through your personal computer. That will put pressure on newcomers to have something that will distinguish themselves from the pack. Only international stocks will defy the kind of commoditization I see coming. Only with good language skills can you command some sort of a premium in the securities labor force.
Unwilling to enroll at
? Your next best bet is to attempt to catch on in research. Firms are finally realizing that research holds the key to creating new valuations on companies. I am a huge believer that the Street inherently is not corrupt; that firms don't recommend stocks simply because they brought them public. (
is preparing an in-depth analysis of how firms view their own stock offspring, trying to develop an index of which firms are most pro their own stocks and which ones are the most critical, to try to gauge the relevancy of investment banking relations in the research decision-making.) But Wall Street has to cover the firms they bring public. And there have been so many stocks brought public in the last few years that the real holes in the investment lineup are in research.
If you can show that you know how to analyze stocks and have some degree of sufficiency in numbers, the research departments of literally all firms represent your best entry bet.
Not only can you then build up a track record and one day run money yourself if you would like to, but you would also be surrounded by people who could teach you how Wall Street values stocks. Sometimes how Wall Street and how Main Street values stocks differs wildly. Wall Streeters don't care who has the best product; they don't care if someone has a flashy new drive or a great modem. Wall Streeters care about numbers: making them or screwing them up.
In research you will learn how the world works. I am not quite sure of the future of the sell side in general. If things play out the way I expect them to on the Internet, you will be fighting the massive downsizing that the sell side will have to undergo. That's why, if international doesn't suit you, and you aren't facile with numbers, I would suggest you catch on as a customer rep at one of the large mutual fund houses. Make friends, distinguish yourself, and you could probably be running a fund faster than an individual who can demonstrate a good track record trading from home.
Finally, if all of those methods fail, I would go to business school. Just don't listen to anything teachers say involving valuations of stock and options and you will do just fine when you re-enter the real world.
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