What to do when you don't know what to do

Recently, one of us decided to move from Canada to London, England with no job lined up, while another one just wishes he did the same.

The move has been several months in planning, and I decided that I wanted to take a few months off full-time work and decide what to do next. Before leaving, some people mentioned I am lucky to have this opportunity to take this time off, which at first I agreed with, but then later realized it was an odd statement. If I had instead been laid off or fired (you know, for severance), I would find myself having the same “rare” opportunity! Well, minus the moving part.


First Couple Weeks

In any case, I found a flat relatively quickly, which was great, as my first goal was to avoid homelessness. The only problem is that my building does not have a number…it has a name. Apparently, it is quite common here. Which I guess must make sense in some area of the universe. After all, it is the only house on the street with that name, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find, right?

Here is a general summary of the first couple weeks:

-          Ordered over 30 different items through Amazon Prime, including a lot of toilet paper, the comfortable desk chair I am currently sitting in, a fire extinguisher (we care about risk management here) and a cat tree (we have a cat)

o   This doesn’t include this last Saturday’s Amazon Fresh order. Did I mention how great it is that groceries can be delivered here? Time is money, or at the very least, time.

-          Started Python programming courses

-          Got frustrated with Python, but have still decided to soldier on......for now

-          Continued reading The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker


Job Options

Absent from the list is spending a lot of time thinking about what to do next, but maybe that will come in time. My professional background has been in corporate banking. To those that aren’t familiar, corporate bankers are essentially a company’s relationship banker. For large corporate clients, corporate bankers essentially play the role of a quarterback, in that they are supposed to identify opportunities that the bank can help (read: earn revenues) and bring in relevant teams in for client M&A advice, debt/equity capital markets financing, FX/rates/other hedging, payments and cash management, and other various ancillary products.

Here are the general professions I am/was considering:

-          Private buy-side, either debt or equity:

o   Over the years, I have heard mixed things about PE. Sometimes I hear it is a dream job, and sometimes I hear it is pretty much the same as working in an investment bank. In either case, in my old age (late 20s) I have become – perhaps naïvely so – more concerned about wanting to “add value” and “feel good” about the work I do. To that extent, I am not really interested in (i) PE funds run like M&A shops, and (ii) funds that just lever, cut, and re-lever. It is still on my list, as long as I can find a nice team to work with. However, considering how competitive this space is, I think the bigger problem is finding a team that also wants me.

-           Public buy-side, either debt or equity:

o   I haven’t heard of many public buy-side funds which are run like M&A shops. But you also don’t hear of PE funds that care about the Efficient Frontier. Although in a lot of cases you are just trading pieces of paper, if I can find a good value-oriented fund, I think that would be a lot of fun…d. Though I’d still run into the same problem of wanting-reciprocity.

-          Corporate finance/strategy, within a company (not consulting):

o   This is something that I think could be interesting in a company that truly does allocate capital efficiently. You’d also certainly be closer to understanding a business’ “real” operations, as opposed to viewing it from a distance as you would in banking. One issue is that sometimes these job requirements include having some form of CA/accounting designation. I guess doing bank confirmations at 11PM must translate into intelligent capital allocation.  

-          Insurance underwriting:

o   This could be kind of cool, especially when you’re getting into specialty insurance. I’m not sure how I’d fit in exactly, but to anyone who knows me, I love a good probability-based bet. 

-          Non-profit work:

o   In developing markets, it seems like there are opportunities for low-hanging fruit investments with phenomenally high social returns on capital. I’ve looked at social enterprise funds, and the ideal fund does both social and investment returns well. Understanding the difficulties in doing this, to me, they should at least do one well. It is hard to separate the good from the bad. But I am open minded.

-          Corporate lending/banking or capital markets:

o   Similar to my background, but I figured why not try something new.

-          M&A advisory or sell-side research:

o   Let’s not go there. In all seriousness, I think working for an independent-minded research analyst would be good experience, though. 

-          Other stuff:

o   Given our blog has an enviable subscriber number in the double-digits, I am also open to suggestions!