If you want to become a trader, you might be thinking, «How do I get started, with no experience?»
However, if you really want to become a prop trader, it’s not hard to get practical experience. Anybody can open an account and begin to trade — and you can, too.
There are lots of applicants that go to trading firm interviews and think they can simply rely on mathematics skills; it’s not likely that they’ll succeed in getting an offer, though, and that’s because it’s a bit like to going to Hollywood, walking up to a Hollywood agent, and saying, «I’m good looking, and I’d like to star in films right now, please.»
If you’ve not acted before, even in amateur productions, if you haven’t read acting books or stage magazines, gone to auditions, applied to be a member of a theatre, actually been cast in productions, even in student films or on stage, you’re not going to be able to act. Similarly, if you haven’t focused on learning how to trade, learning the process, discovering what works, getting real-market experience, opening an account and trying to trade, you’re not going to be successful as a trader, either.
Proprietary trading firms expect a lot from their applicants, for one reason. They can. Thousands of people would die for the chance to become a trader, and for every trading vacancy, there are at least 500 to 1000 applicants who want the chance to trade. My experience has been that a single ad for a trading position posted on EFinancialCareers has gotten so many CVs that they fill an entire filing cabinet drawer every time the ad is run, on a quarterly basis. In other words, you’ve got major competition when you apply to be a trader.
You don’t need to be a math Ph.D. or programming master if you want to become a truly successful trader, though. A trading firm isn’t really going to spend long looking at your qualifications as long as there’s a realistic expectation that you’ll make them a lot of money.
A good trading firm is going to overlook any lack of v that you’ve had consistent success for 6 to 12 months and you’re confident in your trading ability, AND you have brokerage account statements to back this up, it’s a good bet a prop firm will take you seriously and give you a chance. You don’t need to have made a lot of money, necessarily, you just have to show you’ve taken practical steps and got some determination about you to set yourself apart from the pack. If this sounds like you and you want it badly enough, start contacting prop firms. There is a link to a directory of proprietary trading forms that you can contact in the links at the bottom of this article.
2. If you want a job as a prop trader but you have no experience, get some. Get involved, and begin to teach yourself trading — you can teach yourself almost anything these days. Study the free prop trading training programme linked to at the bottom of this article, and begin to educate yourself. Open an account with a broker, whether that’s a spreadbetting account, options, futures or forex. Then, start trading! You can easily open an account these days, and you don’t need a fortune to do so. Even if you totally fail when you first start, you’re giving it a try and you’re seeing how market prices move. Within a very short period of time, you can begin to LEARN, firsthand, what traders face on a daily basis. You’ll learn about technical analysis, fundamental analysis, emotional factors, loss, success, greed and fear. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll lose some money, but you’ll also gain valuable real-life experience that you can show to others — and you’ll look like you’re INTERESTED in trading. So now, imagine you are in the position of recruitment officer at the prop firm. The candidate in front of you enthusiastically begins to talk about how he or she is very interested in the financial markets when you ask him or her why they want to be a trader — but they have no experience with actual trading. What would you do as that recruiter? «You have never bothered to try to trade anything yourself, but you want a job here?»
3. Read up on the markets. Two great books to read before you go to that first interview, at a minimum, are «Market Wizards» and Reminiscences of a Stock Operator.» You won’t become a super trader by reading these books, but you will have some insight into what this job is like, how difficult it can be, how hard you have to work, and how things can go wrong in spite of your efforts; these two books are also among the most popular trading books available, so if you want to appear interested as a trader, you’ll have to read them.
4. Read the FT or the Wall Street Journal so that you’re aware of whats going on when it comes to the world of business and finance. Formulate an opinion. You might be wrong, but don’t worry about that. The best traders are often wrong. At one time, I overheard someone who applied for a position as a FTSE trader; he was asked what he thought soybeans were going to do. What’s that got to do with the FTSE? Not much, but most firms are going to want to know that you know what’s going on in the world and how that correlates with your market. At present, the United States is more interested in boosting the economy than in combating inflation. What does that mean for interest rates? If interest rates go down, what’s going to happen to bonds? What’s the country’s currency doing? How could this affect commodity prices? Now, imagine a recruitment officer asking you something like, «If a commodity like oil goes up, what happens to indices in Europe, like the DAX or FTSE?» While one candidate may answer something to the effect of, «Inflation is bad for the economy, with higher prices cutting into profits; lower profits means that investors are going to sell stock and European markets are going to summarily fall.» At the same time, a second candidate answers, «Inflation is bad for the economy, true, and higher prices mean less profit for companies, which means investors are going to sell stock and European markets are going to be negatively impacted and fall. However, oil companies are a major component of the FTSE, and since oil profits are going to go up, that may mean that the FTSE is going to be less negatively impacted than the DAX.» Which candidate has the better answer?
5. Take care of basic math skills and brush up on them, and work on your general mental agility too. Although math may not be that important for trading outrights (directional trading), you’re still going to have to take aptitude tests at prop firms to get the job. Math and aptitude tests given by firms don’t just exist to measure your math ability. They also exist to see how you react under pressure. Do you stay calm, or do you fall apart? If you don’t know how to do so already, brush up on mental arithmetic; adding, subtracting, multiplication and division skills for long numbers, and be able to do them quickly. If you have to, buy a couple of math books and work your way through them, and in addition pick up a copy of the book, «Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking.» That said, remember that if you fail the math aptitude tests, the first point at the top of the list above will still get you into a firm regardless.
by Mason Ingram