So you want to be a trader?
Well, the good news is the Positive Internship is a great place to start (and hopefully finish). However, if you think you’re going to learn everything about trading; develop a foolproof system, and ‘crack’ the markets over 4/6 weeks then you are absolutely crazy and need immediate psychiatric help. Thankfully, I was able to avoid a full-scale intervention before I started the internship and went in with an open mind. Nonetheless, hands in the air I admit a fair chunk of me thought “How hard can it be?” … turns out pretty hard.
This isn’t to scare anyone off. The internship itself is pretty straight forward: you do reports for the first week or so to get up to speed on the basics of the market. There’s a language that people speak around the office that might sound like gibberish at first, but you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll be posting into group chats saying “spz down 50 points today!” thinking you’re an absolute legend for knowing what the big dog traders call the S&P 500.
Once you’re caught up on how to sound like you know what you’re talking about in the office, and how to sound like a pro in front of your mates, you’re now ready for the simulator.
Oh, baby. This is where the fun starts. I can see it happening already: getting overly excited when you make a bit of money then sizing up with a few lots around the US Equity open and losing it all in 3 seconds. Ahh, tis a beautiful summer day to be panicking for the next two hours while you try to come up with an excuse for why you went from positive to limit down in a single trade. Then explaining to your trainer ‘oh I was onside and then it just dumped out of nowhere’. Sorry, but we all see right through that excuse (…from the lad who was most guilty of using it).
Alright so now you’re a master of the sim – you’re chatting to the senior traders in the kitchen about this genius trade you put on – while they’re politely nodding at you wondering in their heads how long it takes toast to pop – as you’re rambling on about ‘technical indicators’ and ‘the irrefutable nature of black box algorithms’. So what now? Go take what you’ve learned and make some money right? Oh you poor naïve little soul – its amazing how easily you can snatch a loss from the jaws of victory.
No, that’s not what’s next. Your job is not to make money. Your job at the start is losing money in the right way. As far as trading goes, at the start, anything you make is blind luck and anything you lose is a result of you being a trigger-happy drunk standing in the betting shop after a session throwing 50s into accumulators because the potential winner would pay off the mortgage. Sorry pal, but no matter what way you try to justify it, the market is never wrong, and losers are the result of poor risk management. The sooner you realise that the quicker you’ll cop on to whether this is the career for you.
Okay so you’re in control of your risk? And you’re still not making money? So now I hear you moan: “But wait, no one is showing me how to trade? I’ve been blindfolded and now asked to throw darts at the most elaborate board every created…?!” Yes, welcome to trading.
You. Will. Not. Be. Spoon-fed.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be very frustrating. You’ve been asked to try to make good trades competing against hedge funds, market makers, and ridiculously complicated algorithms all designed to take money out of your pocket and put it into theirs. And to top it all off no one is showing you how?! How does that make sense?!
What you need to bear in mind is that this is a prop trading firm. As you progress people will be more than happy to share a trade idea or two and pass on some ever-elusive ‘edge’. But at the end of the day, it’s you that’s clicking the mouse. No one else can put the trade on for you. Furthermore, edge comes and goes. If you’re going to be successful you need to learn how to find good trades yourself. This is a necessary skill because if a strategy dries up you need to be comfortable enough to go searching for another one. And no one can do that for you. Not here anyway.
So you’re going to have many many losers; you’re going to get reamed by a trainer for poor discipline/risk management; you’re going to make awkward small talk in a kitchen with someone fully aware you’re full of garbage, and you’re going to feel the crushing weight of how difficult it can be to ‘make it’ as a trader as the market hands you beating after beating. So, why on earth would you do this?
Well good news, the internship is the absolute best way to manage your expectations of an incredibly difficult but rewarding career. Along with that, you get to do it in a pretty relaxed way, while having access to a gym, pool table, table tennis table, PlayStations, and even better access to some of the top discretionary traders in the business.
The internship is beyond good. The hours are so sound, and you get to play around on professional-level trading software in a wild and crazy market with next to no real-life consequences. You also get full career accounts from trainees, junior traders, and senior traders, who will spell out how they managed to get to their stage of a trading career. Alright, so you’re still an unpaid intern who is kind of left to their own devices on the trading floor in a prop trading firm but it’s not like you’ve to go make tea for everyone.
The hard work is ahead of you if you decide to stick it out. Nonetheless, diving headfirst into the full trainee program with no idea of how hard the work is can be incredibly difficult. It’s been done but a hell of a lot of people will find out very quickly that it’s not for them. The internship cuts through all that.
One of the biggest things in trading is being self-aware. You learn a lot about yourself. The internship will help with that. Trading isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay. But I can guarantee you that the success rate is orders of magnitude smaller if you try to learn it alone compared to in a firm. And the internship is a great place to find out long before you’ve blown up an account whether it is actually the career for you.