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Matthew Pon

Degree:

MFE

Location:

Canada

Year:

2014-15

By Matthew Pon

The quest for employment

It’s been a busy couple of weeks to say the least, but I figure that taking some time out to reflect may be a healthy proposition. First things first – forget everything that the absurdly optimistic and theoretical past version of myself may have impressed upon you. The wistful days of blissful anticipation for the year ahead are long gone. Lectures are now fraught with confusion and sunken hearts. My excitement for pistol shooting, gliding, and other fantastical activities have dissolved into nothing but mere memories of a world that I feel may once have been possible. Even my Skype dates have felt the impact, with my girlfriend worrying about the bags that seem to have found a permanent home under my eyes.

In the name of transparency, I will discuss only the job search and classes, skipping social life, as I prefer not to discuss what exists only within my imagination. (Well – that’s not entirely true – sometimes, guiltily, I make time to watch the odd YouTube video to reignite my feeling of connectivity to the outside world.)

The quest for employment has caused me to reevaluate my former beliefs about human choice. Coming from a background in computer engineering and targeting a future in business, my purpose in undertaking this program was to develop a strong foundation in finance and economics – two concepts that I consider critical to grasp. But after a few short weeks, I have been caught up in this fast-paced, high-pressure, ambition-driven rat race that the MFE, frankly, seems to enjoy perpetuating. After spending the last 4 days drafting and re-drafting cover letters (if the firm that I’ve applied to is reading this, please be assured that this is a joke; I’ve actually only applied to you) I was finally able to submit 5 applications in the last 48 hours. Sadly though, what strikes me now is not relief, but the pressure to continue.

Classes: Corporate Finance. Asset Pricing. Economics. Financial Econometrics. When I began the program, I considered myself at a disadvantage, toiling for hours to understand basic concepts that came naturally to some of my classmates. I sincerely wondered, “How can the programme claim to cater to people of different educational backgrounds?” But in the past few weeks, I have discovered that the ability to keep up in these classes invariably corresponds to the effort put in. My classmates that grasp the material best are those that have prioritized coursework, regardless of their undergraduate studies. Conversely, even the Finance & Economics majors among us who have ignored coursework in favor of the job search are completely lost in lecture. At this point I am left with no option but to believe the words of program director Dimitrios Tsomocos on the very first day – [not necessarily verbatim:] “You will all be ok. Whether by keeping up over the year, or cramming in the few weeks before exams, is up to you to determine. But you will all be ok.”

The MFE program has challenged me in three critical ways: I have doubted my intellectual abilities, I have questioned my resolve in my priorities, and I have failed to figure out how to make time to cook instead of eating kebabs every night.

The picture that I’ve painted may seem like a dark one, but a closer look may reveal an exciting appeal. Do not join this programme expecting a year of relaxation. But if you are ready to expand your perspectives, to stretch yourself far beyond your limits, and to reap the intellectual and spiritual rewards, then I invite you to join me in crafting the legacy that is the Oxford MSc in Financial Economics.

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