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Case Study: Daniel Richardson

Personal details
Degree:MA - International Relations Profile picture
School(s): School of International Relations
Year of Graduation:Jun-2010
National of: United States of America
Employment details
Organisation: Mercatus, Inc
Job title: Investment Associate
Occupational Sector: Financial services
What has been your route to getting your current position?

The key has been to A) Always keep my eyes open for good opportunities. Start looking for your new job, or new more advanced role, the minute you land your current one. B) Ensure you are always focused on personal growth in new directions. This involves pursuing new opportunities that are marketable. As an example, I pursued my LEED certification not necessarily because it added immediate value to my work, but because it is a value-add to potential future opportunities in the environmental space.

What does your job involve ?

My current role is pretty dynamic, and highly specialized.  Essentially, I perform due diligence on hard assets, but there is also a component of process optimization and training management.  I got here by learning everything I could about the environmental, energy, and finance worlds, because I knew I wanted to be involved in all three.  One piece of advice here would be to look for opportunities that play to your general strengths, without concerning yourself as much with the day to day activities.  All jobs will have ups and downs – I find it is best to focus on the long term trajectory. 

What are the best bits of your job ?

The people I work with. Look for intelligent people who will push you to work hard, and who are focused on their own career growth.

Why were you successful?

Honestly, it’s all about jumping on the right opportunity at the right time. I actually turned down an offer to meet my current boss initially, thinking it likely was not a good fit, and it wasn't until I really needed a job that I rekindled the opportunity. Turned out to be a great fit, and I should have pursued earlier. Open every door: you don't know what is behind it until you do.

What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

International Relations is a lot about analytic thought: understanding how a certain set of guiding principles will likely play out in a certain situation. It actually applies pretty broadly, if you consider the broad strokes concepts that are applied in IR. It has been particularly useful for me in understanding "what will this person do" before they even do it, because I understand concepts like the Rational Actor Model.  This is likely the case with many majors: don’t get super focused on the direct applicability, think about the broader themes you understand and how those apply to the broader themes of your work.

What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?

Ha. Forget social life, hopefully you had a great time in St Andrews, and are ready for some real work in the real world. I'm more focused in learning and advancing myself than making friends. I also work for startup, which means I'm prepared for 12+ hour days, and consider a 40 hour week a light one. Don't let this daunt you: you can really set yourself apart by demonstrating strong work ethic and all employers appreciate it. If you want a 9-5 work week join a bank, work there for 20 years, and retire. Congrats on staying in the mold. If you want to break out, then do so, and push yourself to see how far you can go.  A good friend of mine is running an investment fund and he is under 30 - largely because of his work ethic. Another friend with the same education and opportunities is working at the front desk of a hotel - largely because of his work ethic. Choose who you want to be and go get it.