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Applied Mathematics job hunting advice

  1. May 16, 2015 #1
    Hi all,

    My husband has a Master's degree in Applied Mathematics and we've been job searching for over 6 months now. Only gotten a couple of interviews and sent out hundreds of resumes. I feel like we're doing something wrong because I've always read/heard that people with this major should be "highly employable".

    The area he's most interested in is risk analysis (as he did a lot of work with Monte Carlo simulations and it seems commonly used in that area) and data analysis/modeling. He has a solid background in statistics as well. But we haven't had much luck finding jobs in this area that don't want very experienced professionals. In his most recent interview they said they want someone who can do the work (creating models) with zero supervision/guidance - and that job posting was for 0-2 years experience.

    We've been looking for all kind of analyst positions (data, quantitative, financial) in banks, insurance companies, and anything else we can find. Not getting responses. I assume it's because he has no experience outside of academics? In another thread, I read someone suggested getting involved with "Kaggle", which he will be doing. Are there any other resources to gain experience or other advice to get your first math-related job outside of university?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF!

    Some things to consider, are you shot gunning the same resume to many employers or are you customizing it to each job posting you find?

    Customizing always works better as you're telling the employer what they want to hear so that you get past the HR screening and onto an interview path.
  4. May 16, 2015 #3

    Definitely customizing each resume to every job (as much as possible). We may be able to go further with this, but don't want to twist things so much that it starts to become lying. I think the main problem is it's hard to translate the academic skills into what they want for each job because he has little "actual" experience - but surely has the capability if given the chance. Would it be better to exaggerate a little more just to get past the screening?
  5. May 16, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    No, definitely don't lie. Its just a reordering of things usually and dropping things not relevant to the job of interest and perhaps a change of the goal line at the front.

    Also you need to keep a folder for each job and what resume you sent in. This is real important once you get a job interview ad they will use it as a basis to ask you questions.

    If you list any projects be prepared to talk about them briefly, big picture and your work specifically. You cant stumble as thats a sign of poor communication skills or that you didnt really understand the project.

    Also have you created a linkedin profile that can help with networking and finding positions.
  6. May 16, 2015 #5
    Yeah, that's basically what we've been doing. We have a "big" resume with all of his skills and projects and trim it down to the relevant things for each job application. Also adjusting the summary at the top to fit the job posting as much as possible.

    Keeping folders is a good idea, right now we have some loose organization with it. And he has written out basic and specific information about all of his projects (in a personal file) so he would be able to talk about them if asked.

    He has a LinkedIn all filled out but hasn't been actively using it - just a link to it on the resume. I'm sure we can explore it more.

    Thanks for the help so far :)
  7. May 16, 2015 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    Does he have programming skills? like Matlab or Java or C/C++?

    You might consider looking at jobs that physicists or engineers apply for? Sometimes they need a mathematician in the mix.

    As an example, Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics... employ a lot of mathematicians, physicists and engineers. There are also academic labs that do the same usually known as applied research labs.
  8. May 16, 2015 #7
    He's done Matlab, Excel VBA, some SAS, R and SQL.

    We haven't looked at anything in the physicist/engineer area yet, so we'll check that out.

    EDIT: Just checked some of the companies you posted; a lot of them require US Citizenship (for security clearance or such), but he only has permanent resident status. Makes things so much more limiting. :\
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  9. May 16, 2015 #8


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    To the OP:

    I would like to ask the following questions:

    (1) Beyond the academic area, what type of work experience does your husband have, if any? Often times, employers are leery of hiring anyone without at least some form of work experience in some field because employers generally speaking don't have the resources any more to provide much in the way of training. He really should have done some form of internship while pursuing his Masters degree in Applied Mathematics -- without such an internship, his employability will certainly decline.

    (2) Has your husband attended any job fairs or attended any conferences? It is often the case that many jobs are simply not advertised, and the way to get hired is by networking and meeting with actual hiring managers. If he hasn't done so, he should definitely consider attending these events. The American Statistical Association hosts the Joint Statistical Meeting every year across North America (this year it is being hosted in Seattle), and among the programmes presented include job fairs with various employers. The two of you may want to consider registering and attending the event. There are many other events which one can find online.

    (3) Instead of just sending out resumes to positions that are posted, has your husband done any research into specific companies that he may be interested in, and sent e-mails to potential hiring managers, whether there is a position open or not? Sometimes, cold-calling people can generate results. It may also open doors for informational interviews, which would allow your husband to further investigate the types of companies and positions available.

    (4) If your husband is interested in working in statistics, I would also suggest setting up his own website and advertising himself as an independent statistical consultant -- essentially becoming a freelancer, offering his services to small to medium size businesses and non-profits (many of these organizations require the services of data analysts/statisticians as well, but often do not have the budgets to either hire full-time statisticians or hire a larger consulting firm). This is a potentially risky move, but the experience he gains in such an endeavour will look good on his resume. One of my classmates did such a thing, and it ultimately allowed him to be hired full-time as a statistician at a major bank.

    The most important thing I would advise is to be patient and keep being engaged. I wish both of you the best of luck!
  10. May 16, 2015 #9
    1) He hasn't had any official work experience, just an internship and a paid project he got through his school for an insurance company. Those were both done in Europe, though, so it doesn't help as much here in the USA except as a little experience (each lasted under 3 months). He really didn't get to do much for the internship, it was just some simple work in Excel and helping them fill in a yearly report explaining some results. The project did give him some experience with developing a risk model and programming (in VBA) at least.

    2) We haven't attended job fairs yet, would have to look into that more.

    3) We haven't done that yet because names/emails of hiring managers aren't readily available online in the companies he's interested in, but we could try calling to find out. It's another thing to try.

    4) This would be interesting but I don't think he's confident in his ability to really offer any services. His education was so theoretical that he still kind of needs to learn the practical application part...

    Thanks so much for the response!
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  11. May 16, 2015 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    I think it's also valuable to turn the question around. Instead of thinking "what do I want to do?" your husband might consider the question "what do I bring to the table for a company?"
  12. May 16, 2015 #11


    Staff: Mentor

    What is the time frame for your husbands PR?

    If you are a U.S. Citizen then I think it's 3 years until he can become one.
  13. May 16, 2015 #12


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    Please tell me your husband knows more than the programming languages he listed? Professionally, R and SQL are useful to me, and matlab for some other companies, but they are bonus program languages. For an entry data scientist, data engineer, or data analyst we hire, I need someone who knows python (or perl), Java (or even better Scala), at the very minimum. If you knew cuda, python, scala, pig/hive(or hadoop in general), you would probably be my number one choice for an interview. I've only hired one person who had cuda, python and scala. Actually, now that I think about it he's also the only person in my office besides me who knows cuda.

    Anyway, not to get sidetracked, industry jobs depend heavily on your programming skills, so if he doesn't know some of the languages I listed, it wouldn't hurt to learn.
  14. May 16, 2015 #13
    Yes, trying to keep that in mind for cover letters especially!

    He just got his conditional green card last month, he can remove the conditions in 2 years. I'm not sure when he can become a citizen exactly, but it's pretty far away still. Government jobs can be an option in the future, though!

    He didn't get any python or java (or anything else you listed) in his studies, unfortunately. They really focused on math/statistics and theory, and he had a financial/economics background as well (in bachelor's). He really wanted/wants to work in a bank. I have seen Python, C++, and sometimes Hadoop mentioned in the data scientist/analyst jobs before, which is probably why he lacked any response. R and SQL are what he's been learning in his downtime because they are common requirements on job postings. Definitely can pick up more though... how would you judge his mastery of the programming language if it's self-taught? Sample pieces of code or some project that produced results or...?
  15. May 16, 2015 #14


    Staff: Mentor

    Have him get a masters in Comp Sci too that would definitely open more doors. There are colleges that provide this via night courses if he's already got some sort of job.

    With his masters he might be able to teach at a community college. They usually require a masters in the subject you're teaching with 18 or so graduate credit hours in the subject.
  16. May 17, 2015 #15


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    I understand that no one is really taught Python, C++ or Java at the level needed to be productive (at least people with a straight math background like myself); however, like everyone else in my office who has a masters or PhD, we all self-taught ourselves. So with that said, how do we judge a person's proficiently? There's a few routes, it is nice to see a kaggle combination for someone with no real world experience. I'm also open to evaluating a github page. Lastly, for a more analytical roles, where programming is just a tool for a job, I ask which tool would you prefer to write certain programs and how would you decide to use R versus Python.

    Truthfully, i'm kind of surprised he's spending so much time on R and SQL. The languages in themselves are fairly trivial for everyday use. Yes, R can do some awesome stuff, but a lot of you need it to do is essentially just data munging raw data into a usable format for an existing library. I think it would behoove him to learn a more general purpose language to supplement his skills.
  17. May 18, 2015 #16
    For what it's worth, I'm surprised he's having trouble getting an entry level job. If I look for business/finance analysts, he's basically exactly what I look for.

    I'd be happy to throw out some ideas for possible issues and strategies to overcome them, but first tell me if he's simply not getting a response to his resume, or if he's getting some interviews and they aren't working out.
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