You didn't pass the exam, is it all a waste of time?

It’s about a month until the Level 1 and 2 exam results are released and statistically about half of you will be wondering if it was all just a waste of time. You failed the exam and your mind is trying to find reasons why the CFA designation just isn’t worth it anyway.
After all, there’s no guarantee that it will land you a job or make you a super-successful investment manager. You know plenty of people that have great jobs and never thought about taking the exams. You just spent around 300 hours studying, that’s 12.5 full days of your life, for nothing!
It’s ok to be disappointed, frustrated, angry or a hundred other emotions after getting that painful email. But was the time really wasted? Did you get nothing out of the experience and was there really something much more pressing on which you could have spent your time?
To put that 12.5 days in perspective, I looked around the internet to find out how much time people spend on various tasks.

7.5 years in front of the TV!

to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans age 15 and older spend an average of 2.8 hours a day fixated on the goggle box. Now, if you’re like me you spend much of that time watching highly educational and worthwhile programs like Morgan Freeman’s Down the Wormhole or The Simpsons but how much time is spent on the ‘other’ stuff?

5 months complaining

Probably a fair amount of this has been spent complaining about the CFA exams, no? A poll by Hillary Blinds reveals that we spend upwards of 3,600 hours griping about the little things, and believe me they’re all little things.

5 years on the internet!

Nielson reports that the average person spends 10,000 hours surfing the net! Again, almost all highly educational and worthwhile…except for the few hundred hours you spent playing Angry Birds.
And that’s only the beginning. How many hours have you spent in the last week at the bar, checking or making those endless Facebook updates, or just sitting around doing nothing?
Suddenly 12.5 days doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Sure, it was hard studying and a pretty solitary process but did you really get nothing out of it?
It’s arguable that you could find a more detailed guide on the field of asset management. The curriculum is written by some of the most respected and experienced people in the field. Unlike that semester of Early Greek Thinkers you took in school, the CFA curriculum is highly practical and can actually be applied in career. Even if you didn’t pass the exam, can you really say that you didn’t learn anything?
Though studying for the exam is largely a solitary process, hopefully you’ve made connections with other candidates and charterholders in the meantime. These are some of the most ambitious professionals in the industry and great connections to make. Networking is still the key to finding a job in the industry and these are the people that you want to know.
So is less than two weeks of your life really too much to spend on becoming a better professional and making the personal connections that will help you succeed? Even if you have to repeat an exam or two, it really is worth it. I can tell you that you are most likely going to be spending time studying these very concepts and formulas once you get that job in finance, so you might as well do it now and have that time go to getting your charter.
It’s a tough letter to get but don’t be too frustrated. Life is a journey, not a destination. Spend your time on the things that make you a better person and a better professional and you’ll have a life well-spent.
Stay strong and learn from it.
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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