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Julian Robertson's advice for young hedgies: Make 'damn sure they love the field'

  • Tiger Management founder Julian Robertson advises young people to "make damn sure they love" finance before seeking it as a career.
  • Robertson made the comments at the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor.

Hedge fund legend Julian Robertson wants young folks considering a career in finance to think long and hard before they jump in.

Not everyone is cut out for the business, and it may not be the best field right now, according to the founder of Tiger Management.

During an appearance Tuesday at the Delivering Alpha conference, Robertson, 85, reminisced about being a young man himself, just out of the Navy and looking to find the direction in life that best suited his talents.

"When I got out of the Navy ... all those hotshots, the guys that were really smart and attractive and all that, guess where they were going? They were going into advertising," he recalled. "That was the hot thing then."

Robertson left the Navy in 1957. So his recollection of the time period conjures up images of "Mad Men," the fictional AMC series set at an ad agency in the 1960s.

Flash forward, and the scene now is more like "Wall Street," where a herd of aspiring Bud Foxes looks to strike it rich in finance.

Julian H. Robertson Jr. speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Julian H. Robertson Jr. speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.

"Now they're all heading into hedge funds and the financial fields," Robertson said.

His advice: "I think they ought to be damn sure they love the field. That should be what guides them."

And another piece of advice: College students should be taking aptitude tests to find out what best suits them and what they most desire.

"They try to marry your best abilities with your best interests," he said. "I would take that test and say, 'What am I best suited for?' and if it came back shoe salesman, you know, think about that."

"Mine kind of agreed with what I wanted to do. You know, finance," added Robertson, who attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

From there, the rest was history.

He launched a career that would take him to the heights of finance, with a fund that once boasted $22 billion in assets. Perhaps the highlight of his career was when he accurately predicted the dotcom bubble in the late 1990s.

Robertson also is known for his legacy of "Tiger Cubs," or funds that former employees started, many of which have enjoyed great success.

"I was so fortunate. I was a late bloomer," he said. "I didn't carry much of a record from college. Investment banks were desperate for people, so they [took] a slob like me."

The Delivering Alpha conference was presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor.

WATCH: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said part of tax reform will be to eliminate a break hedge funds have long enjoyed.

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