Entry-Level Finance Jobs: 5 Steps to Secure Your Future

Entry-Level Finance Jobs: 5 Steps to Secure Your Future

So you’ve landed your first job after graduation, and your finance career is preparing to launch, congratulations! Keep in mind that your first job is but one step toward a successful, long-term career in finance. Along with working hard on the job, you should take additional steps along the way to reach your goals.

1. Continue learning and achieving education toward additional degrees and/or certifications. Kudos to you for receiving your 4-year undergraduate degree, that’s one of the first steps that you need to take if you want to get ahead in the finance industry. But learning doesn’t stop with your first diploma.

Depending on which career path you’re traveling down, you will need additional coursework, degrees and certifications to advance to the top finance and accounting jobs. Want to secure that senior financial analyst gig? An MBA can help you get there. Is the certified public accountant (CPA) route in your future? Plan on studying for your CPA exam, now.

Interested in working in investments and selling securities? You’ll need to study for and pass your series 7 and 63 exams as required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Other finance jobs require additional certifications, too, and FINRA has clearly established guidelines and regulations for professionals working in these roles . Your employer typically will sponsor you and have a process in place to help you to attain these goals.

2. Strive to get assignments on high-profile projects and with the top teams. If you want to stand out, you need to continually prove yourself as someone who contributes in a big way. Those are the people who put in the long hours and are resourceful. Learn everything you possibly can about your employer’s business.

Do your research and find out what you can do to position yourself as a change maker who can get things done and contribute to the bottom line. Keep your ears open, ask questions and try to spend time with influencers so you hear about the hot projects or assignments first. That way you can raise your hand when teams are set up or assignments are dealt.

3. Build a strong digital presence and be visible online. It’s smart to make your mark at the organization where you start out, because it might put you in line for promotion. But if you plan to seek out opportunities with different companies in town or across the nation, you need to promote your personal brand online.

Take the time to develop a robust profile on LinkedIn and join groups for finance professionals. Post content, comment on group discussions and connect with people who work at companies you would like to associate with. Combine this with a professional Twitter profile and take part in online forums and discussions about the finance industry regularly. Just be visible. This is also a good time to clean up your digital profiles so your past life doesn’t come back to haunt you (you know those pictures we’re talking about).

4. Attend finance industry networking events on a regular basis. While what you know can help you get your foot in the door early in your finance career, it’s who you know that will help get you a promotion or a better job somewhere else.

Build your network of professional relationships outside of the office by attending networking events and volunteering to organize or help out at future get-togethers or charitable activities. Networking groups provide an excellent opportunity to meet new people in the finance industry and stay on top of the latest news.

5. Don’t burn bridges. Even some of the best and brightest people have been fired or left positions on “not the best of terms” – do the names Steve Jobs, mayor Michael Bloomberg or super bowl winning coach Bill Belichick ring a bell? Losing a job can happen to anyone. And just about everyone has dealt with some backstabbing at the office.

Take the high road and know that everything isn’t always going to come up daisies or go your way. If you have a negative experience with a company or individual, try to suck it up, keep any vitriol to yourself and move on. The pain will ease over time, and your grace under duress will impress.

Remembering the Golden Rule doesn’t hurt either. Treating everyone the way you would like to be treated is never a bad idea. The person you do a bad turn to today, may be the person who decides whether you get hired, fired or passed over tomorrow.

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Resources:

FINRA Registration and Examination Requirements. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority website. Available at http://www.finra.org/industry/compliance/registration/qualificationsexams/qualifications/p011051. Accessed Nov. 25, 2013.

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Looking for a Finance Job? Look Outside of Wall Street

Looking for a Finance Job? Look Outside of Wall Street

For years, finance grads have looked to our nation’s largest financial centers to launch their finance careers. Wall Street employs the highest number of people in the finance industry (436,000) by far, but the number of jobs in New York has declined by 7.4 percent since 2007.1

The other big U.S. financial hot spots Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles have also seen declines. Across the top five, a net loss of 39,000 jobs occurred from 2007 to 2012. Fortunately, jobs in the financial sector are cropping up in other cities across the nation – with a net gain of 12,000 finance jobs outside of the top five during this same time period.2

Where Are the Finance Jobs Going?

So the top five financial hot spots are losing jobs, where should you look if you’re a recent grad searching for entry-level finance jobs? If you still aspire to work on Wall Street or in one of the other financial centers, jobs are still available for the top candidates who excelled in college, achieved excellent grades and are able to stand out in a sea of applicants.

If working on Wall Street isn’t important to you, or staying closer to home (away from the big city) sounds appealing – you now have more options.

The cities that realized the most growth in finance jobs from 2007 to 2012 include:2

St. Louis, Missouri/Illinois – This city in the heart of the Midwest, the home of baseball’s Cardinals, added 5,600 jobs for an increase of 85 percent.

Washington, DC and surrounding areas – Finance jobs added near our nation’s capital amounted to 4,400 for an increase of 28 percent.

Phoenix, Arizona – Finance opportunities in the desert, home of basketball’s Suns, grew with 3,900 jobs added or an increase of 36 percent.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas – Deep in the heart of North Texas, the booming DFW metroplex added 2,600 jobs for an increase of 14 percent.

Some of the other growing markets for finance jobs during this same period were Des Moines, Iowa; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida.2

Why Are Finance Jobs Moving?

There are a number of reasons why more opportunities are cropping up outside of New York and other traditional financial hot spots. One of the main reasons finance degree jobs are moving is that the cost of living is lower in smaller cities and towns. Housing is significantly less expensive as are day-to-day costs. This means finance firms, banks, insurance companies and private corporations can pay employees less – which helps cut costs.

Growth in the energy and manufacturing industries, which are tied to locations near the gulf coast (Texas, Louisiana) and parts of the Midwest (Iowa, Missouri, Illinois) and portions of the Rust Belt (Pennsylvania), also prompt the necessity to add more finance positions.1

In addition, access to a skilled workforce, favorable taxes and regulations and the expansion of the virtual work model can play a role in where companies choose to operate today – whether they are in the financial sector or not.

So if you’re looking for a job in finance, the good news is that you aren’t limited to a few select cities anymore. To look for a finance job on Wall Street or Main Street, check out Doostang’s website. We specialize in helping top finance grads and MBAs find the best jobs from coast to coast.

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Resources:

Kotkin, J. and Shires, M. “The Cities That are Stealing Finance Jobs from Wall Street.” Forbes website, May 31, 2013. Available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2013/05/31/the-cities-taking-finance-jobs-from-wall-street/. Accessed Nov. 20, 2013.

Cox, W. “The Dispersion of Financial Sector Jobs.” Newgeography website; Jan. 8, 2013. Available at http://www.newgeography.com/content/003387-the-dispersion-financial-sector-jobs. Accessed Nov. 20, 2013

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How to Break Into a Career on Wall Street – What Your Professors Didn’t (or Couldn’t) Tell You

So – you think you want to be a banker, and you don’t know where to begin. Whether you’re still in college, a couple of years out, or already in an established career and looking for a change, it’s never too late to begin a career in finance. Finance is unique among many high-paying professions in that successful bankers come from a very diverse range of backgrounds. You don’t necessarily have to graduate from the most prestigious school, have the most impressive GPA, or complete a specific (or any) graduate program to make it. You simply have to have what it takes to get ahead and stay ahead in what has become one of the most competitive professions in the world.

Step 1: Do Your Homework

For many people, banking as a whole first comes to their attention by means of its lucrative and infamous salaries. There are few jobs out there that can garner as high a wage as a successful career in finance, but the field itself is very diverse and includes much more than your stereotypical private-jet-owning investment bankers. If you haven’t already, take a look through online resources detailing the differences between areas like corporate finance, financial planning, hedge funds, investment banking, and private equity to get a feel for what you might be interested in. Attend conferences, go to lectures, and if you can, pick up an internship. Since the recent financial crisis, Wall Street firms have been pulling more and more new hires from their summer and year-long internship pool, and taking an internship will allow you to explore and discover exactly which areas you might be interested in.

Step 2: Understand the Lifestyle: You are NOT in a 9-5 Desk Job

Readers beware: while a 6-figure salary straight out of college may seem like a dream come true, let there be no doubt in your mind that you will be working hard, long hours to earn those 6 digits. For those who choose to follow their hearts to the large firms of Wall Street, first year investment banking analysts have been known to work 100+ hours a week, running on nothing but ungodly amounts of Starbucks coffee. Think long and hard about what the position entails and why you are suited for it. Also, interviewers will be able to tell if you don’t actually know anything about the culture of finance when you come in. Do some research, ask around – know about the different fields and the different lifestyles attached to each one. Follow the news in finance beyond picking up a Wall Street Journal the night before you interview.

One [perhaps dramatized] example of Wall Street culture:

Step 3: Network Like Your Life Depends on It

Landing your first job at a bank is all about getting your foot in the door. Be proactive about meeting people wherever you go. Take business cards. Search your current network for people within the firm you hope to apply to. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. Use resources like Doostang or LinkedIn to your advantage to search for positions and make connections along the way. Knowing people within a bank you’re applying to will be able to set you apart from the hundreds of applications that are received every year.

Step 4: Send in Your Resume, and Be Yourself

Unlike career paths in academia, jobs in finance, especially in areas like sales & trading, don’t always rely heavily on your academic credentials to gauge potential. A successful analyst or associate is often someone who possesses certain personality traits – like the ability to prioritize, to work well as a part of a team, and to take entrepreneurial initiative. If you think that finance is a field in which you will excel, go for it and have faith in your abilities! it may take an untraditional applicant a bit longer to move up and land the job that you want, but soon enough people will catch on to your potential and you will be on your way.

Step 5: If at First You Don’t Succeed

Like we said, a lot of breaking into finance is simply about getting interested, informed, and your foot in the door. If you really think that you’ve got what it takes to be successful, don’t give up until you get a chance to show your stuff. Once you’re in any kind of job or internship, you’ll be able to learn and move up in rank quickly if you have the right skills and personality. So don’t let a round of disastrous applications get you down. Try applying to a smaller bank or for a job in a related field first. Work hard at whatever you’re doing, continue to network, and chase after that job until you land it.

And our last bit of advice: just be honest. Be honest with yourself, and be honest with the people you meet. If there’s something you don’t know or are unsure about, say something. People are much more likely to care about you and your career if you are honest with them from the get-go. By approaching each situation with sincerity, enthusiasm, and integrity, you will be sure to nail your interview, land your job, and create a successful and fulfilling career.

Best of luck future Wall Street wanderers,

Team Doostang

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