How to Build a Lasting Career in Finance: 10 Expert Tips

In: How To

Careers in finance continue to be attractive thanks to their prestige, lucrative salaries and opportunities for vertical growth. However, it takes years and decades of hard work before you take that spacious office with a big leather chair. Building a career in finance takes effective career planning, making strategic career moves and knowing the right people in the industry.

For those working on the entry-level jobs in the finance industry and those only considering this career direction, we have collected the expert advice on effective career management. Continue reading to find out how to avoid being stuck in an entry position and work your way up quickly, growing your areas of responsibility and competencies. 

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10 tips to build a long-term finance career

1. Get a finance education

Financial processes and instruments are complex, and this complexity will only grow due to technology integration. This brings up the necessity of getting at least a Bachelor’s degree in finance or related field. Although some finance jobs such as advertising sales agent or auditing clerk don’t require a degree, you will need it to proceed in your career. The most successful finance professionals never stop learning, pursuing a Master’s or MBA and taking relevant courses time after time to stay abreast of the recent industry knowledge.

2. Choose your niche

The term ‘finance career’ is broad. To end up with a fulfilling career, you need to decide what direction in finance you would like to take. Don’t just take any finance job you’ve been offered if it doesn’t take you to your long-term career goal. To make an informed choice, you might want to read more about different types of careers, such as corporate finance, investment finance, private equity and more. Learn the opportunities for vertical growth that each direction offers, as well as median salaries and responsibility.

3. Find a mentor

At the early stage of your career finding a mentor can save you a lot of time. A person who achieved a lot in their career will help you cope with career challenges, recommend what to learn and how to manage tricky situations in the workplace. Having a mentor is great because they will share the experience gained in decades and you will avoid wrong decisions and wasted time. Both the person from your organization who has achieved everything you are dreaming of, and the external professional can be your mentor.
If you care about the state of your career, check out the top things which are better to do for your career early.

4. Pursue a certification in finance

If you are sending faxes and fill out the data so far, gaining certification isn’t your top priority concern. Yet, if you are an established finance analyst or auditor, getting a certification will expand your career prospects. To become a success in the financial world, the most popular finance certification is Chartered Finance Analyst (CFA). To obtain it, you need to prove knowledge of accounting, economics, professional standards and portfolio management. Other popular certification exams include CPA, FRM, and CFP – choose one which fits your career goals best.

5. Network actively

Like in many other industries, personal connections in finance are invaluable. Networking is much more than attending conferences or events and handing your business card to people sitting next to you. Talk to other finance professionals everywhere and think of how you can be helpful for them. Volunteer in the finance community or join the professional association – such events are the storehouse of helpful contacts. Moreover, talking to other professional keeps your knowledge of what is going on in the industry current and thus open you more career prospects. There are only positives to networking, aren’t they?

6. Ask for feedback

To grow professionally, you will need to ask for feedback, and do it frequently. Don’t wait until the next performance review to hear an honest opinion. Ask the boss what they think about your work and what you should work more on to grow professionally. Hear the opinion of your colleagues as well. However, when asking for feedback, be ready to hear the brutal truth and make sure you know how to handle criticism. Facilitating the feedback sessions with your boss are also an awesome reason to ask for more responsibility – if they think you’ve performed well on the most recent project, go ahead and ask for more challenging tasks.

7. Avoid career options that will be automated

When considering possible finance careers, don’t forget about the automation. Keep in mind the jobs which have the potential of being automated in the next decades. Typically, these are the jobs including routine and repetitive operations. For instance, at Goldman Sachs, they’ve broken down the 160 operations included in IPO so that these steps could be automated. This is another reason to keep your hand on the pulse of what is going on in the industry – so that you won’t miss any significant news that could possibly impact your future career.

8. Update your resume with style

You’re only as good for the new employer as the latest version of your resume is. Finance and accounting industry is still one of the most competitive, so the quality of your resume matters. If you are qualified for the job, a good resume written in accordance with all standards is bound to generate interview calls. If it doesn’t happen, your resume needs a makeover. And if you are concerned with the question “Where to fix my resume?” pay attention to the resume services we offer. Our agency staffs resume writers with 2+  years of experience. They know exactly which resume format and style of writing to use to help you look your best on paper.

9. Learn the needed software

Today’s finance jobs grow more technically challenging. To become a competitive professional, you are now expected to be familiar with industry software and tools. You can start learning them early on. The list of software used varies depending on the company and the sphere. However, there are some popular financial analysis software including ReadyRatios and MATLAB. If you want to build a career in investment banking, have a look at Stock Simulator by Investopedia and practice trading. You can look up for the software used specifically in your area and master it – it will give you a head start in the workplace.
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10. Work on your soft skills

When you’re at the bottom of the corporate ladder, it’s the hard skills and knowledge that determine if you get hired or not. However, as you climb up, the soft skills start taking over. At some point, technical skills are a must. And the ability to organize the processes, hold a meeting, and communicate updates is a privilege. Leadership, communication and critical thinking skills are of great importance for managers and executives. You might want to build these skills in advance as well by attending specific trainings, participating in group events or asking for more leadership opportunities from your boss.

Building a long-term career in finance requires taking the right steps in the right time. Making connections with many people in the industry, learning the needed skills and constantly learning is the universal advice for achieving a steady career growth. You might also want to explore less trivial ways of becoming a reputable finance professional. For instance, you can start a professional blog (here are our tips on how to be popular blogger). One way or another, if you stay persistent and know what you want for sure your chances of building a dream career increase.

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