How to Land a Job in Finance?

Today’s competitive work environment presents a challenge for many looking for a career in finance. One reason may be that regular job hunting strategies are simply outdated. Here are five tips for landing a job in finance given the factors in today’s job market.

1-Create an Online Personal Brand

Before you even consider looking for a job in finance, make sure you have a pristine online brand. You may be afraid to “google” yourself but rest assured, someone looking to hire you won’t. In today’s environment, your online brand is prevalent whether you like it or not. You leave many digital footprints online and they need to be actively monitored. Clean up Facebook accounts, set up alerts on Google for your name (consider the services of image repairers like if there’s any issues) and update your LinkedIn profile and a recent photo.

With so many different media outlets, you can now build an entire personal brand online. Becoming an online contributor is a great way to start. Start writing articles and get them published on financial sites like Seeking Alpha. Now people can see your insights and talent first hand. Start networking with other contributors, get followers and engage with them. If you’re having trouble getting your content published, do it yourself with a blog or personal website. On LinkedIn, write posts and reply to others in a professional and insightful manner that adds value. Produce a white paper with a copy on your profile page. A little work for your online brand will go a long way.

2-Be Active

Don’t just rely on your resume or profile and expect career opportunities to find you. You’ll likely need to network to land the job, or even first interview. In a presentation to the CFA Institute, Robert Hellmann of Hellmann Career Consulting offered some expertise on getting an interview. His experience showed that 80% of job-seekers landed an interview from active approaches while just 20% get interviews from passive approaches¹.

Active approaches increase your chance of success and your ‘return on time spent’ is higher than passive approaches. Two popular active approaches are direct contact and networking. Job seekers need to be actively moving forward towards the goal of finding that financial job.

Reaching out to someone directly is a much faster and effective way to get the process moving. With direct contact, your goal should be to get a meeting with the person, not necessarily an interview. Hellmann suggests “getting in front of” 6-10 people who are in a position to hire you². Technology makes it pretty easy to find the right people these days. Resources like LinkedIn, alumni and industry associations, even online journals are great venues to make contacts and network.

Once you’ve located someone to contact, pick up the phone or send them an email. The message should be a few short paragraphs, ending with you asking for a meeting. Hellmann suggests taking the pressure off by asking to meet for coffee for 15 minutes. Try and make the meeting mutually beneficial, maybe an introduction to someone in your network or a referral, for example. Be clear with the reason for contacting them discuss the position you are interested in, not what you’re doing now. They will be able to look up what you’re doing now or have done on their own if they want to by simply looking at your LinkedIn profile, which, of course, should be well-organized and polished beforehand. LinkedIn provides a low-key way for someone to read your resume.

Passive approaches entail waiting for people or job openings to come to you. Examples include answering want ads, attending job fairs, or using job search firms known as “head hunters”. Pursuing passive approaches is fine, but realize that everyone else is already doing this. Human Resource departments are being overwhelmed by candidates for open positions. Hellmann claims Human Resource’s job is to weed people out, not necessarily hire them. The job seeker is being stagnant with passive approaches.

3-Consider Furthering your Education

Today’s job environment requires relevant, updated skills. This is especially true in finance. Furthering your education will not only update and improve these skill sets; it makes you a more valuable asset to any company. There are many designations including the CFA, CFP, and CFE. These cover areas of financial analysis, financial planning and accounting fraud examination. There are also individual financial certificates from schools and organizations. And of course, tons of free educational resources are available online.

If you aren’t exactly sure of your career path or may be switching careers consider going back to school for a Master’s degree. The MBA, Master’s in Business Administration, is probably the most versatile business degree, but there are also different Master’s programs focusing on Finance and Accounting.

An overlooked benefit of any Master’s degree is the ability to expand your networking. Master’s programs are typically geared towards working in teams, like a typical work environment, so this is a great opportunity to make future business relationships while working on a group project or study group. You’ll also have access to your alumni network and membership lists. Many alum are happy to offer advice or pass along a resume.

On campus, or even online, some great opportunities to land a career in finance should present themselves. These include getting advice or recommendations from professors, tapping career services and meeting corporate recruiters that are associated with the institution. Most schools also have endowment funds so interning or volunteering there is a great way to get experience in asset management.

4-Tap your Network

Although networking was already mentioned previously, it’s so important it warrants reinforcing. Everyone you know should be considered part of your network and can help in your search for a career in finance. Everyone knows someone and the chances of them being able to put a good word in for you with the right person will increase your chances of finding that right position.

With social media resources like LinkedIn and Facebook, you should have no problem locating people. Send them a message, even if you haven’t communicated in quite some time. Even better, pick up the phone and call the person to catch up. You may have to get out of your comfort zone a little but it gets easier with practice. But remember, nothing beats in person meetings for building and maintaining relationships. Your chances of success are that much higher with these approaches.

5-Seek out the Right Employer

Finally, research companies you’re pursuing to gauge if they’re a good fit. Corporate cultures and missions vary greatly so you want to make sure that company is in line with your values. Talk to people and visit sites like to see what current and former employees are saying about their experience there. Take some of it with a grain of salt, in the case of a clearly disgruntled employee, but if there’s dozens of bad reviews then it might tell you something.

You should also assess a company’s work-life balance and what would fit your lifestyle. Some financial institutions have a reputation for stressful conditions and long hours, especially for younger employees. Parents should consider flexibility of work schedule, maternity/paternity benefits and day care options.

Job openings in finance go quickly but these five tips should give you a leg up on the competition and increase your chances of landing the job you want.