How to Get a Job in Finance

Sure, the financial world is in disarray. Yes, there is a recession. Of course, loads of banks have failed. But…what else can you do with your finance/business degree?

I’m in the same boat as you. I spent the past 5 years of my life studying finance/math, and now I’m faced with the problem of trying to get a job in this field during one of the worst recessions in the past 20 years. It’s incredibly unlucky, but you have to roll with the punches. What I want to get through to you, dear reader, is that it is still possible to get a great job in finance.

Personal motivation aside, you also need incredible perseverance, organization, and confidence. Got all those? Good, let’s get started.

  1. Figure out what kind of job you want.

Finance is a ridiculously wide field. There’s jobs for all types of personalities, people, and career goals. If you don’t like being in the pressure and spotlight too much, look towards a backoffice job. If you like excitement, try trading. Like being a dealmaker? Corporate banking is the place for you. My point is, there’s something for everyone here.

You should determine what kind of role best fits your personality. Do research into what that job involves, and read about other people’s experiences. Incidentally, you can read about my experience in Corporate Investment Banking here. The key is, if it doesn’t fit your personality, chances are you’re going to hate it, and you’ll have wasted all that effort to get the job for nothing.

  1. Find out what companies offer those types of jobs.

In most cases, the bulge bracket banks will have something for you. These include major companies such as Bank of America, UBS, Deutsche Bank, and Citigroup. Look on these companies’ websites in the Careers section to see if they offer any open positions. Don’t be afraid to look at postings that aren’t exactly what you want, because who knows, they might actually interest you.

The key here is to expand your findings as much as possible. Don’t limit yourself to just the well known companies. As you continue your research, you’ll turn up lots of smaller boutique firms that offer the same positions. Add these to your list. Also helpful are job websites. A search on Google for “finance jobs” will turn up a whole retinue of sites advertising jobs. I also like to read the financial newspapers to see what companies get mentioned so I can do more research on them.

Info sessions and career fairs will also be massively helpful. Dress nicely, have plenty of resumes handy, and chat with the people there. Who knows, you might be the one lucky person they call back.

One caveat is that you must also realize your own limitations. If certain jobs require specific and advanced knowledge/experience, you may not have enough time to acquire it. In that case, look towards another avenue, or start a notch “below” that job.

  1. Prepare for applications.

At this point, you should have a very large list of places to apply for. Most of these companies will have websites or email addresses where you can submit your resume, and most likely, you’ll have to register your profile on their websites. I recommend that you start an Excel sheet to keep track of things. Your (very necessary) Excel skills should come in handy here.

On my sheet, I have the following headings:

Company name    Website: hyperlink to the URL for quick access    Account information: for the companies that require a registration. It’s much easier to keep track of your login info and passwords like this    Application deadline    Application submitted: a Yes/No checkbox    Cover Letter: hyperlink to the cover letter I submitted for that specific job    Resume: hyperlink to the resume I submitted for that specific job    Comments: any special notes I have about that job

It may seem like a lot of work, but keeping organized will help you in the long run as applications begin overflowing. Doing this will also allow you to sort by application deadlines, so you always know which ones to prioritize.

  1. Start applying for jobs.

Obviously, this is the hardest step. I say it’s harder than the interviews and all of the prep, because there’s just so much of it, and most of it leads nowhere. Don’t let this get you down. Prepare for the worst, you may get no responses. Understand that there are thousands of others competing for the same jobs, and no matter how much of a superstar you were in college, there are hundreds of other superstars out there too. However, you have to want this more badly. You have to persevere. You have to wade through the crap, and come out clean on the other side!

Hopefully, you’re now adequately gung-ho. Good.

I won’t get into the specifics of resume writing. There’s thousands of websites outside for that. I will make a few points about finance resumes though:

Do not make your resume longer than 2 pages. 1 page is preferable.    Write things in finance language, try to use keywords you know are applicable in that field. However, don’t overdo it to the point where it’s obvious you’re just keywording    Don’t add in jobs that are irrelevant. A lot of resume websites I’ve been to say to add in any experience you have, but I don’t agree with this. I feel that if you add “Waitress” to your resume for a trading job, it will detract from your chances    If you have no work experience, play up your school knowledge. Talk about financial techniques you know and have applied in classes, talk about personal experience in your trading account, talk about how you frequently analyze companies in your spare time.    Tailor your resume to each job!

  1. Going to an interview.

Wow, great job! You’ve got a response! At this stage, you’ve got your foot in the door, and all you need now is to nudge it open. Again, plenty of specific finance interview advice is out there. For example, for banking interviews, you need to brush up your accounting and valuation knowledge. Google is your friend.

All I can say now is that it’s entirely up to you. How much you prepare, your actual knowledge, and your confidence will be what gets you the job. In finance interviews, your interviewers will have pretty much decided whether they want to give you the job within the first 10 minutes. If you make a bad first impression, it is incredibly difficult to overcome.

Some general tips:

Dress the part: Very neat, professional    Prepare extensively. Study up on your resume, memorize that thing! Study the company (I recommend reading their most recent annual report – doing so will put you above 95% of the applicants), study the industry, read the news (you should have been doing this all along). Also prepare some stock answers for stock questions, like “Tell us about yourself” or “Why have you chosen this field?” I personally think there’s no point going too creative in these answers. Sure it might be sort of interesting, but your time is better spent impressing them with your knowledge.    Be confident. You want to be enthusiastic, but keep cool at the same time. Act as if you belong there already. Be like one of them, match the level of your interviewers but watch out. If they’re serious and subdued, don’t go overboard with the laughing. If they’re laughing a lot, laugh too, but not too much. All in all, you want them to feel comfortable and feel like they’d want to work with you. These interviews are all about “fit”.    Send a short thank you note after the interview. Chances are they’ll have talked about it already and have chosen or rejected you, but being polite never hurts.    Do not hound the people afterwards, nobody likes a stalker.

And that’s it. The steps are simple, but can become incredibly grueling. The process is hard, but can be extremely rewarding. Whatever motivates you, whether it be the fame, respect, or money, keep it in mind and let it drive you to keep going. With enough perseverance, you too can find a job in finance!

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