Practical analysis for investment professionals
28 November 2014

Takeaways from the Careers in Finance Forum 2014

CFA Institute and New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA) recently co-hosted the Careers in Finance Forum 2014, a Livestream program geared toward students considering a career in finance and investing. The presentations included a practitioner panel and an HR panel (with representatives from BlackRock, BNY Mellon, Citi, and Thomson Reuters) to share experiences and advice about what it takes to break into and succeed in finance. While the stated audience for the program was students, I found there were several points touched on or discussed that are relevant at many stages of your career and worth occasional reminders. I’d like to share and elaborate on a few of them here.

Regarding Job Searches

  • Resumes are your calling card . . . but that just gets you through the door. You want to have an impressive resume of course, but as you’re building it stay mindful of whether experiences you spend your time on constitute the true story about yourself that you want to be telling when you sit in front of people in interviews. Prepare to be more than just your resume in your interviews.
  • When you interview with a company, take a long view too. One of the HR panelists pointed out that when they interview applicants, the prospective employees focus a lot on the realities of the first few months of the job, but the company is often considering a longer time frame in terms of the applicant’s potential impact when they are deciding whether to invest in an employee. As the applicant, come prepared to talk about both the immediate and the long-term impact you can have as a result of your experiences, knowledge, unique strengths, and career goals.
  • Apply locally to build your career globally. While more financial institutions are more global — either by virtue of having offices abroad or by virtue of interacting with more global markets — the realities of budgets, visas, and employment laws often means that for entry and mid-career level talent, companies search for and hire locally and then use international assignments for top-achieving employees to match talent with opportunities worldwide. To achieve the career goal of working abroad, especially if the foreign markets you are interested in have more competitive job markets than your own, consider working for organizations locally/regionally that have offices in your target markets, dedicate yourself to becoming a top employee in whatever your role, and let your supervisors know that you are interested in international assignments.

What They Know Now

The practitioners were asked the question, “What do you know now about working in your industry that you wish you had known when you started?” Their answers make great reminders:

  • Teamwork is important. While there are certainly occasions where you need to prove your ability to have an impact based on your individual achievements, as you settle into your career the ways in which your leadership helps your entire team achieve more as a group becomes the real measure of your value.
  • Talk to people — all sorts of people — as much as possible. Other people are a wealth of information so be open to asking them lots of questions. In this way you will gain a better understanding of the work, the broader industry, your organization, and career opportunities.
  • Understanding the investment and finance industries broadly is helpful. Not only does a broader understanding of the “the big picture” help connect and generate ideas on the job, but it can also help you to recognize more efficiently the potential career paths that best suit your interests and strengths. Rotation assignments, if they are part of your company’s talent management program, informational interviews (see bullet point above) and reviewing industry career guides (e.g., those of Vault, CFA Institute, CFA Society of the United Kingdom, etc.) are terrific ways to gain a broader understanding of the industry.

A final, important point to share that was raised — one that comes up nearly anytime career management is discussed — is that having passion for your work and your industry makes a difference to your success. This is not simply a touchy-feely, feel-good point. When you are intrinsically motivated to do the work you are doing, it is easier to stay focused, manage your time, and continue to develop.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

About the Author(s)
Julia VanDeren

Julia VanDeren, manager, career services at CFA Institute, serves as the subject matter expert in career management skills, curating and developing career resources for members and program candidates. Previously, she served CFA Institute as career services representative, managing the CFA Institute JobLine (now Career Center) and Career Centre (now Career Tools) resources. VanDeren holds a BA from the University of Virginia and an MPA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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