Financial job searches generally start off with a lot of excitement and a little dose of anxiety. A slight change in perspective can be the difference between a long and financially fruitless career search and a short successful one. As a business or finance grad, you've probably spent time imagining what the ideal job will look like, how to find it and how to close the deal once you get the interview.
Successfully landing a job has less to do with your particular job skills and more to do with your financial job search strategy. Most new graduates want to highlight their skills, education and intellectual curiosity. Although relevant and necessary, companies are in need of strategic candidates, not walking resumes. The secret to standing out of the crowd is changing your point of view. Read on to learn how to be a standout applicant and land a stellar job.
High-Level View of the Financial Job Landscape
Wrap your head around a big-picture view of the finance job landscape before making any moves. Step away from the computer, log off the blogs and consider what the employment market looks like. Find the answers to these important questions: What industries are growing? What sectors will be most influenced by technology, macroeconomics and geopolitics? What niche have companies been adding to their work forces and why?
Answers to such questions can provide a strategic view of the financial job market and opportunities for a recent grad. Ironically, the biggest challenge for a recent grad is the fact that he or she recently graduated. In order to overcome lack of experience, you must demonstrate the potential you bring. The hiring manager should sense that your are not only a great team player, but also a quick study with a can-do attitude.
See: Students, Get Your Foot In The Door!
Start With the End in Mind
In order to give a hiring manager a positive impression, you should reverse engineer the desired result. The key is planning. Before graduation you should be laying the groundwork for your financial job search strategy.
When targeting a job in finance, it is well worth your time to get to know the HR directors at major financial firms in your city. People will be much more open to speak to you if you simply want to learn about their firm and are not asking for a job. Set up a 15-minute introductory meeting to ask a handful of questions about the firm's culture, people and business challenges.
Perhaps the most important part of this strategy is following up. A hand written note in the mail (no later than the next day) is required. Stay in touch. You are trying to differentiate yourself, so do not treat the meeting like a finance job interview. A good impression at this early stage, along with a quarterly phone follow-up, can give you a solid leg up in the financial job search process.
Where You Start Is Not Where You Finish
Since it's going to take time and effort to secure a job in finance, recent graduates should concentrate on positions in line with their long-term goals. It takes as much time and energy to land a good job as it does to land a bad one. Don't be too concerned if your first position isn't the optimal situation. Measure the non-cash benefits and the learning possibilities offered. Sometimes the most difficult work situations offer the best opportunity for development.
If you can't secure the job in finance you've always dreamed of, learn to love the position you have! While you're there, be patient and learn everything you can. Keep in mind that this position is preparing you for the next finance job, which may be the one you really want. You will need references for your next job, so be professional when it comes time to leave.
Consider the Whole Package
When you receive an offer for a job in finance, carefully review the entire package. This includes health coverage, disability insurance, training, retirement contributions and travel opportunities. These are the basics - make sure you understand what is included.
Smaller firms tend to be more flexible with the employment package. This is a good thing and leaves room for reasonable requests such as flexible working hours. Larger companies tend to be less willing to negotiate, and view benefits as one large, static system.
Best Available Financial Job Resources for New Grads
Graduates today have more tools and resources available to them than ever before. Do not underestimate the power of your school's alumni network. Again, take the approach of an informational interview - not that you are looking for a job. Talk about your long-term professional goals and seek out alumni recommendations on the best way to reach that goal. If you do know of a particular opening at an alumni member's company in which you have interest, ask for strategies as to the best way to get in touch with the hiring manager.
Financial hiring managers are using niche job sites because the generic boards produce too many unqualified applicants. You should use them too. Although the large job boards claim to have many thousands of jobs available, your interest is in a very small subset of those positions. From the employer's side, it is well known that the large, generic career sites are costly both in terms of time and money. Recruiters often find that in return for posting on one of these sites, they get an inbox filled with resume spam - it's not the stack you want to be associated with.
Leading with Your Strengths
Your strategy for finding the best job should include resources available to you such as personal, professional and public websites. You should also use your professors, friends and family to collect the first round of leads for jobs in finance. Sometimes the best jobs come by word-of-mouth and casting a wide net ensures you will have the maximum number of job options from which to choose.
Lead with your strengths. If you've consistently been told that you're a great communicator, then focus your search on positions with more personal interaction. If your professors mentioned how you have an unusual talent for numbers, attend the local accountant's forum in your area and start talking to people for whom the numbers are everything.
Short-Term Actions Lead to Long-Term Career Success
Think about your first position strategically; does it put you on the path you are hoping for or does it start you off in the wrong direction? Set yourself apart with quick, informative introductory meetings and be sure to stay in touch. Take advantage of the flexibility available in the compensation package - it isn't all about the money. And finally, be sure to use your own personal network for warm introductions and niche online resources to expand your opportunities. Follow these tips and play to your strengths and you are sure to start your financial career off on the right foot.
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