In flush times, major brokerage and investment management houses are consistently on the lookout for new graduates. The idea is to fill the ranks with bright young minds and to mold them into financial professionals. But in slower times, jobs and good money aren't as easy to come by on Wall Street. With that in mind, what choices does a recent graduate (with Wall Street desires) have if after they receive their diploma the stock market is on the wane? There are a few options.
Head Back to School
Graduating with a four-year degree is terrific. However, to a certain extent, a bachelor's degree has become a common commodity on Wall Street - almost everyone these days seems to have one Therefore, recent undergrads might consider going back to school once again, perhaps for their MBA or another advanced degree. That may make them more marketable and cause them to stand out among other applicants. Also, hopefully, the hiring prospects will pick up come graduation time. (These certifications require time and money, but combined programs are making obtaining both more realistic; check out CFA, MBA ... Or Both?)
What type of degree or coursework would be the most advantageous to pursue?
That depends upon your career objectives. For example, a person looking to pursue a career as a chief financial officer (CFO) at a brokerage firm might want to obtain an MBA with a concentration in accounting and/or corporate finance. Meanwhile, a person who wants to go on and become a biotechnology stock research analyst might, under some circumstances, be better off taking science-related classes in conjunction with additional finance classes.
Again, think about what it is that you ultimately want to do, and consider talking to a career advisor to help you determine the best way to get there. (If your goals include a big paycheck and working for a Wall Street firm, then you need to learn how to meet employers' expectations. Read Top 4 Most Competitive Financial Careers.)
The need for individuals in compliance departments will always be present. After all, the well-publicized Wall Street shenanigans we've seen throughout history keep firms on the defensive. To that end, they'll be on the lookout for individuals who will make sure employees and the firm as a whole adhere to SEC rules.
Generally speaking, there is no set path one must follow to ultimately break in to compliance. However, having a firm understanding of the financial markets and experience within a firm is often a plus. Thus, getting one's foot in the door, perhaps in sales, trading, clearing or in some other department can be a stepping stone. (If you're a stickler for rules, this could be a promising career path for you, check out Get A Job In Compliance.)
Becoming a Financial Writer
The investing world has changed dramatically in the last 10 to 20 years. For example, in the early 1990s, many firms didn't use the internet, and many analysts and journalists studied hard copies (rather than electronic files) of financial reports. In addition, there were fewer sources of information.
These days however, there are seemingly countless print and web publications that are often able to respond to, and write about, corporate news in relatively short order, sometimes within minutes. These changes have opened up doors that weren't there before. It opened up a career path for financial writers and individuals with a passion about the markets and an ability to write and communicate. What's more, these types of people are needed in good and bad times. (Instead of working on Wall Street, write about it. See Becoming A Financial Writer.)
The High Payout Route
If sales or being a registered rep is your interest, you may want to consider linking up with a firm that offers a high payout on commission dollars. Often, but not always, the smaller more regional firms tend to be more generous. In short, this may help provide the rep with a bigger income during slower times.
However, there are downsides to smaller firms. Sometimes they may not be as financially stable as their larger counterparts, and it is sometimes easier to open up accounts when one is employed and backed by a large, well-respected, well-known firm. Finally, sometimes the larger firms may have better training programs than some of the smaller firms. (Before you agree to work for another investment firm, be sure you know what you're getting into. See Career Shift: Get In The Driver's Seat for more insight.)
Consider reviewing the websites of firms you might want to work at, and consider speaking with reps already employed at the target companies. They should be able to give you a better lay of the land and help you identify both the positives and the negatives.
Get Your Foot in the Door
Maybe you know you want to get involved in the securities industry but you don't know exactly what you want to do (although you do know you don't want to go back to school).
In such a case it may make sense to consider taking almost any job - within reason - just to get your foot in the door. At that point, you may be better able to determine where you want to go or what you can want to do from there. You'll also be in a better position to network and interact with people within the firm that may help them to identify a career path. (Moving to one of these financial hot-spot destinations could set your career in motion. See Top 10 Cities For A Career In Finance to find out where the action is.)
A weak stock market can have an adverse impact on overall hiring on Wall Street, and on incomes, which by extension may discourage recent grads. However, recent undergraduates often do have options and can, as mentioned above, consider doing things that may help them adapt to the environment. (For more read Finding Your Place In The Financial Industry or for more articles, check out our Financial Careers Articles Archive.)
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