While the U.S. economy remains a source of conflicting data and statistics, there are genuine signs that it is entering a tentative and sustainable period of recovery. Even though the national unemployment remains uncomfortably high and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has trimmed its 2014 projection for U.S. growth by 0.3%, there are a host of other indicators that suggest that the economy is healthier than at any point since the global recession.

The financial services sector is particularly buoyant, and this reflects the rising levels of positive sentiment that exist within the economy. In its Spring Forecast, the Ernst and Young ITEM Club has revealed that it remains optimistic about the long-term prospects for the financial services industry, with business lending, life insurance and asset management all set to experience considerable growth throughout 2013 and beyond.

A Unique Opportunity for Financial Services Employees
It stands to reason that the financial services industry should prosper during a sustained economic recovery, as consumers, traders and business owners are far less risk averse when it comes to investing their capital. This is already having a significant impact within the sector, as it triggers a rising demand for professional financial services and improves the portents for long-term job creation.

For those who are already employed within the industry, the recent growth also affords an opportunity for career advancement and progression. With this in mind, what practical steps can you take to take your financial career to the next level? Consider the following:

The Merits of Freelancing
Thanks to numerous technological and social innovations, the nature of the traditional workplace has changed considerably since the turn of the century. This continual evolution has triggered a rise in the number of freelancers and self employed individuals operating in the United States, with the result that more than 42 millions American citizens now work independently.

While there may be some concerns that this demographic of workers suffer in the absence of tangible job security, pension provisions and healthcare benefits, those who have significant experience and operate within the thriving financial services industry may have the potential to boost their earnings while working independently. This also depends on your existing skill set and ability to negotiate, of course, but it is certainly an option in the current financial services market.

Embrace the Art of Networking
Regardless of whether or not you decide to work independently, it is crucial that you are able to network when operating in a competitive industry. More specifically, there is a pressing need to network across a range of social media platforms and professional forums, as this will enable you to create an integrated online profile that reaches as large a target audience as possible.

The development of social media sites to suit professional needs has helped to facilitate this, as sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ now offer tangible benefits for financial professionals. So just as these resources offer brands an opportunity to create an integrated marketing strategy, they also allow financial professionals to network effectively with potential clients, large corporations and existing clientele.

Seek out an Experienced Mentor
In the quest to advance your career, education is of pivotal importance. This not only applies to academic learning, however, as you can also draw a great deal from the experiences of those who have worked extensively in your industry. Seeking out a financial services mentor is, therefore, an excellent way of advancing your career, especially if you can work alongside a more senior colleague who is willing to share their wealth of personal experience.

When you consider the increasingly competitive nature of the financial services sector, the practical and actionable guidance offered by mentors can be worth its weight in gold, while the arrangement may also provide you with access to beneficial industry connections.

Embark on a Continual Process of Self Improvement
If you decide to work alongside an experienced mentor, this must be part of a continual drive toward self improvement and personal development. While some employees may only look to improve or embrace additional learning when there is a clear opportunity for advancement, those who are genuinely determined to succeed must be proactive and constantly look to develop their workplace skills.

This not only improves your credentials in the eyes of management and rival employers, but it also enables you to learn new and relevant industry skills as they emerge within the market. Given the pace of technological advancement in particular, this can help you to gain a critical advantage in a competitive market.

The Bottom Line
While the American economic expansion remains tentative, there are genuine signs that it is beginning to gather sustainable momentum. This positive sentiment is certainly evident within the financial services industry, with various sectors evolving and offering opportunities for employees who wish to pursue career advancement. Whether you are looking to climb the corporate ladder or go it alone in the financial services sector, the most important thing is that you are proactive in your approach and willing to think creatively in the quest for personal development.

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