Breaking into the securities industry is extremely difficult. Success takes years of study and hard work, followed by a few more years of "paying your dues." So what happens if you reach the pinnacle only to realize you've been climbing the wrong mountain?
Financial professionals who aren't happy in their chosen fields are not doomed to stay where they are. If you're a trader, analyst, broker, or compliance officer looking to shift into another financial field, the good news is that it's possible—with some preparation and hard work.
- Get any professional training and certifications you'll need before starting your job search.
- Network among professionals already doing the job you want.
- Get ready to prove your value again.
1. Be Prepared to Take a Pay Cut
It's important to know from the start that when you switch financial career paths, you'll probably have to take a cut in pay and a lesser title initially to make the jump.
For example, it's unrealistic for a seasoned trader to become a new stockbroker and expect the same salary right off the bat. It takes time and patience to build up a client base and assets. You need both to prove your value as a stockbroker.
Wherever you go, you'll be the new kid. Get ready to prove yourself again.
2. Build Your Skills Before You Make the Jump
You'll need to study the job skills required for your new career path in detail before you pursue it. If you want to become a financial advisor, study personal finance or economics. If you want to be a trader, take options trading classes.
You also should prepare and sit for specific securities exams, such as Series 7 (a prerequisite for a registered representative), Series 57 (for equities traders), or Series 87 (for research analysts).
Any of the above will take a significant amount of time and energy, so weigh this decision carefully before you start saying your farewells to your current boss and co-workers.
Once you start a new job, you may also be asked to shadow a more senior employee for some time to learn all of the idiosyncrasies of the job. The time you'll spend shadowing should also be factored into your decision.
3. Find a Network and a Mentor
Before making any switch, you should try to find a mentor or someone who will be on your side and show you the ropes in the new job. This should be someone with seniority, as it will make the switch easier.
Once you build a rapport with someone you like and respect, ask if that person would be willing to take you on as a protégé. You'll be surprised how willing most people are to help. But unless you ask, you'll never find out.
At the same time, make an effort to network with other members of the target department at the company or industry-related functions. Remember, these are your future colleagues.
4. Don't Sell Yourself Short
As noted, you should be prepared for a pay cut, but that doesn't mean you have to accept a rookie salary.
Prepare for a pay cut but remember, you're no rookie.
During salary negotiations, emphasize your existing skillset and educational and professional industry experience. You have knowledge and skills that the average recruit can't match. Use this to your advantage to get the job you want. You can also use it to negotiate a more favorable pay package than the average rookie will get.
5. Be Ready to Work Hard
Once you make the switch, be prepared for hard work. Anyone looking to transition into a new career must be prepared to come in early and leave late while becoming proficient.
Before starting the new position, try to complete any personal chores or tasks that you had planned, such as fixing up the basement or putting a new roof on the house. You will need as few distractions and stresses as possible.
6. Be Honest With Your Current Boss
Unless you have a trusting and mentoring relationship with your manager, this should be your last step. Although your boss may be able to offer helpful advice, if your office is aware of your desire to leave, you may be pushed aside or ignored for future work or opportunities, or potentially asked to leave before you are ready.
The Bottom Line
Making a career shift within the securities industry is possible if you plan and are willing to work hard. Your previous experience as a financial professional can help you make the transition successfully.