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.

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 needed 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 certain securities exams, such as the Series 7 (a prerequisite for a registered representative), the Series 55 (for equities traders), or the Series 87 (for research analysts).

Key Takeaways

  • 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.

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. Be Honest With Your Current Boss

Once you know you want to change careers, you should talk to your boss about the decision. Your current boss probably won't be thrilled, but if you are upfront and honest about your reasons for wanting a change, the odds are good that the boss will understand.

The best way to break the news is to just go for it. Don't beat around the bush. Explain why you want to make the switch, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Your boss might be able to help guide you into a new career and may have contacts to help you on your way.

4. 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. Preferably, this should be someone with seniority, as it will make the switch easier.

Once you build up 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 at industry-related functions. Remember, these are your future colleagues.

5. 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, be sure to emphasize your existing skillset and your educational and professional experience in the industry. You have experience and skills that the average new 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.

6. 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.

The Bottom Line

Making a career shift within the securities industry is possible if you plan ahead and are willing to work hard. Your previous experience as a financial professional can help you make the transition successfully.