It’s certainly not difficult to find available openings for financial jobs. When seeking financial careers, potential employees need only look in newspapers and online job boards to find many jobs available at banks and other financial institutions. All around the globe, the need for financial professionals exists. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for many types of finance professionals is expected to grow much faster than other jobs. This is mainly due to the number of people in the baby boomer generation who are preparing for retirement or who will soon begin to retire.
Before applying for one of these positions, you should make sure you have the minimum amount of education and experience required. Do your homework, and make sure you know which sector of the industry will be a fit for your career and lifestyle goals. Then, begin to search for and reply to job postings in that sector.
Keep in mind that, despite the increasing demand for finance professionals, chances are good that you’ll be competing with many professionals for the same position. One way to increase your chances of getting a job in the industry is to get and maintain appropriate certifications and network with others in your sector. Networking keeps you in colleagues’ minds when a job opening comes up.
Many people who are in search of financial careers overlook an important aspect of the job search: the résumé. Résumés aren’t always easy to compose. In fact, there have been many books and hundreds of articles written on how to write effective résumés. There are also many websites that offer résumé writing services. These have all been created because the art and science of writing a résumé takes some practice and skill, and once you think you’ve created the perfect résumé, someone will come up with new résumé standards, and you’ll have to start all over. The good news is that, thanks to computers and electronic technology, you can change your résumé every time you submit it with no cost to you. Here are some tips for how to create a professional, effective résumé.
It’s OK to Customize
First of all, your résumé should never be static. One résumé doesn’t fit all jobs and job requirements. One company may be looking for slightly different skills and abilities than another. Also, as you gain new skills, experiences, responsibilities, or change positions, you should immediately update your résumé, so if a new position comes available, you have an updated version you can use to apply for it.
Remember, customizing your résumé doesn’t mean manufacturing information or lying about your abilities. What it does mean is that, if one position is looking primarily for managerial skills and you gained them in a certain position, you highlight those skills in the description for that position. Carefully look at the job requirements, and as long as you honestly meet them, make sure that your résumé clearly shows how you have developed these abilities.
Put Yourself in the Employer’s Shoes
The best way to do that is through analyzing what problem the employer has and then showing how you can solve it through your résumé. For example, if the employer is looking for an investment analyst with experience, most likely they are looking for someone who won’t need a lot of training. If you have the experience the company is looking for, make sure to highlight that experience and mention that you are a self-starter and would need little training time or effort.
Also, make sure to make your résumé as easy as possible to read and understand. Put the most relevant experience at the top, and try to keep job descriptions from being too detailed or lengthy. It doesn’t have to be creative or exciting—just show that you fulfill the job requirements.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
It’s easy to overlook typos and errors in grammar and punctuation. Having excellent written communication skills is often important in the financial industry, so this is not something you want to take lightly. Use the spell check function on your computer, then carefully reread your résumé and check for spelling errors not caught by the spell checker, like using “their” for “they’re” and other common mistakes. Then, have a friend who has a very good command of the English language proofread it for you. You don’t have to have the friend proofread it every time you make a change, but if you’ve written an entirely new résumé or made significant changes, take the time to have another set of eyes look it over before you submit it.
It’s OK Not to List Every Job You’ve Ever Had
This is especially true if the experience has no bearing on the position you’re seeking or it was a part-time job you held in high school or college. You might be afraid to create a noticeable gap in your employment history, but it’s OK to say, if asked, that during that time period you worked a job that was not relevant to the position. Today’s employers don’t want your life history. They just want to see that you can do the job at hand.
Once you’ve distributed an attention-getting résumé in your search for financial jobs, you’ll start getting phone calls requesting interviews. Like résumés, there is an art and science to interviewing well. You need to walk a fine line between being professional, friendly, and well-spoken and overbearing, aggressive or, the opposite, not talkative enough. There’s no reason you can’t let your natural personality shine through as long as you follow some basic rules and etiquette for interviewing.
Manners Do Count
There’s no doubt the world is a much less formal place than it used to be. But, a job interview is not the place to be casual or informal. Even if the interviewer has invited you to dispense with some formalities, that doesn’t mean you can wear flip-flops to the interview and not thank the person for taking the time to speak with you. Here are some interview etiquette tips you should always observe:
- Shake hands firmly with the interviewer, and make eye contact.
- Wait for the interviewer to invite you to sit down.
- Listen to the interviewer carefully, and don’t interrupt him or her. Take notes if you need to.
- If interviewing with a panel, make eye contact with each of them, and don’t direct your answers to just one panel member.
- Don’t chew gum during the interview. If you’re worried about your breath, use a breath mint just before the interview starts.
- Don’t answer your cell phone or respond to a text message during an interview.
- Always thank the interviewer at the end of the interview and ask about the next step in the hiring process. Don’t forget to also send a handwritten thank-you note via U.S. mail if time allows.
- Don’t get too personal. It’s OK to answer nondiscriminatory questions asked by the interviewer, but delving too deeply into your personal history is never a good idea or considered professional.
Today, more companies are conducting initial interviews by telephone in order to save both the company and the employee time. Telephone interviews should be no less formal than in-person interviews, and most of the same rules of etiquette still apply. Don’t be tempted to do other things while on the phone with the interviewer. He or she can tell your attention isn’t fully on the conversation. Also, if you have a dog or children at home, that could make a lot of noise during the call. Try to either conduct the conversation in a place where the noise will not be heard, or make sure to tell the interviewer as the call begins that you have a dog or child, and that the interviewer may hear them in the background. Most interviewers understand, and it’s not a problem.
Never Lie About Your Experience or Knowledge
For one thing, lying about your experience is illegal. For another, it’s bound to come out when you actually begin the job that you don’t have the experience you said you did. Then, you’ll lose the job. It’s much better to admit that you don’t have the experience but that, with the other relevant experience you do have, you’re sure to pick it up quickly.
Most financial industry employees must dress in business attire. Although there are many segments that can dress more casually when they’re not seeing clients, business casual dress is still considered dress pants and a button-down shirt or polo shirt. During an interview, in the vast majority of cases, candidates should wear suits. Men should wear ties, and ladies should make sure to keep skirt lengths appropriate, and shoes should also be appropriate for the workplace.
One of the final steps in the hiring process is providing your potential employer with references. Those in financial careers understand how important references are. If the employer asks for them, it’s a good sign that you are a finalist for the position. You don’t want to blow your chances of getting the job by being careless when it comes to the references you provide. Take the time and effort to provide the best references you can. Here are some ideas for making sure you do.
Keep a List of Current References Handy and Updated
Even if you don’t plan to change jobs in the near future, it’s always a good idea to have a current résumé and list of references ready to go. A great opportunity could come up when you least expect it, and it can take time to update your résumé and verify that your references are still good. Don’t let a potential opportunity slip through your fingers because you weren’t prepared. It’s also a good idea to replace older references with new ones as often as you can. Someone who worked with you ten years ago before you became a certified financial planner, for example, isn’t going to provide the kind of reference you need now. So, whenever you change jobs, whether it’s with the same company or a new one, update your reference list with the name and contact information of your new supervisor or manager.
Also, periodically check to make sure the people on your reference list are still reachable at the same e-mail addresses and phone numbers. It won’t look very good—in fact it might look pretty sketchy—to your potential employer if he or she can’t contact your references because the company went out of business or the person left the company. If you don’t have time to do a periodic check, make sure to contact the references yourself before you send their names to a potential employer.
The Right Number of References
Some people worry if they can only provide a few references, while others bombard an employer with a list of ten names and phone numbers. The best rule of thumb is to have a list of at least seven to ten references you can use, but only send the number the employer requests. If the employer asks for three references and you send him or her seven, it may seem a bit odd, and it’s definitely too much information. However, if the interviewer can’t reach one or two people on the original list, it’s good to have others as backups.
Who to Use as References
This is a more important question than how many. Your potential employer will require the names and contact information of your previous supervisors or managers. If the vice president or other executives of the company have volunteered to provide references for you, that’s even better. But, don’t list anyone who you have not worked with directly or anyone that cannot speak about the quality of your work and your skills and abilities. That is one sure way to frustrate the potential employer and reduce your chances of getting the job. If you’re afraid your previous supervisor may have negative things to say about you, that’s a chance you’ll have to take. As a matter of routine, employers will call your previous employers for references. However, most companies ask supervisors and managers not to be overtly negative about previous employees. In all cases, honesty is the best policy. You don’t have to list the supervisor you’re concerned about on your list of references, but just know that it’s likely the potential employer will contact him or her.
It’s always good manners and a courtesy to ask permission to use a person as a reference. Most supervisors and managers expect that you will need to refer others to them, but it’s still a good idea to ask first. It’s especially important to ask if the person was not your direct supervisor or manager.
How to Find a Job in the Finance Industry
Financial careers and positions are more in demand now than ever in the past. Finding open positions in the industry shouldn’t be too challenging. However, there are some ways to conduct a job search that might increase your chances of landing the job you’ve always wanted.
Today, you must use the Internet to look for and apply to jobs. Most employers prefer candidates to complete an online application for the job and attach a résumé rather than sending one in the U.S. mail. Conducting your job search online actually may be a bit more complicated than you think. There are dozens of online job boards and listings, and searching them all can almost be a full-time job. One method you can use to save you time is to use e-mail alerts. Many job sites offer this time-saving option. You provide the site with the key terms that describe the job you’re looking for, and in what city and state, and when a job comes up that contains those key terms in your target city, you receive an e-mail. This keeps you from having to check the site on a daily basis.
Not all sites provide this option, however. Some popular job sites you should plan to look at as often as you can include Monster.com and Craigslist. Then, of course, there are industry-specific websites that you can also visit to look for job listings. These sites often do offer an e-mail alert option, so look for it when you visit. Some of the leading job boards for the financial industry include eFinancialCareers, Financial Job Bank, and Career Bank. Another source for finding jobs is through industry associations. With some associations, you must be a member to access their job listings. Other associations publicly post their listings. For example, the Association for Financial Professionals makes its database of job postings available to all job seekers who register. One advantage of looking for work through associations is that, often, they aren’t posted on large job boards, so you compete with a smaller pool of candidates.
Never underestimate the value of networking when it comes to finding a job. Today, networking involves more than going to meetings and after-work events. It means using online social networks to increase your contacts and enlarge your professional footprint. Human resources (HR) experts say the best way to network today is to let others know you’re interested in gaining new responsibilities and learning about new opportunities. HR professionals say that they can receive hundreds of résumés for every job opening, and starting out with a few candidates they already know are qualified can be a huge benefit.