People who are looking to get one of the best jobs in finance know how difficult it is to land a role in the lucrative industry. There are a lot of requirements and qualifications that one must meet, some spoken and some unspoken. If you’re one of those planning to embark on an exciting and challenging finance career, then this guide is for you! Read on for advice on how to get a job in finance, whether you’re a recent college graduate or someone who’s already worked your way up the corporate ladder and is switching industries.
How to Get the Best Jobs in Finance if You’re a Recent College Graduate
“I want to get a job in finance, but I don’t know where to start.”
This is a common refrain for new college graduates that want to get into finance. It can look daunting at first, but keep in mind that the finance industry, particularly wealth management and insurance sales, are hiring more people than ever from non-traditional (ie not finance major) backgrounds. That said, it’s a high-stakes environment you’re planning to get yourself into, and so you must make your application stand out from the rest (and we mean THOUSANDS of applications).
One of the things you should prioritize is passing the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam (FINRA SIE or SIE for short). Taking and passing the FINRA SIE exam before applying to finance roles will give you a competitive advantage because it proves you can understand the finance industry lingo and pass FINRA exams. The FINRA SIE is the first of multiple mandatory FINRA licensing exams for those working in the securities industry, so you’ll have to take it sooner or later for most roles.
Passing the SIE is an ideal springboard for those wanting to start a finance career. The SIE is composed of introductory modules that focus on financial products like stocks, bonds, market dynamics, options, and securities regulations. These concepts are crucial for any role in finance, and the SIE requires that you understand all of them in order to pass the exam.
To give you an idea of which specific roles require an SIE license, we’ve listed down a number of them below:
Private wealth associate
Client relationship associate
Financial services consultant
Equity research associate
Social media compliance analyst
Investment banking analyst
Take note that a number of these roles may not require an SIE license as a prerequisite for applying, but that having the SIE will give you a head start over all other candidates. This is because:
It saves the employer time and money. While getting the cream out of the crop is a main priority for employers, the fact remains that you will need to take the SIE exam at some point for most roles. The study time required for the SIE exam which runs on an average of 2 to 4 weeks, during which newly hired employees will be spending their time studying instead of focusing on work. If you show up with your SIE license in hand, you save the employer weeks of waiting for you to start truly working, while also giving the employer the assurance that whoever they hire will be more than qualified for the role.
Passing the SIE is a good indicator that you can pass the FINRA licensing exams required for many finance roles. A not-so-fun fact: Financial firms terminate hundreds of employees annually due to them not being able to pass FINRA licensing exams, including many candidates that they would rather keep due to their other qualities. FINRA licensing is tough, and if a firm hires you and then has to let you go because you can’t finish your license, that costs you and them a lot of money. By passing the FINRA SIE before applying, you demonstrate that you can pass FINRA exams, which is a huge assurance that they won’t need to let you go for this reason in the future.
How to Get a Job in Finance as a Second Career
Going to finance from a different career is quite a big leap. The finance industry has its own language and hierarchy, and experience may not transfer 1:1 from your old industry and role. This change can often come with a lot of challenges, but with it also come more opportunities for growth and improvements in compensation.
If you’re considering making the career switch, here are some tips to keep in mind before taking the plunge:
Make sure it’s the right fit for you. Taking on a finance job when you come from a different background means assessing whether or not you are equipped with the skills needed for the new role. Furthermore, finance jobs require a certain level of competency when it comes to finance concepts and aspects, such as economics and accounting.
Brush up on your software knowledge. Finance jobs don’t only require strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills, but also technical know-how. You must be well-versed in tools like Excel, PowerPoint, and other software used for creating spreadsheets and financial statements/reports.
Assess your current skills. Pivoting to a finance role doesn’t mean learning only new things; there may be skills you’ve acquired from previous jobs that may be useful in your career shift (if you have sales or customer service experience, be sure to highlight that!). Self-studying or enrolling into online/in-person courses could help you improve your existing skills and gear them towards finance.
Broaden your network. If you’re new to the finance industry, one of the most surefire ways to learn more about it is to connect with financial experts, thought leaders, and individuals in the field. This will help you gain insight into both the fundamentals and complexities of the finance industry and, who knows, even land you a job!
Keep in mind that switching to a finance career won’t confine you to corporate finance or financial services — you may also apply for jobs in venture capital, private wealth management, investment management, and more. Those jobs are just more competitive and selective.
How to Get a Job in Finance in the United States as a Foreigner
The prevailing need for cost efficiency brought about by the global economic climate has since necessitated outsourcing as a means to improve the bottom line. This in turn opened opportunities for financial professionals overseas, particularly in the United States. While these opportunities are promising, there are a number of requirements for foreign nationals to submit, qualifications to meet, and processes to undergo.
Who is authorized to work in the United States?
There are several categories of overseas workers who can seek employment in the United States. You may be a permanent immigrant worker, a temporary or non-immigrant worker, or a student/exchange worker.
Whichever category you fall under, you would first and foremost need to obtain a visa from the U.S Embassy or Consulate in your country. The type of visa you will be granted will depend on your work setup — it could be a temporary work visa, a seasonal work visa, or an exchange worker visa. Be sure to apply for a visa in advance as the entire process will take some time.
Further in the process, you would also have to secure a work permit, or more officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) along with an accomplished I-9 Form as proof that you are eligible to work in the United States.
How can I find a finance job in the United States?
In finding a finance job in the United States, you have two options: 1) to find an employer who will hire you for a role and sponsor your relocation to the U.S., or 2) visit the U.S. and look for an employer who will take care of the entire employment process for you there. As much as financial employment overseas is concerned, the most common finance areas with relatively good opportunities for employment are in private equity, hedge funding, and investment banking.
What are the things to consider before moving?
If you are granted a work permit and are looking to move to the United States to find a job in finance, assess the following factors first:
Language and Culture. Depending on whether you are seeking short-term or long-term employment, you would need to learn how to speak the local language. Remember, communication skills are important in any finance role, and it will be more difficult for you to adjust if you will not understand and be understood by locals. Moreover, you have to learn about the culture — this is something that you would need to research on and be mindful of. It pays to understand that not everyone works the same way, so you’d have to be able to adapt to their ideals and ways of day-to-day living.
Compensation. Before moving permanently, be sure that what you earn will be able to catch up with the cost of living in the area/s you will be assigned to. The same goes for both cash and non-cash benefits you will be receiving, or if your employer will be providing you with assistance on housing and health insurance.
How to Get a Job in Finance With No Experience
What if you’re a college graduate with a degree not related to finance? Does this mean breaking into the finance world is impossible?
Nope – you still can! Even if you don’t have prior work experience or a finance degree, you can still land a job in the industry. It is a bit easier to do this with a sales or customer support background of some kind, including retail, but it’s now more possible from all backgrounds than it was in the past.
Here are some tips to help you set your foot in the door even without experience:
Craft an effective résumé. This may be a no-brainer, but a well-written CV can definitely increase your chances of being hired, especially when you have no finance background. This is what will sell your existing skills, capabilities, and competencies. Be sure to highlight your transferable skills (e.g., customer service, business management). And triple check your resume for mistakes – attention to detail is incredibly important in finance, and resume mistakes can doom your application before it begins.
Do background research. You should know about the finance industry, latest happenings in the stock market and news, and about the specific company you’re applying to before you apply. Staying up to date on key topics is very important when any relevant news can move a stock or make things like government bonds a much more or less attractive investment. You need to be on top of this well before the interview process so that you can flex your knowledge during the interview.
Network, network, network! It is no secret that having a warm introduction into a firm can make a huge difference for any job hunt – and some say it’s especially important in the finance industry. Attend events, ask for introductions from your existing network, or reach out to people cold – it doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters is that you’re relentless in doing it. Arguably, you’ll have to do this for the rest of your finance career, so start now. Good news is, if you’re following our advice from earlier, staying on top of industry issues and trends will help you start meaningful conversations with finance professionals that will aid your networking.
Leverage internships. What better way to learn about the job than by having an immersive experience in the form of internships in financial institutions? These also help you enhance your industry knowledge and have practical application of skills you’ve learned on the job. Internships will also count as prior work experience before graduation, so that’s another plus. Do keep in mind that these internships can be very competitive, so use the previous tips to help you land those internships too.
Define your career objectives. When you’re working on little to no finance experience, emphasizing your career objectives is also key. Once you’re asked what your career goals are, be sure to highlight specifically what you want to gain from the role: is it to be in a leadership position in the next 5 to 10 years? Is it to move around other finance areas within 6 months? Clearly defining your career objectives helps recruiters to better profile you and see if your goals align with that of the company’s.
Pass your FINRA SIE exam. As we mentioned above, passing the FINRA SIE exam is one of the best ways to prove to a potential employer that you understand the terms, products, and operations of the finance industry.
Getting into a finance job is something that will not require hard work and determination, but also due diligence on your part. Such is the case whether that’s studying for FINRA license exams, doing research on overseas employment, or securing internships in financial institutions. We hope this guide has been helpful for you in taking the next step towards a stable career in finance!
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