Whether you're moving forward on your job search or you're still a year away from graduation, finding a job as a financial analyst requires you to decide on your specialty and obtain the necessary licenses and certifications. If you're figuring out how to become a financial analyst, here are five ways to leverage your new degree to find your first job.
1. Finding entry-level financial analyst roles
As you search for entry-level financial analyst roles, focus on the ones you're most qualified for. One common mistake that many new graduates make is believing their education is all they need to qualify for a job in the financial world. You may feel confident that you can perform the duties of the position, but if the employer is looking for someone with experience, many recent graduates won't be strong candidates for a financial analyst job.
Search for titles that include words that signal they are entry-level, like junior or associate. These roles will likely be a good fit for a brand-new graduate with limited work experience. Most entry-level financial analyst positions fall under the guidance of a senior analyst and include tasks like:
- Maintaining files
- Processing financial statements
- Analyzing income statements, plans and forecasts
Entry-level roles often come with adjusted expectations. Employers know that entry-level employees still need a chance to learn the ropes of the industry, as well as how to conduct themselves in a professional environment and manage work-life balance. For many recent graduates, entry-level roles can be the best way to adjust to professional life. Hopefully, your first manager will mentor you in your career as well as train you on the duties of your job.
2. Highlight your most important qualities
Knowing what employers are looking for is half the battle. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most important qualities employers are looking for in a financial analyst include analytical skills, communications skills, math skills and attention to detail.
In a financial analyst role, you will be advising clients on the financial decisions that will impact their lives. It's critical that you be able to study the details of a situation and make a sound recommendation. Employers will be looking for candidates who can best demonstrate their ability to do this. If your education and experiences have helped you build these analytical skills, be sure to include them in your resume, especially in your summary section.
3. Get an internship
If you didn't have the opportunity to intern for a financial firm while you were a student, it's not too late. Of course, most graduates are eager to find a full-time role and begin earning an income, but the value of an internship — even an unpaid one — may be worth the investment up front. If you're struggling to get your resume noticed, or if you feel like companies only seem to want experienced candidates, an internship could be a helpful way to build your financial analyst skills and strengthen your resume.
An internship will allow you to demonstrate your active interest in becoming a financial analyst and build experience at the same time. While your internship could lead to a full-time opportunity within the company, you might also find that your internship makes you more competitive as you search for a job outside the company.
According to an article from Kaplan, in addition to building your network, polishing your professional skills and gaining job experience, an internship may also allow you to test out your career plan and validate that it's the right role for you. There are many things you can do in the finance industry, and an internship could help you determine what you want to do and what kind of company you want to work for. You may even decide that the specialty you thought would be perfect isn't actually the right fit.
4. Build a network
As the old saying goes, when it comes to getting a job, it's not what you know — it's who you know. The financial industry is no exception to this rule. Many students choose to follow in the footsteps of relatives or family friends who can introduce them to people and help them get their resume to the right person. Others complete internships or join fraternal organizations that allow them the opportunity to meet and make connections in the professional world. However, every college student or graduate should begin building their professional network — and the sooner, the better.
Matt, a first-year financial analyst for an Atlanta-based technology firm, had a challenging job search and a very limited network to turn to for help or advice.
"I didn't have an internship, and I didn't know anyone, like most of my friends did," Matt explains. "I wish I'd thought about it sooner — most of them did their internships during their junior and senior years, so when it was time to apply, they already had ins at companies. Or they had parents or family friends who could introduce them."
Matt's turning point came when his career counselor suggested that he attend an upcoming career fair.
"I brought business cards and wore a suit, and while I was there, I met some people and had good conversations," he recalls. "I ended up becoming friends with someone from the company I work for now. Knowing someone helped a lot. I still had to apply and go through the interview process, but I wasn't just another anonymous resume in a stack."
5. Don't worry about financial analyst certifications before your first job
Some recent grads try to obtain licensing before they apply for jobs, but it's probably not the best use of your time or resources. Many financial analyst certifications require work experience first, while others tend to be employer sponsored. For most financial analysts, the experience should come before the licensing.
Even if you're not going to obtain one now, it's helpful to know about the common certifications and what makes them unique. In the sea of licensing and certificates, here are some of the most important ones:
- Certified Financial Planner
- Chartered Financial Consultant
- Chartered Financial Analyst
All three certifications require a few years of qualifying experience, in addition to rigorous testing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that most licenses require employer sponsorship, so companies don't expect you to have them before you start.
In light of these suggestions, now is the time to give your resume and cover letter an overhaul that will place your experience and relevant skills front and center. Your cover letter is your opportunity to make an excellent first impression, so make sure it's a compelling and unique document, and not just a repeat of your resume. Take advantage of LiveCareer's free Cover Letter Builder and Resume Builder to craft application materials that will help you stand out.