The financial services sector offers many interesting and rewarding careers, but breaking into banking and finance can be tough. If you’re trying to get into the sector – or you want to take the next step in your career – these tips could help you get ahead.
1. Be open minded
Interviews are hard to come by and there’s a lot of competition for jobs in finance.
“If you’re focusing on a specific type of role and a specific programme, that will make it even more difficult,” says Sandra Edwards, our Head of Full-time Undergraduate Programmes at The London Institute of Banking & Finance.
This is especially true if you’re looking for your first job after university or leaving school.
“It’s hard to get your first job,” says Sandra. “Look for jobs that aren’t quite so interesting to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder. Once you’re there you can build up your experience and then you can aim higher.”
Amit Lathia, Associate Director, Front Office Risk Management at UBS Wealth Management, agrees. He points out that there’s a lot of competition for limited places on schemes like graduate programmes.
“But there are a lot more roles available,” he says, “So it’s worth exploring. Look at large firms, where you can transition internally once you make yourself visible in the firm.”
Many people are nervous about networking but it’s only about asking questions and getting to know people.
“It’s really worth using things like LinkedIn,” says Amit, “to open up a network.”
You can join professional groups on LinkedIn, as well as connect with individuals and follow organisations. Join discussions and approach people. Set up coffee meetings. This will help you find out more about where the opportunities are.
Daniel Heger is an Internal Auditor (AVP) at Barclays. He says that networking can also help with the interview itself because if you’ve already met the interviewer, it’s less intimidating.
“You meet that person. If you then see them at interview it gives you a lot of confidence.”
3. Get advice where you can
You can get advice from professional groups on LinkedIn, individuals and recruitment agents.
Amit suggests, “Actually work with them and ask: ‘what is it I need to do?’ A good one will give you feedback and tell you what’s causing the barriers. It may not be anything other than there’s a lot of competition out there.”
4. Upskill yourself
And while you’re waiting for the opportunity to take your next step, take the initiative to boost your skills.
Think about where the gaps might be in your skillset. Do you need to take a short course or acquire a professional qualification?
There are many free coding courses online for example.
“Develop some coding skills while you look for employment,” says Daniel, “that will differentiate you from everyone else.”
5. Get your CV right
Potential employers will get their first impressions of you – in most cases – from your CV.
“Make sure your CV is tailored for each application,” says Amit.
It’s also important to use the key words that a recruiter is looking for. You can get an idea of these from job descriptions and the company’s website.
“We’re recruiting all the time,” says Daniel. “All the CVs are sifted by the HR system – which is looking for key words – then sent to us.”
He says the number of CVs he has to look through is often daunting.
“There may be 20 to 50 CVs. Nobody has time to read everything and everyone has a different style,” he says, adding that the process can be very subjective. “Someone I would say is very good, a colleague might disagree.”
6. Be resilient
Which is why you need to be resilient and keep going.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are or what class degree you have,” says Sandra, “people get rejected – a lot. There’s fierce competition, so you really do have to have that resilience built in.”
We compiled these tips from the panel at one of our recent REACH events.
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