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How Can I Succeed in a Finance Career?

Sep 23, 2020
Four tips to be successful during recruitment season for roles in finance

By Jong Eun Jung

With recruitment for full-time finance roles right around the corner, young professionals are busy preparing to pitch themselves to firms they want to work at. Because finance is such a competitive industry, it’s vital for candidates to find ways to stand out in the job market. To gain a better understanding of the finance recruiting process, we talked with Megan Nichols and Brook Meissner, both Senior Associate Directors at the Vanderbilt Business Career Management Center. They shared four pieces of advice for young professionals wondering “how can I succeed in finance?”

Network, Network, Network

Megan Nichols

Nichols encourages young professionals to start networking as early as six months before recruiting season. Networking is vital to the process — it builds relationships within firms you are interested in, helps you determine if finance is a good career path for you, and allows you to perfect your elevator pitch. In addition, it will give you an edge up during recruitment. Meissner confirms this. “From my experience, it is pretty rare that one’s resume alone gets them very far… because even if you look great on paper, employers want someone who fits their culture and who has potential for leadership. And from what I’ve seen networking helps one stand out more than their resume,” he said.

Try a Finance Internship

One of the best ways to determine whether finance is the right career for you is to complete a finance internship. During your internship, you can build connections within the firm and understand what a day-to-day life of a finance analyst looks like. In addition, getting that experience before applying for full-time positions can help your resume stand out from the pile. It’s important to note that networking plays a role in getting an internship as well as a full-time job. “In general, you don’t always find internships posted online. So the networking plays a key part of that as well. Most of our students (MSFs) have internships that they did not find as an online posting— they found it through networking and pitched themselves for an internship,” Nichols confirmed.

Earn a Graduate Degree in Finance

Brook Meissner

Going back to school to earn a graduate degree in finance can provide you a solid foundation in finance knowledge and skills and help you stand out in the job market. Recent college graduates can enroll in a Master of Science in Finance program to gain a year of maturity and further hone their skills. If you are a professional with 5-6 years of work experience, earning a MBA with a concentration in finance may be a better fit for you. No matter which program you choose, you’ll have dedicated support from the Career Management Center at every step in the process. “For roles like investment banking, having an MBA (or previous banking experience) is pretty much a prerequisite to be able to recruit at an associate level,” Meissner said.

Practice for the Interview

Before you go into your interview for a finance role, practice telling your story and answering questions through mock interviews. One good tip is to reach out to alumni in the firms you are interviewing at and asking them what their interview process is like. As for the interview itself, remember behavior matters to the recruiter. “You don’t want to be overly buttoned up in an interview because  recruiters and practitioners want to get to know you beyond just your technical skillset, but you have to balance that with remaining professional and not too casual,” Nichols said. “Remember, you are talking to a real person on the other side of the table, be likeable and confident, describe your skillsets and treat the process with respect.”

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