Landing a job in finance isn’t child’s play, so follow our four steps to success…
1. Get qualified
If you’re seeking a high-flying job as a banker or broker in the city, getting a degree is almost certainly your first move. Competition is fierce in the financial market, so you’ll need to show any potential employer that numbers are your second language, and that you’re a business-savvy candidate with knowledge of the economic climate and how to traverse it. A degree in accountancy, economics or financial mathematics will set you up well for a role in finance. Learning may continue after you land a job, as some employers will encourage you to gain further qualifications while working, such as an MBA (Masters of Business Administration).
2. Secure an internship
The majority of the big banks and building societies run internship programmes each year. These are typically targeted towards undergraduates in their penultimate year at university, with 10- or 12-week internships on offer for the summer between the second and third years of a degree. Competition is as fierce for these positions as for graduate roles, particularly as many financial services companies take on a selection of the best interns following their graduation. Ability tests and assessments are typically part of the vetting process, so you may want to practise these beforehand. Try the psychometric tests free to download from www.careerpsychologycentre.com.
3. Branch out
Financial services are an industry commonly defined by those working in head offices and on trading floors, but of course there are employees that work up and down the country, serving customers directly over the counter in bank and building society branches. These customer-facing roles are integral to the industry, and are a great entry point for non-graduates. You could begin working as a bank cashier, then work your way up the ladder to branch manager and beyond. Alternatively, working in a trainee position as a financial adviser while studying part time (similar to an apprenticeship) may be a good route for carving out a career in finance. Staying open-minded about the roles you apply for is critical.
4. Give it your all
Although it’s widely acknowledged that salaries in banking are among the highest in the UK, it’s essential to take into consideration the dedication and sheer number of hours an employer will expect from you. It’s not unusual in this industry to be in the office from 8am or earlier, to 8pm or later, plus additional time networking, entertaining clients and travelling. Of course, it’s essential to work hard to get ahead in any career – it’s just that financial services may require you to work that little bit harder.
Words: Jessie Bland
[This article was originally printed in Jobs & Careers with Hilary Devey magazine in May 2013]