The author of this post has over 12 years experience as a financial analyst across a number of areas, including credit derivatives, corporate finance and real estate / property finance.
Firstly on hard skills – there are two required:
- very strong Excel skills – our main tool for analysis
- demonstrable and evidenced presentation skills – its one thing doing the analysis but another to communicate your findings effectively. An understanding of Python can be useful but not necessarily required.
The vast majority of candidates have these two bases covered – it’s the rest of your CV that needs to make you standout.
Have a vision
With any potential employment opportunity, I first think about what opportunities the role can offer me and what skills and competencies I can provide in return. Beyond this, I envision how I could progress in the role and how the move could impact my career path.
It is crucial to assess what the role provides for my own personal development, such as the working culture, opportunities for training and development, expansion of my personal network, travelling opportunities and work/life balance.
Over the years, I have found that the more my personal and professional goals align with each other, the more fulfilling my career had become. This is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned to date.
Try to communicate what skills you can bring to your new employer from day one as well as indicating your longer term vision in your job application.
Have a genuine interest
Before applying for a role, I have always found it worthwhile to think about whether I am genuinely interested in the role and the sector. I would honestly assess the reasons for my interest and analyse whether the interest would be sustainable.
Money can be a factor, but should not be the most dominant or decisive one. A useful tool would be to ask myself whether I would do the job for a lower salary. It is impossible to fake genuine enthusiasm for a role throughout the entire recruitment process – particularly in finance – so don’t waste anyone’s time.
The genuine interest has always helped me in constructing relevant and intelligent questions for the employer. Which employer would not want a hire an employee who is genuinely engaged and enthusiastic?
Industry contacts have helped my job searches in mainly two ways.
Firstly, contacts can provide valuable in-depth knowledge of their respective industries and the type of roles available. Once a specific opportunity arises, I can obtain further information from my contacts regarding the position and how it could be suited to me – this really helps when preparing for interviews.
Secondly, contacts could provide a developed network of peers. This could be a valuable source of information which could lead to potential new job openings before they are advertised.
At the beginning of my career, I naturally had less contacts in the industry. At that time, I utilised other means available to me, such as careers fairs, family and friends and making approaches myself via professional portals such as LinkedIn and employer websites – don’t be shy to reach out and make first contact – what have you got to lose?
Updated and tailored CV
The CV is a crucial tool in any job search and provides me with the opportunity to fully demonstrate, within the confines of one or two pages of A4 paper, myself as a potential employee.
I will ensure that I pass the HR filtering process by demonstrating the required competencies and experience for the role. At the same time, I would ensure that the CV showcases my personality as an individual.
My rules of thumb for CV writing is to ensure that the document is easy to read, relevant, whilst keeping the content concise and professional at all times. Do talk about your hobbies, but don’t write an essay about them and make them too personal!
Competition is fierce in today’s job market and recruitment processes can be time and energy consuming. Therefore, it is important to focus on the roles which most aligns with one’s personal values and aspirations.