A career in finance has always been a prestigious, challenging goal. This is especially true as the markets react to a global environment. Everything from a bank failure in the U.S. to a virus outbreak halfway around the world impacts the financial sector.
The good news is that finance continues to need highly motivated, educated people to help corporations and markets move smoothly. If you love numbers and data, this could be a great fit for you.
What do you need to know as you pursue a career in finance? Here are a few tips.
Skills You Need for a Finance Career
In today’s financial environment, understanding data is essential. Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last few years, and this data helps analysts, traders, and other financial specialists make decisions every day.
As a student, focus on classes that help you build your analytical skills and understanding of financial reporting. These classes may not be as fun as other options, but they will position you to succeed when you apply for your first job in finance.
You also need to become very familiar with a variety of financial software. Each firm will use a different setup, but many of the software programs are standard across the industry. From understanding accounting software to gaining experience with trading and forecasting tools, you’ll want to get your hands on everything you can.
Don’t overlook your interpersonal and communication skills, either. You’ll need to be able to present the information you’ve discovered to a variety of leaders as part of your job. You also need to be able to start right away with the networking and mentoring that is essential for success in any field.
One way to really improve your skills is to get an internship during school. You’ll be able to learn on-the-job and get real-life experience with the software and tools that are currently being used.
Your internship also adds experience to your resume and may open doors for future job opportunities, whether you’re interested in non-profits or the private sector. Public sector finance jobs often involve juggling various types of taxation regulations and financial transactions. Private sector careers will often specialize according to the nature of the business. It’s your choice how niche you want your career to be.
Careers in Accounting
One common area of finance is corporate finance. Corporate finance helps a business make decisions about financing, capital structure, and investments. Many entry-level jobs in this area use a lot of accounting skills as you help prepare reports and provide data for your boss.
As you grow in your career, you’ll gain additional responsibility for financial decision making. You may start as a financial analyst and move up to a director. You may even be able to become a VP of finance or Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Accounting is also an important role for non-profits and government jobs. They need people who can understand cash flows and help them allocate resources appropriately.
To do well in this sector, focus on analytics and report-building. Practice presenting these reports in an understandable way to those who might not have your grasp of the data. As you grow in your career, be open to managerial training that will help you succeed as you become responsible for others.
Careers in Commercial Banking
Another place you can flex your financial muscles is in the banking sector. You can become a specialist in helping clients with the financial tools they need to succeed. This often includes credit products such as loans, cash management, and fixed income products.
You’ll need strong interpersonal skills because you’ll be working face-to-face with clients every day. You can start as a credit analyst and move up to an account manager or bank manager. You can also move to corporate banking or private lending as you grow in your career.
Your data skills will be important, but you’ll want to focus on being friendly, self-motivated, and building your sales skills. You’ll be explaining financial products to consumers and encouraging them to buy.
Careers in Investing
When you work in investments, you’ll get the prestige and higher compensation that comes with being directly involved with commodities. However, you’ll also work very long hours and likely be under a lot of pressure.
You’ll probably start out as a sell-side analyst, and you can then move to become a buy-side analyst. In both cases, you’ll likely find that part of your compensation is based on your performance, rather than a straight salary.
To succeed in these roles, you’ll need to understand a variety of financial models. You’ll spend a lot of time building these models in Excel, so be sure you get to practice and are proficient with that program before you graduate.
You’ll also want to ensure you handle stressful situations well and embrace the fact that there will be a lot of competition. You’ll need to be ambitious, driven, professional, and a good communicator.
Get Ready for a Career in Finance
Now that you understand the overall skills required for a career in finance, along with common career paths, you’re ready to move forward.
Good luck with your future career!