Tips for Finding Your First Finance Job
You're about to graduate with a finance, accounting, economics or business degree. How do you parlay that achievement into a great job? Just as you did when you wrote all those term papers, the first step is to pick a topic, or in this case, a niche.
Finance degrees usually lead to jobs with corporations or financial institutions. Corporate jobs include analysts, who make strategic business decisions, and accountants, who budget and track spending. At financial institutions and insurance companies, work is transaction-related. You could evaluate risk as an underwriter, work in financial planning or sell stock.
To narrow your options, review your college career. Ask the professor who taught your favorite finance class what job is most closely related to the subject he teaches and for referrals to companies that hire for that position. In addition, look for companies whose products or services are related to your favorite extracurricular activities.
Another way to think about where you fit in finance is to consider whether job security or salary is most important to you, suggests Dan Lynch, assistant director for recruiting services at the University of Miami's Toppel Career Center. "You can't have security with salary right out of school," he says. "If your primary goal is money, go into sales, because there's no ceiling." But there probably is a floor -- salespeople typically earn only a small base salary, and if you don't sell well, you won't last long.
Work the Employer Angle
Instead of focusing on a specific job, set your sights on companies. The local business journal can be an excellent source of information on midsize and fast-growing companies in your market, says Susan Terry, director of the University of Washington Center for Career Services. Make a list of 10 local companies you'd like to work for, and set up Monster Saved Searches to alert you when those companies list jobs on Monster. Review the listings to learn more about the types of finance positions they're looking to fill.
Start networking today. "It's really important that seniors take advantage of every on-campus opportunity to connect with companies," Terry says. "Maximize your use of the services that are offered by the career center." Join student clubs that invite employers to visit. Attend on-campus company information sessions and off-campus career fairs. Ask if the finance department can arrange internships or has other relationships with finance employers such as consulting deals, she adds.
"Look at professional organizations where you can become a member inexpensively and maybe bridge with employers who don't have ties to your university," Terry suggests. Contact alumni who already work at your target companies or industries to arrange informational interviews.
Make Something Out of a Little
Even if you have only limited work experience, you can still have a great finance resume. "Draw upon your education," says Monster Resume Expert Kim Isaacs. "Put in your classes, your knowledge base and special projects."
Include jobs unrelated to finance, but don't list your duties. "Talk about accomplishments in those positions," Isaacs says. "Say, ‘Was entrusted to train new wait staff based on my leadership potential.' Draw out your transferable skills."
Remember to customize your career goal statement and resume for each job. "If you're going in multiple directions, create multiple resumes -- your financial analyst version and your sales version," Isaacs says.
Finding a Job Is a Job
If you want to find a really great finance job, you'll need to put a lot of effort into your search. From now until graduation, think of your search as a part-time job. Make a list of your job search-related tasks, and schedule time to do at least one each day.
You won't start collecting a paycheck for this work until graduation, but knowing that you've got the right job lined up will make the effort more than worthwhile.
Learn more about finance careers.