career decisions / Job market

How to land your first job in finance

Whether you’re due to start an entry-level finance job soon, or you haven’t actually started applying yet, knowing what an employer will expect from you in an entry-level role will surely have crossed your mind.

Today, we want to share with you some real-world tips that may help you kickstart a career in finance- if that’s something you’re interested in pursuing.

  • Set your sights on the right financial qualifications

While this is probably a fairly obvious point, your qualifications should loosely match up to the job you’re applying for. That doesn’t mean, though, that you desperately need a finance degree to get into finance. Maths, accountancy, economics or business degree programmes can help you develop the skills you need to pursue a career in finance.

That career in finance itself could be shaped by many different roles; you could become a banker, management accountant, business analyst or even work in marketing for a bank. So, a practical step you can take is to write down and map out the range of transferrable skills you’ve acquired via your degree programme. From there, you can narrow down a list of jobs , sectors, or industries you may want to and could potentially work within.

Also consider your longer-term goals and the qualifications that could be part of your journey. For example, budding accountants may want to become chartered via the ICAEW , while aspiring financial analysts could enrol in a CFA course – and these qualifications can help candidates reach higher level positions in future.

  • Gain work experience

One good way of setting yourself apart from other candidates is to get some real-world experience that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. If two graduates applied for a job within a Fintech company and one of them had some experience working within a FinTech, while the other had none, the more experienced candidate may have a slight advantage.

Experience is not a direct substitute for intelligence, skill, determination, and attitude, however it’s a good general indicator to employers that you have an interest in their industry and are committed to the job. The type of experience that may set you in good stead with employers could be anything from a year-in-industry, if that’s an option for your degree, to an internship or part-time job.

Voluntary roles can also give valuable experience and may help you demonstrate your commitment. For example, you could help a local charity develop cash flow forecasts and manage their accounts or manage the finances of a university society. Your work experience should ideally utilise skills that are likely to be relevant to the jobs you’re applying for.

  • Level up your soft-skills and hard-skills

The chances are that going into a job in finance, you’ll need to access the odd spreadsheet or two (thousand!). So, brushing up on your Microsoft Excel usage may be a great place to start with honing your hard skills. Learning how to properly filter data sets, use formulas such as ‘VLOOKUP’, and set up a balance sheet, for example, could stand you in good stead for some of the day-to-day challenges you may face on the job.

The best sources of knowledge for levelling up your hard skills can include online courses (which are particularly useful for learning new software), expert blogs within finance, and even watching YouTube videos to help get your head around the more complex theories and processes that may be part of business-as-usual workplace activity.

Soft skills are equally important, however. While university projects may help to prepare you for team-based working, adjusting to office life may involve building some broader skillsets. For example, you may need to learn how build healthy office relationships, or how to pitch at the right level of detail for the stakeholders you’re talking to.

  • Stay positive throughout the application process

Applying for jobs can be tough. There are often plenty of roles out there, but competition is high, so it’s important to stay as motivated as possible and not to beat yourself up if you struggle with finding your first job.

As an employer, we look for graduates who are enthusiastic, able to demonstrate their abilities/experience, and who look like they would make for a good fit with the company on a personal and professional level. Hopefully, our tips have proved useful to you and we wish you the best of luck with starting out on your new journey.

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