If you want to get your first job in financial services today, you must be driven from the moment you start university. Not only must you join the right societies, pursue the right activities and ensure you complete numerous internships, you must always be mindful of making yourself stand out.
You must go over and above the basic requirements. And you need to always be asking for more: more work, more knowledge, more experience, more inspiration. It’s a phenomenon much like being hungry and wanting to be fed.
In my experience as the director of career development at Brandeis International Business School, I have found that our most successful finance students are those who are constantly striving for more.
1. Go on as many informational interviews as you can
There may not be a position available, but these types of interviews are essential for networking and can often lead to a recommendation or a follow-up at a later time when something does open up. These types of interviews also allow people in influential positions to get to know you, learn about your skills, and gain some insight into your ambitions and goals.
2. Research the people you are meeting with before all your interviews
This is an important practice that is often overlooked. You want to know as much as you can about the person interviewing you, so you can make a personal connection. Perhaps you have family or friends who went to the same school as they did, or grew up in their hometown? Maybe they do some sort of extracurricular activity that also interests you, or where you have some experience? Interviews are about making human connections and remain integral to the career building process.
3. Do something to make yourself stand out from your competition
This could be writing an opinion piece for you college newspaper or joining the finance club. It could be entering a competition that will give you experience that might give you a slight edge. At Brandeis IBS, we have had students gain media attention in the New York Post and Boston Globe for winning a mergers and acquisitions virtual game, besting students from several top Ivy League schools. Winning these types of competitions make potential employers sit up and take notice.
4. Be meticulous in your professional communications
Sending emails is not a Snapchat or a Tweet and emojis are not acceptable. If you’re not 100% certain of the way to express a sentiment in an email, take the time to confer with a career coach or teacher to ensure you are sending an appropriate message that will relay your point with pinpoint accuracy and professionalism. Financial Services is the type of field where you can’t afford to make mistakes. If your email doesn’t sound like someone they would want to hire, then you’re done.
With so much competition for top jobs, going the extra yard is the only way to gain an edge. You have to learn about the financial services culture before you will have the skills to have a productive conversation about your career goals. The first step is getting someone in a position of influence to talk to you on the phone, and when you get that call scheduled, it’s important to have an ask.
Even if they say they cannot help you, you need to be prepared to make a request, whether it is for some informal guidance, a referral or for a follow-up meeting. If they like what they hear, they will spend more time with you, perhaps going over your resume or directing you to more resources that will assist you in your search. We have many IBS alum who began their job search with an informal call with another alum that later yielded tremendous results. Being a pest is not acceptable, but diligence and resilience are often rewarded.
Everyone has personal challenges in their pursuit of their ideal job and you have to resign yourself to the fact that you are not going to get everything you want today. You have to be adaptable, open-minded and resilient.
Marcia Katz is the director of career development at Brandeis International Business School in Waltham, Massachusetts.
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