June 20, 2024

How to start working in finance? Tips to stay competitive

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. tackles your human resources questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society and author of “Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.”

Have a question? Submit it here.

Question: I just graduated and starting my career in finance. What advice can you give for staying competitive in my field and growing in my career? – Izzie

Answer: Congratulations on your recent graduation! Your career in finance is sure to be an exciting journey. Here are some key strategies for success:

1. Join professional associations. Member associations offer valuable resources such as industry-specific research, professional development opportunities and networking events. These will keep you informed about industry trends and advancements. Many associations also provide certifications and training programs that can enhance your credentials and expertise.

2. Grow your professional network. Start with family, friends and former colleagues. They can provide valuable advice and connections, even if they’re not in finance. Attend professional events, conferences and alumni meet-ups. Building relationships with co-workers, managers and industry leaders can open doors to new opportunities. Use platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. Join finance-related groups and actively participate in discussions.

3Demonstrate initiative and work ethic. Volunteer for challenging assignments and take the lead on projects. Seeking advancement opportunities shows your willingness to go above and beyond. Engage in leadership development programs offered by your employer or professional association. Showcase your value by consistently delivering high-quality work and demonstrating your tenacity. This will help you stand out from your peers.

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4. Commit to continuous learning. Learning doesn’t end with formal education. Industries like finance constantly evolve, so staying informed is at least as important as getting your initial degree. Read industry magazines, subscribe to finance newsletters and follow reputable financial news sources. Commit to your professional development. Attend seminars, workshops and conferences to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. To enhance your qualifications, consider pursuing an advanced degree or professional certification such as CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) or CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

5. Develop power skills. While some call them soft skills, I call them power skills, as they can augment your technical acumen and tremendously enhance your ability to work with others. Strong communication and teamwork are crucial in finance. Work on effectively conveying complex information and collaborating with diverse teams. Cultivate your ability to analyze data and solve problems creatively. These skills are highly valued in your industry.

6. Seek mentorship. Look for experienced professionals who can provide guidance, support and insights into the finance industry. Constructive feedback from mentors and peers can help you identify areas for improvement and growth.

7. Set career goals. Define clear short-term and long-term career goals. This will help you stay focused and motivated. Periodically reassess your goals and adjust them as needed to align with your evolving interests and the changing landscape of the finance industry.

I’ll add one more suggestion: Keep your options open. As you move through your career, you’ll likely develop expertise in certain areas. Be willing to look at how your expertise can be applied in other areas. Discover how your experiences can complement and add value to other disciplines and fields. So, don’t get stuck in a siloed mentality. Explore ways finance can broadly enhance other business functions, industries and sectors. Doing so will build flexibility in your career and expand your options for growth.

By employing these strategies, you can position yourself for success and growth in your finance career. Best of luck on your journey!

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