There is no single route to success. People take different paths into jobs and careers, and sometimes the right path only seems clear in hindsight. That said, there are tried and true ways to get a leg up in the intern or job-search process, particularly in a field as competitive as finance. Let’s look at a few such tips.

Choose your courses wisely, but not too wisely, and always be willing to learn

For most, the majority of your courses and your major should relate to a career in finance – economics, finance, statistics, accounting, business ethics. Don’t be afraid to throw in a couple outside-the-box courses to round out your education (philosophy, anyone?), but most of your courses should prepare you for your chosen career.

Already chosen a major that’s not finance related? Don’t fret. There are many examples of successful financiers and investors that studied things other than business, finance, or economics and went on to great things in the world of finance. When I was an investment banker in New York, two of my colleagues were humanities majors.  

If your school does not offer a fulsome set of finance-related courses, sign up for some extra courses at a well-regarded online or extension program like Harvard Extension School or Stanford Continuing Studies Program. Not only will you learn more, you’ll demonstrate resourcefulness and dedication to the field. You can also take licensing courses on various financial topics. These are offered through regulatory authorities as opposed to universities.

Get some cred

I’m not talking about street cred here. People think of credentials as a postgraduate activity, but in fact you can take the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level 1 exam during the final year of your BA program and the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam when you turn 18. It is a ton of work to study for these exams (think 300 hours for the CFA alone), so they’re not for you if you want to spend your senior year coasting and doing keg stands. But, if you can swing it, passing either or both of these exams before you graduate could make you stand out from your fellow applicants.

Have the lingo down

Every industry has its own language. There’s your typical business jargon – “Let’s do a QBR on our KPIs at EOQ” – but there’s also specific terms and concepts used in each industry and sub-industry, and even in different companies and departments. Additionally, there are story-lines and companies that everyone is paying attention to in each industry. So, you can have a leg up if you learn the lingo.

First, start by reading financial publications daily. Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Bloomberg, Financial Times. You might be able to get access on the cheap to any of these publications through your university or local library. While you’re reading, look for terms or concepts you don’t understand and Google them. Pay attention to hot topics, as well as how current events like geopolitical conflicts impact the financial services industry. You might be asked your opinion on any of these during your interviews. 

Next, do some informational interviews – interviews that are for networking or educational purposes as opposed to for a specific role. You might be able to source informational interviews through your university career center. If your parents or friends’ parents work in finance, ask them to scan their network for suitable people for you to meet. Jump on LinkedIn and cold message alumni from your university (make sure your profile looks spiffy before you do). While it might be nerve wracking to put yourself out there, people are typically happy to talk about their experience with young people and answer their questions. Pay attention to the terms and ideas they use during your interviews, you can replicate these in your job interviews.

Even though these are informational interviews, prepare as if it’s the real thing. Study the interviewer’s background and company, and develop a thoughtful list of questions – you never know when someone might have a job opening up.

Take on relevant extracurriculars

Get a competitive edge by – what else? – competing! Ranking high on a paper trading platform such as marketGOATS demonstrates desirable qualities to your prospective employer. First, that you are serious enough about finance to spend your spare time learning and experimenting with trading. Second, if you can swing a top quartile ranking, it shows that you have strong instincts, discipline, and knowledge about how financial markets work. If you have any questions about how mG works, check out our student FAQs.  

You can also join your university’s finance or investing clubs to help build your network and show that your interest in finance goes beyond the classroom.

We wish you luck with your search and hope to see you placing on the marketGOATS leaderboard soon!

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