It's a tough job market for young professionals. In fact, more than half of college graduates can't find work related to their degree.
It's even more competitive for graduates who are looking to begin a career in finance. These young professionals are a dime a dozen, making it more important than ever to seek out every competitive advantage.
Once you decide finance is your calling, there are immediate ways you can begin to position yourself for success. Here are eight ways in which young professionals looking to succeed in finance can gain experience and enhance their resume:
1. Start Early
The first two years of college are the prime time for young professionals to expose themselves to many various career options. Take full advantage of this opportunity, but don't lose sight of the goal.
By junior or senior year, you should determine the direction for your career. If you choose finance as your focus, you will want to seek out degrees directly applicable to this field. You should also get involved in internships and extracurricular activities that complement your degree.
2. Hone In On Your Passion
A career in finance is not for the timid or shy. To be successful in the long run, it takes a deep passion to fuel your drive. Some of the most influential people in finance -- such as Julian Robertson founder and former CEO of Tiger Management, Glenn Hutchins co-founder of Partners, and Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of 85 Broads -- didn't pursue this career because they thought it would be easy, they pursued it because they were extremely passionate about it.
Hone in on your passion by giving serious thought as to why finance is your dream career. Your reasons should be far more than the pursuit of money or power. You should pursue finance because you live and breathe it and want to add something meaningful to the industry. Even when times are tough, this passion provides the determination to succeed.
3. Seek Out Education Beyond the Classroom
College courses and textbooks are a great source of education, but many successful finance professionals gain their most valuable knowledge outside of formal degrees. Young professionals should develop good habits early on that include reading The Wall Street Journal, keeping a on pulse on emerging trends, and studying other successful finance companies and professionals. The education you gain beyond the classroom will be what sets you apart from all your peers.
4. Diversify Your Internships Early
Your first internships are an opportunity to get real world experience and take on real responsibilities for the first time. They are also an opportunity to explore many different career fields prior to pursuing finance. Young professionals seeking a finance career should consider taking early internships with marketing firms, nonprofits, and small businesses, for example. A finance degree will give you the core knowledge, but these early internships in various fields will give you diverse, real world experience which will make your resume stand out.
5. Make Key Contacts
Undergraduate, graduate, and internship programs all offer valuable networking opportunities. Get to know people who have influence or connections within the finance industry and foster genuine relationships. Don't underestimate a single contact's power to boost your career and open the door to an unforeseen opportunity. Additionally, your classmates will be entering into the same career field and working for companies you may need to reach at some point -- be sure to stay in touch with them!
6. Pay Attention to the Intangibles
Soft skills are becoming ever more important to landing that dream finance job. On paper, many applicants look the same with the same degrees and same internships. A well-developed set of soft skills will help you to stand out in the interview and leave a lasting impression. Focus on your communication skills, listening skills, and overall presentation. Finance companies want someone who will enhance their image as much as their bottom line and are looking for new hires with top notch soft skills.
7. Prove You're a Professional
Many new graduates enter the workforce with less-than-professional habits. Particularly in the finance sector, you must always act and appear professional. Young hires need to know how to conduct themselves as adults, demonstrate good listening skills, and positively represent the company at all times. Simply put: In finance, there's no room for anything less than professional behavior.
8. Further Your Learning Experience
Despite opinions that the MBA degree is becoming obsolete, it remains relevant and valuable for a successful career in finance. If you want to enhance your salary potential, a graduate degree can boost an individual's earning power by more than 40 percent. More importantly, the MBA provides young professionals with additional preparation before starting their career. You can use this time to seek out advanced internships and real life experiences. You are also placed in key networking opportunities with other young professionals who will be entering into the same field.
When it comes to landing a job in finance, young professionals have their work cut out for them. It takes both passion and experience to succeed in this highly competitive career field. The good news is that by putting these tips to use, you can begin grooming yourself for a successful finance career right now.
What steps have you taken to succeed in finance?
Skiddy von Stade is the founder and CEO of OneWire, the leading career site for finance professionals. Skiddy is also the host of Open Door -- an exclusive interview series with influential leaders across the financial services sector and beyond. Connect with Skiddy and OneWire on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.