It's been a while since I've visited WSO. Yet in my early 20s, this was the place that I would often come to for information and guidance. In the spirit of giving back, I'll share my story and a few nuggets of wisdom that I believe may help others who are also trying to strive in their professional lives.
I went to a Canadian semi-target university majoring in finance and economics. In my 2nd year university, I discovered capital markets, trading/investing. I knew this was what I wanted to do but still had much to figure out. After I graduated, I worked in research at a retail broker looking at private equity and debt offerings.
After a year or so, I moved to equity research, then to the event-driven buyside fund where I joined as an analyst and eventually become a PM.
I moved back to the sell-side covering event-driven and arbitrage trading. I like what I do and am quite happy with where I am...
Some things I learned along the way ...
Whether its job search or on the job, aim to be productive by doing just a little at a time; set clear and small achievable goals
Everybody hates looking for jobs... I did too when over the years when I went through transition periods of looking (and eventually obtaining) something better. What I found worked for me was to set clear goals for myself, such as having a spreadsheet and applying for 1 or 2 jobs a day. But eventually, these "door knockings" add up and the numbers game works in your favor. And you get your responses and interviews.
So approach your job search methodically, work to submit 1 application a day. And do that every day. Consistency works/matters. 1 thing done right for 10 days in a row is better than doing 10 things right for 1 day. Also, try contacting recruiters. If you are consistent and disciplined in searching for roles of your choices, you may find that after a few weeks or month or two, there are no long positions on the jobs boards that you can find that you haven't tried before... start contacting recruiters. Call them up, email them, establish a connection with them. Use that as another source of the job hunt.
On the job, go into each day with a goal of just producing 1 or two useful insights. We all have tired days or days where we aren't that productive. In these times especially, don't fret about all the tasks you have to and haven't accomplished. Focus on the task at hand, and think about getting that immediate task done. (ie, over the next hour, I'll finish reading x and talk/email to person y; not o my god, I got so much shiit to do over the next 3 days, there is x, and y and z and @#[email protected]#$ ...) relax. Just focus on the task at hand. Set small goals/clear/achievable goals throughout the day and do them. One step at a time and you may accomplish a lot more than you'd imagine.
Take responsibility for your work
Whatever your focus is (covering a bunch of companies, covering clients, overseeing a project or a back/middle office jurisdiction), take total responsibility for your work. Care for the outcome of your domain. That is the right mentality assume and that is the mentality you get promoted with.
On the other hand, the less productive and less beneficial attitude that you could adopt is putting in a minimal level of effort only to ensure that you will not receive the wrath or disapproval of your superiors, or to simply keep your job. That's a defensive and immature way of working. Your boss doesn't own you, you own your work.
I haven't experienced other professions, but my sneaking suspicion is that finance is a superficial profession, more so than most. The industry is predicated on moving fiat currencies around assets and people. The presentation is important. The better that you look/dress, the more people will listen to you and take you seriously. There are no ugly people in upper management.
CFA??? Probably worth it
I am biased because I took painstaking time to get it. It does serve as a signal device in the eyes of clients/employers/potential business partners, colleagues. It also gave me certain discipline and understanding of finance that is broader than others who haven't taken it and work solely in a narrow sub-sector of the industry. Though I don't remember everything, I find I have somewhat of an easy time picking up new concepts and asset classes because I've already gone through some primer versions of it in my CFA course load.
All I have to say for now. If you have questions to ask, please do so and I'll do my best reply during my downtime. If I think of other tips that others could find useful, I'll post later.