Investment Banking without a degree
A finance or business degree is a prerequisite for most jobs in finance, but what if you don't possess a finance degree and really want to work in this field? While it is more difficult for someone with a non-financial degree to secure a job in finance than it is for a candidate with one, there's still hope for the former.
Every employer wants smart, committed and motivated employees who can do the job well. A finance degree will impart skills such as financial modeling and analysis, but may not do much to provide other skills required for success in almost any job, such as communication, problem-solving and time management.
The following are 10 ways to demonstrate to potential employers that you possess the skills they desire in an employee, as well as the passion necessary for a successful career in finance. We will rate each of these by the degree of difficulty to achieve (for example, signing up for a financial course is easier than obtaining an internship) as well as the positive impact it may have on getting you closer to your objective of embarking on a financial career.
1. Learn the Lingo
If you are interested in a financial career, there's no excuse for not knowing Wall Street lingo. If you don't know the difference between dilution and dividend, or between NPV and DCF, consider learning financial terms and concepts by browsing the extensive dictionary of terms at sites like Investopedia or reading the Wall Street Journal.
Not knowing financial language may make it almost impossible to get past the preliminary interview stage for a non-financial graduate. That's because an interviewer will generally assume that an applicant for a finance position is knowledgeable about finance, regardless of his or her educational background.
2. Round Off Your Education
Difficulty: Low to Moderate
So what if you graduated with a degree in a subject other than finance? You can always redress the situation by taking relevant courses with an emphasis on finance or business at the undergraduate or post-graduate level.
At the undergraduate level, courses in economics, accounting or financial analysis are great options. For post-graduates, many go for an MBA, since its substantial finance component serves to level the playing field between finance and non-finance graduates. If the MBA's stiff cost is a deterrent, other options such as enrolling in the CFA program are certainly worth exploring.
3. Enroll in Financial Boot Camp
Intensive courses by firms like Wall Street Prep and Training the Street can teach you valuable skills that are essential for a career in finance, such as advanced spreadsheet techniques and financial modeling. These crash courses are quite expensive, typically running to a few thousand dollars, but have the advantage of not requiring a long-term time commitment because they are typically conducted over a few days. One drawback is that due to these programs' intensity, you may need to be familiar with basic financial concepts to derive the maximum benefit from them.
4. Expand Your Knowledge Base
Relevant knowledge is not obtained only through a college degree. There are plenty of resources available, either through your local library or online, to deepen your financial knowledge. These resources may be free or available on a paid basis from course providers. Being self-taught in a difficult field like finance demonstrates a number of desirable attributes to an employer such as initiative, passion and drive.
5. Use a Trading Simulator
A number of websites, including Investopedia, have trading simulators that can be used to construct "mock" portfolios. Using a trading simulator will force you to track the markets and keep abreast of market developments. This is a great way to impress a potential employer with your trading prowess, or at least your market knowledge, with very little investment on your part, aside from some time commitment.
6. Complete Industry Courses
Completing a relevant industry course, such as the Canadian Securities Course™ in Canada, not only demonstrates your commitment to a career in finance, but also gives you an edge on the competition in terms of job readiness. This option may not be available in all jurisdictions; for instance, in order to take the Series 7 exam in the United States, one has to be sponsored by a member firm or a self-regulatory organization. In this case, consider other options mentioned in the earlier points.
7. Maintain a Financial Blog
Starting and maintaining a financial blog is a great way to communicate your investment ideas to the world. It is an opportunity to convey to a potential employer a favorable impression of your diverse skill set, including financial acumen, communication skills and technological dexterity. This mode of self-marketing is most suitable for those who already possess a measure of these skills.
8. Link Up with a Mentor
Linking up with a mentor is another way of jumpstarting a financial career. A mentor can be anyone in a position of influence who thinks highly of your capabilities and is willing to help you achieve your goals. Possible mentors include your favorite professor at college, a family friend or relation with a successful career in finance or someone you know in a professional capacity, such as a supervisor during a previous internship. Don't hesitate to approach a contact who you think could help you in your job search.