Now that the exams are over the next thing on most people’s minds (apart from the results!) is their Careers. Because one key reason (or THE reason) for writing the CFA exams is to get promoted, switch jobs or change careers. And let’s face it this isn’t easy.
The economy is sluggish, employers are laying off, there are few good vacancies out there and everyone wants experienced candidates! But the fault is not just with the job market- the fault is also with the job seeker.
I have talked to many CFA candidates and I find that most have absolutely NO IDEA of how to go about looking for a job. This is especially so if they are fresh graduates.
Over the last 23 years, I’ve attended many interviews and also interviewed dozens. And so instead of sharing exam tips with you I am going to give you ten frank, practical and valuable career tips, advice that I learnt the hard way:
Recruiters get hundreds of resumes every month. The average recruiter spends just SIX SECONDS looking at the average resume. Every year thousands of graduates come out of college and you must stand out from this ever growing crowd so that recruiters don’t delete your resume and you get a call. How do you stand out? It’s a mix. A good college. Outstanding college grades. A globally recognized qualification. Some extracurricular work. A valuable skill. Etc.
But just DON’T BE AVERAGE! Because if you are average you may remain unseen or seen but quickly forgotten. Stand out in a professional manner, not in a weird way!
Imagine you speaking to a potential employer. That’s what your resume does. A resume is YOU (albeit in soft copy!) and should be correct, concise, comprehensive and compelling. No spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors. No messy layouts or font types/colors/sizes. And definitely nothing longer than than 2 pages- no one will bother to read.
Forget the college/casual dress code. You are now entering the workplace. Look the part and look sharp. Invest in (for example), a proper suit before you go to events or interviews.
People don’t have the time to look deep - appearances count a lot and PERCEPTION IS REALITY.
You may be hard -working, highly qualified and technically sound but no one will give a damn if you aren’t dressed to impress.
Everyone and his Uncle has a college degree these days, ranging from the worthless to the valuable. But do you have what an employer wants? Sure the CFA charter goes a long way in opening doors etc. But that alone may not be enough. For example, every financial analyst worth his salt MUST be an expert in MS Excel and Financial Modeling. This is something that is used widely- investment banking, corporate finance, private equity etc. - especially at the junior level. So while you are waiting for your results learn modelling or go for the shorter, easier CMA - you can get this respected US certification in less than a year.
Your LinkedIn profile is your online resume, only much more effective. Make it look professional. Include pic, qualifications, experience, recommendations. Post interesting and relevant stuff from time to time. Invite influential people to connect. Join key conversations. Spend less time on Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram, WhatsApp etc. and far more time on LinkedIn- it is worth every second.
No one is going to hand you a job on a platter. You need to be out there, meeting and knowing people. You may not land a job immediately but someone may remember meeting you when they need to hire. CFA Emirates (“CFAE”) has regular events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi but surprisingly I see very few CFA students there. CFAE bring in world class speakers and you get to meet fund managers, analysts etc. The ICAEW, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and the Institute of Management Accountants all have regular events. You don’t have to be a CA/CFA charter holder/CMA to attend. Most of these have an annual membership fee but it’s worth it.
Remember- PEOPLE hire PEOPLE, NOT Resumes.
It’s a fast changing world out there and hence it’s key to stay current with what’s happening in macroeconomics, financial markets, companies, accounting standards, politics etc. Watch Bloomberg/CNBC etc. And don’t just blindly accept the news and follow the crowd. Analyze.
Have a view, whether it’s on Brexit or Fed rates or US stocks or Oil prices - this is useful in discussions/interviews.
Read widely, and not just within the domain of Finance. I love intellectual entertainment and always used to gobble books on history, management, politics and psychology. Knowledge is power, especially when you are in job hunting mode.
Once you’ve got your foot in the door, its time to perform at the interview. There’s tons of advice on the internet on the Do’s and Don’ts at an interview so I am not going to rehash this now. I just have three words- Technical (what you say), Appearance (How you look) and Communication (how you say what you say).
The problem with the UAE is that everyone wants to get a job here and live here, thanks to the high quality of life, family, friends etc. But that may not be helpful for a career, especially if the growth markets are elsewhere. Be ready to move out of the UAE, even out of the Middle East, if there is an opportunity. The CFA is an international career passport- use it!
Be patient. Don’t expect an interview call after sending few emails or a job offer after a few interviews. Typically, you may get a call after sending out 50 applications. Which means you need to apply A LOT and wait. And remember the current downturn will not last for long. Everything works in cycles and eventually companies will start hiring. And when they do, you should be ready.
All the best and let me know whether this worked for you!
Binod has been teaching advanced finance and accounting courses since 1996. He quit corporate life (where he worked for firms like KPMG, Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young in Oman, Nakheel in Dubai and Gulf Finance House in Bahrain) in 2009 to help set up and run Genesis Institute. Binod says that his focus as a Trainer, Mentor and Speaker is to deliver conceptual clarity, get to the core issues, build relationships, keep things simple (and fun!) and talk of practical and effective solutions.