The financial sector is an extremely challenging and extremely rewarding sector in which to work. Those who manage to ascend to the upper tiers will most likely be able to draw on some of the highest salaries in the working world, as well as having access to huge bonuses, great personal investment opportunities, and excellent retirement plans. Apart from the money, high-level financial service gives full opportunity for intellectual engagement and seeing hard work pay off. It’s a perfect job goal for those who enjoy taking risks and playing for high stakes.
Make no mistake, however: the competition is fierce. The entry level to working in the financial sector is relatively high, and the higher up the ladder you go, the tougher it gets. You should be prepared to work in an ever-changing industry where job roles that seemed secure one day could vanish completely the next. At the same time, the increasing importance of new technology means that new roles are also being created all the time.
Finding the balance
You will need to work incredibly hard, watch your back, and stay ahead of the curve, both in terms of technology and the changing financial landscape. However, don’t forget to maintain a reasonable work-life balance. Career burnout is extremely common in the higher levels of the financial industry, and those who survive are those who know when to call time at the office and relax or have some fun.
Family time is very important. Don’t let your partner and children become strangers. Keep up with your social and professional network as these people are your safety net in more ways than one. Finally, remember to look after your health.
Ambition and drive are what will get you where you want to be, and setting out your goals is the first step to achieving them. Make sure that you review these goals on a regular basis, however. Five years ago, you may have worked out where you wanted to be in five years’ time, but objectives and situations change. You may have very different ideas today and you should take these into account. Now that you know the cost of achieving the dreams that you had when you were younger, it’s absolutely fair enough to ask yourself whether it’s worth it, or whether a sideways move would actually suit you better.
It’s worth looking at the career paths of some of the major figures in today’s financial world. Lady Barbara Judge credits her mother with inspiring her strong work ethic, and she has become one of the most powerful figures in finance without having to sacrifice family time. She famously once said that her proudest achievement was taking time off to help her son with his dyslexia. To put this into perspective, Judge has achieved significant successes as a commissioner for the US Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as chairing major regulatory bodies in the UK. She has also been director and senior vice president of several major banking corporations.
A solid education
Anyone starting out in finance will need a good college degree, preferably a master’s and maybe even a PhD. Investment banks have a reputation for hiring straight from the top schools such as Yale and Harvard, and although attending one of these colleges isn’t essential, it certainly helps. Your initial degree doesn’t have to be in finance. Judge studied medieval history before going on to law school. However, specific financial qualifications and licenses will have to be picked up as your career progresses.
A world of opportunity
Remember that the finance industry is global. Unless you have specific reasons for wanting to limit your career to the US, looking further afield could provide you with a greater number of job opportunities. Major financial centers include Dubai, Hong Kong, London, New York, Shanghai and Zurich. Knowing a relevant second language can help your career prospects, though again it isn’t essential.
You may choose to work in a commercial bank or in an investment bank, or at a private equity firm. Many large companies now also employ investment bankers, and there are also a range of money management firms and hedge fund specialists that could provide opportunities to advance your career. Currently, fintech, or financial technology, is a wide open field encompassing cryptocurrency, mobile payment solutions and much more. This is a growth area that’s very much worth considering if you’re open to new ideas and technology-minded.
To get to the top of the financial sector, you’ll need a thick skin and a focused attitude. Behaving decently even when others don’t will earn you trust and respect when you most need it. Hard work, good judgement, a lot of luck, and the support of your family are what will help you to achieve your goals.
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