Generate a list of potential employers that fit your skill set and personality. For instance, if you have a passion for investment banking, make sure you include mergers and acquisition (M&A) firms such as private equity firms or hedge funds. If you excel in sales, include both the sell- and buy-side firms in your search. This list of employers should consider:
- Skills: College major, skills acquired during internships, and/or work experience
- Personality traits: Strengths, areas of weakness, likes, dislikes, and overall strength of your work ethic
- Goals: What you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it
- Lifestyle: How much you want to work and whether you like to travel
- Types and location of firms: Small versus large, willingness to move abroad or to other areas in the U.S.
When generating a list of potential employers, don’t forget companies that may participate in investing in the markets but that aren’t overtly known as asset managers. Such employers may help you get a foot in the finance door and eventually launch you into a more conventional Wall Street position.
Examples include insurance companies, a local government treasurer’s office, or small accounting firms that offer investment advice and products. Large companies, such as General Electric or Ford, have asset management arms that manage internal pension plans. Even your college or university may have an endowment fund that offers internships and entry-level positions.
And don’t go blind—do your research. Make sure you know the most important details about each company in which you’re interested. Nothing shows your dedication more than being prepared.
Start your job search. Call companies and send out resumes. Take advantage of resume and job search tools such as LinkedIn. If you are still in college, apply for Wall Street or general finance internships. If you’ve graduated and cannot secure a front office, entry-level Wall Street job, consider applying for a support position. Former president and CEO of HSBC USA Irene Dorner got her start as an in-house lawyer for a bank. There are numerous examples of people who started out in operations and moved into other parts of an organization.
Risk is an area that has garnered a great deal of attention since the global financial crisis in 2008. This area has transitioned from operations into the investment team in many organizations. Client relationship managers have skills that parallel sales, and often these two functions share mobility. There have also been examples of administrative assistants moving into marketing roles.
While the investment team often gets the glory, every other part of the organization is necessary to make a firm a success. The key is to have the required skills and education to be able to propel yourself to the next level. Be assertive and persistent, and cast a wide net.