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Career Coach: Job Search Success for the Finance Professional (Part 1)

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CareerCoachFor many highly skilled finance professionals who are unemployed—notably CFA charterholders and those diligently working toward the designation—job search may feel like a never ending process. Over time, it is inevitable that questions will arise and confidence begins to wane: “Who is going to hire me? Will they want someone younger or cheaper? Is my experience growing stale?” The longer the period of involuntary unemployment, the more overwhelming these feelings have the potential to become. And as the job search lengthens, traditional search techniques seem less effective, too.

US unemployment statistics do not help. Current rates continue to hover around 9% (9.1% for August 2011), 42.9% of whom have been unemployed for a period of 27 weeks or more. Although the economy has taken a few steps forward—and a few steps back—it has a long way to go before it stabilizes...if that is even a possibility. Yes, Wall Street bonuses will be up for a few of the lucky in 2011. Those still on the hunt face increasing competition, companies that are hiring fewer people to do more work, and occasional biases which are likely to unfairly influence hiring decisions.

Not to mention a market with fewer opportunities.

For those with a CFA charterholder, or in the process of obtaining one, recognizing its value, promoting its brand and its professional benefits, and remaining current on relevant topics are all critical to success in job search. But that is just the beginning, and it still leaves important questions unanswered. How do you get a job? What happens if the job you want is no longer available? Where are the jobs? Here are starting points for what you need to do to improve your job search odds.

  1. What is your value proposition? Define why being a CFA charterholder or CFA candidate makes you different and better. Why a CFA instead of an MBA, if that was a decision you made? How have you used the designation to distinguish yourself and how valuable will it be in the role you want?

  2. Recognize what job search is all about: volume and rejection. A good search means you have a lot of activity, which means you get a lot of rejections. You cannot, and must not, personalize them. It is not about you.

  3. If you have been searching for a year or more, look at this past year and your time spent in search as an investment. If you approach the remaining months of 2011 and go into 2012 feeling or showing that you are depleted or exasperated, that is what people will see. It is a new year and a new market. They don't care what your last year looked like or how you feel.

  4. Redefine the story you tell, so it sounds like you used your time off productively. Break it down into stages to explain and re-energize. Organize the time out so it doesn't sound like you have been out forever.

  5. Re-examine your search: overall strategy, targets, and the message. If you have been hitting a brick wall, give yourself a deadline by which you will begin to pursue an alternative direction. At some point you may need to throw in the towel if your job search is going nowhere. But before you do so, make sure you have done everything possible to achieve your goal.

–“Career Coach” is a career column written by Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. Please feel free to send questions and requests for topics for future columns to the editor.

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