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Investment Management: Getting Your Foot in the Door

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If you are contemplating career in investment management, you should know the winning formula to gain entrance – as well as what you can do if your skills and experiences aren’t exactly on point. I spoke with a number of hiring managers who, not surprisingly, told me that ideal formula is: 

Degree from top school + relevant experience + demonstrable passion for field

Brain Power – A Degree from a Top School

The first part of the formula is a filter. It’s something you either have or you don’t. And short of going back to school, there’s not much you can do about it. But regardless of where you earned your degree, I was told job applicants must have successfully mastered finance, accounting, and economic classes.

If you don’t have the “right pedigree,” you can demonstrate your brain power by sitting for and passing the CFA® exams. All hiring managers agreed that passing Level I, and probably Level II, is a definite plus. However, there are two trains of thought on whether passing all three levels before completing the required work experience is the way to go.

One firm stated a candidate who passed all levels, but still needs work experience to earn their charter is unproven and expensive – not a winning combination. They would rather hire someone still in the process of passing the exams, rather than pay the premium for someone who has been successful at exam time but doesn’t have working knowledge of the field. Another firm, however, felt passing all three levels was positive regardless of experience.

Relevant Experience + Demonstrable Passion for Field

The last two variables in the equation are where you can really rise above the myriad of other applicants for the job. And from my research, this can easily be anywhere from 100 to 140 applicants for one position.

Everyone emphasized they want candidates who are passionate about the industry and who have taken advantages of opportunities to explore the field and gain experience wherever they can. You need to demonstrate your passion on your resume and in interviews.

Some suggestions I received were to participate in (or start) an investment club at school to gain experience managing mock investment portfolios and researching companies, get experience through an internship, and stay up to date with industry periodicals and books that provide insight into applied finance and economics. One person said they were impressed with a candidate who had been investing money from his grandfather since he was 10. Anything that demonstrates your passion for and knowledge of the field shows hiring managers that you are committed.

One last thought

If you are just entering the field, whether out of school or switching careers, be aware you may have to compromise at first. Consider looking for a position with lower pay in trade for long-term benefits. If it puts you on your desired career track, it just may be the sacrifice you need to make.

–Linda Lam

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