What do CFA Candidates do when They’re not Candidates?

A recent post on the CFA Candidates LinkedIn group caught my eye, actually it’s one of the most popular posts on the forum. One candidate questioned the odd sensation of having too much time after the CFA exam, the odd feeling of boredom he is experiencing.
And he’s not alone. The post has more than 51 likes and 32 comments just over a few days.
It is an odd feeling, something like an educational Stockholm syndrome. At first you dread the exams and the amount of study time required. After a while, you begin to rely on the exams for something to do and pretty soon you need the constant challenge.
But with the next study season still at least four or five months away, what is a candidate to do when there’s no CFA exam to study?

What to do when you are not studying for the CFA exams

I’ve talked a few times about the idea that your development as a professional analyst go well beyond just the CFA exam. Just last month we posted four things candidates should be doing over the next few months before they begin studying again. Besides networking at local CFA events, there is a library of books waiting for you on the CFA Institute website and through the CFA Research Foundation.
I thought it would be interesting to look at some of those 32 comments to see what other candidates are doing with their “free” time.
Of course, some are rightly enjoying the extra time with their friends and family. As a professional, you’re always going to have busy times and you need to fit social time in when you can. I never wanted to be the best analyst in the world if it meant also being the most isolated person in the world.
Quite a few candidates are filling their time with industry reading on market risk analysis, economics and the like. Besides the strictly educational books, you might try some of the more entertaining books related to finance. One of my favorite authors is Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. It’s not exactly Harry Potter but those of us in the industry will be just as captivated.
Other candidates are using the break to work on other professional licenses like the Series 7 or to study for the FRM or CIMA. I know several charterholders with the FRM designation and there is some overlap so you shouldn’t have much of a problem with the curriculum. I would still recommend some practical courses as well like a cash flow modeling course or something to get you practicing actual financial analysis.
One candidate said he was mowing the lawn, which must be a huge lawn to take up that much free time!
My favorite response was the candidate attending Toastmasters and taking a writing class. As analysts, we get more than enough practice with quantitative concepts and financial statement analysis. The problem is that most emerge with their designation but not able to intelligently put two sentences together. If you ever want to be successful on the buy-side or the sell-side, you have to be able to write a report and pitch your analysis. Toastmasters is a public speaking organization and a great opportunity to practice your presentation skills. Top it off with a writing class and you’ve got the recipe for an analyst that can drive his ideas home.
You won’t spend the next four to six months doing just one thing so mix in a few ideas from the list. Enjoy your new free time with the family and do some reading. Network with your new CFA candidate friends and learn to speak in front of a group.
And go mow your lawn.
‘til next time, enjoy your free time!
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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