CFA Program work experience – From Networking to Interviews

This is the first post of a series we will run over the next few weeks highlighting some of the great resources available to candidates through the CFA Institute’s Career Resources to help you in getting your CFA work experience. We’ll start with some networking ideas, highlighting some of the best articles, handouts and presentations available on the site.
Through the next few weeks, we’ll move through the career search highlighting interviewing, resumes, personal brand development and communication skills. Don’t feel like you have to wait for the posts though, click through to the CFA Institute’s site and take a look at some of the resources available.
Click through to CFA Institute – then to Career Resources – and then to Library
You will need your candidate Id number to login to the site.
It’s not what you know
After 300+ hours studying for your exam and countless hours spent in your undergrad program, I’ve got bad news.  You may have neglected the most important skill for our industry.
Most people think of networking only when they get ready to find a job to meet CFA work experience requirement. Don’t let the fact that you’ll spend much of your day following portfolio returns and market analysis fool you, your success in the investment and asset management industry lives and dies on relationships. This is most obvious for the brokers and advisors but the dealmakers and analysts also need to know who is looking in the market for their advice and expertise.

Networking to get CFA Program work experience can be frustrating at first.

It’s not really taught in school and the ease of social media platforms like LinkedIn has given people a false impression of how to really make connections. Networking is not adding someone as a “connection” on your profile and it is not simply “Liking” someone’s re-post of the cat playing piano video.
Networking is about getting to know others, their job and their personality, and understanding how the two of you can work together to achieve both your goals.
Ok, so most of you are saying, “That’s fine but I NEED a job now and that’s the only thing I’m thinking about.” That’s understandable and your networking will eventually lead to job opportunities, but…
Try to approach networking first as the opportunity to meet others in the industry and learn. Too many job hunters rush through getting to know someone and jump right into asking for a job. When you do this at a social event or conference, you immediately stop being someone with which the other person is interested in building a relationship and become just another resume.

There are a few handouts and multimedia podcasts available on the CFA Program site.

Handouts like these will give you tips and some good starter advice for networking but the best way to learn is by getting out there and practicing.
Don’t just scan through the handouts. Actively read through and compare the advice with your experience in the last couple of times you’ve been to a social or networking event. Did you do anything particularly well? Chances are you will find some points that you either didn’t do well or actively avoided. Use the handout and your experience to write out a networking plan, not a long book on meeting people but a half page outline on what you are going to do at the next event you attend.
Better yet, write it on a small index card and take it to the event with you. Looking back on the outline during the event can be a great way of forcing yourself to do some of the things that you actively avoided in the past.
There are a ton of tips available in the handouts but my favorite is to network with a friend. Working with a peer will help you develop your ‘elevator speech’ ahead of time. At the event, you can use each other to help with introductions. Each of you plan on meeting at least 3-5 people then introduce each other to the people you met. After the event, talk about what you were able to do from your outline plan, what you might have missed and what you learned.

Your local CFA society is your best bet for networking events related to CFA Program work experience.

From there check out the local business organizations and your connections through LinkedIn. After going to a few events, you will start to see familiar faces and your ‘real’ network will grow exponentially. Start talking about what you want to do through your career and what you think you be great at doing.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at a few resume tips and some job search strategies.
‘til next time, happy networking
Joseph Hogue, CFA
Click here to read part 2 of this series.

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