Getting a Job Before or After the CFA Exams

With just 14 weeks before the exam, most candidates are getting started on their study schedule. Looking over the massive stack of books and study notes, it’s easy to get discouraged so I thought I would address one of the top issues on everyone’s mind: Will the CFA get me a job?
We’ve covered the question a couple of times in the past from different angles but it always helps to refresh the information and remind candidates that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Turns out, there may be light inside the tunnel as well. That’s because just studying for the CFA exams helps show employers that you value continuing education and professionalism, that you’re not afraid to sacrifice a little time to be a better analyst.
I am not going to lie and tell you that the CFA designation is your ticket to any job you want. It will help but you’ll still have to show that you’re qualified and compete against sometimes hundreds of other jobseekers. The CFA is primarily going to help you in three ways:

  • Improve the way you are perceived by employers. Few think that the designation is an easy stamp on your resume and analysts generally have a good reputation in the industry. Studying for the exams is going to help show your dedication and potential. Don’t get overconfident but build that sense of dedication into your pitch. Let people know that you aren’t afraid to put in the work to be an asset to your employer.
  • Improve your skill set. So many focus on the reputational benefits of the designation that a lot of candidates overlook the fact that they are learning some great material. If you are not currently working in the industry, use the material in the curriculum to develop your own sample reports. Put in the time to make them professional quality and have a mentor look it over for critique. If you can’t get formal experience from a previous job, it’s the next best thing.
  • Offer networking opportunities. Be active in your local CFA society and the job opportunities will come. You first need to know what kind of job you want and how your qualifications stack up but once you’ve got this down you can really start targeting contacts. Before rushing into a conversation about a specific job, talk to people about a related topic. Demonstrate your interest and knowledge of the topic through the conversation. More often than not, if the person is aware of the job opening, they will bring the subject up themselves. If they don’t, send an email afterwards thanking them for the conversation and saying that you would like to talk about an opportunity you found with their company.

Know What You Want and Your Qualifications

It all starts with knowing exactly what type of job you want, in which asset class and in which sector or industry. Your answer can be a little more general starting out but you do need a clear vision for your future. Employers want someone with focus and that will bust their butt to achieve a vision.
Don’t just assume you know what you want. Talk to different people within your professional network, preferably people with that job. This is going to do two things, help you really decide if it is the job for you and help you establish a connection with someone that might be able to help.
Honestly evaluate your qualifications for a position. Just because you are working towards the CFA designation does not mean you are above experience requirements for a job. Again, if you have no experience then you need to put in the time to develop informal experience through your own projects.

Persistence

Getting the right job should take months and should not be easy, unless you have already built up a stellar network and credentials. Spend some time to understand the different roles within the industry and the jobs in which you might be happy. You are going to be spending a lot of time doing this job, upwards of 50 – 70 hours a week in the beginning, so you need to be happy doing it just as much as you need to be good at it.
It isn’t quite as hard to get a job in the industry as it was a few years ago but it is still competitive. Don’t be discouraged if the first few interviews do not land you an offer. It may turn out that taking an earlier offer means you wouldn’t have gotten that dream job that you land in the following week.
Good luck with the job hunt and with your CFA studies.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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