It’s the second week in June and I can hear crickets chirping in the background. Most CFA candidates are taking a well-deserved vacation from anything CFA-related and it will be several months before they start thinking about what’s next.
That makes this post all the more important for you few candidates that are reading it.
In fact, this post may be one of the most important you read during your time as a CFA candidate or as you progress through your professional career as an asset manager.
Frankie Goes to the CFA
If I were to tell you that now is the time to really start taking advantage of the opportunity to reach out to the CFA network or to develop your professional skills, most of you would think me a sadist. At minimum, you’d probably quote a little from Frankie Goes to Hollywood with, “Relax, Don’t do it!”
And you deserve a little rest and relaxation. You’ve been through a third of one of the most difficult professional designations and you’re probably feeling a bit more than tired.
Take a couple of weeks to reconnect with friends and family. Maybe even take an actual vacation (unless you spent your vacation time on an awesome CFA study vacation).
Then get back to work…and don’t take a few months to do it! Taking advantage of the next six months can make the difference between having a good career and having a great career.
First, you’ve got about six months before the rest of your CFA candidate peers even start thinking about their next exam. The industry is an extremely competitive one and you need to set yourself up as something different, a true asset to your employer. Unless you’re a genius or have some kind of natural gift, the way you do this is by working just a little harder than the next guy.
The second reason you need to take advantage of the post-exam lull in your responsibilities is to get into the frame of mind as a real professional. If you’ve got a full-time job then you probably realize this already but many people take summer breaks or other extended-time vacations for granted. Real professionals don’t get weeks off around the holiday or months off during the summer. I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy your college years or should become a workaholic, but you need to get it in your head that professional development is continuous and never-ending.
How to Use your Next Few Months before the next CFA Season
It doesn’t mean you have to pick up the curriculum to the next level of the CFA exams just yet. Six months of studying is generally all most need for the exams so you can wait until January if you like.
There are other ways you can use this time though, some of which could actually be a lot of fun.
- Don’t pass up the opportunity to get involved in your local CFA society. Most societies plan monthly or regular social events and offer a great way to start networking for your career.
- Read through some of the published research from the CFA Research Foundation or even better, submit a research proposal and get your work published.
- There are more than 200 books listed on the CFA Institute website, many worth continuing education credits. Read through special topics that will give you an insight and advantage over peers, or just read a few for interest.
- The CFA curriculum is an excellent academic program but it lacks some of the real practical experience you’ll need in the industry. Take a cash flow or valuation modeling course and learn how to put together your own model in excel.
None of these tasks take a seriously long time and can be pretty enjoyable if you put your mind to it. Being a professional doesn’t mean foregoing everything else in life but it does mean putting challenges in front of yourself even outside your normal schedule.
Put together a healthy mix of projects to keep your mind sharp and keep developing your skills.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA