Using the CFA Program to Transition to Finance from another Industry

Our post last week about famous CFA charter holders and their career paths to success was hugely popular but I got an email from one candidate that I wasn’t able to answer. The article highlighted five famous charter holders, all having started early in life in finance. The candidate wanted to know if I had heard of any famous CFA charter holders that had started later in life or had transitioned into finance from another industry.
I’ve got to admit, I couldn’t find any super-success stories within the industry that started later in life. I know they’re out there but just couldn’t find any examples.
Confused by the search, I started researching ways people have transitioned into asset management from other industries and how the path to success might look.
How to Use the CFA Program to Transition into Finance
Starting a new career in a different industry isn’t easy. Older workers have a family to support and can’t usually take a big pay cut to start at the bottom of the corporate ladder in another field. Besides the cut in pay and benefits, jumping into a new industry means finding the time to learn your new trade.
Getting a job in asset management from another industry can be even more difficult. New analysts are expected to put in extremely long hours at times and sacrifice their personal lives to the job, something that older workers may not be willing to do.
But it is possible to break into finance from another industry and have an extremely successful career no matter what the age you start. Some areas of asset management even aggressively recruit from other industries.

  • Progress through the CFA Program curriculum is a good start. Passing the exams shows employers two things. First, you’re dedicated enough to put in the work necessary to learn new skills. It also tells potential employers that you have a good base of understanding in the topic areas tested on the exams.
  • You have to find something from your old career that works in your favor. For many, this means a strong insight into the other industry to be used in analyzing companies. It’s especially useful in technical fields like technology and pharmaceuticals where an analyst may need to understand product specifications. Try preparing an equity report of a company in your previous industry to show you have a deep understanding of the business.
  • Make sure you understand what you really want and where you want to go. This is necessary for any job candidate but especially so for older workers. It might look like you’re indecisive if you try to transition into yet another industry after finance, so you need to make sure this is where you want to be. Talk with some CFA charter holders at a local society networking event and get to know the industry before you make the leap.
  • You might try freelancing in the industry before making the full-time transition. There are opportunities available to do analyst projects like equity reports on sites like Freelancer and Upwork. You’ll have to show some previous work to prove your skills so put together a few reports beforehand. Showing that you have what it takes to be a self-starter will go a long way to convincing potential employers.
  • Besides as a way to understand the industry, you’ll want to talk to CFA charter holders in your local society to network. Society members want to help each other and you’ll get a lot of great advice on how to land a new job.
  • Above all, be ready to take advice and understand that you know nothing about this new industry. You might be a leader in your old industry but will need to work your way up in your new job. Be humble and take advice where it’s offered.

Don’t give up and be ready to face rejection. You’re not a traditional job candidate so you’ll have to break through any misconceptions that employers may have about older candidates. With each rejection, focus on addressing any weaknesses uncovered and move on to the next opportunity.
‘til next time, happy studying
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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