Whether you’re looking for a graduate job or an internship, the financial services industry is a competitive field. To that end, getting something outstanding on your resume may go a long way in helping you gain some prominence amid a sea of other applicants, even as you cultivate some experience and knowledge!
Smaller financial institutions, which typically specialise in actuarial works or insurance loss adjustments, generally don’t have structured graduate or internship programmes, so one way to ask about available positions is to speculatively send in your resume along with a cover letter.
State who you are and what you’re looking for – such as shadowing or work experience – as well as your relevant experience and what skills you can lend the company. While you should mention why you chose that particular company, ensure your resume and cover letter are concise and to the point, as recruiters may not have the time to go through a protracted application.
Moreover, remember to call the company ahead of submitting your application to ask who you should send and address it to – applications sent to a specific person tend to have a higher chance of being reviewed.
There are numerous benefits to applying speculatively, such as potentially expanding your network, showing a prospective employer your genuine interest and getting the opportunity to develop your acumen in a specific area of the industry.
Attending a (virtual) career fair
Career fairs give students and employers a platform to mingle and network, while also allowing students and graduates to take a good look at the diverse opportunities and positions available. However, due to the pandemic, educational institutes have moved onto virtual platforms to continue hosting fairs for prospective students.
Attending a career fair will get you acquainted with recruiters and help you build your network – and will also show prospective employers your commitment to joining the industry.
Firms are always keeping an eye out for students with skills in entrepreneurship, and those who set up small businesses while in university usually end up impressing them.
Although these ventures aren’t usually very big, they still show prospective employers commercial awareness, problem-solving and planning skills, business intellect and an ability to budget.
Be a treasurer
All university clubs and societies need treasurers. And if you’ve stepped into the role, potential employers will be able to infer that you’re not just a team player, but also capable and skilled enough to take the needs of an organisation into consideration, while also managing and handling their budgets and money.
Other skills the role of a treasurer will instil in you is communication, time management, problem-solving and commercial awareness – skills employers in accounting and financial management look out for.
All in all, this position will grant you experience relevant to the industry that can be added to your resume, and also give you something to talk about in interviews.
Not only will running a small enterprise give you something interesting to talk about in interviews when you’re looking for a graduate job, but you’ll also be able to make some extra cash for yourself!
Getting an overseas internship
Nabbing an internship out of the country can give you a head start over other graduate hopefuls. And for the duration of the application process, the skills and experiences you picked up from your time abroad can definitely set you apart. In addition, employers will be able to perceive your adaptability, confidence and commercial awareness, as well as global and communication skills.
Other benefits of getting an internship overseas are, among other things, expanding your network to include international contacts and employers, and the chance to develop a variety of transferable skills. Be warned though, with the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic still being felt worldwide, the opportunities for overseas internships are currently limited.
Joining or starting a network
If the opportunity to join a group interested in financial services presents itself while you’re in school, you should take it and start building your network. But if you don’t want to restrict your membership to your location or campus, keep an eye out for similar groups on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
If you can’t find any, consider starting one of your own. This will not only showcase your initiative to future employers, but also grant you the opportunity to meet other professionals and students you may not have crossed paths with.
Getting the chance to meet and talk with others who share similar interests is just one benefit – the chance to network and show your genuine commitment to a career in the financial services field is another.
Look for a mentor with experience in the area you wish to enter, and who can help you form your network even as they counsel and encourage you. They can be a seasoned professional or a graduate trainee, either clueing you in on what skills recruiters and employers want, or guiding you through the application process with different employers.
Whatever it is you’re looking for, you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one mentor – if you have a few mentors, you’ll be able to glean more from their different experiences.
However, as professionals in the industry usually keep hectic schedules, you may want to start with alumni or family (or even their friends). You can also consider social media platforms such as LinkedIn, and even networking events – though if you want to follow this route, you should express your desire for a mentor and intention to keep in touch.
One of the advantages of having either a mentor (or several mentors) is getting the guidance you need from working professionals in the area you want to join first-hand. Furthermore, you’ll also get the opportunity to leverage on their network and pick up some pointers on how to make yourself more attractive to employers.