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Why you should keep applying for finance jobs, even when you're rejected

You apply for one finance job. Two, three, four, five. Hundreds - maybe even thousands.  You don't succeed. Should you give up? No.

I’ve been in this industry for almost eighteen years. I have seen the good years, and I have seen plenty of bad years.  I say you should keep applying for finance jobs even after multiple rejections, but that you should apply for them in a different way. 

Why should you keep applying? Because finance is the future. It changes all the time. This is why Lloyd Blankfein joined J. Aron 35 years ago from a law firm. He got tired of reading about 10 year old legal precedents and wanted to work on things that were going to be on the front cover of the WSJ tomorrow. Finance is one of the rare industries where you create tomorrow’s news today.

Finance also makes money. Contrary to what the tech guys would have you believe, it's cutting edge and fast moving. And guess what? The tech guys need us to finance them.

Finance is smart. The people you meet in finance are smart. There is probably more IQ in finance than in any other industry, which is good if you like working with smart people.

Finance is huge. Banks employ tens of thousands of people and generate billions in revenues. Did you know that the largest sector in the Russell 2000 is Finance with a 20% weighting? IT is next at 17%. With size comes greater opportunities, flexibility, stability.

And finance is everywhere. Money permeates everything. Every country needs banking and asset management. The economy literally can’t function without finance.

Notice I didn’t even talk about money. You don't want to work in finance for the money. And you don't want to get disheartened by negative headlines or rejection emails.

Instead, you need to change your game. What you need, is a system. 

Apply for jobs, but don't do it randomly. You'll get nowhere.  Why would you want to compete against 10,000 others? Would you run in a race with 10,000 people and expect to be in the top 50? That’s what you are doing when you are applying erratically for every job you think will you suit you on the internet.

Instead of randomly shooting resumes to people, you need to build a system. Those rejections are saying that you're doing something wrong - not, necessarily, that you're a bad candidate. Your system should look like this:

  1. Research the Industry – understand the players and the people. What’s happening in the industry, what are the big forces? Where is change coming from? What are the skills and knowledge that are in demand? Does your resume reflect this?
  2. Build your skills – go get those skills. Where would I start? Public speaking, persuasion, simple modeling skills, business writing. Those are the big life skills and it’s surprising that most schools don’t teach them. If you can do those things, you can do any job.
  3. Build your network – if someone dropped 10,000 resumes on you, would you really go through them looking for the best candidate or would you look for short cuts? A simple short cut that works well is relationships and your network. People hire people they know and trust. Who do you know and who trusts you?
  4. Get the right experience – when you are starting all experience is good experience, but the more differentiated the better. There are thousands of resumes of kids who went to Oxford or Cambridge, but not that many of the kid who went to University in China and worked out there. That person stands out. At the start of your career it’s just about rising above the noise. There is a lot of noise.
  5. Don’t chase everything - one of the mistakes I see with people applying for jobs is that they are scattered. They are applying for banking, research, hedge funds, consulting. And they are doing that with the same resume and the same interview story. That will just make you seem generic. You need to focus. Get what they call domain expertise. Own your market.

Stop scattering CVs. Start making a difference. Good luck in 2017.

The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learnt on Wall Street.

AUTHORWiLowWallStreet Insider Comment
  • Tr
    Truly Wise
    11 January 2017

    Why write all the above when you can just write "learn to play the HR game"?

    You indirectly said it only on point 4, when you talk about being "generic" as if it was a bad thing. I gave up applying, not because I lost heart, but because I realised that it's the culture I hate. The culture of ticking boxes, instead of doing the work.

    Starting from the application, which is very structured with drop down menus, containing even things like job title (much easier to just type it in than trying to decide which title from the menu is closest to it), and marking it with computer algorithms - no matter how much the HR department will swear that they don't do it. And if previous job title is not in the drop down menu... be God if you like, you still have no chance.

    Good luck convincing a financial recruiter that you can indeed polish the 8th gear of the 12th wheel, when you don't have "experience" in doing exactly this before; good luck trying to explain those idiots that "experience" is only a means to an end; and they will suspect that you made a mess if you apply to move from the 12th wheel to the 11th; not to mention how they insist of asking "current salary" , (a very rude question anyway) and they judge people's skill not by their achievements or qualifications, but by the "current salary"!!!!

    It's this kind of culture that caused the financial crisis: Idiots on high salaries were automatically assumed competent, and were offered even higher salaries and more responsibility, until incompetence reached too high...

    "We take this set of parameters from department A, this from B, this from C..., we put them into this model that was developed by departments K, L and M, we give the output to department X, and nobody is "generic" to know what they do and why they do it, until they cause a financial crisis...

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