According to a survey by skills education specialist, City & Guilds, finance ranks among the top 10 careers that make 18-24 year olds happy. In contrast, another survey by the Education and Employers Taskforce reported that only 3% of the 1,100 13-to-16 year olds surveyed said they are considering a career in finance. This is despite one in five jobs expected to be in this sector.
So, if the field of finance makes young workers happy, why aren’t the next generation considering a career in this sector? Of course, there is the small matter of today’s teenagers growing up in the thick of a global banking crisis, making the prospect of finance, particularly investment banking, extremely easy to dismiss.
Along with this negative opinion, there is an issue of perceived difficulty when it comes to accessibility of senior roles in this field. A report by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) found that the total proportion of female members and students in the accountancy profession remained at around 50% between 2010 and 2014. However, the percentage of female qualified members is 36%, which suggests that equal numbers of men and women start a career in finance and accounting, but it’s men who go the distance to take the big jobs.
Despite these barriers and reservations about entering the finance industry there are huge gains to be made for those looking to excel in a career in this sector. 2015 has seen renewed optimism in finance with recruitment numbers returning to pre-recession figures.
While we don’t claim that the path from entry level to CFO is easy, candidates have ample opportunities to really make their mark and develop their skills.
For graduates, a career path in finance may look something like this:
Newly Qualified Accountant – Senior Accountant – Financial Controller or Auditor – Chartered Status – Finance Director – CFO
With such a seemingly achievable path to the top, why aren’t people more excited and optimistic about finance? Our experience recruiting for positions at all levels in this sector has taught us many valuable lessons and here are our top tips on how candidates can carve out a successful career.
BE AN OVERACHIEVER
Overachieving can be applied to any industry, but it is especially true in finance. Candidates looking to propel themselves up the career ladder in the shortest amount of time need to consistently exceed expectations through smashing targets and taking a proactive approach to work.
While technical competence is important, earning a reputation for being dependable and hard-working is key. Finance professionals can be guilty of staying within their own little bubble, so taking a deep interest in the needs of the business will always stand you in good stead.
Never Stop Learning
There are a number of different roads you can go down in your finance career, so you should think carefully about your ultimate goal and equip yourself with all of the skills you need to achieve it. This might mean taking a sideways move, or even looking at working for another organisation that has a better progression plan in place. If you’re serious about your career, you’ll make the move.
One common issue we find with finance professionals is that they focus too much on developing technical skills which, although essential, are not the Holy Grail if you want to move up the ladder. Think about developing knowledge on the commercial side of the business and gaining experience in people management is an absolute must.
Stay One Step Ahead
It’s easier to get comfortable and let the years roll by, which is why we always recommend candidates have a long-term career plan and set themselves realistic goals. Ask yourself when you want to achieve your next promotion by and the skills you’ll need to do it.
You can work closely with your manager to develop these goals or seek advice from a recruitment specialist who will be happy to guide you and offer some practical steps to help you get there.
Have a Mentor
It’s always a good idea to identify role models and mentors who can help you to learn what you need to know in order to stay on track with your plans. Look to the senior people in your company and find out what you can learn from their experience. Also, look to your peers and managers for inspiration, even If they work outside of finance, as they may have helpful knowledge that can help you develop.
If you’d like guidance on how to progress your finance career then the team at ep professional are on hand to help. Give us a call, send an email or use our Live Chat function to speak to us directly. Alternatively, take a look at what finance careers we have available on our job search.