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Advice needed

Hello, after quite a long time lurking, I've finally decided to join 300Hours, and here I am looking for some career advice. I'm 23, I've recently finished a 4-year undergraduate degree in Economics at a good European university (most financial firms hold quite extensive recruitment campaigns there) and I will be sitting CFA level I in December.
Last year of uni was quite tough so I ended up not putting much thought into what I would be doing afterwards. I have worked for several MNCs in the past, but have no direct finance experience. When I started applying for finance jobs after finishing uni, it was pointed out to me that while I had the credentials for Analyst jobs, I didn't have any industry experience. Most graduate programs had long stopped recruiting, so I ended up taking a job for a small but reputable Investment Fund, in a middle-back office capacity, where I look after the operations of a Hedge Fund and a UCITS Fund (trade compliance and settlement, reporting, some PnL, margin calls etc). I have only been there a short while, and I am learning a lot. The company is small, and while this is good because I have significant responsibilities, it means that there is also little internal mobility. People move on to more advanced roles within Operations, but there are no signs to suggest that there is an Analyst position waiting for me. Analysts seem to be mainly hired from the Big 4, which is something I had the opportunity to do but no real interest in pursuing.
My plan is to sit CFA level I in December, and hopefully level II in June next year, and use that, together with the experience I am gaining, to quickly move out of back office and into an Analyst-type position. I am also thinking of applying for graduate programs, and an MSc in Finance, just to keep my options open. My main worry is that what I intend to be a short spell in the back office will turn into something more long-term, and I will end stuck there forever. Any advice?
Zee

Comments

  • SophieSophie Posts: 1,997 Sr Partner
    Hello @hurluberlu! I wished you'd joined sooner :)

    I think what you're doing is great (for CFA). I'm personally not sure of doing an MSc at the same time (it'll be tough to balance with CFA), but I'd also add another weapon - networking. Speak to relevant people in the industry that may help you, buy them coffee for 30 min of their time, ask for advice and referral (keep on doing this and you'll get somewhere trust me).

    There is a tendency to be "boxed" into a role if you're there too long and not change. So it's best to keep trying now, I think you got the right thinking, but it's not an easy ride - though completely achievable with some hustling! It's never too late to change, it's all about picking your relevant skillsets and framing it in a way that is relevant to your desired role.

    Good luck - let me know how this goes, there's a thread about job search where people share tips/experiences. Always helpful to check it out :)

  • Thanks for your reply Sophie! I will keep your advice in mind, and I'll try to network as much as possible. It is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I will do my best.
    I'd gladly avoid doing an MSc if possible, but I am thinking of applying nonetheless next year to have something to fall back on, should things not have progressed by September 2014. I'd mainly do it for the networking opportunities and to get back into the "graduate game".
    I was thinking of focusing on CFA level I for now, and starting to look for a new job in January; hopefully by then I will have passed level I and gained enough experience at my current job, and be in a position to apply for a more front office-type position. Would that be too long? I think that 6-7 months is probably the right amount of time to figure out how things work without necessarily confining yourself to a lifetime in that job (but I would welcome any feedback on this).
    Another option I was considering would be to omit this experience from my CV if at some stage it becomes clear that it is holding me back; one year is not the end of the world, many from my class have gone travelling, and I could re-cycle myself into the graduate world by applying for graduate programs. Would this be feasible?
    Zee
  • I was in a back office operations job in an MNC for 1.8 years and am now in Sales support pre-sales analytic job which is much more relevant to research where I intend to be. I got the change after clearing my Level 2 CFA...My approach was that I learnt as much as I could without worrying much about being stuck (C'mon I was just 22 a year back) and thought I had time if I dint wana get stuck..once I reached a stagnation stage on the learning front, I decided it was time to move on and started the job hunt, for which I did not have much issues as I had cleared my Level 2 by then.

    Just gave my story as I think yours wuld be similar. An additional reason for not changing was that Level 1 is not really an add in for the CV. Only when cleared Level 2 CFA exam is it taken seriously by good employers (My opinion!!). Plus the learning went on for a year at the MNC and thereafter was a bit of self learning process.
    SophieZee
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