About to graduate? 3 steps for building a career in finance

Graduating college is only the first step in building a long-lasting finance career.

After years of studying, cramming for exams and dashing out final papers, commencement is around the corner. You will finally be able to hold your accounting or finance degree in hand and walk proudly across the stage, your future in the industry just ahead.

It may feel like it’s time to relax, but few graduates have ever gotten great investment banking jobs out of complacency. More than a few, on the other hand, have lost track of their goals sitting in a cubicle after college graduation. With your professional destiny before you, right now is the perfect opportunity to follow these three steps and build a solid foundation for your financial career.

1. The best of the best refuse to stop learning
You may not want to hear it coming out of four hard years of school, but if you want to be great at what you do – and the finance industry, as competitive as it currently is, has no tolerance for mediocrity – then your education is never over. Many choose to pursue an additional finance certification after they have their Bachelors degree. These prove to employers that you’re not just showing up for a paycheck, and that your career is important enough to you that you’ll invest extra time into its improvement.

“Most employers look at the CPA as a badge of trust and dedication.”

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant is relatively inexpensive and will prove greatly beneficial in the long run. Most employers look at the CPA as a badge of trust and dedication, since maintaining this appealing credential requires that you be recertified after three years.

While it may not officially be a certification, there are few credentials more important to senior-level analytical and finance roles than the Master of Business Administration. The MBA is demanded by some employers but respected by all. The immediate cost can be substantial, but pair it with a CPA down the line and your resume will leap to the top of hiring managers’ queues.

There are other certifications out there – including the Certified Healthcare Financial Professional, which has proven very popular following the introduction of the Affordable Care Act – so look around and determine what will best suit your career goals.

2. Work hard and be open to everything
At every first job there will be responsibilities coworkers hate to handle. If you’re working at a cubicle out of college, chances are you’ll be tasked with unpopular projects, but you shouldn’t look at these as a fruitless burden. Instead, try to look at them as an opportunity.

The more you know how to do, the larger your repertoire of knowledge and ability is – no matter how shunned the task may be – the more valuable you’ll be to an employer. Don’t hold back while seeking new responsibilities. Speak to your managers to see if there’s anything more you can do. If you get a new project, pursue it with energy, efficiency and a positive attitude.

A positive attitude at work gives you more control over your future career. A positive attitude at work gives you more control over your future career.

According to Positively Present, the benefits of a positive attitude are plentiful. Not only will you go into the office with less stress everyday, your peers will be happier (and more likely to speak well of you to an inquiring manager) and your job will be more securely yours if you prove a consistent asset to the team. Perhaps most important of all, however, is the fact that a positive outlook puts you in firm control of your career path. Every decision is wholly your own.

3. Create relationships with your coworkers
Forming strong bonds with your coworkers and managers won’t just make your financial career more fun, but also more productive. The ease with which you can keep in touch with professional contacts via social media or text leaves no excuse for why you shouldn’t be actively pursuing new connections.

Sitting down with a coworker or manager for a drink is great – strong relationships equal quality references, and you’ll be happier at work for having them – but you need to have an updated resume ready to go should they offer to pass your information along for a valuable promotion or career opportunity. References will go a long way toward securing you an interview. A clear, concise, results-oriented resume will do the rest.

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