Getting to know the positions of a financial firm

If you've been studying in the hopes of getting a high-paying finance career, then you're likely somewhat familiar with the job opportunities afforded you by major firms. However, do you know what each of these positions entails? By better understanding the steps up the ladder you'll need to take when moving up at a financial firm, you can give yourself an advantage throughout the early days of your career.

The first three steps of your career in finance, over the course of your first years in the industry, will hopefully see you fill a number of job titles. If you study up on what will be expected of you in each position, you can get a handle on what kind of work you'll be doing at the different stages of your career – which will help you to understand what you'll need to do, and who you'll need to impress, in order to receive the promotions you'll want so badly. 

Intern
An internship will be your introduction to the world of financial firms, regardless of where your career ends up leading you. Even if you believe that your talents would be better suited to investor relations jobs or other careers that wouldn't require you to work directly with numbers, an internship at such a firm could be a huge advantage throughout your career and application process.

An investment banking intern, for example, doesn't even need to have a background in finance or accounting. However, they will need to be skilled with numbers – and more than ready to dive headfirst into the finance industry. Interns work alongside finance professionals in order to learn the skills needed to succeed within the industry. Internships are all about on-the-job training – they're an opportunity for young would-be workers to learn from the brightest minds in the field. 

The tasks you'll work on during an internship vary by company, and can be anything from menial errands to high-pressure finance assignments. A intern at Goldman Sachs, for example, is expected to develop client presentations, build financial spreadsheet models, work on client relations projects and assist the banking team they are assigned to with whatever other day-to-day responsibilities crop up. Internships offer an opportunity for individuals to get to know the daily rhythm and culture associated with major financial firms – before they need to begin working in one full-time.

Internships can also be your ticket into one of those full-time jobs. Many financial firms hire the best and brightest individuals to pass through their internship programs every year, graduating them to full-time employment. So if you do impressive enough work during your time as an intern, you may find yourself soon enough working as an analyst. 

Analyst
A financial analyst does just that – they work with a firm to analyze the economic conditions and business information available in order to provide guidance on deals, pitches and industry standards. They help financial firms decide whether to buy or sell stocks of a given company, for example. 

What an analyst does is likely dependent on how experienced they are, and possibly also on how much they excelled as an intern. Some analysts will find themselves gathering data, creating financial models and maintaining documents for much of their time. Others could find themselves developing investment pitches or collaborating with senior staff members on major deals.

Goldman Sachs also outlined the work of a new analyst: at that firm, you'd likely find yourself helping with project work, developing and preparing marketing presentations, analyzing client equity and fixed income portfolios, and offering general client service support. There are a number of opportunities afforded to individuals who excel in this job in any financial firm. One step taken by many, however, is to obtain a Master's of Business Administration degree, and apply or ask for a promotion to an associate job. 

Associate
Once you developed expertise in a specific sector of banking and displayed your talents with a number of clients, you may find yourself working an associate job. Day to day responsibilities in these positions vary ever more widely than they do as an intern or an analyst, but individuals working these finance jobs may find themselves executing both public and private transactions, advising corporations on mergers and acquisitions, and devising strategies that allow companies to optimize the value of their real estate holdings, according to a Goldman Sachs job listing. 

From there, you may find yourself promoted even further, to working as a senior banker or even as an executive. You could also move to a different company or occupation – you may want to see if you can get one of the many hedge fund jobs available, for example. Yet you need to work at each level of a finance firm before you can reach the top – so prepare for your coming responsibilities as an intern, an analyst and an associate as thoroughly as possible.