Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A "Must Skim": eFinancialCareers Manual

eFinancialCareers, the financial recruiting firm with an expansive online presence, just published a new manual ("Careers in Financial Markets") that helps guide students and young professionals pursuing long-term careers in banking and finance. The manual is long (about 100 pages), but it's a "must skim," if not must-read, for those starting out in financial services.

Nowadays there are countless manuals, guides, brochures and books on how to pursue a career in banking--or more specifically, investment banking or sales & trading. This one stands out for two reasons:

1. It presents a detailed description of various segments--each a specialty in financial services and each usually offering opportunities for MBA's. Hence, not everybody should or is interested in pursuing a life of investment banking. It tries to convince that there are enriching careers in areas like risk management, and it accurately explains the difference between corporate and investment banking.

2. There is a section on diversity, and themes, issues and topics of diversity are prevalent throughout the manual. (There is a casual reference to the Consortium, as a diversity pipeline for candidates in finance.)

Few will have time to digest and absorb this manual cover to cover, but skim what's relevant to you. And like all pieces of advice, assess what is recommended and decide your own next steps.

The manual is candid, straightforward. Its intended audience includes anybody--not just MBA's--interested in finance. It covers many aspects of looking for a job, planning a career, and learning how to network. A few highlights are worth noting:

1. It's direct, honest and even injects humor on the best ways to get a job at a top investment bank, daring to say (with a wink) takes some combination of 4.0 GPA's, direct contacts to top managing directors, relatives in key positions, and a diploma from a name school to get an offer. That's is way of showing how hard it can be at elite firms (e.g. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, or Blackstone).

2. It includes a section that advises when it's best to leave a firm or transfer out of a position. Few guides ever tell you to leave. This one knows the fit between you and the firm may be awkward sometimes, and you should do something about it.

You should take steps to transfer or look elsewhere, for example, when your group is engulfed in office politics, when your firm is suffering in performance, when managers above you operate within an impenetrable social circle, or when you receive an unfair, unwarranted performance review.

3. The manual provides 20 excellent descriptions of sectors of finance, explaining where there might be opportunities for entry-level positions or opportunities for mid-career people. They include unsung sectors, often not on the mind of the typical MBA, such as global custody, risk management, compliance, "information providers" (Bloomberg and Reuters come to mind), and even human resources.

The diversity section is good, because it devotes proper attention to the subject and focuses on the importance of fit at a bank or company. Diversity is not treated as a footnote. But the manual treads carefully.

The manual doesn't provide what many students (especially first-year Consortium students) crave this time of year: A candid assessment on places to work, including those that are outstanding or those that should be avoided. Nor does it rank or rate banks and firms as ideal places to start a career in finance or to get promoted.

Consortium students want stark impressions of a firm's culture, want to know where they will fit, and want to know whether a firm values technical skills more than client skills. Given many financial institutions are clients of eFinancialCareers and given many contributed sidebar articles to the manual, you can see why it avoided rating firms or offering candid summaries of culture at specific places.

The manual also doesn't focus on banking boutiques or smaller specialty firms (trading firms, dealers, clearinghouses, technology firms with a financial clients, etc.). And because its audience includes the senior literature major in college, as well as the bank VP in private banking who wants to transfer into corporate banking, it doesn't focus on how MBA graduates can take advantage of finance, accounting and banking courses they took in b-school.

Nonetheless, that's nitpicking. There is much useful information and informed advice if you take a moment to peruse it.

Tracy Williams

www.efinancialcareers.com/pdf/cifm/CIFM US.pdf

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