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Sector Spotlight: Three lessons for working in Financial Services

17 February 2022

Katie Molyneux (BSc Economics, 2015) shares the lessons she wishes she knew at the start of her career in the Financial Services.

I graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Economics back in 2015 and let’s just say a LOT has happened since then; promotions, missed promotions, job opportunities, missed job opportunities, new qualifications and not to mention a hugely disruptive pandemic!

But here I am, 7 years on, with what I can only describe as a highly unpredictable career path to date. To begin with, I spent 5 years working in various roles in Investment Banking, from Client Relationship Management, to Commodities and Treasury. Next up, I moved into the Rail Industry and started the next chapter of my career in Project Management. Nowadays, I find myself working as a Programme Manager in the Marketing Department of an F1 team - who saw that coming?!

Now, I’m no career advisor, but if I was to rewind 7 years, there are a couple of things that I wish I had known…

Lesson No. 1: Don’t panic and write a sound application

It’s important that you don’t rush to panic stations when applying to graduate jobs and fully consider your options.

If you can, try to get some first-hand intel about a company or industry from someone who has experience (not just what you can find on a website or Wikipedia). By incorporating what you have learned and highlighting how your skills apply to the role, your application will make a powerful statement to those reading it and stand out from the other thousands of applicants.

When I was applying for a grad job, I was able to reach out to one of my course mates who was doing a year in industry. I felt that being able to hear about her experiences and having the opportunity to gain the “inside scoop” really helped with making my application relevant and more appealing to the reader.

Here’s what NOT to do: spam a tonne of companies with the same vague copy/paste cover letter. It just doesn’t work.

Lesson No. 2: Think outside of the (financial sector) box

It’s ever so easy, when considering a career in the financial sector, to only consider the “Big 4”:Investment Banks, Insurance companies etc.

There are far more opportunities in the financial sector than in…the financial sector.

Regardless of industry, all companies require some sort of finance function. Or, perhaps you want to avoid working in finance completely? No problem, you’ve got a tonne of transitional skills and knowledge you can apply elsewhere!

My advice? Go wild with all the options available to you outside of the job or function that you are applying for. Think more broadly about organisations and the additional things that really matter to you. Do they have particularly impressive environmental goals? Offer a tonne of holidays? Travel opportunities? Qualifications? Cool offices? Work/life balance? The list goes on.

Whatever you aspire to do, in whatever industry, if you can make your skills relevant to the job being advertised and articulate your motivations for applying, then nothing is holding you back.

Lesson No. 3: Tell me what you want, what you really, really want – Now go get it!

Contrary to what our parents may tell us, 'jobs for life' don’t typically exist these days. Realistically, we aren’t all going to land our dream job with stepping-stones laid out to long, fulfilling careers.

In fact, at some point in your career you may even find yourself taking a step back to move forward in an alternative direction that you want to pursue. This is by no means a sign of failure but self-development!

Every job, role and task that we take is not only an opportunity to learn, but to identify what we enjoy and what we are passionate about. In some instances, you might discover that a role just isn’t for you, and that isn’t the end of the world!

Take everything that you possibly can out of your current role in order to get where you want to be! If courses and qualifications are on offer, take them, especially where you can increase your skills that are relevant to your next career move.

Explore extra-curricular events that you can attend or get involved in. These aren’t just a way of mixing up your day-to-day but a massive opportunity to broaden your network – it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Whilst it can be incredibly daunting entering a full-time job where the path to a successful career isn’t as clear cut as passing an exam or not, your career is yours to own and is what you make it. You are your own success.