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4 Ways to Propel Your Career in Finance

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Want to take your career in finance from where you are to where you want to be? While it’s not going to happen overnight, there are a few strategic investments you can begin making today. Over the years, these intentional decisions will breed significant results.

1. Invest in Mentors

The best recommendation is to align yourself with people who are further along in their careers than you are. It’s helpful if these individuals are in the finance industry, but it’s not totally necessary. (Having a blend of people inside and outside of finance can help you become a more well-rounded professional.)

You can think of mentors in two buckets:

Passive Mentors.

A passive mentor is someone that you don’t interact with directly. (They might not even know you exist.) These are people who can learn from via online courses, YouTube videos, podcasts, and books.

Active Mentors.

A passive mentor is someone that you don’t interact with directly. (They might not even know you exist.) These are people who can learn from via online courses, YouTube videos, podcasts, and books.

2. Network Like You Mean It

You’ll have way more passive mentors in your life than active mentors, but you need a blend of the two to maximize your chances for success.

You can learn everything there is to know in your little niche of the finance world, but you won’t have anything if you don’t have connections. Networking is the other major piece of the equation. You have to know people. More than that, you need to build such solid relationships that people feel compelled to help you advance.

The simplest way to build relationships is to be selfless. (Easy in theory, much more difficult in practice.) Don’t look at networking as an opportunity to get something. Instead, view it as a chance to give, give, and give some more. Then when you think you’ve given so much of yourself that you have nothing left to give, keep on giving. It’s out of this place of abundance that others will respond. It won’t happen overnight, but your generosity and genuine willingness to help will compel others to respond in kind.

3. Fall in Love With Continuing Education

If you’re going to advance in this industry, you must learn to love continuing education (rather than seeing it as a burden). More specifically, you’ll need to prioritize certifications as a way of enhancing your resume and making yourself a more credible professional on the open marketplace.

If you’re an accountant, you’ll have to decide which direction you want to go. If you’re fine with the status quo, you can make decent money and enjoy a stable career for the next 20 or 30 years. But if you really want to rise above your peers, you’ll need to pass the CPA exam.

If you’re a wealth manager or financial planner, you’ll have to decide if you’re comfortable with your current book of business, or if you want to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). This will require you to pass the CFP exam.

4. Set Goals and Chart Progress

Whether it’s a fitness goal, family goal, or career goal, you’re going to find it challenging to chase after big, hairy objectives without being specific. It’s not enough to say you want to move up in your career or reach a certain threshold – you need to document these goals and give them color.

In addition to setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound), it’s helpful to chart your progress over time. Create a system that works for you, but we recommend keeping a journal in a Google Doc and tracking everything significant that happens to you each week. This is also a great place to record lessons and nuggets of wisdom that you stumble upon during the week.

The act of tracking your progress towards goals shows you that hard work really does pay off. It gives you something reassuring and concrete to look back on as you advance in your career, which can prove encouraging during tough, motionless stretches.

Take Your Finance Career to the Next Level

If there were a perfect recipe for advancing a career in finance, we’d give it to you word-for-word. Alas, there’s no such thing as a predictable equation for progressional growth. But if you apply the principles we’ve briefly outlined in this article, you’ll find yourself in a better position than 90 percent of your peers. And, eventually, that will propel you from where you are to where you want to be.