A popular stereotype often comes to mind when we think of careers in finance: Michael Douglas in ‘Wall Street’, an expensive pinstriped suit, and lots of glamour and excitement. Another perception is the complete opposite— the awkward mathematician with ineffective communication skills. In reality the field of finance and the people who work in it are far more diverse than these perceptions. It is really important to remember that finance offers a wide range of career opportunities that do not fit these stereotypes and also nearly every type of business today offers appealing career paths in finance—from small entrepreneurial start-ups through to blue-chip companies.
Like all sectors, finance has its own personality and dominant cultural characteristics. Finance falls under the umbrella of professional services which includes legal, accountancy and consulting firms but the culture varies not just between the professional sectors but also between different financial or accountancy practices. The one common thread is that in professional services environments reputation is everything—building strong client relationships, leading-edge technical skills, knowledge and expertise.
Job descriptions containing the word financial can be misleading. The career fields within finance fall into the following very broad categories: Corporate and Public; Investment; Portfolio Management and Trading. Corporate finance officers help their companies raise capital that often finances new plants and new products, resulting in new jobs. Public finance professionals raise money to build roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals. Lending officers at banks, savings and loans, and credit unions help their customers finance homes or college education. Portfolio managers invest the retirement funds of millions of people.
Although finance has traditionally consisted of three separate areas—corporate financial management, investments, and financial institutions—this distinction has begun to blur due to the effects of deregulation and globalization. Additionally, many other fields with in finance, such as real estate and insurance, have grown significantly in recent years. In other words, student choices within finance are getting wider.
If you are thinking about a career in finance consider current trends in the sector and how current issues are going to influence your work: this year (short term), over the next 1-3 years (mid-term) and over the next 3-5 years (long-term). What can you do to best take advantage of current trends in the finance sector? Drawing up your own PEST Analysis will help you to answer the questions posed above and you can discuss with a careers coach about completing a PEST Analysis.