Let’s face it: there are tens of thousands of business students in Canada right now and, if you’re one of them, you’re competing against some of the smartest, most driven young professionals in the country.
Business students are in demand, but you still need to find ways to stand above your peers and get noticed by financial services employers so you can land your dream job in finance or banking.
These are the top four things you should be doing outside of class to improve your chances of landing a financial services job:
1. Get a part-time customer service job
Sure, folding clothes or flipping burgers might seem like a far cry from a glamourous finance job in a high-rise office tower downtown, but nearly all banking and finance jobs have some kind of customer or client service dimension to them, whether you’re helping people manage their money as a Financial Advisor or presenting recommendations to clients as an Analyst.
A part-time customer service job in retail, food service or a call centre can demonstrate to employers that you have experience working with and serving people in a fast-paced environment. Plus, in behavioural interviews you can discuss that time you went above and beyond to help a customer.
This experience can also come in handy if you’re planning to enter a sales-oriented financial services job, as part-time sales associates are often responsible for contributing to a store’s hourly, daily, weekly and monthly sales goals. Try to keep track of any major sales milestones or quotas that you’ve achieved so you can use them on your resume later.
2. Do at least one finance-related internship, co-op or summer job
You don’t have to go all the way to Wall Street – or even Bay Street for that matter – to gain some meaningful finance experience. For one thing, there are bank and credit union branches on nearly every corner of every decently-sized town in the country, and they’re all looking for business-savvy students to help them serve their customers. If you’re located in a large city, like Toronto or Calgary, chances are there is a head office near you too. You could work for banks, insurance companies, investment management firms, funds and more.
Doing at least one internship, co-op or summer job in financial services shows employers that you have industry knowledge and experience that simply can’t be taught in the classroom. Even if your work experience isn’t directly related to the career path you will end up applying for, it’s still relevant. Plus, many organizations ask their former students to return to work for them full-time after graduation.
While many of these organizations recruit students, it’s important to keep in mind that the industry is still pretty conservative and may not advertise all of their opportunities online. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of networking and recruiting opportunities on your campus.
3. Become a student leader on campus
Leading a student group, club or association on your campus can put you at the top of an employer’s candidate list. It says that you’re motivated, driven to succeed and you’re not afraid to take responsibility for managing and co-ordinating others.
It doesn’t have to be a business or finance association, either. Perhaps you could apply or run for an executive position in your campus’ Muslim students’ association, Aboriginal student council, the Model UN, the LGBT student group or even the chess club.
While it’s true that you are potentially risking discrimination if you identify your religion, ethnic or cultural background, or sexual orientation to employers, it shouldn’t be a major concern in the financial services industry. Most banking and finance employers are actively looking for ways to hire more women, visible minority, disabled and LGBT candidates, and have been recognized for their commitments to diversity in the workplace.
More financial services employers than ever before are finding ways to help their employees give back to their local communities by donating time and funds. It’s become an important aspect of many employers’ culture and they’re looking for students who will not only fit in but thrive in that kind of environment.
If you don’t already have a pet cause, check your favourite financial services employer’s profile on TalentEgg or visit their website to figure out which charities and non-profit organizations they work with.
Photo credit: Customer Service by Neff Conner on Flickr