At our Careers in Focus sessions we invite along a panel of graduates and employers who have studied your major and are doing really interesting things out there, that hopefully will make you think hmmm …how did they get there? Could I give that a go? So we encourage you to ask all kinds of questions, either in the panel session or mingling afterwards in the networking time that follows. No question is a stupid one, in fact the questions that pop up on our GoSoapbox app are thoughtful, intelligent ones, befitting of the maturity of students these days. No virtual rolling of Jaffas or throwing paper planes like in my day. In the recent Careers in Focus – Finance session, questions pertained to careers in financial analysis, banking and accounting but of course they can apply to any area.
Thanks to our panel:
- Zoe Wallis, Head of Transactions and Payments, Kiwibank
- Caitlin Craigie, Implementation Manager, Retail Banking, ASB
- Nick Barry, Senior Analyst, Deloitte
- Elaine Wang, Investment Operations Analyst, ACC
- Selina Li, Product Controller, Institutional Finance, ANZ
for sharing their experience and wisdom. Here are some of the questions, with a mix of our panelist alongside Careers and Employment’s thoughts and responses:
|How much do grades matter in applying for a financial analyst role?
As with any role – see our recent blog. Work experience is equally, if not more important to the finance industry. The learning ability you can demonstrate is more important. If you can’t apply the grades to your role they’re not useful. On the other hand, great grades are a way to demonstrate your learning abilities and motivation. If your grades are poor you may not get past the first screening for graduate roles where there is a lot of competition..
How does studying Economics help you in the Banking Sector?
It was very useful background for the Reserve Bank, where Zoe Wallis began her career – they recruit at postgraduate level for their Analyst roles. However, for work overseas the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) qualification was more recognisable overseas. Check out the Economics and Finance Career View to see the wealth of transferable skills that you can develop studying these subjects.
I don’t have relevant work experience – how did you go about marketing your transferable skills from your holiday jobs?
If you can demonstrate communication, working in a team, extra curricular groups, playing sports – it’s all relevant. Interviews won’t be purely technical, they are also looking for well rounded skills and experience. A real example: someone during the interview process had some great work experience and grades on paper, but flunked the interview because they cam across as too distant and arrogant with the senior managers. Best fit with the organisational culture can come from a wide range of factors, and being a ‘real person/genuine’ is a key part of that. Widen your experience through volunteering. Make the most of Victoria Plus, Victoria International Leadership programme, volunteer! Check out these top points to remember if you don’t feel as though your work experience is relevant. Advice for international students from Elaine and Selina around persistence, resilience and taking any opportunity you can to develop contacts and widen skills was also really helpful for the significant number of international students studying Finance. Careers and Employment and Immigration NZ can offer advice and support in the process of approaching employers and applying for jobs.
How did prospective employers react to the fact that your degree was not related directly to Finance? How did you “sell yourself”?
Many organisations are seeking diversity of thought and background. While there be be some specialised roles not worth applying for, but there were often streams within the companies where transferable and directly applicable skills from an ‘unrelated’ degree can really add value. For example, from her BSc, Caitlin had sharpened her data analysis and practical skills such as Excel.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first job?
Things like – adapting from being a night owl – changes in routines and body clock! Getting used to deadlines not set by yourself, and learning to collaborate a lot more. There will always be mistakes. How you deal with them is the biggest learning curve. Learning a lot about attitude and how to move forward. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn and self improve. Employers of graduates know you are learning and the panel’s experience has been positive. They received a lot of support in this learning process. Belonging to professional associations such as INFINZ, CFA and Young Women in Finance is also a very good idea for building networks and learning.