How to get ahead in the job market and advance your finance career

stand out in the finance job market
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Founder of Career Codex Simon Gray looks at ways to stand out in a crowded, competitive finance job market.

As a chartered accountant, former professional recruiter and now advisor to those looking to advance their careers, the first question I’m often asked is: “Can you help me with my CV?”

The answer is of course yes, but as I’m quick to point out, if you’re serious about standing out in the job market to advance your finance career, then this is the wrong question to be asking.

As Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Taking this advice and applying it to the job market – how can doing what everyone else is doing ever be standing out and a successful strategy to be the one to get hired?

Understand how the job market works

The starting point to find success is to understand how the job market really works. While I have extensive and detailed knowledge of the finance sector from my time in the industry, the advice that follows applies to any discipline or industry sector.

The majority focus on job boards or professional recruiters as their primary strategy to find their next position. While this should be part of any job search strategy, it’s a reactive approach, which if the phone doesn’t ring can lead to frustration and disappointment.

The ‘hidden market’

What the minority know is that a large number of opportunities exist before ever being placed on job boards or with professional recruiters in what I call the ‘hidden market’. Conversations happen all the time in the hidden market between those looking to hire and their trusted peer group and business associates. It starts with the question: ‘Do you know anyone who can…?’ Those introduced by this method come at zero cost (there’s no job board or recruitment fee to pay) and also with an implicit recommendation.

From the candidate perspective, the hidden market is an important place to get positioned. This is a place where high probability opportunities exist, as here you’re often only in competition with yourself and no one else – the position is not yet in the public domain.

Identify your target

Getting clear on the opportunity you want is also critical to finding success. As a professional recruiter the most difficult candidate for me to place was the one that told me they could and would do anything. We live in a world of specialism and knowing what you want and the unique skills and experience you have to offer not only helps you to communicate better, it helps you to identify your target audience.

Interviewing guests on a recent series of podcasts I produced for ICAEW, it was evidenced that it can be rare for organisations to receive a direct approach from someone interested in working for their business. What’s more, the guests I interviewed said that providing the approach was appropriate and professional that it was very likely to result in a conversation, whether a current vacancy existed or not.

Get your foot in the door

This is how the minority operate. Clear on the type of opportunity they want, the minority approach the organisations they want to work for, whether an opportunity is currently being advertised or not. This ‘gets their foot in the door’ and is a proactive strategy to get noticed, get ahead and ultimately to get hired.

As in business, success boils down to proper planning followed by consistent execution. However, when it comes to their own careers, many fail to plan, so effectively plan to fail. Furthermore, due to the personal nature of the inevitable rejection everyone faces on any recruitment journey, consistent execution can also be a considerable challenge.

To summarise, to get ahead in the job market and advance your finance career, observe what others are doing and do something different. While a CV is important, taking three steps back to understand how the job market works, your own psychology and planning, is what really sets the proactive and successful minority apart from the reactive majority.

About Simon Gray

Simon Gray

Simon Gray FCA is a chartered accountant, former professional recruiter and founder of Career Codex.

He is the author of Super Secrets of Successful Executive Job Search – Everything you need to know to find and secure the executive position you deserve.

To listen to the Career Codex podcast, please click here

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