How Do I Break into the Financial Industry with No Industry Experience?

Editor’s note: This week we are tacking the tough question of industry experience. I hold that you should only apply for jobs for which you are qualified and many BA jobs in specific industries require specific industry experience. This puts experienced BAs without the relevant experience in a tough position.

Reader question:

I am a business analyst, currently working on projects in public sector. However, I really want to move to financial industry where my passion is. I read a lot of industry-relevant materials, covering front/middle/back office operations, but when starting my job hunting, I feel no way to leverage any of them, as everywhere is requesting working experience, which I don’t have.

Is there anything you could recommend, helping me getting what I want? Thanks and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Laura’s answer:

It does seem that in the financial industry many positions require industry expertise and this can have a direct impact on your business analyst job search process. Is your passion for the financial industry strong enough that you would consider accepting a different, possibly entry-level role, to gain the experience and qualify yourself for the BA jobs? It might also be worth setting up some informational interviews with people in your area that have the type of position you’d like to have and learn specifically from them how they were able to break into the industry.

In your situation, I think the most important thing you can do is network and meet professionals within your target industry. You will learn a lot from their first hand experience and this might eventually open a door for you if you can earn the trust of a hiring manager who might be in a position to overlook the industry experience requirements you are finding.

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5 thoughts on “How Do I Break into the Financial Industry with No Industry Experience?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this Laura. I recently passed my CFA and have been struggling to break into the financial sector. I think my only option at this point is to obtain an entry-level job or an internship. It’s a disappointment, but if I work hard, I believe I could work my way up in no time! Let’s hope so anyway.

    I also like Ariana’s idea of starting with the public sector. It’s usually a lot better paid than internships to be fair, but in this economy, I would be positive that the application numbers would be through the roof.

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  3. Laura and Doug, great advice as always.

    I would only add that being in the public sector is not too bad a starting point for a career as a BA in the financial industry. Perhaps the reader would be able to become involved in finance-related projects where he/she is working now? Before my first job as a BA for a financial institution on Wall Street, I worked for the equivalent in Brazil to the U.S. GAO (Government of Accountability Office) as an auditor. I’m sure my experience with public finance had a positive influence in the decision to hire me as a junior BA. Finding projects that will expose you to a range of public finance issues could be an excellent starting point for a BA interested in switching from the public sector to the financial industry domain.

  4. Laura:

    Your suggestions are spot on and also ones that I have had come up when posed with this question. This and similar situations like it are very tough to overcome, but I think one of the best things one can do is to plan, as opposed to react.

    Specifically, an analyst that wants to jump to another industry sector should not expect to wake up one day and walk into a job in an investment firm when they were in insurance the day before…..without having prepared first.

    In addition to the networking that is so crucial, there is a lot that can be done to plan an prepare. First, I would reread Laura’s “How to Start a Business Analyst Career” book as if you were doing just that. Come up with a study plan and locate resources. Begin reading and taking classes in the desired sector to familiarize yourself with concepts and terminology. Address your planning from scratch as if you are a brand new analyst.

    Also mentioned in Laura’s book, locate and align yourself with a mentor analyst that is aligned with your desired domain. How do you find someone like this? Keep networking and joining professional organizations that may eventually lead you to a person willing to tutor you in the desired disciplines that you seek. Finally, seek out written references that you can keep yourself busy with to study up.

    Why do all this? Because at the end of the day, you are going to try to move to a new industry and prove that you can perform in a new role that you have no experience in. Having gone through the efforts to prepare goes along way to stating that “analysis is analysis”.

    My two cents….


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