Skills for a career in finance

November 5, 2018, by Carla Froggatt

The Most Important Skills for a Career in Finance

By Kimberley Roberts, University of Nottingham alumna and head of commercial finance at free debt advice provider PayPlan

Outside the world of university awaits hundreds of possibilities. If you’re interested in finance, there are a number of key skills you will need for a successful career. 

Why I chose Nottingham… and stayed in the area

A hotbed for great employers, Nottingham is the perfect city for those studying finance. While the University itself is ranked within the top 30 universities in the UK and Europe, with outstanding business courses, the city is a student’s haven with its rich history and vibrant cultural scene. I graduated with a degree in finance, accounting and management in 2007.  

Nottingham University Business School was keen to encourage work placements in between the second and final year of study, which led me to an internship with Ernst & Young in Nottingham. These placements give you the perfect opportunity to build relationships with potential future employers and, if you can secure a graduate role before the end of your placement, it helps you focus on your studies in your final year. I did and it made my last year that little bit less stressful! 

Building up your skills

While studying at Nottingham, my degree gave me an understanding of the theories behind why companies work the way they do – whether that is related to finance, audit processes, management styles, technology or stock management. It was also invaluable in terms of giving me the background I needed to attain my Chartered Accountant (CA) qualification. 

If you can, look for a career in an industry that interests you. Every sector needs financial support; you’re not solely limited to working for a practising accountancy or financial services business. 

Team building and communication is something I try to improve on every day in my current role. During my degree course, we were occasionally put together in random groups to work on projects and presentations, and while it wasn’t a situation everyone was happy with, it did help us learn how to build a team from different backgrounds and working methods. And, from my point of view, how to lead a team. 

Hit the books – but not too hard

Finance people are not typically the most extroverted. At times this can be a huge blessing – especially when you have a deadline looming over your head. When you enter the world of work, however, confidence is key.

At work, you will need to be visible and approachable because most of the time, you will have insightful information about business and industry trends backed up by data that can help drive the company forward. 

A personality that adds up

If you want to be successful and climb the ranks in finance, you will need to learn how to adapt your ways of working to get the best results. In a managerial role, you will need to be flexible and prepared to roll with any situation that is thrown at you, all while remaining calm – a stressed leader can ‘rub off’ on a team and create panic and disorder. Be honest and have conviction in what you do. This will help people trust that you will be able to deliver what you say you will. 

Experience matters

Something that everything student needs to know, no matter what career they want, is that nothing will be handed to you. You need to work for it. Studying creates a great foundation, but you need to go out and find some real-world experience.  

My placement at Ernst & Young was particularly beneficial – a company the university has great connections with. This helped me secure a graduate role with them after I had completed my course. Working in a business directly related to your studies is a huge benefit. It helps you build relationships within the industry, and put your studies to the test. Research what type of role you think will best suit you, and find an internship to get a better idea of the role. 

Interested in finance? Check out our sector page. Not sure what career path you want to pursue? Book an appointment with a careers adviser to talk through your ideas. 

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