New Grad? 4 Steps to Build Your Finance Career

future finance career

With your hard-earned finance or accounting degree, you’ve landed your first job. Nice work! But now is not the time to become complacent. You are, after all, the architect of your professional future.

During school, studying, exams and final papers can be all-consuming, but after graduation, sitting in your new office or cubicle, you need to figure out how you’ll stay on the upward track. Here are four steps you can follow post-graduation to build a foundation for your finance career success.

1. Never stop learning.

Adding another finance certification right after earning your bachelor’s degree takes additional time, but it’s without a doubt a worthwhile step. Post-graduation options include everything from the general-purpose Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification to more specialized ones, like Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP). If your long-term plans aren’t set in stone, broader certifications will increase your marketability in a variety of finance-related sectors without limiting you to one field of work. Think of higher education and professional development achievements that will help you stand out from the crowd of those looking to move up.

2. Be available.

Doing the tasks that no one else wants to do is an excellent way to make a positive impression at a new job, even if the task at hand isn’t listed on your original job description. As a rookie employee, you may end up with a few projects no one else wants, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. The more areas you’ve mastered at your office, the more valuable you’ll be to your new employer. Don’t be shy. Ask what needs to be done, and do it! Keeping a positive attitude (and even a sense of humor) is a great way to set yourself apart.

3. Keep networking.

You hear it all the time: Networking is key to perpetuating your success in the finance field. That’s because it’s true. Today it’s much easier to stay in touch, with professional connections on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and all manner of social networking tools at your disposal. Technology is terrific for keeping your business contacts up to date, but a cup of coffee with a mentor or former coworker can go a long way if you end up needing some quality references. One networking opportunity that often ends up forgotten after graduation is professional organizations. Groups like the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) offer new employees the perfect opportunity to stay in the loop.

4. Resist jumping ship.

Most employees today won’t spend their entire finance career with only one or two organizations, but early job hopping can be seen as a negative on your resume. Higher pay elsewhere can be tempting; on the other hand, staying with your current employer will allow you to develop valuable institutional knowledge that can position you to negotiate a raise when the time comes.

Getting hired after college is an important step in your finance career, but it’s just the beginning. Having a future plan and maintaining a robust work ethic will be key to giving your career the solid start it needs.

Where do you see your finance career going post-graduation? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.