Off the Beaten Path – Roads to a Finance Job

business people aiming high

So, Dorothy was told that there was one road, of the yellow persuasion, that would take her to the Wizard. If she strayed from that path, she would never make it to Oz. Unfortunately, many job hunters have applied that same view to jobs on Wall Street and in finance. They tend to believe that their choices are limited to large investment banks and hedge funds. However, as a determined job hunter, it is important for you to acknowledge and then explore the wider universe of finance as you settle on your desired job or internship. To help you expand your awareness of potential opportunities, this post will focus on…well-not being so focused. I give you a list of some sectors that are worth exploring; types of organizations always in need of the financially inclined.

1. Community Development Financial Institutions
For those of you interested in saving the world and employing finance to do it, this is an area that you may want to investigate. CDFIs are basically lending organizations that provide financial support to projects for community good-like affordable housing, or microenterprise.

For a list of CDFIs, check out the Opportunity Finance Network website.

2. Government
It would be impossible to overstate the opportunities to be found in our government. From the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve, to the New York City Department of Finance. When searching for employment in this area, be open-minded. Every (yes, EVERY) department, bureau and office has a need for someone unafraid of numbers who wants to watch the flow of cash. Be sure to include municipal, city, state, and federal departments in your search. Check out USA Jobs for information on internships and jobs with the federal government, and NYC Careers for more local opportunities.

3. Microfinance Institutions
This sector is only a few decades old, and is a potential score for those interested in looking at how finance can help decrease poverty. If you are interested in helping to finance small entrepreneurs, and have an international bend, then MFIs are certainly worth checking out. The Forbes Top 50 Microfinance Institutions is a good place to start researching firms doing great work in this field.

4. Consulting Firms

Not sure what exactly you want to do yet, but you’re looking for a skill-builder? Consulting may be a good fit. Consulting really is a catch-all since there are so many firms (boutique to large) essentially doing work for every other type of sector. This is a great way to gain exposure to what is out there. For a few weeks you could be providing strategy advisory services to a corporation, and the next-evaluation services for a non-profit.

5. Start-Ups
I think we’ve all found Silicon Valley rather inspiring. There are tons of start-ups here in the city that are need an extra set of hands. Helping to build a business gives you hands-on experience, perspective, and the chance to take on more responsibility.

6. Insurance Companies
It is a little-known fact that one of the best places to gain finance experience is in an insurance company. These firms spend a tremendous amount of energy investing the funds they take in-hiring armies of accountants, actuaries, financial minds to make sure that they stay solvent enough to pay for everyone’s car accidents while still turning a profit. Start by looking at the sites for individual insurance companies, many of whom have strong training and internship programs for those just starting out.

Those are my suggestions for now. Continue researching, and remember that if you’re aiming for a job on Wall Street or in finance in general, a bank isn’t the only option. You’ve got one-up on a certain red-shoed heroine and her little dog in that, your options are immense.

Stray away, job seeker! There are many yellow brick roads to choose from.