The 9 top non-financial skills a graduate needs to succeed in finance

Apr 1, 2013

Although important, knowledge of finance and good maths skills are not the only skills you need to get ahead in the finance industry.

Recruiters also look for a set of non-financial skills and if you don’t have them you will not succeed in your financial career.

So what are these non-financial skills you need to succeed in finance? Here are the top 9 skills you need:

1. You must be able to learn

While finance knowledge is desirable it isn’t always the most important skill you will need to have when looking for a graduate finance job. This is because specifics about the financial products and services offered at the company will be usually taught on the job. Consequently, what you will need to possess is the ability to pick up information quickly. Demonstrate a willingness and curiosity to find out more about the company and what it does will help you to demonstrate that you have an aptitude for learning.

2. You must be able to communicate well

You need to have strong communication skills, especially if you are working in an area of the finance industry that requires you to present information to a board, investor or potential buyer. This includes both writing and speaking skills, and you need to be able to do both clearly so people understand the information you are presenting to them and the response you want back from them.

3. You must be able to build and manage relationships well

You might be working with numbers and graphs but the core of what you do revolves around people, such as clients, work colleagues and bosses. Such skills as being able to listen, get along with different types of personalities, ask the right questions, and answer them clearly, resolving conflicts or making people feel at ease, all come down to good relationship skills. People will like you and you will reap the benefits.

4. You must be able to organise yourself well

In your financial role you will very likely have to manage all sorts of projects, budgets, appointments and workloads. You will need to be able to manage your own time and resources, and to work around and within other people’s time and resources. This requires effective and efficient organisational skills so that you can, for example, know where to find an important document even if you filed it away a year ago.

5. You must be able to see the details

In finance there is a received understanding that equates poor attention to details with sloppiness, and sloppiness with untrustworthiness. For example, if you make a mistake in analysing and explaining details of a financial product or investment people may question the accuracy of the final output. They will also question the facts the next time you give them details on a product. You need to be able to clearly see and explain the details so you can show that you know what you are talking about.

6. You need to be able to solve problems

The essence of business is to solve a problem so you need to show that you know how to do this without cracking under the pressure. All of us have had to solve some problem or another in our personal lives but the skill that will set you apart from most people is the ability to show that you responded to these challenges with resilience, responsibility and critical thought. If you can show that you also helped others solve their problems too even better, as you will be seen as a team player.

7. You need to have good IT skills

Very few office-based jobs, if any at all, get done without the help of some sort of IT hardware and software. In finance the most common and basic of programs is Microsoft Excel so if you can show that you are adept at using it, know the short cuts, functions and commands, and know how to use it to set up and interpret graphs, charts and tables, then you will be able to convince an employer that you can easily and quickly pick up other relevant programs essential to the role.

8. You need to be able to show tenacity and good ethics

Certain principles are a must in finance. This is more so given the reputation attributed to those in the profession in the aftermath of recent financial scandals. You need to demonstrate honesty and integrity, and to show that you can conduct yourself with fairness, confidentiality and professionalism when dealing with both clients and colleagues. Showing that you are a hard worker and committed to doing a good job, will go a long way to setting you up for a successful career in the finance industry.

9. You need to be a forward-thinker

Are you a forward thinking person, able to see beyond the here and now? Your bosses will appreciate this as it shows you care about the long-term future of the company and are not just in it for what you can get in the short term. Such a skill will help you to be able to spot opportunities on behalf of clients (such as saving for a child’s education, creating a will or planning a pension) and help you to spot and create long-term business relationships.

If you can demonstrate all or most of these skills during your finance job interview, alongside the ability to work with numbers, then you are more likely to convince an employer that you are the best man or woman for the job.

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