10 Ways to Advance Your Finance Career Before You Turn 35

Perhaps you’re ambitious and want a change. Or maybe you’re just starting your career and looking for a roadmap to advancement.

Regardless, if you’re reading this blog it’s likely you’re interested in green lighting your finance career.

Whether this means eventually taking a seat at the C-Suite table or not, we have some suggestions that could position you for success.

Tip 1: Do a Co-op
If you’re reading this while you’ll still in school, consider taking a co-op term. According to the Council of Ontario Universities, students who participate in co-op placements end up with higher wages and better employment rates when they graduate. Fundamentally, co-op placements allow you an opportunity to gain real work experience and deliver for a prospective employer, potentially meaning a job down the road.

Tip 2: Get Your Designation
Start working on your designation right away. Getting your designation increases your earning potential and is a competitive advantage when it comes to promotion. It shows prospective employers that you take your career seriously and are invested in perfecting your craft.

Tip 3: Build a Toolkit
Brian Trnkus, CPA, CA, who has held positions such as Director of Finance and Corporate Controller at RAND, emphasizes the importance of building a toolkit at the beginning of your career. Trnkus recalls, “My goal was to develop myself, and to get a feel and experience for different aspects of the business world, without over specializing in one field.” He was careful to develop what he describes as a “broad toolkit” that he could draw upon in the future, and that would open doors for him to new challenges and opportunities. Learn more from Brian here.

Tip 4: Develop Your Communication Skills
Kevin Hibbert CPA and CA, who has held high-profile positions at organizations such as Ernst & Young LLP and RBC Direct Investing, argues that in order to make progress in your career you need to develop your cross-functional communication skills. “Knowledge is one thing,” he muses. “The ability to disseminate it in a way that people can understand and appreciate, is where the real value-add of the finance function resides.” If you want to advance your career, develop your cross-functional communication skills.

Tip 5: Get Noticed
Volunteer for anything and everything that gets you on the company’s radar such as system implementations or accounting pronouncements. Doing so will put you front and centre with senior managers, possible mentors, and other professionals in your industry. According to Kevin Hibbert, individuals who take on additional responsibilities have one of two possible outcomes. “If you fail, they will respect you for trying,” he says. “If you succeed, you’ll be a rock star.”

Tip 6: Pay Your Dues
Be prepared to pay your dues. Promotions are earned. Come in early and work late if need be. Show perseverance, motivation in the face of adversity and become the “go to” person that people can depend on. Francis Michaud, VP of Finance and Corporate Administration for Total Securities Management Services, says, “Hard work, even if unappreciated, never goes unnoticed.” He feels that his work ethic and willingness to pay his dues made him a standout in his early days and paved the way for his current success.

Tip 7: Be Committed to Professional Development
Employers like people who invest in their careers. Professional development offers many benefits, including keeping yourself up to date on industry trends and enhancing your skill set. Consider, as well, taking courses that focus on leadership development. Part of getting promoted is having company management see you as credible for the role. An integral part of this is growing your leadership toolkit and showing your commitment to professional development.

Tip 8: Network and Get a Mentor
Robert Kiyoski, motivational speaker and financial commentator is quoted as saying, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks; everyone else looks for work.” Network face-to-face, as well as through your LinkedIn profile. Your ability to build networks both within your organization and externally can pave the way to your next opportunity.

Getting a mentor early in your career is also critical to success. Raj Kailasanathan, Director of Finance and Corporate Treasurer at Real Matters, says that having an experienced mentor in your corner is a great way to accelerate your career. “You learn more by sitting with someone who has done more than you. Seek out others in your own area of interest or discipline and learn from them.”

Tip 9: Keep Progressing
Prospective employers and recruiters love to see resumes that reflect career progression. It shows that you can take on additional levels of responsibility and flourish. No opportunity to progress in your current organization? Perhaps it’s time for a change.

Tip 10: Establish a Professional Brand
Your professional brand is a compilation of the purposeful choices you’ve made in your career to date. Crafting a compelling career story makes you more marketable to employers. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile reflects your professional brand and that you understand the value you bring to an organization.

For tips on how to define your professional brand, read this.

At the end of the day, it’s what you put in now that will set you up for success down the road. To get a leg up on your competition and fast-track your finance career follow the 10 tips listed above.