Financial industry careers may be lucrative and rewarding but landing a job at a leading financial firm can be difficult. Mihaylo MBA – finance alumna Bhakti Pavani ’11 provides some insights on finance career paths and her journey from international student to research analyst.
Six-figure paychecks, a professional work environment and upward mobility are among the reasons the financial industry beckons so many business majors. But how can you break into this competitive and high-stakes field?
Mihaylo MBA – finance alumna Bhakti Pavani ’11 was an international student from India when she began her graduate program at Cal State Fullerton in 2009. After her graduation in 2011, she held analyst positions at C.K. Cooper & Company and B. Riley & Company before beginning her current role as senior research analyst at Euro Pacific Capital in Newport Beach, where she researches companies in the oil and mining industries.
How should students prepare for a career in the financial industry?
Without sugar-coating things, it is a very cut-throat industry with tons of competition. It is certainly rewarding but at the same time very demanding and challenging.
In my experience, in order to start a career in the financial industry an ideal candidate requires the following: strong financial fundamental knowledge, previous experience, communication skills and networking. It is easier for finance majors to start careers in the industry but students from other majors can get into finance with the right experience and basic financial knowledge.
On the experience front, internships help a lot even though they often pay nothing. It is the best opportunity for a student to experience how things work practically and make contacts. Networking is the most important factor in landing a job. I also believe in informational interviews with professionals working at financial institutions. To be cautious, I would advise students not to ask for jobs in those interviews, as the primary purpose is to understand what the job duties and responsibilities are.
Soft skills are also very important for landing any job. Even though it might sound trivial to some, having a good résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and Facebook profile matter a lot. Overall, an ideal candidate needs to offer a complete package in order to start a career in the financial industry.
What is a typical day like in your position?
My workload varies on a day-to-day basis. On average, I work 10 to 12 hours each day, but the days are even longer during the earnings season. A typical day begins with early morning sales calls to provide insight on the market and company-related updates. Around 15% of my time is spent on gathering updates on the stock market and industry news.
I cover several industries, including metals and mining, oil and gas services, and clean technology. Hence, I have a ton of news to go through. About 10% of my time is spent on the phone talking to company management to follow up on any updates or news releases. Around 30% of my time is spent on writing reports, including company updates, flash notes and initiation reports, as well as financial modeling. About a fifth of my time is spent on the phone talking to portfolio and hedge fund managers pitching stock ideas. About a fourth of my time is spent traveling to conferences and roadshows.
You completed Mihaylo’s MBA program. What did you like most about the program and what advice would you give to current students?
I appreciated that the MBA program has a mix of both academic teachers and working professionals as instructors, which is very important as students get to learn the best of both worlds.
Since I took seven finance classes, I like to emphasize that the finance classes offered at Cal State Fullerton are amazing because they not only teach the fundamental principles but offer an opportunity to apply that knowledge practically through case studies. I would advise students to take as many finance classes as they can.
I am also impressed by the diversity of the student body, both international students and those from Southern California. Mihaylo Career Services and the Centers of Excellence provide guidance and offer many valuable workshops. In my opinion, the program offers tremendous knowledge value, yet it is up to the student’s desire and capacity of how much they can utilize and gain from it.
Where do you see your career in the future?
Due to my previous experience, I started my career as a publishing analyst. On average, students out of school start out as an associate to the senior analyst. They typically work for three to four years before advancing to the senior analyst position. A person needs to spend four to five years as a senior analyst to advance to the director of research position.
Since I already started as a publishing analyst and have five years of experience, I will need an additional four to five years of experience in order to advance to the director of research position. Additionally, I will also need to pass a FINRA certification exam to be able to fulfill the responsibilities of the job.