Last Updated: May 4, 2016
Congratulations! You just earned your degree and have now been introduced to the (daunting) task of landing that first job. If you have a mind for innovation, technology, challenging the status quo, and simply making people’s lives easier, FinTech—aka financial technology—might be a great first step in your professional career.
FinTech refers to startups and companies that are building and using technology to disrupt the financial services industry. Successful FinTech companies (maybe you’ve heard of Square, Stripe, or Credit Karma?) are focused on different aspects of financial services, such as online lending, peer-to-peer payments, and investments and savings. With its growing popularity, FinTech is certainly an awesome industry to begin your career. But how do you get into FinTech? You will find that although you have graduated, school is likely to continue. Finding a great job requires many of the same things that you have been doing for the past four years: getting an education, conducting research, doing your homework, and networking—except this time you are immersing yourself in FinTech.
Here are five steps to help you land your first job in FinTech:
Do your homework
FinTech is a buzzword you may have heard at college recruiting events or job fairs, or in your campus career center, yet the industry is quite large and there are many different segments within it. Before you begin any job search, you should research the history of the industry (or industries) you are looking to enter, how the industry has evolved, and what its future looks like. If your industry research ignites an interest in FinTech, then you can really dig in and focus on the consumer needs and companies driving the FinTech industry.
As an emerging industry, FinTech sees a vast number of companies starting up in the sector every year, so you need to home in on companies that give you the best chance to get in the door. The next step is to gather data on the top companies in FinTech and work to gain a solid understanding of the consumer problems they are focused on and the products or services they offer to solve them. In your research, it is important to learn what that company does and how are they doing it, as well as who is leading the team. If the company is an early-stage startup, then you will also want to make sure that the company has solid financial backing and an experienced board or management team. As a recent college grad with limited experience, you may feel you don’t have the privilege to be selective in your companies, but that is not true. At this stage, you must be discerning and focus on the companies that align with your interests and give you the best chance to be successful.
Follow your motivations
As you look for jobs after college, you may feel full of knowledge and enthusiasm but self-conscious that you do not have the skills or experience to compete with other candidates. Remember that most college graduates are running low on experience and you are all in the same proverbial boat. The key to landing that first job is relying on what you do have: motivation. Once you have committed your focus to a career in FinTech, then you need to tap into what drives you and use it to your advantage. I have learned that college graduates have much more to contribute than they believe, and you are no different. FinTech is about innovation and disruption; and in order to be successful, companies are looking for candidates who are self-motivated, driven, and have the willingness to observe, listen, and learn. If you can then apply your own brand of innovative thinking to what you have learned, then you will make a great asset to any FinTech company.
Align your skills to the FinTech industry
Once you understand that FinTech is an industry that prides itself on innovation, take the time to identify and describe the skills and experience you have acquired (through course work, projects, internships, work experience, volunteer experience) and apply it to your job search. My recommendation is that you make a list of all the school projects and work experiences that you have been involved in, outline bullet points on the skills that you learned from those experiences, and then align those skills to the job description of the FinTech companies on your short list. For example, have you ever led a specific class project that used new technologies to solve a traditional problem? List that project on your résumé. Did you ever have a disruptive idea and implemented it to solve a real problem and make something better? List that on your résumé too. Because you may not have direct FinTech experience, you must do your best to prove that you have the skills and the thinking needed to thrive within the FinTech community.
Work your network
Many times, it’s all about who you know that will help you land that first job after college. As a college grad, you have probably relied heavily on social media for study groups and personal connections. It’s now time to expand your social network for professional support. The first step is to join LinkedIn to begin building professional connections with companies and professionals in FinTech. Your goal is to develop your own personal brand (focused on seeking a FinTech position) by revising your résumé details (for your LinkedIn profile) and then post in your social networks. And don’t be shy about asking individuals for advice, referrals, or connections to get where you want to be in FinTech industry. At the end of the day, people will open their doors to individuals who have positive referrals or references. A solid network is the key to opening those doors.
By working through these five steps, you will give yourself the best opportunity to land your first job in FinTech. And who knows, one day we just may be working together.