A career as a financial analyst can be intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding. The position is essentially an in-house consultant who provides top management with important and timely financial information needed for decision making. This can be a high-visibility position that provides the opportunity to interface with the very top levels of the organization, all the way up to the board of directors.
Set your ultimate goal and break that goal down into component goals. If you aspire to use the analyst position as a springboard to a career in upper management, you will have to choose different career development goals than if you want to remain in the financial planning and analysis department of the company.
Improve your technical financial analysis skills and knowledge of financial analysis software. The tools used by corporate financial planning departments have gone beyond simple spreadsheet software to sophisticated planning and reporting packages. Learning these advanced tools helps an analyst quickly rise up the ranks in the planning department, as well as qualify for a higher salary.
To work toward being the Chief Financial Officer or Director of Finance, set a goal of obtaining a CPA -- or Certified Public Accountant -- designation. Many companies make having a CPA designation part of the job requirements for the top financial positions, although it is typically not a requirement for the financial analyst position.
Earn a position of responsibility within the planning process. The analyst assists with developing the company’s annual plan and long-range strategic plan and works closely with other departments such as marketing and operations in the process. This allows the analyst to gain an understanding of how other departments operate, which can help him become eligible for career advancement opportunities outside of the finance division, such as Marketing Analyst, Market Research Analyst or Operations Analyst.
Hone your presentation skills. Analysts translate financial data into software that creates slide show presentations for use in meetings. Learn how to make your presentations stand out with impressive graphics and clear logic. If you are not highly skilled at writing, take university writing courses online or attend classes at night. If your presentations and written reports stand out to top management, so will you.
Improve the breadth of your operational knowledge. Early in her career, the analyst is often assigned to work with only one segment of the company’s operations, such as purchasing, product pricing or capital expenditures. Ask to have the scope of your job expanded to other departments or divisions to develop an understanding of all aspects of the company’s operations. To advance into a senior management role, you will need to demonstrate this broader understanding.
Contribute beyond what is expected in your financial analyst job description. During the planning process, contribute strategic ideas that could help the company build its revenues. Think of ways of improving the quality of the financial reports produced to make them more useful to top management.
Analysts sometimes become frustrated with their career progress because their duties revolve around providing their supervisor, often the Director of Financial Planning and Analysis, with information for him to take into meetings with upper management. The supervisor gets all the visibility and recognition for the work the analyst performed. A person mired in this role may want to seek out a director position with another company in order to advance toward his long-term career goals.
- "Careers In Finance"; Trudy Ring; 2004