Many of you have now completed that first exam of the CFA program and while you start thinking about the next step, the level #2 exam to be written in June 2012 but also months of preparation that are likely to start either late this year or in early December. All of that being said, the primary reason why candidates do end up taking the CFA generally is not about challenging themselves but rather about getting a better job, more advancement, etc. Once you have completed the first level of the exam, you can look for a job upgrade in many cases and I think there are a few questions that you should ask yourself before getting involved in this process.
-What type of job do you aspire to get a few years from now (or when you will have completed the CFA program)
-What type of candidates do those jobs usually employ and what is a typical background?
Once you have a better idea of what you are looking for, I think an ideal situation is to ask. Find someone in that sector, ask them a few questions. At this point, there are 2 important things. Getting relevant experience and key contact points. Many candidates make the mistake of looking for those big dollars. Believe me, getting a 10K raise might seem nice today but if it ends up costing you your dream job, I’m pretty sure you will regret. Remember your long term goal and work towards it. Get in contact with someone that holds your dream job and ask them what they think you should be doing right now. An internship? a junior position? It’s as much about meeting the right people as it is about getting to know everything.
Almost anything can be learned so these employers generally look for a good attitude, and generally prefer working with people that they get along with. Having those initial contacts can mean a great deal so I would start there. Find out what those people did to get into the business, how they would do it if they were in your shoes, etc. That will end up not only helping you out with valuable information but also show your interest which will help you stand out when they do see an opportunity for someone like you.
What type of jobs can be obtained after passing a level 1 exam? There are no easy answers but I think getting a junior job in most of the areas that you might be thinking about is very much possible, a junior position on a trading desk for example. Just don’t remember to keep a long term vision.