I know what you’re thinking: all you need is a strong background in mathematics and you’re good to go in the world of financial analysis. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. For one thing, our current economy has created a highly competitive job market, which means that you can no longer afford to be a one-trick pony if you want to have any chance at getting hired. You must be a well-rounded individual with more than a degree in applied mathematics if you want to become a successful financial analyst, so here are just a few traits you should consider cultivating.
- Mathematic ability. While nearly anyone can excel at a subject with enough time and effort, the truth is that some people seem to be predisposed to understanding mathematics (while other have a better grasp of language or art, for example). So if you find yourself struggling with even basic algebraic formulas or the main tenets of calculus elude you, then perhaps a career in financial analysis is more trouble than it’s worth.
- Attention to detail. Whenever you’re dealing with massive amounts of data, and numbers in particular, it’s all too easy to make clerical errors and technical oversights. This is true whether you are running the numbers freehand or using software to streamline your tasks. Either way you must have a spot-on attention to detail since even one figure out of place could result in massive missteps for your employer or clientele.
- Communication skills. Just because you will mainly be working with computer programs in your profession doesn’t mean you won’t have to interface with other people frequently. And you need to be able to do so in a way that is productive. You have to understand that the people who hire you may not necessarily understand numbers and accounting practices the same way that you do. Without proper interpersonal skills you could find yourself talking to them in a manner that is terse or condescending, which will not help you to get ahead in your chosen profession. Communication skills are vital in nearly every type of job and the world of finance is no exception.
- Foresight. Believe it or not, an ability to predict the future is a big part of your job. Being a financial analyst isn’t just about tracking income and expenditures and delivering reports – anyone with basic math skills can do that. You need to spot trends and see what their results will be months or years down the line so that you can adequately advise your clients on how to proceed to ensure a profitable future.
- Creativity. You might not see how a creative flair fits with a job that basically involves number crunching, but understanding how numbers work is useless if you can’t find ways to make them do what you want. Companies may hire you to tell them why they’re hemorrhaging money (perhaps because they have set no controls on spending for travel credit cards or because there is little oversight for PR events). But unless you can offer solutions to help your clients work through their accounting woes you may quickly find yourself out of a job.