Do You Feel Like a LinkedIn Fraud?

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During a recent mentoring session, a friend confessed to feeling a crisis of self-confidence where her professional skills were concerned. She had received a few inquiries from recruiters through LinkedIn based on her profile skills, yet she felt like a fraud. Although she had acquired a number of skills while working for her current employer, she didn't believe she could get hired by another firm because she didn't view herself as a "financial professional."

My friend felt this way because she did not earn a degree in finance, nor did she study finance while in school.

It was surprising for me to hear these concerns from my friend because I had worked with her professionally for years. In that time I always thought she was one of the most talented financial professionals I knew. It's sad to me to think she has put herself in a professional box because she didn't have a formal education in finance. However, I know she is not the only one out there who feels like a LinkedIn charlatan.

As someone who did get a degree in finance, and has worked in the field for 14 years, I can assure you, you do not always need a degree to be deemed a financial services professional.

I spent years studying accounting and management, yet I frequently laugh to myself about how very little of it I actually use in my professional career. The truth is, most of the finance training you need to do your job, is taught to you while you are working on the job.

There are certainly jobs in the field where the employer may require a degree in accounting, finance, economics or math. However, there are a number of entry-level corporate finance or banking jobs that will not have those restrictions. I even worked with a number of hedge funds who actually preferred a degree outside of finance because they wanted their team to "think outside the box" and come up with ideas that other funds were not using.

Finance is such a diverse field with so many nuances to each job there is no way a college professor, or even an entire major of study, can impart that knowledge to students. In fact, I believe the greatest tools you will have in your arsenal for success in a finance career are excellent writing skills, good communication skills, and strong people skills. From my experience, I gained all of these not in my business school classes, but in my liberal arts classes like English, Psychology and Public Speaking.

If you have these skills, typically your bosses and mentors can teach you the ins and outs of a balance sheet, regulatory reporting, or using an internal system to report profits and losses. For some finance fields, additional testing and training is required that you could never take while in school. When I worked as a financial advisor, I had to take the Series 7 and Series 63 exams to learn more about investments and federal and state regulations.

I see too many young and talented financial professionals leave the field because they assume they are not qualified to remain, or do not have the background to grow and gain even more skills.

They tend to not value the many years of on-the-job training that they have received, when those skills are far more valuable than any finance degree.

If you can honestly include a skill on LinkedIn, then you need to have faith in yourself that you are capable of not only performing that skill well, but also that others would want to hire you for this skill. Do not let a lack of self-confidence prohibit you from honestly building out a LinkedIn profile that will get the attention of financial services recruiters.

I spent most of my mentoring session encouraging my friend to embrace the skills she has acquired and accept reality. While she did not plan on a career in finance, she is actually capable of having a very successful career in this field. After accepting this feedback, she agreed to speak with more recruiters going forward, and in fact she just recently received a job offer and promotion from another company based on the skills she listed on LinkedIn.

So don't miss out on great opportunities by selling yourself short professionally. Remember, you don't always need a finance degree to be a finance professional. On-the-job training is often more valuable than any classroom lesson.
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