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I recently left retail sales to pursue finance after being frustrated by my lack of career growth opportunities and stagnant income. I don't have a finance academic background but by taking Canadian Securities Institute courses, I landed an entry-level banking job and am now on the brokerage side with one of the Big Five banks. Ironically, I am making the same income as I did in retail and I'm stressed, as it barely covers my living expenses. I am feeling pressure to leave my current path and apply for jobs with higher pay even if they are not in finance. I have applied for banking co-op roles to get more experience and skills, but since I am not in school, this is not working out. What should I do? Are there options for someone in my position?


I want to acknowledge you for having the courage and taking the initiative to make the transition from retail sales to finance. I understand your concern about your current compensation level. This is not unusual to take a step back, or laterally, financially when you are refocusing your career.

You will want to consider how committed you are to advancing in the finance industry and what are you prepared to invest in your career and professional development. You will likely have to make choices between lifestyle and career or professional development.

Consider what types of positions you are interested in and in what areas of finance and banking. Reflect on where you want to end up. If you are having challenges with this, then consider working with a career coach or counsellor.

Explore your options for career development and advancement. Talk to your current supervisor and human resources officials about your desire to advance in financial services. Ask them what routes are available to you if you are not in school. Inquire what education background and experience is required in order to advance in your finance career.

Some financial institutions have their own in-house career and management development and training programs. Some employers will fund all or part of your education in exchange for a number of years' service commitment upon graduation.

Consider taking courses part-time with a business school and see whether this will make you eligible for the co-op programs offered by university business schools. You may want to apply for scholarships and grants to help you pay for the courses. Speak to officials from universities or colleges who can help you map out an education path, as well as financial officials who can tell you about education funding options. Do your research on the business programs offered through universities and colleges. Many offer full time, part-time, and online courses to get your degree.

With that information, develop a financial plan and budget to support your professional development. Know that you will likely have to incur some debt in order to advance in your career.

Be prepared to take on additional part-time or contract work if you want to minimize your debt load. Your short-term investment in your education and professional development will pay off in the form of more career opportunities and options in the future.

Bruce Sandy is Principal of Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting and Bruce works with clients nationally and around the globe.

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