07/25/2013 06:36 pm ET Updated Sep 24, 2013

Recent Grads: Passion Is the Secret Ingredient to Success in Finance

With the unemployment rate for recent college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 set at 8.8 percent, the job market is still tough to break into. Making a successful entrance into your career in the finance sector as a woman of the Class of 2013 may require more gumption than you may have originally expected.

But you have a lot more to worry about than simply landing a job; you also have to learn what it takes to thrive in your career. It often comes down to one intrinsic element: passion. You either have it or you don't--it's the fuel necessary for driving your career forward, staying ahead, and ultimately finding long-term success.

Recently, I spoke with Edie Hunt, Chief Diversity Officer and former Head of Talent Management at Goldman Sachs. One important aspect of our conversation was her rise through the ranks of the finance sector at a time when women were rare on Wall Street. It's safe to say her numerous successes can be attributed to her passion for her position, company, and the finance sector as a whole.

Here's what we can learn from her and a few other noteworthy finance professionals:

Follow Your Passion
Passion is the secret ingredient to your success as a finance professional, and it's your job to ensure it intertwines with every part of your professional life including your job search, daily on-the-job responsibilities, and professional development. It all starts with finding a job that you enjoy doing. You can love finance as a whole, but without the right position your passion will wither quickly.

"Understand what the job entails, find a job match that you're going to enjoy, because any of these jobs--particularly those at Goldman Sachs or Wall Street--require a lot," Hunt said. "They're demanding roles...So it better be something you like, because if you like it, you have a chance at being good at it."

Being in a position you love allows you to provide an engaged and refreshing perspective in the workplace. Others will notice your passion and feel more energized and motivated, while your managers will be more likely to help you rise through the ranks.

Combine Your Skills With Your Passion
Let your passion play into your skillsets. Those who are truly invested in their work are good at it and always looking to improve. Take every opportunity to grow, especially in regard to developing both technical and soft skills. This means regularly attending finance seminars and conferences, participating in professional development in the workplace, and asking for regular feedback.

According to Ian K. Snow, CEO and Partner of Snow Phipps, they're looking for junior employees with strong analytical, finance, accounting, and modeling skills. A sense of initiative, ability to work with others, and integrity are also highly coveted qualities at Snow Phipps.

Be A Passionate Problem-Solver
Staying afloat in finance means touting your problem-solving know-how. This is more than a skill--it's a work style. Whether it's getting to the bottom of a larger-scale problem or just solving daily problems that come your way, you should be actively working to fine-tune this. Tackling daily challenges will not only keep your coworkers and managers on-point, it will also impress your customers and clients. Companies thrive on employees who routinely solve problems with little to no guidance.

"You want the institution you work for to look good -- you want them to be successful while you're being personally successful -- so you've got to be all in to get that result," said Deborah C. Wright, President and CEO of Carver Bancorp.

Use Your Passion To Rise
While you're only at the start of your career, it's always important to keep your future in mind. Hunt found her success by grabbing opportunities that matched her passion. Some professionals may tell you to lay low and wait your turn, but you've got to keep your eyes open for new ways to advance your career. For instance, you may have taken an entry-level position at a company, but if a new position more in-tune with your passion and skills arises, it's important to go for it.

A successful future in the finance sector depends on your ability to turn your passion into drive. Take the advice of these top players in finance to fuel you through the start of your career.

How do you showcase your passion for your industry?

Skiddy von Stade is the founder and CEO of OneWire, the premier destination for employers to connect with high quality finance talent. Connect with Skiddy and OneWire on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.