Junior Job Hunter: can I get back on track?

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In the first of his "Junior Job Hunter" series, our new columnist tells us about his plight in the Aussie employment market since he left London last year.

Two years ago I was working in a meagre back-office banking role in a small Australian city. Having been travelling and working in London the year before, I had two choices: return to London to hopefully work for an international bank and try to extend my UK visa; or move to Sydney where I was being considered for a job in financial planning.

I decided to take the risk and returned to London. Despite the onset of the credit-crunch, I secured employment with a top-tier UK bank as a data analyst. I was ecstatic to be back and to be working with a large organisation, albeit only in a temporary position. Sadly the next six months didn't exactly pan out as anticipated.

The position was not challenging or rewarding and I realised that (despite my relative inexperience) the bank "had issues". My visa expired and couldn't be renewed. The easier option would be to return to Australia, but I still wanted to travel. My career was effectively shelved as I chased sun and snow for the rest of 2008.

In early 2009, it became clear that I should return home. I needed to build my career, but knew that the market would be extremely tough. So with a challenging yet rewarding 18 months behind me, I started looking for work in Australia. I applied to the major corporate banks and investment firms' graduate programs for 2010.

However, there was a constant stumbling block: I wasn't a fresh graduate. I kept thinking 'why do major banks invest heavily and extensively train fresh-faced graduates with no real experience, only to see them say farewell in a few years when they move overseas? What happened to valuing stability'?

I'm still young, with strong university results and a background in banking. More importantly, having satisfied my travel bug, I'm now ready to commit to a firm for the long term. Surely I'm a more secure return for their investment?

The result, while not unexpected, still hurt. I didn't even make it to the interview stage in the months that followed my return home. It seemed my decision to leave for bigger opportunities and more experience had backfired.

Returning to my regional home city after the dizzying experiences of the outside world, is a difficult pill to swallow and I know that I need to consider other options to get my career on track. Retrain? Am I too old? I'm only 26!

Studying accounting, a sector that is resilient in the current economy, was suggested. But is a CA/CPFA really worth it? Ideally, I am seeking an employer who could assist financing further study, but I don't hold out much hope. Plus by the time I finish will I have foregone so much potential employment income and experience that perhaps I'll end up further behind in the career race?

From my recent applications, it seems obvious most banks focus initially on results and school reputation. I looked into short accounting courses at TAFE, but felt I need something more reputable. I looked into KAPLAN's Masters of Applied Finance, but was unexpectedly warned off by students and comments on websites about the course content. Perhaps an MBA? But I'd have to finance it myself and having only just left Kevin Rudd's army of unemployed, perhaps that's not such a good idea.

I am considering study in a different path: public-policy analysis. But while the course looks fantastic and is with a highly reputable American college in Australia, it's not investment banking and will I really want to do full-time study for a whole year?

I still haven't decided. The decision I made two years ago didn't work out as expected. But that's life. So what are my options now? Network like crazy! I have sent my CV to all colleagues in any field I'm remotely interested in. However, the typical response has been "ANZ has cut 250 staff recently".

I've recently applied to recruitment agencies to see if they could find anything entry-level. This has worked in at least letting me earn an income again. It's nowhere near where I wanted to be when I left Australia, but it's a start.

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