Junior Job Hunter: back to basics

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In the second of his "Junior Job Hunter" series, our new columnist tells us about the lessons he's learned in his quest for employment.

Since my last article, there's been plenty to keep me occupied in my search for security and advancement. After a lengthy battle to find any relevant work within the finance sector, a temping agency found me an initially-short-term back-office banking position.

I seized this opportunity. I was relieved that it had some relevance in the field of risk management given that I was becoming frustrated, doubting my decision to return to Australia from London. It was a relief to have work in some way connected to banking.

Months ago, attracted by a bargain, I planned a quick snowboarding trip to New Zealand in July. In hindsight this was not the smartest thing I have ever done, considering that I had no job at the time, and that taking a week off made me less attractive to potential recruiters.

During this trip I faced a sizeable decision. I was offered a position with a top-ranked US college's Australian campus to undertake a Masters in Public Policy and Management. As I explained in my previous article, I had spent the majority of my first four months back home researching this course and others.

However, when the offer came, I didn't feel it was right for me. My passion wasn't in the public sector. I was offered a 40 per cent scholarship, but after some consultation, I knew I needed to be certain that the return on my still-sizable ($35k) investment would be large enough. It was a simple business decision in the end: the course content lay outside my career scope at that price.

Following my first blog on eFinancialCareers, I was flattered by the number of comments posted. After ruling out studying at KAPLAN in that article, I was challenged by its CEO to follow up on my queries about the course and seek advice directly from him.

Initially I thought this was a joke, but I was pleasantly surprised to be able to sit down and have a coffee with a very talented, positive, humble person who volunteered a wealth of useful knowledge specific to my situation.

Of particular use was his suggestion to go "back to basics": ring all the major banks I would like to work for; explain my background; state that I am a recent grad who took time out to travel and gain personal experience and am now looking at entering front-office banking; and ask what are the best positions for entry.

This conversation revealed two key points about the fundamental keys to job hunting: firstly, you need relevant experience or study that shows you suit the role (and the required skill set); and secondly, you must demonstrate that you can network, interact and market yourself effectively.

Just picking up the phone and presenting yourself can leave a lasting impact. I discovered this by calling a CEO who in turn offered me a wealth of advice.

If you have an undergraduate degree, and are not working, then the benefits of value-added postgraduate study (something I consider important, not just for the theory, but for the specialist knowledge) clearly outweigh the costs incurred.

From a networking viewpoint, I aim to: talk to as many colleagues/friends about alternatives; call and research banks I would love to work for; and narrow down what positions best suit my skill set, and identify my gaps.

So I've had a busy July/August. I aim to make the rest of August and September even busier by using these methods to research, network and explore options for work and study. I'm optimistic!

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