Successful strategies for escaping the back office

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How not to be pigeonholed

Don't let this be you

“I’ve always been interested in financial markets, but like a lot of people I was slow to appreciate the careers on offer in the industry. I only became aware of investment banks in my second year at university, and then I only secured an internship in the back office of a blue-chip firm.

Having spent a summer working in an operations job, I figured that I definitely wanted to work somewhere else in banking – either on the trading floor or in capital markets.

Recruiters, however, were no help. Everyone I spoke to – whether they were banks’ own recruiters, external recruiters, or university careers staff, told me that making the transition out of the back office and into a front-office banking job was impossible.

I didn’t listen.

Instead, I set about doing everything I could to make the move from away someone labeled as a ‘back-office worker’ into someone who’d be desirable for the more interesting jobs on offer in the front office.

Networking was my main focus. I got in touch with everyone I knew in the bank I’d interned in. I used LinkedIn. I contacted university alumni. I contacted friends. I let them know that I was interested in front-office roles.

I also participated in charity events run by banks in the City of London. A word of advice: these are great opportunities to meet front-office bankers, and they increased my exposure even more.

Needless to say, most banks rejected my overtures – I didn’t attend a top-tier university and my experience was only in the back office. However, I didn’t give up.

I continued to apply for every opportunity and make sure I didn't lose my momentum and enthusiasm.

It paid off. After six months, I was headhunted by recruitment firms working on behalf of several different investment banks in London. I was offered back office positions - which I respectfully declined, middle office positions – which I respectfully declined, and one front office job working in capital markets, which I accepted. I now work in the capital markets team of a major bank in the City. None of these job offers came to me as a result of applications. All of them came to me as a result of my networking efforts and increased exposure to the industry.

If you want to escape the back office and move into a front office role, networking will be imperative. However, don’t overwork individual contacts – use them judiciously and don’t rely on any one person.

You’ll also need tenacity. And you’ll need to be interested in the job itself – not just in the monetary rewards. You will be knocked back a lot. Unless you’re really determined that this is the career for you, you’ll give up too soon.

Good luck.”

*Adam Badini is a pseudonym. 

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