GUEST COMMENT: If you’ve studied at a geek university like Imperial, are you necessarily restricted to quant jobs in finance?

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Imperial College

Imperial College

This is for anyone from Imperial and other similar geeky universities like MIT, UMIST, Stanford and the Paris Polytechnique who both hates their alma mater with a passion, and is determined to get a non-quant job in finance. If you’re a hiring manager who gets CVs from these universities, you might want to give it a read too.

Imperial is obviously a good school. It came 3rd amongst UK universities on overall rankings for 2011-2012. However, in a similar survey based on financial sector recruitment, Imperial came only  6th amongst UK universities, and a depressing 25th globally, whereas the unholy trinity of Oxbridge and LSE come in the top 5 in the world.

Imperial is a scientific and mathematically excellent college. For this reason, the typical Imperial PhD is much in evidence at big-paying hedge funds like Brevan Howard. .

But what if you don’t want to be a quant? Is the Imperial brand as useful for fixed income sales, or as a restructuring expert, or an equity research analyst for luxury goods, do you have a snowball’s chance in hell of even getting an interview for those jobs?

The short answer is yes. I know structured product salespeople, M&A bankers, research analysts and people in many other areas outside of obscure number-crunching roles who are fellow Imperial alumni. Don’t lose hope.

However, it will be harder for you. Imperial attracts a certain type of academically focused but socially challenged student. They love their work and would do it for free if someone pandered to their insecurities and allowed them to banter about Deep Space Nine and which Big Bang Theory character they’re closest to.

What can you do to help yourself? The main challenge to overcome is people’s apprehensions about what it’s like to work with someone from Imperial. They’ll take for granted your ability to do the job, but may worry more about your fit with the rest of the team and interaction with clients.

To overcome this, you’ll need to make it clear you’re not a typical alumnus – think sports teams, entrepreneurship, high-adrenaline activities – anything to allay their fears that you’re not a well-rounded human being with social skills.

To clarify, I hated Imperial. I liked my course and the brand wasn’t bad on my CV, but I didn’t fit in. There were two reasons for this.

1)     It is overwhelmingly post-grad (so not a fun place to be an undergraduate). Everyone is five years older than you and the only topic for discussion is their thesis or lab research. As an undergrad, all I cared about was passing my exams and partying.

2)     The other reason was the overwhelmingly male environment. [Women are hard to find in a university which focuses on hard sciences and technology.] The numbers got better in the medicine or biochemistry departments, but in an engineering course like mine, the ratio was more like ten to one.

The author has worked in investment banking and asset management