The number of graduate places in the financial sector is shrinking, while the volume of applications is on the increase and more of jobs are being offered to internship conversions.
In such a market, you need to start being more creative, and this is exactly what University of Leicester student, Faraaz Kaskar, did. Along with his friend Zeeshan Uppal, he spent days canvassing potential employers in Canary Wharf, armed with nothing more than a handful of CVs and a sign advertising his services. It worked; he now has a job with brokerage firm Windward Capital. He tells us how, exactly, this came about.
What prompted you to promote yourself in Canary Wharf? Is the job market that bad?
Well, the market is definitely tough, but the main reason we felt the need to take this route was because we’d grown frustrated with the screening process for graduate recruitment within the large banks. I’d applied for around 100 jobs and always pass the numerical tests, but within a matter of days always got an automated rejection. I understand that the market is competitive but, because of the large volume of applications, graduate recruiters can’t even take two minutes to provide any feedback, so there’s no learning process about where you’re going wrong.
I was studying Mathematics with Economics at the University of Leicester, and it’s a great uni for that subject. However, places like Oxford, UCL and Cambridge are actively targeted by the banks, so students there definitely have an advantage.
How long were you at it? Were people generally nice to you?
Three days, but during that time I picked up around 100 business cards. You got the occasional person taunting you, saying stuff like ‘I have a job and you don’t’, but the majority of people we met were really supportive. I handed out CVs to people and from there went on to a few interviews, but aside from that, people were offering advice and support and encouraging us to keep in touch with them.
Was it slightly nerve-racking putting yourself out there like that?
It was, and a lot of people just put their head down and ignore you, which can get you down after a while. However, such a public display also brings a lot of attention. We had a bit of media coverage, but people were also taking photos of us on their phone and posting them on Twitter and Facebook. All of these photos had us holding a sign with our phone numbers and Twitter accounts, so we started attracting random calls and messages. Some were people offering messages of support, others interviews and, on one occasion, someone offering a networking lunch.
Did you have any work experience that would have made your CV stand out?
I have undertaken an internship in an asset management company, but unfortunately, they are currently unable to recruit new employees.
So, a job at Windward Capital was the result of all your hard work. Can you tell us how this happened?
Someone took a photo and put it on Facebook. The company saw that and called me in for an interview. To be honest, it was a relatively easy process – they liked the fact that we’d been so enterprising, and this broke down a lot of barriers. I interviewed once, and was then offered a job immediately afterwards all without numerical tests or assessment centres.
I’ve been thrown in at the deep end – there’s no formal graduate training programme, just a couple of days to get to grips with how things work in the firm and now I’m a junior broker. I’m currently phoning up clients that haven’t been active for a while and trying to develop good relationships with them. I enjoy learning this way, but some people would prefer a classroom based approach.
Is this it, or are you looking for other opportunities?
It’s great that I have the current position, but I am seeking employment in asset management. I’m actually taking the same approach this coming Thursday, but this time in Mayfair, trying to attract the attention of hedge funds and asset managers in that part of London. I hope it works out just as well.
Would you advise other students to take the same approach?
Well, a few people have targeted the financial sector in London with signs handing out CVs this year, so it’s probably not a good idea to copy this approach exactly. The fundamental idea of supplementing the regimented HR processes in the large banks and getting yourself noticed in other ways should be encouraged, though. There are jobs out there; you just have to go out and grab them. Aside from the job, I’ve developed a good network of contacts and during meetings and events it’s certainly become something of a talking point.