As mentioned in my post yesterday, I spent 12 months searching for a job before I was employed. This post is a simple narrative of my experiences, starting with my graduation and ending with my employment.
I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Social Science in April 2012. Classes had concluded four months prior in December, so by graduation time I was already well into my job search. Throughout my time at university I supported myself by working a few days a week doing garden maintenance work, so for the duration of my job search I continued with this. Working part time whilst searching for a job really helped me both financially and mentally- sitting at home and applying for jobs day in day out can get very tedious and frustrating.
As soon as my final university semester concluded I began applying for jobs that I was interested in. After three months of fruitless searching with only one job interview I started asking for help from my immediate family. (The fact that I hadn’t technically graduated from university yet probably didn’t help my employment chances).
My First Internship
In March 2012 my father (who works as a journalist) was interviewing an old friend John (name changed) who was the managing director of a small, boutique investment bank in Sydney. At the conclusion of the interview they talked about their family lives, with my Dad mentioning me and my job search. John is a very generous man and instantly said I should work for his bank for a few months, on a paid internship. The fact that I had no finance experience didn’t faze him.
I phoned John the next day and arranged all the details- I was to work for four weeks in the equity capital markets division. Working in finance really grabbed me, and after a couple of weeks John requested that I stay at the bank longer- I was very encouraged by this and happy to stay on. At the bank I was involved with the final stages of listing an IPO on the ASX- this was an exciting time for me and the office as a whole. Unfortunately due to the poor market the IPO opened below the presale price, and soon dropped 25% in value. During April 2012 the ASX dropped to its lowest point since 2009, when markets were bottoming out post GFC. These poor market conditions were reflected in the office- two employees (out of ~15) were retrenched- one was a P.A. and the other a research analyst. This did not bode well for me, yet I kept up my hopes that John may offer me a contract at the end of my internship.
After 14 weeks the markets were still very poor, so John and I had a meeting where he told me I wouldn’t be able to work for his bank. He gave me an excellent reference and we parted on amicable terms. This experience was great for me and I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in regards to finance and research. I also became proficient with Windows Excel; conducting Bloomberg data analysis and using the sharemarket program IRESS.
No Job- Travel!
After I finished work at the bank I decided to travel overseas for two months. The trip was initially just for two weeks but once I found out I was not going to be able to work for the bank I extended it significantly. I spent a week with my Dad’s side of the family in Fiji (all 26 of us) and then travelled throughout Vietnam for the remainder of the trip.
I really enjoyed my time in Vietnam. The trip had many highlights, with the fondest memory being when I worked at a rural orphanage for a month with my younger brother. I will write about these experiences in another blog post.
I returned from Vietnam on 7 September, 2012. Once back in Sydney I restarted my job search and resumed my garden maintenance work. After a few weeks of looking for jobs with no real prospects again my Dad delivered. Alex (name changed), another contact of his said I could undertake an unpaid internship with his public relations company. At the time I wasn’t sure whether PR would be enjoyable or not, but I was very happy to gain experience in the sector. I ended up working for the company from October until mid-December 2012. Everyone in the office was very welcoming and helped mentor me, particularly my immediate supervisor. She was very encouraging and was always free to have a chat and offer me guidance/share her knowledge.
During my time at the company I learned a lot about PR and social media (At the time I intended to start this blog, but I never got around to it). The fact that the job was unpaid eventually began to wear me down, and after not working for a couple of months my bank savings were at a critical level, so I decided to finish up.
Before departing I had a couple of meetings with staff, seeing if I could gain full time employment. Unfortunately in an eerily similar fashion to my earlier internship, two people had left the company during my time there. I could tell that times were tough in PR and already knew that there was probably going to be no job for me. As expected, no job was offered, and again I re-entered the employment market with another fantastic reference.
The Tribulations of Organising a Phone Screening Interview
Before completing my second internship I started applying for jobs, but again heard nothing. After close to two months of searching I received an email from an investment magazine that said I was through to the second round, after a screening of 700 applicants. This was a job I had abandoned hope for, as I had applied for it over two months ago and had phoned the office numerous times hearing nothing.
The phone screening was arranged for January 23rd 2013 between 9am-9.30am. I deliberately took this day off from my gardening work and nervously waited for the call. No call came. By 11.30am I phoned the magazine and was simply told the man meant to interview me was ‘busy’. We exchanged emails and arranged to talk the following day. Again, I was kept waiting a number of hours for a phone call that never came. I was becoming frustrated now that this man was wasting my time. I was also keen to complete the interview before I travelled interstate to a music festival. Unfortunately this didn’t happen, and I departed Sydney on a 1300km drive to the music festival in Victoria without conducting the interview.
On the sixth and final day of the music festival I checked my email and discovered he suddenly wanted to talk tomorrow. It had to be tomorrow, at 4.30pm- no other time suited him. I was forced to reluctantly accept and drove half the distance home that night. The next morning I was departed very early so I could be back in Sydney with time to prepare for the phone call. Within half an hour of getting home he finally rang.
My First Phone Screening- Epic Fail!
The job in question said in the advertisement: “NO FINANCIAL DEGREE REQUIRED: JUNIOR POSITION FOR PERSON WILLING TO LEARN”. Within a couple of minutes of interrogative questions it became obvious that a HIGH level of financial knowledge was expected and I was told that I would have no hope of moving to the next round. I was very angry at this point after being screwed around by this magazine for a few weeks, but I bottled this emotion and politely asked the man what experience the ideal candidate would have. I also asked his advice on how someone like me could enter the finance industry.
This was a disappointing first job interview, but I did gain some valuable experience conducting it- if the company act unprofessional in their correspondence with you, then they are not worth your time. (Co-incidentally a few months later I learned that the magazine in question has a reputation amongst various people in the media industry as being rude ratbags- an assessment which I wholeheartedly condone).
The Second Phone Screening
A PR company arranged a phone screening interview with me in mid-February. After my experiences with the magazine I was properly prepared this time (or so I thought). Everything in the interview went incredibly well, apart from when I was asked to describe my weaknesses. I viewed this as a silly question and told the man I wasn’t going to lie and make something up just to answer him. He was understanding and gave me some examples that others had responded with: “I am a shy person and don’t communicate well in the office; I am late to appointments; I have trouble with public speaking; I am nervous around people I don’t know; etc.” All these things do not apply to me, so I was left clutching at straws in my response, which was “I have a weakness for coffee”. We both laughed at this but he obviously put this down as a black mark against me- subsequently I never heard from this company again!
A Meet & Greet
One of my contacts arranged for me to have a meet and greet with the joint managing directors of a small financial services company. The meeting went very well and I gained some excellent feedback from both of them. They advised that I should study a Masters of Applied Finance or a CFA and then give them a call. I was encouraged by this, but viewed further study as a last resort. The directors were also concerned that my only exposure to finance was a 3 month internship, which I had completed 9 months ago. This lack of experience meant to them that I could not possibly have made up my mind regarding whether finance was the career for me.
Another Meet & Greet
The same contact arranged another meet and greet with a financial modelling company. This time it was an international phone call to London which went for over an hour. Again, my lack of financial degree and experience were the key factors in being refused a job. My enthusiasm and intelligence were not in question- simply my experience.
By this point it was over three months since my last office job and I was becoming agitated. I had undertaken numerous phone screenings but nothing had eventuated. I was also now on a government benefit programme whereby I was paid fortnightly in exchange for applying for 10 jobs. Each fortnight I would apply for the 10 jobs- after applying for 30 jobs the “good” jobs that were worth applying for I had already sent applications to; so I was forced to apply for “bad” jobs (jobs I didn’t care about).
The jobs I didn’t care about I would simply send my resume- for jobs I cared about I would write a cover letter as well. The interesting thing was that all the “bad” jobs I would receive phone calls for (these were sales/marketing roles), and all the “good” jobs I would hear nothing (PR, finance jobs). This cycle continued for a number of weeks until May 2013.
The Job Offer!
I was sitting at home one morning in May scrolling through an endless list of jobs when I received a phone call from the PR company I had conducted an internship with last year. Someone on the research team had left the company and they needed a replacement- I accepted the role and started work a few days later.
I am now in my fourth week of work and have happily settled into the role. It is ironic that a job I never applied for I was offered, yet every job I applied for I was rejected.
The only reason I landed this job was the unpaid internship. During that time I was able to show the company what I could do. I also proved that I am an easy-going person that can get along with everyone in the office. (In a small open plan office personality counts). The fact that I worked for free for so long also proved my dedication and desire to work in any position.
Amusingly, the day I started my new job I received a phone call requesting a job interview. This happened five times in two weeks! Suddenly, now I was employed I was getting called- it just shows that the world works in totally unpredictable ways.
During my job search I applied for approximately 70 jobs. I wrote close to 40 cover letters and rewrote my resume at least 10 times. By the end of the job search I had different skills which I would cut and paste into the resume to suit the respective job. Out of the 70 job applications I would have received less than 20 replies (this includes an automatic courtesy reply email saying “thank you for your application”). Out of the 70 applications I had six job interviews. Out of these six job interviews five of them had screened over 700 applicants for the one position. 700 people applying for 1 job! Wow!!!
Once I was employed I had five job interviews which I had to decline.
My job search has taught me to stay dedicated to the task at hand and just keep working at it. If you put in the effort you will eventually be rewarded. It is clear that there are thousands of people in Sydney who are searching for work- the competition is so high and fierce that you can’t afford to get depressed if you don’t make it through.
If I hadn’t landed my current job my plan was to study a Masters of Applied Finance and then return to the job market. This was a last resort option because I would have added a further $32K to my $23K HECS debt. I was also worried that once I had the Masters I would still need to find a job!
Jobs are out there, you just need to work hard, stay focussed and USE YOUR INDUSTRY CONTACTS!!!