Hello everyone! My name is Alex. In the summer, I graduated from the School of Economics & Finance with a 2:1, wearing shorts to my graduation. True story. As it may be the case for the majority of students within the school, I went into the degree thinking that I wanted to work in finance. But this would go on to change and evolve over time. I haven’t ruled it out, but I have broadened my options.
In year 2, after going to my first lecture in Econometrics, I realised that, in some form, I wanted my career to be based around this. Unfortunately, there are very few roles going around at the graduate level and the majority of employers will want you to have a masters for these roles. Nonetheless, I’ve had some interviews in the Media industry for jobs based around Econometrics and Analytics. I am still trying to find exactly what it is that I wish to do, however.
Developing my skills
To further develop my skills whilst at QMUL, I joined the Economics Society as there are always careers related things going on. I attended an event where an interview coach taught us things that can be used to manage anxiety. For example: he showed us how to stop shaky hands and voice trembling. But also how power poses can influence one’s body language, which may come in handy before going into an interview.
During the second year of university, my friend ran for Economics Society president. In a group of friends, we distributed leaflets around campus and communicated the election platform to other society members. This helped me to develop communication skills and a degree of confidence in conversation, as I had to approach people I barely knew.
Careers & Enterprise
Soon after graduation, I started sending out applications and after a month of getting no replies, I decided to turn to the Careers & Enterprise Centre. There I received in depth face-to-face coaching and advice on my CVs and cover letters.
I had missed trying to quantify things on my CV, which my careers adviser picked up on straight away. It’s important to provide figures, numbers and tangible evidence of your contribution in the workplace, e.g. I raised £1000 through fundraising for charity. This gives the hiring manager a more accurate view of yourself as a candidate. If you don’t have any work experience, don’t worry. You can still talk about your contribution at clubs and extra-curricular activities.
Recently, I was also able to prepare for an actual interview by booking a mock interview. Here you have a controlled environment that tests your understanding of the role and your interview skills. Over consecutive visits I had the opportunity to discuss and develop a strategy to employ in my job search. All in all, I was able to break bad habits acquired over the summer, now that I was able to get feedback on my applications.
What worked for me
In high school and sixth form I volunteered as an Accounts Assistant for a local charity, monitoring financial records and doing data entry for the accounts of several organisations. Staying motivated and maintaining momentum is key in getting hired, so it’s crucial that you get some work experience under your belt, whether that’s in the form of an internship, part-time work or volunteering. Even just being involved in clubs and societies will help you develop key skills.
More generally: get the sleep that you need. Your brain needs sleep to form long term memories. Secondly, eat healthy and exercise. I found this improves attention and cognition, the most important things you need for studying.
Be mindful about your studies and the hours you need to put in: missing out lectures, getting by attending seminars, then cramming in all the studying a week before finals is a strategy bound to fail. Make sacrifices and defer that instant gratification.
My advice for students
Start preparing for careers early. In 1st year, you should already be learning how to write a CV and researching the opportunities available in the labour market e.g. What careers are out there? What is the available progression in those roles? How is the culture in this company/sector?
Attend careers events. There are lots of opportunities within different sectors where industry representative do many talks. In year 2, I attended a talk by a spokesman from the Bank of England, organised by the Economics Society. He told us about the Civil Service Fast Stream and the opportunities within the bank that are available to students.
Events like this are a perfect opportunity to start networking. Build this network of friends and colleagues, as this is the biggest contributor towards your career. They may refer you to a job further down the line.
Start doing a little, but every day and make it a habit. I had done some careers preparations during my time at Queen Mary, but only started to see this as a full time job after graduation. Yes … getting a job is a job in and of itself and having a routine mimicking that of a 9-5 is integral in landing yourself a role.
Broaden your search, economics is quantitative and analytical. There are many sectors and roles where the skill set you build during your time as an undergrad will be a good fit. You could go into Analytics, Consultancy, Media, Energy. The list goes on. You’re not limited to Banking, Government and Research. Don’t follow what everyone else is doing. Do what it is that YOU want to do.