The competition for financial roles is beyond fierceand with 71% of UK-based international students hoping to stay and work here, how can you become a future British financial expert? The advice below could have a major impact on your chances of success, but be warned, you may need to step out of your comfort zone.
First things first: you need to be well organized. Procrastination is a deadly enemy that destroys your chances of success. Be aware of what you need to do and when. Think about how you can demonstrate the knowledge and skills your course develops to show employers that you are a strong candidate. Pre-arrival preparation is crucial, including researching application deadlines, application methods, and work Visa Options and which clubs and societies offer the best returns in terms of skills development, exposure to valuable contacts and networking opportunities for UK students.
Kanishka Agarwal, MSc Management 2021, Prime Brokerage Intern at Morgan Stanley in Glasgow shared some useful insights: “There were differences in job hunting in the UK compared to India, with more levels of assessment at larger companies. Make full use of the career opportunities at your university. Look at the culture and values statements and try to incorporate them in your cover letter.’
Your level of English must be strong enough to compete with native speakers in assessment centers and job interviews. If that makes you nervous, that’s fine and should motivate you to take action. Talk to native English speakers as much as possible. Make friends by joining a sports team or interest group, such as Harry Potter Society, or volunteer in the local community. This seems obvious, but it’s more natural to associate with those you have most in common with, a phenomenon known as homophilia, and this is very evident on university campuses across the UK. To be outstanding you have to stand out and that means you have to look for new friends and connections.
Chunzhi Zhou, BA Accounting and Management 2019, now in Global Banking and Markets at HSBC in London, found this crucial: ‘In the selection process you will meet candidates from many countries, but your English skills need to be strong to be successful.’
Maximize your contacts with university graduates. Be enthusiastic, positive and curious with your messages and you could make important contacts and share valuable advice. Pushy or aggressive people are usually ignored. Speaking of networking, also make sure you prepare for employer events so you can make a professional impression with the right questions.
Whether spring weeks, summer internships or graduate positions, most applicants are rejected in the initial phase. Businesses often use automatic tracking systems (ATS) to search resumes by keyword, so customize your documents for each role. Describe your own actions, highlighting what you did, how you did it, results and what you learned. Quantify your impact and reflect on your achievements to demonstrate a high level of confidence, which is critical to professional success.
Kanishka added, “Your resume and cover letter must be robust and unique for each opportunity. It’s time consuming, but really pays off. I applied for around 70 positions. Keep applying and learn from your experiences. Apply for an internship. Network – if you find contact details in a job advertisement – contact us.”
It’s also important to highlight why this employer is targeting specific details. Have you completed a project related to a specific outcome or shown commitment to a relevant cause you are involved in?
Chunzhi’s additional tips include, “Stay current with market intelligence well beyond what you’ll learn in your course. A position in the financial sector requires you to differentiate yourself from the competition, so your knowledge should demonstrate this. Different sectors have different recruitment systems, so be aware of the process and practice. Prepare thoroughly for interviews, come across as confident and trainable as you are expected to continually improve.’
Peter Fox is a careers adviser at Durham University in the north of England.
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