I have decided to post my experience for what it is worth. I do not expect this to follow the standard format of posts in this forum I am merely here to present to all of you a story that could have helped me and given me encouragement in the darkest days of the sales andrecruitment process.
My story begins at A Level (I am from the UK you see), after my parents divorce I was taken out of a private day school in the north of england and relocated with one half of my family to Lincolnshire. I had achieved average GCSE's 7A2B and although I have been described as gifted I "rested on my laurels" at school, never really doing more than the bare minimum. There I was placed for the first time in my life in an environment where to a large extent I had free will. At private school motivation was done for me, here at a state sixth form college surrounded by a huge variety of people with very different ability levels and aspirations I could get away with even less effort. I spent my time poorly, more concerned with developing my guitar playing talents and developing a social status opposite to that which I had had at my previous school (I was essentially the least popular person in school back then and at the age of 16 fueled by a desire for acceptance and I desperately wanted to reinvent myself as a cool care free musician). It worked, my grades suffered. Although I had achieved a smattering of A grades in certain modules, my overall results were well below the AAA that I was predicted. With B math B physics C biology in hand I did not meet the entry criteria for any of the top tier universities to which I had applied. My family were furious, I did not care. At that time I had an unfounded confidence in my abilities. I took a year out, touring with my band, growing my hair and generally rebelling. By the end of the year however I was bored. Perhaps the only thing that separates me from average is that I am in constant search for a challenge and once achieved I need to move on to the next one. At that time these challenges were rarely academic however I decided my next one would be to go to university.
Knowing that I did not have very good grades but being a bit of an academic snob I went about getting into university in a novel way. In fact It took one phone call in the end. 2 weeks before term started I rang the admissions tutor for aerospace engineering at the University of Manchester, a middling but solid red brick university. Aerospace was not a reasoned choice, it sounded cool and clever nothing more. I soon began to realize that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I continued doing no work and enjoying my social life. By the time I realized that my 2 year unused mathematical ability was not up to speed it was too late to rectify. I averaged 39.5 percent in my first year. A bare pass. At this point I had some what of an epiphany I realized that if I wanted to be a professional I would have to start working at least a little bit. I swapped degree course to computer science and thanks to a slightly improved work ethic and a much easier first year I scored 66 percent (in UK universities that is a solid but not astounding score). It helped that despite not being an exceptional academic, I do have a certain natural aptitude for logical things. I am in no way however the straight A++ Harvard type that seems to frequent this board. Second year was another turning point, I chose to do a sandwich year between 2nd and 3rd year, a decision I had to make at the beginning of second year to change my degree certification to Comp Sci with industrial experience. Finding an internship was my next set challenge, I quickly read around and decided that I wanted to work in investment banking technology for the year, this decision was largely due to financial renumeration, I had no real idea what I wanted to do. Also important was due to higher levels of effort from my part in second year I scored 73 percent a first class grade.
Even though this was afunction and even though I had a first with my academics it seemed like a long shot. My A Levels were especially weak as mentioned. This is the first time in my life that I really went for something with a passion (for all the wrong reasons unfortunately) I sent out 25 applications ( BARCAP etc etc) and got dinged without interview on all but 2. and . I have to admit that I had never even heard of these companies and had no formal interview experience. I felt that I aced the interview, the interviewer came back to me and said that it was between me and some guy from imperial. I imagine that the guy from imperial is now enjoying his long and successful career at . The interview was a last straw kind of thing. It was my final opportunity to get into the industry so I was anxious, I think this was obvious to my interviewers and I have always been especially bad at presentations. Luckily however in one of the 1 on 1 interviews I had a long and brilliant chat about my hobbies with the interviewer who seemed genuinely impressed with what I had to say. Apparently he single handedly forced HR to offer me. As will be demonstrated my entire career hinged on that decision as well as the previous decisions from the admissions tutors at Manchester University.
After arriving atI realized that technology bored me. I was easily capable of doing the work but it was not engaging to me at all although I did enjoy my time there and met some great people. One day however I was asked to go to the floor to sort out some software issue and this opened my eyes to a new world. You must understand that I have always been interested in current affairs and economics (it was the major I applied for originally) and have always craved fast paced work. It was essentially love at first sight, I realized at that moment that I HAD to do this for a career and as will be proved later I was willing to go to any length to achieve this. I read everything I could from liars poker to options futures and other derivatives by J 50 - 100 books of material + The Economist the FT and Bloomberg news I also started my own account. Additionally I got HR to rotate me to a technical support role on the floor. It was hell, the problems were often ridiculous and the role was the most unrewarding thing ever. There was no excellence the work was pass fail and it was impossible to distinguish yourself from your co workers. The team was full of operations lifers who were as disdainful to my aspirations as could possibly be the case. My "mentor" informed me that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for someone with my academics to get into . It did however give me the opportunity to talk to the traders every day and I used my natural ability to do the same amount of work as everyone else in 2/3 of the time and used the additional time to talk to the people who were already doing what was now my dream job. The analysis, the pace, the pressure my desire for it grew and grew. I networked the hell out of that floor and am still in contact with some of the people who work there today.
This however was not enough I applied forfor the summer after my sandwich year ended (before my final year) in markets. My applications were no where near strong enough to appeal on merit, I was one of the also rans vs the huge pile of Oxbridge LSE Imperial Warwick and UCL students who not only had better academics but also did not have to explain away technology to the recruiters. There were a few bites most notably a terribly ill fated interview at Paribas which could not have gone worse 2 hours of drilling about stats I hadnt studied in 3 years left me high and dry. I learnt a valuable lesson: if you are none target you need to sell the crap out of yourself and apply to AS MANY PLACES AS POSSIBLE. I emerged empty handed from the application process. A string of rejections was terribly disheartening after the amount of effort I had invested. I tried not to be discouraged and instead utilized one of the strongest relationships I had formed whilst at to build my own . I sat on the UK corporate FX sales desk for one month, unpaid at the end of my internship at . It wasnt the desk I really wanted but it was still the best experience of my professional life. It also gave me the golden ticket: relevant work experience.
My 3rd year of university has thus far shown a similar increase in academic performance to each year previously. I am now averaging 80 - 90 percent on coursework. I decided that I needed a masters degree to give me another shot at markets, I started the process again with even more zeal. 55 applications later and I had applied to every firm I could find. It was now or never. I also applied for Masters in Finance courses at LSE St Andrews Cambridge and Imperial. Despite the huge quantity of applications I was not convinced that I could beat the competition. I was still going to try.
I received 52 rejections in the first term, most without interview. I thought it was all over. Then out of the blueand both invited me to AC. In the same week in January LSE offered me a place on the MFIN course. I realized that even though I am not the strongest interviewee I had to nail one of these. I did. I sold myself as hard as I could to describing as I have now all the trials and efforts I have endured to get this far and out of the quoted 1000 applicants I got to the final round, the last 15 competing for 5 jobs. The final interview was face to face with some of the FICC traders in London. After my previous interview experience I prepared for the worst. I was expecting quick fire technical stats and mental arithmetic (I am pretty good at mental math but am by no means a genius and in the end if you cannot do mental arithmetic you should seriously review your suitability for S + T). I was pleasantly surprised the interviewers focused on me and my hobbies and interests. I did as well as I could outlining my extracurricular activities and things that I enjoyed with a focus (rightly or wrongly) on candid honesty. The people were great and the atmosphere seemed very friendly. HR said that they would get back to me within the week 7 days later I was on edge. I knew that this could be the one. The phone rang and then came the news. After all the effort and failures that I had experienced I had it, my ticket into the feeling was incredible.
I am living proof that if you want S and T bad enough you can get it, even from none target, even with terrible A Levels as long as you have shown consistent improvement. More importantly you can still get in on merit you just need to try harder than everyone else and demonstrate that your personality and knowledge base fit the requirements. I am not saying that anyone can do it but just that you do not need to be super human. I am so excited about my offer and my masters program and hope to have a long and prosperous career in markets. I hope this account may help someone. If you have any comments on y story or a similar tale to tell do say. Finally don't give up, stay positive, work hard and you can do it too.