I am starting to write my master thesis (M.Sc. Maritime Management) in a couple of months' time. My goal is to collaborate with a commoditiesorganization on a research topic of mutual interest and practical benefit to the firm.
So, I booked some $60 Ryanair tickets, mapped out a dozen or so firms (top-tier players, independents and IOC trading arms), topped off the Oyster card and went on a career quest armed with a score of CVs.
The old school approach is far from ideal in today's London corporate landscape.
Mostly, I received a lot of dumbfounded looks from clueless receptionists (oftentimes followed by an adroit comment akin to "have you checked the info on their website?"). These gatekeepers are what is between you and the real decision-makers that you actually want to talk to. They are especially aloof for the larger up-scale firms with fancy Mayfair addresses. They will ask you who you are seeing, if you have a scheduled appointment, as well as name and title of whom you want to see. The larger the corporation, seemingly the more stringent enforcement of said screening.
For larger organizations, avoid approaching HR altogether. It is a black hole and you are lucky if your CV finds the relevant party. For smaller players HR is often constituted of one labile person, and you are left at this person's whim, ability and willingness to circulate your info.
Refining my technique on the go, I started cold calling the main desks equipped with an arsenal of names and job titles of relevant persons at the firm in question. Calling HR is a complete waste of time, 80% of the time they are not in office and voicemail messages seem to receive zero attention.
Nearing conclusion of my stay, I started calling traders directly and approaching employees in elevators and preaching my case. This turned out to be highly more efficient and fruitful, and yielded a few business cards and promises to forward my info to parties deemed relevant.
Following up on all leads on e-mail, the typical feedback that I have gotten seem to sort under one of the following: 1) that is not something we do here (period, bar none); 2) unfortunately we do not currently have capacity; or 3) cannot find a department that would meet your request.
Concluding, I think maybe this physical hand-son approach would work better in the U.S. with a sociology that - in my own experience - to a larger extent acknowledges personal initiative and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Needless to say, the peregrination was more futile than I originally had feared. I do find it bizarre that these firms are not more welcoming towards master students, who come knocking on their door essentially willing to dedicate six months of their life in order to research a topic (issue, challenge, opportunity) pertinent and with practical benefit to the firm.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this?
And if you happen to have an open-minded contact in any of the larger trading firms (or, alternatively, shipbrokerages) that would welcome my proposition, please do not hesitate to contact me.