OUT OF LEHMAN: Headhunters have shut me out of the market

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There are two good reasons why people flock to business school - one, the network and two, because it opens doors. The career services team in b-school provides you with a great platform to interact with recruiters from different industries and ample opportunities to shift careers - you can walk in as Gordon Ramsay and graduate to become a Gordon Gekko. However, once you are out of business school and in the job market, that luxury doesn't exist any more.

Let me explain. After graduating from b-school I joined Lehman in its capital markets division a couple of months back. My goal was to become a trader. I believe I have the right skill sets for it - I am humble, honest, willing to learn and pay my dues, have a good understanding of the markets and a deep interest in economics. But then, I picked the wrong firm, joined them in the wrong city, and chose the wrong division (fixed income). Four weeks ago, I was shown the door.

Ever since Lehman fired me, I have been looking for jobs. Naturally, nobody is interested in hiring me as a trader given that I have zilch experience and might not contribute a penny to the bottom line in the near future.

Fair enough: I switched angles, brought my accountant skills to the fore (I am a qualified chartered accountant) and pitched to become a research analyst. I can dissect financial statements when I am half asleep, have been personally invested in the markets for over eight years now, and used to make a living by researching and writing tax opinions for clients - enough to check all the right boxes? Hmm... maybe not. Yet again, quoting my lack of 'relevant' experience and the abundant supply of qualified labour in the market, I was shot down.

Given how the London job market works, ie, via headhunters, it makes it all the more difficult for people in my position to get into the market. When the MDs and VPs are there for the taking, why bother with a trivial first-year associate!

It took me two weeks and dozens more calls before a respectable big-firm headhunter even agreed to meet with me in person.

But now, after meeting with a dozen headhunters, I have again hit a road block. I am not crying or giving excuses, but to me it seems like their incentive system is inherently designed to work against someone in my position. They look at candidates/resumes that fit with their requirements, rather than try to help me find what I am looking for. They are quick to quote market conditions as the reason why I should get back to doing what I used to do before my MBA. Sorry, but my dreams are not up for sale this soon.

That is the primary difference between careers services in b-school and headhunters in the job market. Careers services work with you to find what you want. They give you the opportunity to meet with potential recruiters - a chance to interview, to get your foot in the door.

By comparison, headhunters get paid to come up with the best 'fitting' candidates. You may be able to charm a company into hiring you, but that's no help if headhunters won't put you in front of them in the first place.

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