Can't get into banks? Try FTSE companies

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If you didn't land a banking job this year you're in stellar company. You've joined tens of thousands of other graduates who are struggling to get a first position. It's bad, but it's not that bad. There's plenty you can do to improve your chances of landing a position when the upturn arrives.

Think finance departments

There are still thousands of graduate vacancies out there with non-banking firms - many of whom are still recruiting for graduates to work in their finance departments.

Simply trawling through the careers pages of the FTSE 100 companies will reveal a startling array of graduate vacancies, typically paying 26-30k per annum.

Try BT (which offers consulting and finance roles), any of the pharmaceuticals, energy or telecoms companies, or even (notwithstanding any potential moral scruples) the tobacco companies - all of whom are recruiting hundreds of graduates each this year.

The pay won't be as good, but calculate pay on a 'per hour worked' basis, and you'll certainly be close to banking grads.

The advantages of the FTSE route

Landing a position with one of these companies not only ensures that you're racking up plenty of quality work experience and learning about how multinational corporations are run, but these jobs always come with a range of perks.

Many are willing to pay for professional accountancy qualifications. They guarantee up to 4 months paid study leave per year, offer the type of job security that bankers can only dream about, and usually offer positions outside of London, meaning that 26k goes a lot further than the 35k banking grads earn in the City.

In addition, the (relatively) relaxed culture of most non-banking companies leaves plenty of time for pursuing other activities - the CFA easily being the most useful in terms of preparing for the upturn.

12-18 months experience working for a major company coupled with CFA Level 1 (or even 2 if you have the time and willpower) will leave you in a much stronger position than virtually all final-year undergrads for the 2010/2011 hiring season.

The alternatives

If you really can't stomach the thought of working outside of the financial markets however, then there are three real options - study for a masters, go travelling and learn a new language, or consider applying for roles outside of the UK.

Dubai is still thirsty for workers with a solid command of financial markets and fluency in English.

In any event, coupling these proposals with professional qualifications will leave you in an enviable position for the future, and will more than make up for any weaknesses in your application if you didn't happen to attend one of the more 'prominent' universities.

And enjoy the time off - once you land that banking job and the markets are up and running again, you'll be daydreaming about your University days and time spent travelling the world.

The author is a senior manager at a European bank in London.

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