April 13, 2016

Journey to my first full-time job: the definitive edition

Well, where do I start?

* * *

Back in early May 2015, when I was still studying in the UK, I decided to apply for a big audit firm (let's call it Audit Firm K) for an advisory role. I never really bothered applying for anything in the first two years of my studies for many reasons, one of them being that I was aware of my capabilities—or the lack of—and hence not wanting to waste both my time and the recruiters' time. Things have not changed significantly, but I decided to try my luck anyway in the third year because my time in the UK was coming to an end and there was a desire to want to prolong it.

To my surprise, I passed the online test and the phone interview and proceeded to the assessment centre. People generally do not pass their first phone interview, or at least that's what I tell myself. I went on to fail it, but I wasn't all too bothered because it was honestly way too unfamiliar to me. One of the things I had to do in the assessment centre was talk to a client—an actor they hired—to try to close a deal. On top of that, the client has had bad experience with the firm I was representing in the past, so I had to resolve that too. On top of that, the meeting was five-minutes long and I was suppose to keep track of the time. On top of that ...

Oh well, I was never meant to stay in the UK.

* * *

Then came the time of the year where big firms from Malaysia would go over to the UK to pick from the huge basket of talents. One of the big audit firms called me up (let's call it Audit Firm P) and asked if I wanted to go into auditing. Back then, I wasn't really all too fussed about securing a job that early. After a little talk with the HR personnel, my application was put in for an advisory role.

It did not go well.

I dread to recall what went down during the assessment where I had to do some analysis of a company's financial statements—of which I have no experience in—and the trainwreck of a Skype interview. Then again, I didn't really care so much because I didn't really want to go into that firm.

I go with my gut a lot.

* * *

Then came graduation. I shot off a few more cover letters to firms in the UK, one in particular for a role of a content creator for app-based educational material, but was replied with sorry-we-do-not sponsor-visas emails. The day I before I left the UK, I met a banker while having dinner by myself in a tapas bar in London. We talked quite a bit and he somehow convinced me get CFA qualifications (Chartered Financial Analyst, usually taken by people who manage assets and equities. Investment stuff, basically).

So for the next three months, I studied pretty much every single day to finish off all three thousand pages of text while friends who have graduated with me have started working. Part of the reason why I did my CFA was to delay having to start working so soon, but I ended up spending all my time studying anyway so I'm not sure if it even is a better substitute. While I was slightly envious that my friends have secured employment, I wasn't all too envious about the job they were involved in. Good for them if they like it, but it's not for me.

* * *

After my exams in December 2015, my future went back to being a big question mark. I immediately started shooting off job applications here and there. Optimistic me started with more competitive ones, with the rationale that I could always settle for others if they reject me. Little did I know that each bloody application took more than two months from start to finish.

Despite having no interest to work in the financial industry, I really had no idea what I could do. All the graduate roles offered by banks are the only options I could think of since I had a pretty non-specific skillset.

Around this time, I also met my cousin sister who is doing pretty well for herself. Well, that was an understatement. To give you a clue, she just came back from some other country and often appears on newspapers. Yeah, doing pretty well I would say. She did offer to help me out but for some reason I decided to do it myself for the time being.

* * *

About close to two months later, my top two choices (i.e. most well-paid) got back to me. Bank D (think bulge bracket) was the one I wanted the most. Prestige, exclusivity, non-management role, bragging rights, all that. Went through two of the toughest interviews I've had to date—both conducted by people from the department I was applying for, not HR—and passed them both. Interview questions include squaring 119 in your head, naming the vice president of the US, explaining bonds, naming my favourite movie etc. HR then called me to say they couldn't offer me the job I applied for, but would try to find another opening for me in some other business area. Few days later, they called me to tell me they couldn't find me anything. Heartbreaking.

Another one was Bank H. Didn't do well for the assessment centre. Turns out having a half-an-hour group discussion with 3 other candidates in a room of eight other observers isn't my strong suit. The other assessments didn't go that well either.

I thought getting through to the final stage of two firms would at least give me a decent chance to secure one. ESPECIALLY since I felt good about one of them (Bank D). It was terribly depressing then, but in hindsight probably a blessing in disguise.

* * *

In between, I attended a job fair and handed off CVs like it was a brochure. I rejected several call centre jobs because I did not drop close to half-a-million ringgit on my education to do a call centre job. Fuck that. Many older people started to give advice telling me to just start doing something because the economy isn't doing that well. Once again, terribly depressing. I really saw no purpose in doing something while I continued looking for a better job because I wasn't financially challenged and why trade my free time doing something depressing for money when I don't really need it? Having studied economics, I could really only see doing such menial jobs as a larger decrease in utility compared to the minimal gain in utility stemming from the tiny salary from such jobs. In short, definitely worse off.

A close friend of mine offered to help because his dad is well connected in the world of audit firms, but I really didn't want to be part of that and wasn't desperate enough yet.

Another friend of mine introduced me to something in the big data industry, which I was pretty excited about but eventually fell through.

* * *

Then there was the interview for Bank A. I hated so many aspects of that particular job but it was no doubt a pretty decent option with a decent pay. Passed the interview—that consisted of 168 candidates, filtered from about 2,700 applications—but ultimately failed the assessment centre. I will not lie and say that it didn't hurt my confidence a little, but I guess if they didn't appreciate the strengths I had I guess I don't really care for them either. While there were many things I could've done better during the assessment centre, I believe I demonstrated plenty of qualities that makes me a worthy hire.

Once again, in hindsight, a blessing in disguise.

* * *

Desperation has started to seep in. I even took up my mom's friend's referral to some management trainee position. Bank O suddenly called to schedule an interview, but that's just one of many more stages and it would probably drag on for a few more months. Another friend of mine referred me to Bank M because they were looking to employ more, which I really appreciated. Bank U finally responded to my application and sent me online tests to complete.

All these didn't matter anymore when the opportunity for a well-paying, non-financial industry opportunity with reasonable work hours appeared. It was the dream job I never knew I dreamt about.

I'll save the details for some other day. I'm starting next Monday!

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