Missed the milkround?

Missed the milkround? Craig Abrahams suggests some smart steps to take if you want to secure a job

Missed the Milkround? Probably for one or more of the following three reasons:

1. You didn't want to think about jobs almost a year in advance of having to work

2. None of the jobs that were out there seemed interesting

3. You applied for various roles but were unsuccessful.

Want a job but struggling with what to do now? The message is simple: Don't Panic!

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (www.agr.org.uk), there were approximately 21,500 graduate vacancies in 2007 - and only a small proportion of these were filled in the Milkround. The Milkround is typically the preserve of four kinds of job:

Front office investment banking roles (i.e. M&A, Trading, Asset Management)

Strategy and management consultancy positions (i.e. at McKinsey and Accenture)

Accountancy Positions at the 'Big 4' of Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young and PWC

Management rotation schemes at large blue-chip corporates such as Tesco and BT.

These jobs aren't for everyone; indeed the majority of graduates are wary of the grueling lifestyle of banking and consulting, the perceived dullness of accountancy and the often remote locations of the large corporates.

As Joni Hollis, a Consultant at boutique London PR firm Marketforce says, 'The Milkround is great if you want to join certain, established firms or Investment Banks. But many companies recruit as and when they need people rather than going for a big yearly grad intake, offering positions just as interesting and exciting as those found in the Milkround.'

Meanwhile, if you had your heart set on a Milkround-style job, similar roles can be found when you graduate.

For example, those interested in finance can pursue options in more niche areas than M&A: perhaps Wealth Management or Equity Research. Budding strategy consultants can join a boutique firm rather than a global giant and large corporates require fresh graduate talent all year round, not just in September.

Do also keep an eye on the companies who recruited in the Milkround, as new vacancies can arise if successful candidates drop out or internal teams require more people.

This is currently the case at the Financial Services Authority, which Emma O'Hanlon joined as part of their 2006 Milkround campaign. As she says, 'It's never too late, even if you've missed the normal round of interviews: companies often reopen applications if they don't fill their places (like my company).

Keep an eye on your university careers service, milkround.com etc and apply for positions that interest you.'

On the other hand, with opportunities outside of the Milkround ranging from strategy to sales, procurement to project management and advertising to actuarial work, the difficulty is often found in wading through the variety of options and working out which is the one for you.

Tempting as it may seem, it is important not to get desperate and start applying to every job out there in the hope of securing some interviews.

In spreading yourself too thinly you will probably find it extremely hard to convince a potential employer that you really want to work for them. Instead give some thought about what interests you and how this plays out in the commercial world.

Breaking the world down into sectors and functions can allow you to pinpoint the area(s) you are interested in.

Every company can be pigeonholed into a particular sector: examples include retail, media, pharmaceuticals, financial services and property. Look at the Financial Times for an authoritative list - the stock market index is broken down by sector.

Functions are the different business units within a company and include finance, marketing, human resources, sales and business development.

Positions exist in every sector and function imaginable: the difficulty is often in finding them.

Online job boards (both third parties' and that of your careers service) will list a wide range of roles, but these positions are widely advertised and so more competitive than average.

It is important to be shrewd: do your own online research, find companies which look interesting and send them a C.V and Cover Letter; also try to make contacts in the sectors / functions that you would like to target.

Recruitment Consultants can be helpful at this point - they will be able to add some fresh ideas and point you in the direction of some specific companies and available positions.

Angela Daly, who studied law at Oxford before doing an LLM at the Sorbonne successfully took this path when she began looking for a job this time last year. In her own words, 'I was not prepared in my early 20s to spend all of my waking hours in an office, and furthermore I wanted a job where I was making some good contribution to society, rather than just making myself a lot of money, so I decided to look for a position in the public sector. I looked mostly on the Oxford University Careers Service website and then picked a few jobs that appealed to me and applied for them. I ended up being offered a place on the graduate scheme at Ofcom, the British communications regulator, which I accepted.'

It is very important not to fall in a common trap of losing hope with the job search and doing something different for the sake of having something to do next year: whether a Masters degree, Law Conversion Course or year abroad. Whilst these are all good things to pursue if you have a genuine interest, you should not do these things as a way of postponing the job hunt as it only delays the inevitable whilst giving you a extra mountain of debt to repay.

Overall, there are lots of jobs out there but getting one depends on the groundwork that you do.

Whilst getting a job can seem a daunting prospect, with suitable amount of thought, research and preparation, it is definitely possible to find a role which you find enjoyable and teaches you good business skills at the outset of your career.

Survival Guide to Investment Banking and Finance

Graduate Recruitment Outlook & Survival Guide

In the medium term, the outlook for investment banking and finance is not good. The credit crunch has already decimated some parts of investment banking - notably Leveraged Finance and anything connected with originating or trading structured credit products. M&A activity is severely depressed and it could be a tough year to look for a job.

In theory, the investment management side of finance should fair better, but in a world where so much depends on leverage, even hedge funds will struggle to raise and keep capital. Private Equity will sleep til it can finance its deals.

  • Best Companies to Work For*

In good times or bad, the best companies to work for are unquestionably the top US investment banks - Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Citi, Lehman and JP Morgan. The Europeans - Deutsche, UBS, Rosthchild are great banks too. We suspect the boutiques, previously immune to downturns, will not be immune from the market travails this time, so be careful with them.

Required Knowledge

In the current climate, only the best candidates will get a job, so it is essential you are pitch-perfect on your theoretical and market knowledge.

For theory, make sure you understand Valuation (relative techniques like ratio analysis, comparables and precdents and fundamental techniques like Discounted Cashflow and Net Present Value); Financing (Debt vs Equity) and Risk.

For market knowledge, make sure you know the market positioning of the employer, their key clients, recent deals, investment or advisory strategy.

Generally understand the key drivers in the Economy.

Likely Interview Questions

How do you value a company?

How do you build a DCF model?

Name a live current M&A deal and what is at stake?

What is the level of the FTSE 100 and why is it at that level?

Why has the oil price and the price of all commodities risen so steeply of late?

What is the outlook for the US economy?

What is LIBOR and why is the spread between it and the Bank of England base rate at such a high?

How do hedge funds make money?

What is the magic of Private Equity?

Suggested Reading

Financial Times and Economist

"The Vault Guide to Investment Banking"

"Valuation" - Frykman

"Principles of Corporate Finance" - Brearly and Myers

"Big Deal" - Bruce Wasserstein

"Barbarians at the Gate" - Bryan Burroughs

"When Genius Failed" - Lowenstein

Survival Guide to Consulting

Graduate Recruitment Outlook & Survival Guide

So far, consulting work has held up to the impact of the credit crunch. Companies are likely to cut back on revenue expansion as the economy tightens, so look to work in service lines that are revelant in the current market - cost control, restructuring etc.

There will always be consulting work originating from the public sector, so these areas are likely to be stable too.

Anything connected with new energy, commodities and emerging markets continues to defy gravity and are still recruiting heavily.

Best Companies to Work For

The finest two consultancies to work for are undoubtedly McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group. Booz Allen Hamilton and Bain are worthy contenders too, as are Mars, Marakon, LEK.

The large 'implementation' consultancies - Accenture, PwC, KPMG and E&Y are great places to start your career, while the smaller boutiques can be fun and give more responsibility and client exposure.

Required Knowledge

Consulting is such a wide arena and could mean anything where one business helps or advises another, so there is an infinite amount you could know.

You should certainly have a general interest in the economy and business in general and have a curiousity about what large companies are doing.

You should also understand finance - how a P&L, Balance Sheet and Cashflow statement work together.

Other topics to master include Marketing (and the Marketing Mix), Supply Chain - the process of getting products to market and Strategy - a much used and little understood word.

Likely Interview Questions

Name three ways to increase sales.

Name three ways to cut costs.

How does a company create barriers to entry?

What are the benefits of vertical integration?

Why has Tesco outperformed Sainsbury in recent times?

Why does Microsoft's market capitalisation greatly exceed the net book value of its assets?

What is a brand and why does having a strong brand benefit a company?

Suggested Reading

"Vault Guide to Consulting"

"Vault Guide to the Case Interview"

"The McKinsey Way" - Rasiel

"Managing with the Gurus" - Kennedy

"In Search of Excllence" - Peters

"Jack. What I have learned Leading a Great Company and Great People" - Welch

"The Balanced Scorecard" - Kaplan

Survival Guide to Professional Services

Graduate Recruitment Outlook & Survival Guide

In troubled times, the professions become great places to work.

Training as an accountant or lawyer means you will gain good experience, enjoy a strong culture and acquire a great qualification after 2 -3 years.

The professions do not cut staff once hired, so they offer stability in difficult times.

You may not want to work as an accountant or lawyer for life, but it is as good a start as you can make in your career and a sensible choice for the next three years.

Best Companies to Work For

In accounting, the Big Four dominate and they are: Deloitte, KPMG, PwC and Ernst and Young.

In law, it's the Magic Circle of Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Slaughter and May.

We are brave enough to say what the whole world knows - there is nothing to choose between them and they are all the same, so don't stress about your choice.

Required Knowledge

The professions don't seem to require as much theoretical knowledge in advance as the investment banks and consultancies, so it is more important that you have a solid overall understanding of business and economics and have a general interest in companies and the people who work for them.

As for all interviews, you must be able to explain your study and academic choices, show you are an intelligent, trust-worthy, hard-working person who will relate well to other people - your colleague and clients alike.

Likely Interview Questions

Why did you choose to study at your university?

Why did you choose to study your course?

Demonstrate your interest in the world?... why are food prices rising, why is Gordon Brown's poll rating falling?

Why does accounting profit not equal cashflow?

What is depreciation? Give other examples of non-cash items

What is the test for negligence?

When is a 'duty of care' owed?

When and how is contract formed?

Suggested Reading

"Vault Guide to Law"

"Vault Guide to Accounting"

"Accounts Demystified" - Rice

Otherwise, nothing specific to read to these sectors and you should read a selection of the books suggested in the other sector sections

Survival Guide to Real Companies

Graduate Recruitment Outlook & Survival Guide

So far, 'real companies' - retailers, manufacturers, engineering companies and the like, have not been affected by the impact of the credit crunch.

Some sectors have done well - energy - especially alternative energy - in particular.

Others - such as retailer and consumer products companies - are bracing themselves for a downturn, so opportunities for graduates are likely to be cut back.

It is our view that while these companies are great places to work, you learn more, faster, working in an advisory or consulting capacitry early in your career.

Best Companies to Work For

The 'big brand' companies will give your CV a great foundation and you will receive good training too.

Some of our favourities include Tesco, Shell, BP, L'Oreal, Proctor and Gamble, Unilever.

There are some cool smaller companies to consider too - Green and Blacks, Innocent Drinks stand out.

Required Knowledge

You will have to explain yourself and your life choices to date, just as for Professional Services and any other sector for that matter.

You will also need to show an understanding of the markets in which the company operate - what is the competitive environment like - what are the pressures from customers, from suppliers from competitors?

Who is the target market? How is this market segmented?

What are the major costs, where are the major revenue sources?

What are the key future trends?

Likely Interview Questions

What are our brand values?

Does our customer brand differ from our employer brand?

Who are our key stakeholders?

Who are our customers? How do we segment them?

Who are our key suppliers? How do we manage them?

What are our key added value processes?

What future trends are likely to impact us soon?

Who are our key competitors?

Why do you want to work for us?

Suggested Reading

This completely depends on the area in which you are interviewing.

Be sure to read up on both the sector in which the company operates (eg retail) and the function you will work in (eg marketing).

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