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General Discussion & Feedback => Just Chat! => Topic started by: Seany on 01/02/2011 17:18:30

Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Seany on 01/02/2011 17:18:30
Hello all..

I'm not sure if any of you remember me, but I used to be on this site regularly a few years ago..
I hope Karen and Neil are still around..

Well, I have been busy with exams and whatnot, and I've finally gotten to the rotten age of taking even more exams and preparing myself for university etc.

I have been good with my exam results and such (the academic side) only to realise now that my extra-curricular stuff is rather blank!

I'm looking for some work experience, and the only one that I have done so far is work for a local newspaper. I'm looking for jobs preferably towards the bank sector, as I plan to study Maths at university and looking to become an investment banker.

I have tried getting work placements for many banks, but they do not seem to offer work experience for undergraduates. I have been told that if you have contacts at banks, then it may be easier to apply.

So I was wondering whether anyone could give me a hand with looking for work experience? Perhaps some contacts etc.. Or rather, where else I could apply for work experience, with ease, that would strengthen my university application (taking into account Maths)

Thanks for your help!

P.S I live in the UK, so somewhere near London would be great.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: rosy on 01/02/2011 19:09:30
Hello again, Seany!

Bit confused by your question, do you mean you're looking for work experience before you apply for university courses? "Undergraduates" means students studying at university for bachelor's or undergrad master's degree, so if you're a school student it's probably not worth applying for undergrad internship schemes (tho' no harm, I guess, if you've got the time and would be 18 by the time it started...).

Anyway... answering the question I think you're asking:

You could contact a few local accountants, if you're interested in finance/accountancy and haven't had any luck with banks. They might be worried about client confidentiality, in which case you might not get much in the way of "real" work experience, but you might be able to find someone who would talk to you about their job, and for the purpose of a uni application you could write that up to show that you're keen, proactive, and good at making connections with people to achieve something (and finding out more about what you might want to do later is never a bad thing). The big investment banks, I think, mostly offer internships to people who've already got most of the way through their degree and use it as a way of recruiting good students for graduate jobs later.

On the flip side... if you're applying for a "maths" course, rather than a "maths and finance" or "maths and accounting" or whatever sort of combined course is available, you might want to think quite hard about whether you really want to say upfront "I want to do maths because I want to be an investment banker"... bear in mind that investment banking, especially in recent years, is not typically very highly regarded by academic scientists (or at least by the ones I know... don't know about mathematicians, but wouldn't be surprised if they were the same), generally academics in charge of university admissions are more interested in whether you're interested in their subject and likely to enjoy it and work hard, than whether you're going to make a million bucks a minute after you've left.

Other stuff... you may well have seen this, but some more general info about banking type jobs is available from here:

And talk to your school's careers department, if you haven't already. Some are hopeless, but some are really useful and it's worth finding out! They may well have contacts in local businesses where other students from your school have done work experience in the past.

Also.. be aware that degree level maths is not at all like maths at school, and a few people who enjoyed and were good at maths at school find it's an unpleasant shock (the only people I knew at university who were really unhappy with their course were doing maths). You may well know that already, but since your post implies you're doing maths as a route to investment banking rather than for the love of the thing I thought I ought to mention it (especially as there are other routes to investment banking via other numerate disciplines, like physical sciences or computer science, and indeed I know at least one person who's an investment banker having studied French.. but I wouldn't recommend that).
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Seany on 01/02/2011 20:33:05
Hey Rosy.
Thanks so much for your post, it was really helpful and you were right to answer the question you answered.

I was aware that maths is very different to the maths I'm studying now. I'm enjoying the maths I study now, but I have no idea what the maths at uni will be like - although I've been told that it is very different.
I just thought that Maths was a good degree to have, regardless of whether I wanted to be an investment banker or not. It's a useful degree - am I right? Just keeps options open - I'm not really sure what I want to be.

I'm studying Double Maths, Triple Sciences. So medicine is always a route, but I have no desire to become a doctor or whatever medicine related...

That leaves me with Maths.. Or Engineering.. Or just a pure science on its own.

I've had this dilemma of not knowing what I want to be, which is why I thought Maths would be a good idea.. But perhaps I need to reconsider once again, sigh.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: rosy on 01/02/2011 22:55:24

I really don't want to put you off maths, I also know quite a lot of people who've done maths and have loved it!

And it is indeed a good degree to have, provided you're not miserable doing it, and most people doing it are fine... it's just that the people I know who ended up on the wrong course were really surprised by how different it was, and so I've always thought it was a good idea to check that people considering maths at Uni aren't expecting more of the same! If you're worried about it, I'd suggest finding a maths graduate (maybe one of your teachers) and talking to them about it... they'll know you, and know more than I do about how maths at uni is different and might be able to suggest some books to read to see if they're interesting, or something.

Science and engineering degrees are also good, so from where you are at present I'd pretty much recommend doing whatever you feel like doing because if you enjoy it you'll probably work harder and get better grades, as well as being more likely to get a job doing something you'll enjoy later.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Geezer on 01/02/2011 23:13:02
Science and engineering degrees are also good, so from where you are at present I'd pretty much recommend doing whatever you feel like doing because if you enjoy it you'll probably work harder and get better grades, as well as being more likely to get a job doing something you'll enjoy later.

I think that's the best advice. Go for what you really find interesting, even if it does not initially look like a good way to earn a living. You can learn a lot of stuff in uni, but it's really hard to learn enthusiasm (although good teachers can help with that to some extent.)
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: CliffordK on 01/02/2011 23:22:07
I assume the British System is a little different from the American system.

Here you can attend a Liberal Arts college, and major in Mathematics, and perhaps other things.  It is also possible to get more than one major too.

Consider both Business and Computer Science.  Here Business is both an Undergraduate and Graduate degree, and you don't necessarily have to have an undergraduate business degree to enter an MBA program.

As far as work experience.  As an entering freshman it will be difficult, but perhaps not that important.  Find something that you enjoy.  In some businesses, you will be able to "climb the ladder" to something more suited than an entry job.  There are many temp agencies that can help with job placement.

Once you are enrolled in an undergraduate program, then start looking for internships.  Your school should be able to help with placement.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: JimBob on 02/02/2011 02:30:06
HEY everyone, the smart arsed kid is back - didn't even create a fake ID either!

I will be back this coming weekend if the let me out of this place (hospital.)

GLAD YOU'RE BACK, SEANY. Been VERY dull since you went off to public school.

Oh Catch us upon your little sister and the rest of the family.

Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Karen W. on 02/02/2011 06:52:53
YAYYYYY Seany!  I think if you go into it with an open mind and no unrealistic outlook on what to will do fine in the mathematics and if you are diligent and really put yourself into it you can get to any level you want with the right attitude and study habits... I am thinking that investing some time studying money market funds and other forms  of investment opportunities and how they are handled would be interesting.. perhaps studying under a mentor or such..? Do they do those kind of things there? Perhaps you can get a banking investor to take you on, and serve as your mentor... do they have mentoring programs there in the UK...?
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Seany on 02/02/2011 17:45:18
Heh. Hey JimBob.
It was my OLDER sister, and she's at university now.. At her third year, so she's in a bit of dilemma too.
Also have an extra cousin in our house, studying in England for 2 years!
Family is fine thanks =] How about yourself?

Thanks for everyone's advice. As for doing what I enjoy, it is 100% maths at the moment. The other sciences, although I'm good at them, I just find rather dull. Chemistry is a bore, as is Physics. Biology is the only thing that interests me.
Maths on the other hand, took me by surprise this year.. And I'm enjoying every bit of it. I must ask my maths teacher what it is like at university..

As for work experience.. I'm still looking.
Perhaps a banking work experience won't help me much in getting into university with a desire to study maths. Like Rosy said, perhaps it just shows my greed and not the passion for the subject?

In which case.. *Sigh*

Karen.. I have missed you dearly!
They do have mentors in UK, but I doubt an investment banking mentor... Even if there is such a mentor, I'd be expecting over $500 an hour to hire that man? [:P]
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: rosy on 02/02/2011 18:03:36
Ah, well... A-level science just (in my experience) is very dull. I didn't enjoy it much, I actually had much more fun with my French A-Level.

[Personal anecdote alert, YMMV] I didn't discover the amusement value of chemistry (which was what I eventually went on to do as an undergrad) until I'd almost finished my upper 6th (Y13) year. And that was only because I was doing a STEP paper (sort-of A-level extension paper that existed before the AEAs and was mainly taken by people applying to Cambridge) in hopes of proving to myself and the universities (particularly Cambridge) I was going to apply to in my gap year, that I could do chemistry... even if I lost my nerve completely at interview (having gibbered so incoherently in my Cambridge interview the first time I applied that when my head teacher called the college to ask why I didn't get in they told her that I'd been so nervous at interview they couldn't tell what, if anything, I knew about the subject!

It was only talking chemistry, in depth and at my own level (not the rather intellectually unambitious level set by the A-level syllabus*), with a chemistry teacher friend of my parents', that I realised that it's a huge amount of fun.

* Note, I'm not saying A-level chemistry is particularly easy... actually I'd say that at least for me it was made much harder because, at least in the syllabus I studied, the key concept of entropy was missed out entirely... without which in my view there's really no useful framework for studying chemistry at all, beyond the level of stamp-collecting.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Seany on 02/02/2011 21:04:08
Yeah.. Well there's no concept of entropy in the A-level board I'm doing at the moment. Maybe it will come up in A2 I'm not sure.

So you got into Cambridge after the gap year?

A person in the year above in my house (25 houses in my school, each consisting of 50 boys) got an AAA offer for Cambridge Maths.. But he is very good. I was hoping, if I do decide to do maths, to go for Oxford or something - I heard it's much easier and less competitive. I am one of the best mathematicians in the year, but nowhere near as good as some. There are those who just have a natural talent for the Maths Competitions, which I'm pretty useless at. I'm sure universities would really like students doing well in BMO and other maths competitions.

So what kind of work experience did you do, for Chemistry?
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Karen W. on 03/02/2011 03:47:06

I too have missed you to so very much! Glad to see you back young man!
I would never have expected to have to hire a mentor.. Here where I am as far as I have experienced I never had to pay my mentor it was a volunteer position.... $500.00 Wow things have really changed these days! LOL I am getting old! LOL..
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Seany on 03/02/2011 07:57:58
It was a wild guess [:P]
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Karen W. on 04/02/2011 19:34:26
 [:)] Keep in mind that your investment banker could also come in the form of a woman! LOL.. You may be paying her as well..JK and ribbing you a bit! LOL..I hope you find what you need.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: rosy on 05/02/2011 00:06:41
I think they've taken even more material out of the A-levels since I did them, so I wouldn't be surprised if entropy didn't come up. Which is a pity, at least for bright students, I think.

Work experience... well, I spent 2 weeks in year 11 in a chemical labs nearish (about 15 miles from) where I grew up, I arranged that through my next door neighbour, who worked for ICI at the time. I had to get the train there until I managed to fix lifts with some other people who lived near my home. Then in my gap year I spent 6 months working in the university chemistry teaching labs in Cambridge (commuting about an hour and a half each way every day)... but that was very unusual.

Many of my friends at uni had no work experience more relevant to their (science) degrees than a fortnight in an accountants office or a primary school classroom or their local library! The med students, and especially the vets, had to have work experience... but I honestly don't think anyone cared much otherwise. Certainly Oxford and Cambridge are much more interested in whether you care about and are good at your subject than anything else.. infact I know several people who are or have been involved in admissions (not for maths but for other subjects) in Oxford and Cambridge, and they're really not interested in anything except whether you can make an intelligent attempt a difficult question and then discuss sensibly with them why you took the approach you did and where you got stuck, and take on board their help in understanding the bit after the bit you got stuck on.

If you're thinking of doing a gap year, I would recommend trying to spend at least some of your time doing something relevant.. but last I heard gap years were very strongly discouraged for anyone thinking of doing maths, because if you stop studying you (apparently) tend to lose your edge very quickly.

Employers, after university, are interested in what useful skills you've got, and some of those might come from work experience.. also work experience is the best way of knowing what the issues in a particular field of work are and being able to put yourself forward as a good candiate for a job. But universities? In my experience, not so much.

If you're at a school with a strong record of sending students to Oxford and Cambridge, which it sounds like you are, then I'd strongly recommend you talk to your careers advisor, or your maths teacher, or your head-of-house, or all of them. They may well have intelligent thoughts for you, and know you as an individual.
Title: Looking for Work Experience
Post by: Seany on 05/02/2011 13:26:35
Rosy. Thanks so much for your answer. I think that hits the nail bang on the head.

My school is indeed good at sending students to Oxford and Cambridge. Around 30% of students here go to Oxbridge each year.
I do know someone in the year above who received an offer for Cambridge maths, which I've heard is extremely hard to get into. He has done no such work experience, so I guess you're right to think that Oxford and Cambridge don't really care about work experience, but about your intelligence, especially for a subject like Maths. But I feel that doing work experience will in some way strengthen me as a candidate. I'd hate to apply for Maths having done no work experience, and then getting rejected, only to think what the outcome could have been if I had done some relevant work.

That being said, I think as you rightly said, I should talk to my maths teachers and careers advisor. My maths teachers are easy to come by, but the school really doesn't promote any career advising.. Weird that?