Fast Track: Help Desk: `I am an experienced trader's assistant, but can't find a job'

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The problem

I worked as a trader's assistant for a large American broking house in the City from 1991 to 1997. My hours were from 7am to 5pm - although I rarely left before 8pm - and my annual salary was pounds 15,000. But they were unwilling to offer me the opportunity to progress. Since I resigned, I have been actively seeking employment in either a similar position or in settlements. I have joined over six reputable London agencies and have also kept in contact with former colleagues and clients. I have, however, been unable to find any temporary or permanent full-time work. Where am I going wrong?

Marc Sedge, London

The solutions

Nicholas Goulding from International Search, a leading executive search firm specialising in the financial services sector, says:

Identify the value that you would bring to a potential employer in terms of your skills and experience. This is, after all, what an employer is "buying". Secondly, identify the largest employers in the sector that you are interested in, and write to the respective heads of department, enclosing your CV. Follow up your letter with a telephone call. If you cannot reach the head of department, find out when it would be a good time to call (such as after trading hours). When you do get through, be friendly. If they cannot help, ask if they can suggest whom you should contact.

Giles Brady, managing director of Brady International, a career management consultancy serving the City, with many financial institutions as well as private individuals among its clients, says:

Having worked in the trading environment, you are obviously familiar with marketing and selling. It looks as if you enjoy the responsibility of office management and administration, and your market sector knowledge is the City. You are clearly conscientious and are prepared to work long hours when it is necessary.

I would therefore suggest aiming to move away from broking and into an industry which serves the City. Use your sales and marketing skills to sell products into a sector you know. Sales support may be just right for you. Identify market sectors where your knowledge will bring benefit.

How about software or software solution companies? What about on-line live data feed providers? You know the needs of their clients and you speak the language. Find out who the main players are and contact them direct. If they are looking for people, they will be delighted not to pay an agency fee!

Ann Kutek, clinical director of Counselling in Companies, which is a leading specialist in staff counselling and manager consultation for the financial and corporate sectors, says:

The City is shedding many of its employees. While it is tempting to stick to the familiar, it will become increasingly frustrating to receive rejections from that or a related sector. One of the things we help people with when they are at a cross-roads in their careers is to demonstrate how a small change can lead to growth in unexpected ways.

For instance, if you consider your interests outside work such as sport, the arts or voluntary work, you may find that you could combine them with a job. Your type of skills are always sought after in the public sector, local government and NHS as they have been run on business lines for the past few years. In addition, voluntary agencies, such as charities, are keen to have fresh input from the commercial world. Spread your net to where you have other connections.

Compiled by

Carmen Fielding

If you have a work problem and want expert advice, write to Carmen Fielding, Fast Track, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2182; e-mail: