International College of Economics and Finance

Landing Your Dream Career: How ICEF Students Learn Effective Job Search

Landing Your Dream Career: How ICEF Students Learn Effective Job Search

© iStock

ICEF Career Services introduces students to the industry, helping many to land jobs through dozens of career guidance events it organizes every year. Its team maintains partnership relations with flagship leaders in a variety of fields including, among others, consulting, FMCG, banking, startups, and IT. In this review, we bring you up to date on how career guidance works, what careers ICEF graduates pursue abroad, and why ICEF Career Services takes students to companies.

Teaching job search strategies

A top university is expected to provide its students not only with education, but also the ability to benefit from it. For this purpose, university offices operate career services with “degree programmes” in job search, which run in parallel with core curricula. ICEF Career Services is designed to teach students how to approach career planning in a competent and structured manner, enhancing their competitiveness in the global labor market and bringing further education opportunities. So how does this work?

In fact, career services offices operate like giant helpdesks or gyms where undergraduates and graduate students come for comprehensive exercise before entering the labor market. Job search activities are grouped into portfolios with exercises as diverse as technicalities of CV writing, interviewing, getting in touch with employers, choosing career path, and getting the answer to the question, “Is this job right for me?” Viktoria Pralich, head of ICEF Career Services, says her team are treating career search at the level of physics, helping every student to pump up their career muscle. If a student starts planning their career as yearly as the first year of study, he or she stands a good chance of landing the internship with their dream company before they approach their third year – fully aware of their choice and prospects.

Approximately 300 students underwent internships in 2022. Despite the significant changes and the departure from Russia of the largest Western consulting firms, which had for years been providing internships to many students of ICEF, our students were able to intern, as in previous years, with top employers such as SBER, Bank of Russia, Kept (exKPMG), B1 (ExEY), VTB. 

Every student is, of course, free to explore the labour market on their own. But, as with Microeconomics, for which there exists a syllabus, you cannot expect your career muscle to become strong without attentive, continual care. “Our task is to help students to avoid silly mistakes at the start of their career, that can be damaging to the relationship with employers,” says Viktoria Pralich.

For this purpose, ICEF Career Services are streamlining their career guidance techniques. Its series of webinars, held throughout the academic year, now forms part of the course titled “First Step”. Consisting of four modules, the course offers exercises to test students’ ability to get in touch with their potential employers, write CVs, pass interviews and to generally increase students’ visibility on the labor market. First Step has as its primary purpose to teach students how to overcome psychological barriers for higher self-confidence at work. 

Meeting the best of the best

“Moving learning online has posed extra challenges to us on the one hand and generated opportunities on the other. We are now able to organize events on whatever topic our students may come up with, and within a very short time,” says the head of ICEF Career Services. Over the past two years, the number of ICEF’s career guidance events has increased more than two-fold. The task is to connect the students to the labor market by arranging meetings with employers – large Russian and international companies. They always welcome the opportunity to meet the students of ICEF as their potential candidates. 

Top employers know ICEF as a reputable school. They keep themselves updated on graduates’ career progress, knowing that ICEF students will prove to be an asset to the company  

By cooperating with the industries, the Career Services seeks to maintain contact with the top ten businesses. While its website welcomes vacancies from all employers, activities such as exclusive mock interviews and one to one meetings involve solely the leading businesses. 

Welcoming new novelties

In 2021, ICEF Career Services intentionally stepped away from the activities that involve solely company presentations. With students exploring their potential employers mostly online – on public webpages with lots of presentation materials – there has been a shift in focus towards more interactive events such as workshops and master classes on consulting and investment banking management, using as a basic technique case debriefing as what can show students where experts erred in their decision-making.

Viktoria Pralicn, Head of Career Services at ICEF
Viktoria Pralicn, Head of Career Services at ICEF

Also, practice interviews have been started in the form of speed dating for jobs, where candidates are given feedback right after the interview. First started by Kept, these activities have been picked up by one of the world’s largest FMCG companies. One more line of activities involves thematic lectures and business simulation games, delivered to students by different industries. Last year, these were contributed by Citibank, and this year we cooperate with DRT (exDeloitte), Otkritie Bank, Sber CIB. 

ICEF Career Services is working to provide students with as deep industry immersion as possible by introducing them to a diverse range of potential career fields. One current set of activities provides the working knowledge of FMCG sector: progress and prospects have so far been presented to ICEF students by the management of Procter & Gamble. The students now feel more confident they will be able to apply their finance and economics background in sectors such as marketing, procurement, IT, among others. 

In the 2022-2023 academic year, ICEF Career Services continues with its chosen line of activities. The key to success in job search lies in achieving maximum useful information, networking, and practicing a conscious approach – a work in its own right, which is taught to students from their first days at ICEF as a guarantee of success.   

Learning about the world

In assisting students with study opportunities and job search abroad, ICEF Career Services relies on its communication with alumni. In 2022, its “university experience” sessions evolved into “area description” talks, led by students and alumni with experience of life and work in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and UK. Speakers give a lot of details of the many sides of life abroad, especially regarding employment and what relates to visa arrangements, market, business culture and everything there is to know about making a smooth start in a new country. For example, undergraduates willing to work in Switzerland as quants could learn about Swiss employers’ expectations and why quantitate finance is a popular career choice in Switzerland.

Nearly 60% of the undergraduate class of 2021 landed jobs at Sber, Citibank, Tinkoffbank, McKinsey, Deloitte, KPMG, UBS, and Raiffeisenbank. Two major tech companies that have the graduates of ICEF on their Business Analytics, Data Science and Product Management teams, are Yandex and Ozon.

Twice a year, ICEF Career Services delivers a two-part course on how to apply to universities worldwide. Part One is a series of webinars on the degree selection strategies; Part Two involves preparation of documents and is followed by individual guidance. 

No need to be afraid of market

“Since employers keep up regularly updated on their performance, we can safely say that the labor market is in good standing and there is nothing for our students to worry about,” said Victoria Pralich. The trends seem to be stable over the past few years, with technification and automation penetrating more and more processes and requiring modern finance specialists, especially those dealing with investments, to learn programming. Alongside with the core curricula, ICEF offers a wide array of electives in programming languages, Excel management, machine learning, project-based thinking, and more – the skills to include on a resume as complementing core competencies required for a successful career start.

Student Talk

Veronika Kasyanova, 3-year undergraduate, trainee analyst at Moscow Credit Bank

ICEF Career Services starts to prepare students for internship hunt as early as their first days at ICEF. Its team offers resume and motivational letter writing workshops, sharing lots of life hacks for passing job interviews and landing long-desired offers, while the activities such as Q&A sessions are a good opportunity to meet the alumni who had built careers in a diverse range of industries, as well as industries themselves, domestic and international ones, to learn more about their inner workings and to gain a more detailed picture of the business side of things. Beyond that, the Career Services offers a database of vacancies, which get updated almost every day, and it sometimes invites students to the events leading to fast track internships. 

I came across the internship at the Moscow Credit Bank on ICEF Career Services’ social media page. I passed the three stages and was made the offer. My resume writing and self-presentation skills did help me pass my interview, which, by the way, went easy for me (largely thanks to the knowledge I received during my studies at ICEF).

I can safely say that ICEF students are much better prepared for the technical part of the interview and have almost all the hands-on knowledge interviewers tend to test

I intern with Moscow Credit Bank’s key accounts team – a corporate investment analysis function at this bank. In addition to our core activity, which is investment evaluation, we develop strategies and do macroeconomic analysis and forecasting. This line of work makes it possible for me not only to apply my knowledge of corporate finance, but also to practice my macroeconomic and econometric skills.

Our department deals with issues as diverse as corporate financial analysis and macroeconomic analysis of welfare and prosperity of nations. This diversity of tasks is exactly what fuels my motivation and interest. Macroeconomic analysis is especially relevant in today’s highly challenging geopolitical circumstances and economic instability, it provides an in-depth understanding of the state of things in Russia and on global financial and commodity markets, economic arena and at macro-level of world politics. 

I like what I do as analyst and would like to continue building my career at MCB. The people on my team are amazing professionals who are truly interested in what they do and have an incredibly broad outlook.

I’d like to give some tips to those who at the start of their career and about to be interviewed for an internship:

  • Be sure to do as many interviews as you can, even with no-name companies. Even if your first ones are unsuccessful, they are a way to get the experience. 
  • Be prepared to be tested on technical knowledge. It might be wise to ask the HR team about the line of questions interviewers might be asking go get yourself prepared in advance. Study up on the line of work your target company is involved in. 
  • If you think the feedback from HR is long overdue, show concern and clarify your status by emailing them. In this way, you show your interest in the internship and will receive their feedback. 
  • If you made it to the final stage and are about to be interviewed by a senior officer or a potential partner, focus on things that can add to their good impression of you. What did I do? I compiled a portfolio of projects and presentations that had a connection to my future job responsibilities. It gave my manager and partner an idea of my basic skills and helped them to see if I would prove a diligent worker.
  • Most importantly – be optimistic. Things will work out well for you!

Ivan Grunenko, 4-year undergraduate, trainee at Rosbank

I knew that ICEF had its office of career services and was preparing students for success in whatever field long before I enrolled in its programme. ICEF Career Services is the best place to turn to for advice on how to write a resume, build communication with employers, pass interviews, come across as a worthy candidate and be made an offer. What makes its team unique is that its private Telegram channels and VK page post multiple job vacancies from sectors as diverse as different consulting, banking and FMCG.

You gain access to the job vacancies during your first days at ICEF, reading their descriptions and requirements to get an idea of what to expect and what skills employers seek most in candidates 

These descriptions help you formulate for yourself where you want to be professionally and what skills it takes to get there. While browsing through the vacancies that were available in my first year of study, it became clear to me I didn’t want to be in consulting or retail, I wanted to pursue a career in investment banking. The office of career services had in this sense been a great help in choosing my career.

I attended a series of workshops, led by Viktoria Pralich, Head of Career Services at ICEF, where she filled us in on interviews as a process, how to prepare, what tricky questions to expect, and ways we can use to improve our hard and soft skills – all this had proved incredibly useful when I was preparing to be interviewed for my first internship and for my current job. Especially useful were the tips on how to answer questions like, “Why you want to work here?”, and how to negotiate conditions – it’s essential that you negotiate them right.

I am currently interning at Rosbank’s investment banking services sales department, and my previous internship was with its Debt Capital Markets Department. My internship at Rosbank started after my second year of study. First, I dealt mostly with bond placements, which included corporate refinancing deal structuring, drafting pitches for customers, and designing ESG bond placement strategies. My current duties at the investment banking services sales department involve direct communication with clients for the bank’s investment products – forex services, deposits, bonds and repos. I also do forex trading analysis and our department’s P&L performance calculation. 

My first encounter with the world of investment aroused my interest in ways companies can use to attract financing, achieve favorable bond placement and attract more investors as ways to achieve lower interest. I chose to move to sales department because I like to communicate with people, and I am now I constantly communicating with clients and counterparties. It’s nice to see your actions bring immediate results, earning money for the bank and improving customer relations. This works highly motivating and makes you want to move forward.

Some people think that when fresh graduates enter the workplace, their knowledge often appears a poor fit for real-life work situations. I know from my experience this isn’t true about the fresh graduates of ICEF. All the major courses that I studied here – Macroeconomics, Asset Valuation, Banking Management – did prove useful in my work. They are the bricks and mortar of the understanding of how the IB sector really works.  

For working students, it works also the other way round: your job experience can benefit your progress as a student. By the time I approached my third year of study, I was familiar with many of the concepts that began to be taught to us as part of our new major-specific courses. 

I feel fortunate in being a trainee who is trusted by his supervisors and is given the freedom to do things that go beyond the scope of job description

When I joined Rosbank, its team entrusted me with real deals. Instead of confining me to making presentations, they allowed me to take part in their discussions. It was learning by doing, and it improved my skills of market situation analysis, product structuring and presenting before top managers. Also, even though I am still an intern, my job involves attracting investors. 

I know I will be able to start a full-time job after my internship fully aware of all working processes and the scope of my responsibility. I won’t have to even adjust or be afraid I might slip somewhere. My internships seem to have given my career a good start.

My advice to students is decide on your career as early as possible. You don’t want to go to work every day unhappy and emotionally burned out, so find a career that fully satisfies you. Once you are confident about your choice, job search will be easy for you. Most importantly, give yourself a clear answer why you want to work for this very company – once you do, things will start happening for you. You’ll see how easy it will be for you to tell your potential employers about your plans and demonstrate your strengths. Employers really appreciate when your motivation isn’t solely money.

In no case should you get upset if you’re turned down. You’ll come out of it stronger. You may be turned down twenty times, but be sure you will get the job on your twenty-first, because you will have grown into expert on how to act in interviews and to avoid mistakes. You will have understood why they thought you weren’t their best fit, you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes and correct them, which in itself is a valuable experience.