Fresh from King’s and frustrated, 23-year-old Cedrik von Stumm spent 8 unsuccessful weeks applying for jobs in the financial district which would utilise his degrees in Mathematics (BSc) and Financial Mathematics (MSc).
Determined to get hired but bored of “waiting for [the] chance,” for his one out of many, on-paper equivalent applications to be chosen, he opted to stand out. Literally. He stood outside of Canary Wharf tube station, with a placard emblazoned with a brief CV: his degrees, his languages, and an invitation to “Ask for a CV”.
Cedrik’s story has value on its own: a very student-paper friendly blend of self-deprecating and ambitious off-the-cuffmanship, as well as being emblematic of graduate prospects. As a mathematics undergraduate myself, Cedrik’s story resonated with me beyond his affiliation with King’s. Plainly speaking, I wasn’t looking forward to job applications as it was; his experience and reaction both worried as well as amused me. To set myself at ease – and to see how Cedrik had fared since his panhandling stunt – I sat down with him and chatted about life as a graduate.
Cedrik’s charisma is immediately apparent. He holds himself with confidence and the charm of his speech gave me the impression I was being interviewed, despite him having merely responded to my Facebook message asking for an interview (in the process potentially setting himself up for a bizarre Catfish experience). These are among the qualities he feels are important to his character as a person, and indeed an employee, but aren’t conveyed easily by a CV or an application.
“You’ve got three thousand, five thousand people, and you’re all going for 15 jobs at this bank. And the same pool of people have probably applied for all the other jobs you’ve applied for. If you’re the lucky one then well done, but a lot of people do end up with nothing, and a lot of people who are ambitious, intelligent, well-rounded people settle for a job way below their qualifications because they believe they have to pay their dues.”
Some would argue Cedrik was paying his dues here anyway, only his were more publicly humiliating. The reception from passers-by was positive overall. The older, employer looking types wished him well and remarked on his bravery, offering high fives and hand shakes. Some even asked for a CV, including a man from Barclays who offered him a job, telling him he’d be “working on my team from Monday.” Some, however, were less positive.
“The young cats, the people my age – young analysts, young JP (JP Morgan) guys, young guns – they must’ve felt threatened. One guy came up to me, he waited a year or two for his job and he said ‘Patience! You need patience!’ which just made me think ‘You do you, I’ll do me.’ Young women were overwhelmingly positive though! Thumbs up, smiles, a cheeky wink.”
But what came of it? Is Cedrik still braving the financial districts of the world with a cardboard sign, a suit and a smile? Is he living off the dole? Had he abandoned his financial sector ambitions?
“I got interviews, interviewed and a few days ago had three job offers. I’ve just now secured a position as a trader, which is the job I wanted. Very decent salary, starting early next year, in Germany. I’m extremely happy with myself, honestly. The golden question in interviews is ‘How are you different from everyone else?’. Now I can just put this article on the table and I’ve left an impression: ‘This guys gutsy’, at the very least.”
To wrap up I asked Cedrik if he had any words of advice to undergrads – more importantly, me – hoping to be gainfully employed one day. He offered the following, with emphasis:
“While you’re here and there are these speeches, job fairs, networking type events going, go to those, but don’t just be there. Really go to those! Seek out the CEOs or whoever’s in charge and speak to them, grab their hands and attention. Almost get kicked out! I almost got kicked out of City Group but people noticed me. Set up a twitter account and tweet the companies you like. Send in hand written letters. Get yourself noticed, basically. Everyone else has a degree too, and that’s very impressive, but what else?”