“I am going to graduate this year with a degree in finance. I’ll be new to the job market, and even though I know that the market is hardly in a good way right now, I want to think of my career and a life beyond the pandemic. A friend of mine who already works in the City warned me about pigeonholing myself and now I can’t get it out of my mind. She said that when graduates start work, they need to get into the right department because they’ll be expected to stay in the same field and department for the rest of their career. It just reminds me of my A levels where you had to make loads of big decisions really quickly. Please tell me this isn’t true!”


I’ve been hearing this concern about pigeonholing a lot from our candidates in recent years.

My question is: Who do you worry will do the pigeonholing? You, or your boss?

If it’s the latter, never forget that you are the master of your own destiny. You’re new to the world of work and, yes, from the outside it can look like you’ll have to move with the tides. But your boss is not making every decision about your career for you. You have the control to say no to a job if you don’t think it fits your interests, and you’re not locked into the first industry you enter for the rest of your life: we place lots of candidates who want to transition into different industries without any issue.

You can prevent pushing yourself into a corner by asking yourself this question: What do you want from your career?

Think of your career development as a journey. As with all journeys, it should have a place and time of departure, a mode of transportation, a few stopovers, and a destination. Your destination should be your long-term ambition, and your stopovers will be short-term goals to get there.  

Don’t dwell too much about the details of your destination. As with travelling, sometimes you’ll need to take detours, and you might find your destination looks different to the way you had imagined it.

Then, consider your strengths. What are you good at right now? This will become your ‘mode of transportation’. Your ‘departure’ will be your first job. Entry-level positions in the City are a sensible place to start, as they help you to get to grips with the industry. In the stock market, for instance, many of those captains of industry started out as blue buttons (runners) on the stock exchange, working in the telex room, or as messengers and secretaries. Use the role as an opportunity to build relationships and become privy to the ways of business.

Generally, the move from generalist to specialist – and this might be the pigeonholing you refer to – comes more naturally over a career. If you’re conscious of this happening too soon and you don’t know exactly where you see yourself in the years to come, try networking across the company. Think about how different departments could work together. In an early-career role you won’t have the power to get your ideas off the ground, but your passion and drive to see the big picture of the company will help you to work out how everything is connected and where you could see yourself in the future.  

You mentioned your frustrations when you were choosing your A levels. I understand how difficult it is to make such decisions. But how much have those choices really impacted your life? Unless you want to be a doctor, it’s unlikely you’ll have to follow a career based on your academic commitments at the age of 16.

You’re afraid of being pigeonholed in a job, before you have had a job. If you want to break free of this fear and build your career, then it’s time to get strategic. With the right route in place, you’ll have a much better chance of reaching a destination you love.

— Emily Aldrich


We want to hear from university graduates who are serious about a career in the City. If you’re looking for guidance on entry routes to a career in finance, contact us today to find out how we can help your career.