Not going to uni? How to fast track from the classroom to the corporate world | Geri Ivanova

Geri Ivanova - head and shoulders hi-resDespite gaining places at all of her university choices, Geri Ivanova knew a further three years of study was not for her.

As an ambitious student Geri was keen to enter the world of work immediately but was unsure of the best route to take. After attending an open day at Quest Professional – a business college focused on equipping A-level and university leavers with the business acumen, employability and interview skills required to fast-track aspiring students into the world of work – Geri knew that this was the right route for her. Today, Geri works for BNP Paribas: the world’s eighth largest bank and a world leader in global banking and financial services in the ultra fast-paced environment of the City of London. She secured her new position within just eight weeks of completing her six month course at Quest. Here, she talks to WeAreTheCity about alternative career paths and her advice for anyone who wishes to by-pass university.

What first convinced you to take a business course as an alternative to university?

Even whilst at school I wasn’t 100% convinced university was the right option for me. I did know I wanted to enter the world of business but was unsure which route to take. The school that I went to was very university focused and alternative options were rarely discussed so I applied to university without giving it any detailed thought.

Despite gaining all of my UCAS choices and accepting a place at Westminster University to study business I still had reservations and began reviewing other options. I heard about Quest Professional from a friend and was immediately interested. After attending an open day and learning more about the courses, which focus on teaching core business skills alongside practical work experience, I knew that this was the right option for me. The fact that 87% of Quest students were in work just eight weeks after graduating was another huge draw. I enrolled on the Executive PA course as I knew it would play to my strengths and allow me to enter the business world at a senior level.

What elements of the course did you most enjoy?

One of the things I immediately loved was the atmosphere at Quest. I liked being responsible for my own learning, the small class size, friendly tutors and personalised coaching. Learning key business skills from trainers who have been at the top of the corporate ladder themselves was invaluable.

I also found it extremely useful to learn the specific skills you need to succeed in your career. Vital skills such as time-management, business communication, finance, IT skills, law and career development were all relevant to the future roles I wanted to pursue.

Having the opportunity to examine and learn about different industries – such as finance, property and the arts – really helped to clarify what would be best suited to me.

Were there any challenges?

At first it was a challenge to transition from the teaching you receive in school, where you’re pushed to do well, to being responsible for your own learning. However after the first couple of weeks I really settled into driving myself to master the skills being taught.

This is also far more reflective of the business world where to succeed you need to provide your own motivation – no-one is going to spend time convincing you to work hard! Being responsible for my own learning was an important element of the skills I gained at Quest and is fundamental to my current role.

What did you do after graduating?

As part of the course I completed two weeks of work experience with BNP Paribas. In this role I shadowed a Float Assistant – a team assistant who moves between roles and departments – which allowed me to experience the environment and the company culture. At the end of the two weeks a manager told me they had been impressed by my work so far and recommended I apply for an Executive Assistant role. I applied and was successful!

My job title now is Executive Assistant to the Business Line Head, Trading Head and Sales Head for London. Because the staff I support are senior leaders the pace is fast. Scheduling meetings may sound simple but becomes more complex when you have to re-schedule at short notice for up to 30 staff, based in different countries with different time zones to factor in!

Luckily Quest prepared me for this kind of ultra fast-paced environment. Working at a prestigious firm like BNP Paribas I knew I wasn’t going to be sitting at an empty desk all day!

Do you have any advice to other students thinking of enrolling on a business course?

Go for it!

For students wondering whether to go to university or complete a professional qualification I would definitely recommend going down the professional route! I knew I didn’t want to spend another three years studying, ending up hugely in debt with no definite career path. At Quest Professional I learnt the key skills you need for business, and the name is well respected amongst big companies who are aware Quest graduates have the skills they need.

Finally, be ready to give 100% in whatever you do – your hard work really will pay off and allow you to gain an edge in starting your career.

To find out more about Quest Professional and their range of courses for A-level and university leavers please visit the website.  

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