Moshood Olafunmishe, Alumnus, BA (Hons) Business Administration, MSc International Business Management

“Feed off the people around you – keep networking all the time”

Moshood Olafunmishe (BA (Hons) Business Administration, 2014, MSc International Business Management, 2018) talks about his struggle to break in to the world of work, and how he’s now helping the next generation of students – including by setting up a BAME data analyst internship programme with his employer, CBRE.

Growing up where I did in south-east London, there wasn’t much direction in terms of education. When people talked about success, they weren’t thinking about going into business or having a profession. My ambition was to be a professional footballer but then I got injured and my parents gave me a bit of an ultimatum: if you can’t get fit and make this work, go to university. And that’s what happened.

My first year at LSBU didn’t go well. Looking back, I can see that I just didn’t understand the environment. I didn’t know what was expected of me, I didn’t know how to manage my time. At the end of that year, I’d barely scraped through. That was a real wake-up call for me. I didn’t want to go back to my family and admit that I’d failed.

You’ve got to learn what works for you. In my second and third years, I changed it up completely. I figured out that after a lecture, when we were first assigned the work, I’d have loads of ideas very quickly. So I’d get them all down – just get 70 or 80% of the assignment done straight away. Then I’d spend the rest of the time refining it, talking to the lecturers and refining some more, getting stuff proofread and checked. That’s the process that worked for me.

To say it was hard to find work is an understatement. In my third year of studying I’d done an unpaid internship with an MP, Mike Weatherly, who was an alumnus of the university. I had that on my CV as well as a first-class honours degree, but I couldn’t even get an interview. I realised I needed to make some changes so I came back to LSBU to do a masters and promised myself that every time I came to the campus I’d stop by LSBU’s Jobshop and get some advice and guidance on my applications.

In the end, finding work came down to a personal connection. Even with the masters, and even with the help and support I was getting, I was still struggling. Then one of the Jobshop team called me. A data analytics company had come in to the uni to do an open day but they hadn’t met any suitable candidates. He wanted to know if he could put my name forward. It wasn’t my first choice of sector but the opportunity to gain some experience – and earn some money – was too good to miss. That’s how I got my start, working for Costar, in an office in The Shard.

When I come into LSBU as an alumni volunteer speaker, my message is: grab every opportunity that comes your way. Where you think you’re going isn’t necessarily where you end up. I wanted to be a business consultant but I got a chance in a different sector and I’ve built a fantastic career. You’ve got to be willing to be flexible, to adapt. Don’t reject something just because it doesn’t fit with the plan you had in your head. As long as you’re gaining relevant experience, it will help your career and your future. And feed off the people around you – ask for their input and advice, keep networking all the time.

When it came to choosing a candidate for our first internship at CBRE, I picked someone who’d shown real initiative. Rachid Okotan had been at one of the talks I’d given to students as an alumni volunteer and afterwards he’d contacted me and asked if I’d help with his CV and social media profile. I really liked his attitude. Once we’d updated his profile, he started looking for jobs. Even though he wasn’t successful straight away, he stayed positive and kept going, just as I’d advised him. Then the internship opportunity came up. We got Rachid in for interview, it went well, and we offered him the role. That initial six-week stint got extended, then extended again, and now he’s going to join us full time. I’m thrilled. That’s a great success story, and one we can use to attract more support for the BAME internship programme going forward in partnership with LSBU and CBRE.

I wanted to do something that was going to make a real, practical difference. Lots of people talk about change, I wanted action. So many people find themselves facing a double challenge when looking for work – they’re not getting input and feedback from the companies they’re applying to, and they don’t know where to go for advice that’s really going to help them. Getting some proper work experience with a company like CBRE can really give someone a step up on to the ladder.

Read Rachid Okotan’s story

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