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Why freshers should start preparing NOW for their investment banking career

If you wait until your second or third year of university to start thinking about your investment banking career you may fall to the back of the race.

Some freshers who do insight days or weeks are offered a summer internship by the same bank.

If you’re a first year considering a career in investment banking you’re probably aware that employers in this sector offer most of their internships to students in the penultimate year of their degree. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for you to engage with prospective employers – quite the reverse.

Most investment banks hold insight days and short internships specifically aimed at freshers. They also put on fairs, talks, presentations and even lunches and breakfasts for all prospective applicants on university campuses. Don’t assume that these are only for second and third years – the sooner you start attending them the better.

Opportunities for first years

Going to presentations, fairs and other events will help you to learn more about investment banking and, more importantly, to work out whether it’s right for you. Doing thorough early research will enable you to make better informed decisions later on about potential employers and specialisms and it will make you stand out on internship and job applications.

Targeted events

Many banks hold events aimed specifically at women, ethnic minorities and those from under-represented socioeconomic backgrounds – start looking into these if you’re eligible. We also have some other examples of events for female students.

If events such as these can't be held in person due to government guidelines on social distancing, they may be held virtually; check firms' websites to find out.

Insight days and spring weeks

Insight days and weeks (often known as spring weeks) are short internships that range from a single day to two weeks in length. Doing an insight day or spring week will give you the chance to get a stronger feel for the bank’s work environment and culture, so start applying now. All of the big investment banks typically run placements aimed at first years. Check out our internship listings to discover what's available.

As of September 2020, most banks haven't announced whether their work experience programmes will take place in their offices or virtually. However, it is impossible to predict what effect coronavirus will have over the next few months.

Beating off the competition

You should start attending events and applying for insight days as soon as possible if you’re serious about launching a career in investment banking – deadlines usually fall in January or February, but sometimes as early as November. Investment banking is a popular career option and recruitment rounds are extremely competitive. You will be up against lots of bright, motivated and proactive applicants, and you will probably find yourself playing catch-up in your penultimate and final years if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities available to you now.

Some first years who do insight days or weeks are offered a summer internship by the same bank in their penultimate year. Similarly, those that secure internships are likely to be offered a job by the same employer. If you don’t go through this pipeline you may have to compete for a diminished number of jobs when you graduate – once banks have offered positions to their former interns there won’t be as many vacancies left. Insight days and weeks are the first stage in this process – read our article about the investment banking work experience pipeline for more detailed information.

Read up on banking basics and start using social media

Aside from attending events and presentations, you can prepare for the internship application process by learning basic finance concepts and getting familiar with banking jargon. If you don’t know your bulls from your bears, then our helpful glossary  and overview of the investment banking industry will get you started.

Once you’ve grasped the basics, it would be a good idea to start following business news – you could begin with the business section of your favourite news channel or broadsheet and you could try reading publications with a strong business or finance focus, such as the Financial Times or The Economist.

If you haven’t already, you should set up a LinkedIn account and start connecting with relevant people and groups, such as banks that you’re interested in working for, finance-related university societies or the Financial Times readers’ groups. However, do be careful about connecting to people who don't know you, as some executives don't appreciate requests from unknown contacts. Also don't miss our guide to creating the perfect LinkedIn profile.

It would also be a good idea to ‘like’ and follow any banks you might be interested in on Facebook and Twitter. That way you can ask any questions you may have and get updates about upcoming opportunities.

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