Investment banking and investment

How to make the most of your investment banking internship

You have landed the internship that you had been working towards since your first year. Well done! But what’s the best way to ensure that your placement leads to career success? Here are the questions you should be considering.
If you’re remembered for the right reasons on your internship, you could be offered a job.

Am I making the most of this experience?

Antonia Choi, head of graduate recruitment (investment banking and global markets) at Nomura International, says, 'Interns should not be afraid to ask questions and should try to get involved in as much as possible. Put your hand up for projects and ask if you can listen in on client calls; this will show your motivation and desire to learn.' 

According to investment banking forums, some of the biggest mistakes interns make during their placement are:

  • Acting like they know everything – sometimes even assuming they know more than those with full-time positions. This also extends to trying to be helpful and updating systems, which isn’t appreciated as it can create more work.
  • Being late. Apparently, nothing is said if you’re a little late, but it’s noted.
  • Leaving early. The general advice for interns with nothing to do is to find things to research. Using your initiative will be far more attractive to an employer than spending hours twiddling your thumbs.
  • Not showing willing. Interns are expected to be enthusiastic, even when all they’re doing is photocopying.
  • Consistently making mistakes. If you make a mistake, you’re expected to learn from it quickly. Work should be double checked and shown to other interns for review.

Sallyann Birchall, UK head of graduate recruitment at Deutsche Bank, says on average 80% of interns are offered positions on the graduate job scheme at the end of their internship. If you aren’t one of them, the most important thing to do is to ask for feedback. Once you find out where you went wrong, you have about two months to address your weaknesses before the majority of graduate schemes open for applications. This may not seem that long but at least you can show you’ve recognised where you’ve gone wrong and are doing something to increase your employability.

Am I networking enough?

Many users on investment banking forums advise interns to network as much as possible, as how well you are liked often plays a large role in whether or not you’re offered a job. Antonia says, ‘Ensure you connect with your buddy and mentor at the beginning of the internship. They’ll be very helpful to you in terms of career advice and generally introducing you to different people. Also get to know your class; you will need each other over the coming weeks. You will be able to introduce each other to different teams and therefore create bigger networks.'  

Interns are heavily encouraged to socialise, and if you’re invited somewhere, it’s expected that you’ll go. A common theme among the forums is that great contacts can be made while out drinking with your team, as long as you don’t come in hungover the next day. If you’re remembered for the right reasons, you could be offered a job or, at the very least, you’ll have acquired important contacts that could give you a leg up when applying for other things.

Once you’ve finished your internship, invite your new contacts to connect on LinkedIn. Having several industry professionals on your account looks impressive and gives recruiters a basic idea of how you fitted in with the team. It’s generally a good sign if an intern is connected with managers! Your list of connections can also help in the future, as it means that if recruiters search for people who are looking for jobs within the investment banking industry, you should have some mutual contacts and your name will appear higher on the list.

Am I enjoying this?

Generally, it’s expected that you’ll have made sure you want to work in a specific area before you apply for an internship. If you have had a bad day (as will happen in any job), Antonia advises, ‘Keep an open mind – things may not always go exactly as you planned but how you deal with difficult situations is a learning experience in itself.’ However, if in general you find that the work isn’t to your liking, or think you would be better suited to a different area of the business, there are options.

One thing you can do is to talk to other interns in the area of the business you think you’d like to work in. If that job sounds like a better fit for you, do as much research into the new role as you did to get your internship, bearing in mind that you now have contacts you can ask. Once you’re sure, chat to a recruiter about it. If you’ve managed to impress the right people during your time there, it’s very likely that you’ll at least be listened to. However, bear in mind that you should never ask to swap internship placements halfway through, as it’s impractical.

Is this where I want to work?

No matter how much research you’ve done, sometimes workplaces are different to what you expect. Do you like the working environment and the people? Have you managed to get an idea of opportunities for promotion? If so, does the career ladder go high enough for you, and at the right pace? Some find that medium-sized businesses offer better promotion opportunities than large organisations, for example.

If you find you do want to apply somewhere else at the end of your internship, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, if the organisation that you did your internship with has offered you a job, they may not be prepared to wait for you to apply elsewhere. If you accept the offer, you enter into a verbal contract that you shouldn’t go back on – the finance world is very small so it’s really not worth burning your bridges. Secondly, if you apply for other jobs, remember that organisations favour those who have done internships with them, so while you’ll still have the advantage of having done an internship, you’ll still be competing for a smaller pool of jobs.

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