When someone asked me the other day if I had a post up with tips for securing an internship, I knew immediately that it would be something good to get written up. These days – internships seem to be a direct route into a number of jobs. I was extremely lucky when it came to the whole application process and things just moved overall quite smoothly from studying, to one day finding myself in a firm. But I can’t say there’s anything particular I did to warrant that smoothness and in fact I think a lot of it was purely down to luck – having the nice interviewers, being in the right places at the right time, having a nice team on my internship, etc… Most of these tips below are actually things I’ve realised in hindsight after watching the process from the other side. I get a number of LinkedIn messages every week asking for my tips on getting an placement – so hopefully these can help a lot of you that may be seeking an internship or a job!
1. Spread your bets & apply everywhere
If we lived in a perfect world – things would be such that you could make applications to your top five firms, and at least one of them would work out. Unfortunately, the competition is fierce, the job market is weak, and sometimes we just can’t afford to be too picky. I’m definitely not recommending applying to a job that you have no interest in, but for example if you’re interested in finance – don’t just apply to the top end of bulge bracket banks. In fact, don’t even just apply to banks. Apply to everything that lies within the realm of finance – be in asset management, consulting, accounting and more. Let’s be real – at this young age, particularly when it comes to the corporate world – who really is 100% sure of what they want to do? Even outside of the corporate world – you just need to be flexible and adaptable to whatever may come into your path. I never knew growing up that I’d take an interest in fashion and lifestyle blogging – yet here I am. I definitely didn’t know that I would end up working a job in investment banking, but I allowed myself to be flexible and took advantage the opportunities that came my way. Remember, at any time you have the power to change the direction of your life – if you find yourself in a job you hate, you can switch. The main thing is to get your foot in the door, as it’ll make life a lot easier for you going forward.
2. Understand that a lot of things are purely down to luck
One thing I’ve realised through going through the application process myself and also watching others go through it – is that a lot of the time when it comes to internships/jobs, whoever gets the role is quite significantly down to luck. For example, candidate A may have a totally horrid interviewer and candidate B may have a really nice one – candidate A may be completely more qualified than candidate B, but B gets the job. The application processes are not easy and most of us will find ourselves seeing rejection after rejection until something works out – but this really doesn’t mean that you are not capable. Putting things into perspective is always something big on my agenda, and if you see things for what they really are, it’ll keep you in good spirits going forward with more of your applications.
3. Network & form some meaningful conections
I know it’s not just me that hates networking! In fact whenever I’m reeled into networking I have to mentally prepared my mind to get me in the mood. However, networking is really just a part of life. Whether you’re talking about networking with different employees in the corporate world, or even networking with brands and fellow bloggers over here on the interwebs – it builds a great foundation for you and can help you get quite far depending on your goals. Before I started working I didn’t really network – I’d go to networking events here and there, but my honest belief was that I wouldn’t get anything out of them and instead I’d spend a lot of my time checking the clock and wondering how and when to make exits. It definitely is not easy to walk away from a networking event/opportunity with an outcome that will materially impact your life – but it is possible. Whilst networking won’t get you a job – it can get you recommendations for a job, put you into people’s good books and if all else fails at least you can face the fear of doing something you dreaded. I’ve seen quite a few people now benefit from networking in that they walk away from a session with a recommendation, a card, or even an interview. With the competition so tough these days, being able to master the art of networking will definitely give you the extra push when it comes to securing an internship.
4. Perfect your CV with something unique
I can’t speak for all firms in the world, but I know a number of firms like for their applicants to have more on their CV than just good grades and some sort of basic role in a generic society. Funnily enough, this blog here is what has led to me getting a number of internships in the past and it has often become a big talking point in interviews. At the end of the day, especially at a junior level, you’re not expected to get to the desk on your internship and know everything. When I first started the current job I work, I literally knew n.o.t.h.i.n.g – and this was after doing a 10 week internship. Unless you’re really doing rocket science – nothing out there is really too complicated and hence you can learn most things on the job. So don’t worry too much about filling your CV with tons of positions in all the finance societies your uni has to offer (not to say that’s a bad thing – it is good to get involved with societies but just remember that all your competitors are doing the same also) – and instead think about what could make you unique, because that is what will separate your CV from the guy next to you.
5. Get help from your friends and family
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help from others and allowing people to open doors for you. No one in life really gets anywhere by doing things purely by themselves – and a couple of heads are always better than one. Don’t be afraid to seek advice and tips from people that may already be in the industry you’re interested in – even if they may be people who are the same age as you, or you have worked/studied with in the past – sometimes push your pride aside for something that will benefit you over the long run. Also, get the opinions of your friends and family – get them to check over your apps and get them to quiz you for interviews, you’ll thank yourself for it later!
These are just a few tips that will help with getting an internship. My absolute #1 tip? – Just keep on pushing until something works out. Remember – where you are now has little indication as to where you’re going to be in the next 10 years – people will surprise you. I know of someone that literally lost their graduate job, and a year later started working in one of the biggest financial firms in the world, talk about a turnaround!