Updated: Jun 21, 2020
Okay, so this post isn’t specifically about investment or investing, but I’m going to be using my experiences from various internships to offer advice and tips.
Internships can be daunting. A) They’re notoriously difficult to secure in the investment field, and B) There’s a lot of pressure to succeed. I’m lucky enough to have experienced internships with both large and more boutique financial companies, yet some things remain the same, regardless of the size of the firm. Therefore, I’m going to offer just five of the most important tips I’ve learnt from previous experiences, and share them with you, to help you have a successful internship!
Tip #1: Work Harder Than Ever
It sounds obvious, right? After all, you’re literally doing an internship to gain experience working in a professional environment, with the hope of being offered a full-time job. However, I know so many interns who get to their work and mess around all day. If you want to impress, you have to grind. What do I mean by this?
Get to work earlier than expected. If they ask you to be in for 9am, try and be there from 8.30am. If they tell you that you’re free to leave at 5pm, try and stick it out until 5.30pm. This shows commitment and dedication, that you’re willing to go above and beyond what your supervisor asks. I have friends that rock up late for their internships and leave as and when they feel like it. I’m not saying go overboard and be there all day and all night, but just show that you’re prepared to dedicate your time to this company.
When it comes to actual projects, don’t leave them till just before the deadline. Again, like all of these tips, it sounds completely obvious. But, if you get given a project on a Monday, have it done as soon as possible, and then ask for more work. Be proactive. If you can show that you can complete tasks quickly to a high standard, that bodes well, as it shows your hunger for work, and your ability to time-manage well.
Tip #2: Uphold a high standard
Picture this: It’s week two of your ten-week internship. You’ve settled in and completed all of the tasks that have come your way. You’ve impressed so far – but there’s still a long way to go. One way to stay on top of the game is to continue to fulfil every piece of work to the highest standard “But how? I’m so bored of doing the same thing over and over.” Here is the solution:
If you frequently need to create PowerPoint presentations, establish a template that you can use repeatedly. Don’t skip out on any details. Adding little bits like your company’s logo in the top corner of each slide, or graphs/illustrations can go a long way. It looks professional, and if you establish a template like this from the beginning, you won’t slack in your work, because it will all have the same desirable details each time you do a piece of work.
Figure 1: Just putting your company’s logo at the top of each slide can add a hint of professionalism to your work
If you’re making spreadsheet after spreadsheet, and your eyes can’t take another minute of Excel, do the same as above. Creating templates at the beginning of your internship can save you a lot of time later on down the line, and ensure your work remains to the highest standard, even when you’re doing a relatively mindless task.
I’d suggest looking at any works that your company has published online, and try and stick to their format/template. It shows that you’ve thought outside the box.
Don’t rush through a project, just to complete it as soon as possible. Quality>Quantity. The more research, thought, detail, and precision you put into each item of work, the more it will stand out from the rest.
Tip #3: Ask Questions
During my first investment internship, I had next to no subject-specific knowledge. I really didn’t know much at all. Sure, before joining the company, I made sure to read every inch of information on their website, but I still didn’t understand everything, because I hadn’t had much previous exposure to the investment world. On my first day, I had a meeting with the boss, and he asked me what I knew about investment. I was honest with him – I told him I really didn’t know much. But that was absolutely fine, because from that moment on, I had the confidence to ask him anything – what he was working on, what something technical means, how to evaluate data, how to research funds on the Bloomberg terminal.
Asking questions helps you learn quicker, and opens your mind to new ideas!
If you don’t or can’t ask questions, you’ll never learn. It’s better to open yourself up to the opinion of professional experts, than to be stubborn and try to do it all by yourself. Ultimately, if you’ve been offered an internship, there are people who want to help your development, and expect you to ask questions. If you want to know more about this, I really recommend reading Mark Ross of Morgan Stanley’s post here!
Tip #4: Dress Smart
In most investment internships in England, you’ll be expected to be dressed in smart clothes. A suit is often required. Having been in various professional environments, I can say that this is not always the case. I’ve worked with investment management companies where a shirt (or even a polo shirt) and chinos is normal, and one where not wearing a full suit and tie will probably end in you being fired on the spot! It varies. Dress to impress!
Make sure to ask before your internship starts what the dress code is, because you don’t want to turn up on the first day feeling uncomfortable. If you’re told “smart casual,” wear a suit. If you turn up to work in your suit, whilst everyone’s wearing a shirt and trousers, there’s no harm done, because A) you know for the following days that you can dress more casually and B) you can always take off your suit jacket and tie. It is ALWAYS better to go over-dressed than under-dressed. Not only does it make you look more professional, but for many, wearing more formal clothes can help them to work better, and put them in the right mindset to be productive.
Tip #5: Use Linkedin
Having an active Linkedin profile is really important
Even though among many young professionals and students, Linkedin is becoming more and more important, it is remarkable how many people don’t use it. “Oh, it’s just for adults,” or “I’m not looking for a job, so I don’t need it.” WRONG. Linkedin is a great platform that helps you to connect with other professionals, and is a useful way of fortifying your newly-established network of employees from your internship. However, more than this, it’s effectively a way to show off your skills and experiences to potential employers, and even land yourself a job! Speaking from personal experience here, I obtained an internship with Banco Santander next year in Madrid, just by messaging a former alumna of Birmingham University who works there on Linkedin. Sure, I had an interview and had to submit a CV and cover letter, but just by messaging a complete stranger who I had one thing in common with on Linkedin, I managed to secure the most incredible internship. So, my advice is, if you don’t have an account, create one! If you do have an account, make sure you’re an active user. Post things, update your profile, message people. It’s an amazing platform and can give you access to some incredible opportunities!
I know that this is a long article, and the tips may seem obvious and simple, but you’d be surprised just how many interns don’t follow them and thus don’t impress. If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comments below! I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.