Landing a coveted internship at a major financial institution is no small feat. Elite firms such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs accept a relatively tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of internship applications they receive every year.
And once you’re in the door, your odds of staying there are still only around 60 or 70-percent, according to some estimates.
It’s important to remember that even the most sought after internship is merely a means to an end. If you don’t maximize your opportunity, your dream job could slip through your fingers.
Nobody wants to start a career off with that kind of misstep. So how do put yourself in the strongest position to convert your internship into a job?
Let’s examine a few smart strategies.
Manage your expectations
Even if you’ve beaten the odds and landed that coveted spot at Goldman Sachs or another elite Wall Street firm, there’s one thing you need to bear in mind — you’re still just an intern. That means you’ll be asked to perform the same menial and tedious tasks any finance intern must contend with. You’ll need to embrace all of this with enthusiasm. After all, nobody expects (or wants) an intern to reinvent the wheel — most employers prefer that you simply listen to directions and follow them accurately.
The likeability factor
Because of their youth and inexperience, many interns don’t always recognize the importance of company culture. When given the choice, all of us want to work with people who are sociable and team oriented. If you’re brilliant enough (think Steve Jobs), an abrasive, me-first personality might be overlooked. Yet let’s be honest — you’re no Steve Jobs. You’re an intern. Your disposition should reflect this fact.
Hit the ground running
The first few days of your internship will likely be hectic. You’ll be learning copious amounts of new information while trying to make a favorable impression. That’s why it’s vital to come in as prepared as possible. Do you know anyone who works at the firm or who recently interned there? Then tap them for relevant information. Make sure that you’re exceedingly familiar with the company, its products and services and the area in which you’ll work.
Build a network
Outside of stellar job performance, nothing is more critical to your job prospects than networking. Yet it’s important to go about it the right way. Senior personnel aren’t always keen to forge relationships with pushy new interns looking to leverage them for better hiring odds. It’s important to grow your network organically. You’ll likely be attached to a mentor or a staffer. Work hard to develop chemistry with this person, and take advantage of any social opportunities that arise.
Monitor your social media activity
Young workers are deeply engaged with social media. And there’s nothing wrong with this — a strong, professional online presence can certainly work in your favor. Yet it can also torpedo your prospects with the slip of a single keystroke. Watch what you post — because there’s an excellent chance your potential employer is doing the same thing.
Be direct, courteous — and persistent
If you’re interested in converting your internship into a career, be emphatic about it when you broach the subject with your manager. When your time at the company winds down, make the rounds and thank everyone for the opportunity. A little old-school “grip and grin” goes a long way in the finance industry. And even if an offer isn’t immediately forthcoming, it’s a good idea to stay in touch. If a job opens up in the future, your status as a “known quantity” will provide you with a leg up over other job seekers.