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How to make the most of a finance internship

Securing a finance internship is a bit of a milestone—it’s your first real hands-on insight into how things really work within a finance firm, a professional services firm, or a bank. What’s more, it could set you really well for a graduate position with the organisation at the end of it all. 

But hang about, let’s think in baby steps here. Before you get to that point, you’re going to have to make the very most out of the time you spend with the company and the things you observe and do during your internship. It’s a learning experience that needs to count, and all the while you want to make the best impression you can on your potential employers. Where do you start?

Jot down that jargon

The finance world loves a bit of jargon and company terminology. It can’t be stressed enough how mammoth the list of jargon is when it comes to the finance industry. When it comes to nicknames, acronyms, slang, code, it’s got the lot! 

What’s more, a lot of the stuff the terminology refers to can be complicated. It can take a while to get your head around—particularly if you’re not from a finance background. Don’t be conquered! Write down every new thing you hear and learn, whether it’s whilst you sit in on meetings, something you pick up when you’re working on a task, or even something that crops up in a more general conversation with a colleague. You may not come into contact with all of the terms regularly throughout the internship, so by jotting them down and then giving them a read through and imprinting to your memory later you’ll be gaining a much broader learning experience.

Regular doses of commercial awareness

Just by being in the banking or finance environment your commercial awareness will begin to come on leaps and bounds, but you’re still going to have to take regular doses of commercial awareness fodder—we’re talking the meaty stuff like financial publications and industry material to fully flourish as an eventual industry expert. Even the best of the bunch in finance would struggle if they didn’t keep up to date with developments and the latest news affecting their industries; it’s integral to the job and plays a big part in what it takes to make a business a success.

Talk to colleagues about how they keep up to date on their commercial awareness, and follow suit. Become one of those dapper-looking characters on their way to work with their nose in the FT (or perhaps you prefer the tablet approach—either way goes!). Find out how they fit it all in, and which publications and services they find the most useful for in their particular department. Little tips like this will help you both in your commercial awareness when it comes to graduate position applications and when you finally get into that role you’re aiming for.

Learn about the organisation as a whole

Take the time to learn about the functions of all the departments within the organisation—not just the one you’re working in. It pays to have a grasp of how the organisation works as a whole, and how your chosen area contributes to that bigger picture. The more you can understand about how everything works together and the impact the things that happen in your department could have on others, the better chance you have of being able to give more in-depth, considered answers when it comes to your graduate role interview.

Never be afraid to ask questions

Rome wasn’t built in a day and, to be frank, it’s going to take a lot longer than a few weeks for you to develop into a finance tycoon! It’s likely you’ll be assigned a buddy or a mentor who will be your first port of call for any questions you’ll have.       

It’s likely that everything is also going to be pretty fast-paced, and you may not understand everything first time round. Here’s another great reason to make those notes. You can whip them out when you have a moment with your mentor, or any other colleague for that matter (people are generally always very happy to help), and get some clarification on the things you didn’t quite catch or fully understand.

Don’t be afraid to rise to new challenges

No matter how well prepared you think you are from soaking up all of that lovely, useful knowledge at university, the fact is that the working world is rather different. There’s nothing that quite prepares someone for their first experiences of life on a real trading floor, or the overwhelming amounts of information and systems you’ll be bombarded with in cyber security. No one was born an expert, so embrace any new tasks you’re faced with and put yourself forward whenever you can to take on a few more responsibilities. It’s the only way you’ll learn, and proactive interns will impress!

By Jos Weale

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