Investment Banking Jobs and the Value of Internships

Competition for investment banking jobs has always been fierce. And with the recent belt-tightening among the big banks and an uncertain economic outlook, the job market will only get more challenging in the near term. So those looking to break into investment banking, particularly at the entry level, need an edge.

One such edge has always been the summer internship with an investment bank. Now, it appears, the internship is more valuable than ever. A recent report by High Fliers Research, a UK firm that tracks graduate recruitment, shows that at least half of the entry-level positions at investment banks (and leading law firms) this year will be filled by people who have previous work experience at the very same firm. This compares with just 1 in 5 who receive similar favorable treatment in the media industry, for example.

Internships are no longer something to pursue just to check out if you like a particular career path. They have become an essential stepping stone to landing a well-paid job in finance, reports the Financial Times.

And while internships can certainly open doors, getting access to them is no easy matter. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has quipped that internships are the preserve of the “sharp-elbowed and well-connected.” He himself benefited from internships arranged by family friends. It’s as much who you know as how aggressively you pursue them.

The good news is that internships with large financial institutions often pay well, while they work you into the ground. This contrasts with internships in media and politics, which are generally unpaid positions.

You also do not have to be a business or economics major to apply. Many firms accept applications from liberal arts students, according to Jane Clark, head of campus recruitment for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Barclays Capital. After the initial application, the best students are called back for interviews.

But do expect to work extremely hard if you’re fortunate enough to land a coveted internship. β€œIn investment banking you will be working alongside people doing the job and may work much the same hours. This could mean a very early start – perhaps 6am – and working well into the evening,” says Dupsy Abiola, founder of Intern Avenue, which connects interns and employers. Abiola also suggests that you begin thinking about your internships as early as your first or second year in university.

What about you? Are you looking for an internship at a major financial institution? Or, did an internship help you land an investment banking job? Add your comments below.

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