Across the nation, accounting, finance and business majors are locking in this summer’s internships. Some were lucky enough to accept offers in the fall. Most are doing that now.
There’s one group, however, that is looking ahead to summer 2021. Those are the undergrads intent on a career in investment banking, where internship recruiting by many of the largest banks and firms starts earlier than almost any other industry sector.
Certainly, not every banking intern is recruited in their second year of college. But especially at the leading business schools like Wharton, Stanford, Chicago’s Booth, Sloan at MIT and Harvard among them, the competition for top students is so keen recruiters have been known to offer summer jobs to freshmen.
Brian DeChesare, founder of two blogs jobs on alternative assets and banking, says the internship timeline “starts ridiculously early.” Recognizing that is especially important for students at schools not among those most targeted by the industry. Students at lesser-known universities, he says, can earn one of the prized internships but only if they make the right connections and take steps far earlier than they might think necessary.
In an enlightening Q&A DeChesare interviews an investment banker who explains in detail how, after deciding on a career in investment banking while a senior in high school, they went about achieving that goal. The article traces the steps the banker took beginning in the first weeks after starting college right through the final year.
The most important lesson, the one the unnamed banker says is the biggest takeaway, is building and maintaining a network of contacts. “You cannot afford to screw up relationships,” the banker says. “That means if you contact someone for a coffee chat or networking call, you must show up on time and do it.”
How does a freshman with no contacts build the kind of network that will help them land an internship? It takes work and a bit of luck. The banker in the article explains how they did it:
“I did some cold outreach on LinkedIn, eventually got a response from a search fund professional, and asked him for advice about the investment banking recruiting timeline.
“He was impressed that I had researched his firm and reached out to him only a few weeks after arriving at university.
“He explained search funds and offered me a part-time internship, which I quickly accepted and used to learn the basic buy-side and sell-side processes.””
That’s a message every student should keep in mind. Whether investment banking, hedge funds, some other related sector or, for that matter, any industry, making and sustaining contacts is as key to landing an internship and later a job, as is academic success. And it’s never too early to start.