Expert Insight You Need to Read Before Starting Your Finance Internship
By Megan Ruesink on 09/26/2016
As a finance major, you already value finding a career that can fulfill your potential, fund your dreams and solidify your future. You know that to land the job, it will take even more than a degree—it will take confidence, connections and experience. All of which can be acquired from a finance internship.
A finance internship could be your key to opening doors in this competitive field. As someone who always strives to be the best, you want to know how you can get the most out of this experience. And who better to learn from than the experts themselves.
We connected with finance professionals to get the answers to your burning questions on this topic. Some underwent finance internships themselves. Some work with finance interns firsthand. All have important insight, so you’ll want to keep reading!
What are the benefits of a finance internship?
Being an intern may not sound like a glamorous start to your budding finance career. But before you write off a finance internship as a waste of time, read up on a few of the ways you could profit from this experience.
1. You get to 'try before you buy'
“Internships can provide you with the unique opportunity to test drive a career or company before committing to a full-time opportunity in the future,” says Michael Brownlow, financial advisor and former college unit director with Northwestern Mutual.
It’s difficult to know what a career actually entails based only on a job title or description, Brownlow explains. “Interning allows you to figure out the true elements of a job, career or company,” he adds. That’s valuable insight for anyone seeking a solid career for years to come.
2. You’ll acquire valuable skills and contacts
Think of an internship as a perfect way to gain hands-on experience while building up your book of contacts. Being an intern puts you in a position to network naturally with seasoned professionals you wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your skills and work ethic to people who are established in the industry. You never know who might be willing to write you a shining recommendation down the road!
Brownlow was fortunate enough to participate in three different finance internships in college. “They allowed me to hone my skill sets, interact with professionals in their respective fields and discover what I was meant (and not meant) to do,” he says.
3. It just might land you a job
There’s no guarantee that an internship will lead to a full-time job but it’s definitely a great way to get your foot in the door. It’s not uncommon for an intern to be offered a full-time job from the same company, according to Stephanie Linehan, financial analyst and former finance intern.
"Companies tend to hire internally first before they even post positions online."
“Companies tend to hire internally first before they even post positions online,” Linehan says. “So landing an internship can be a giant step towards getting that full-time job.” If a company has already taken the time to train their interns, it makes sense that they would want to keep them around to fill a more permanent role before starting from scratch with someone outside of the company.
What should you expect in your finance internship?
Once you’ve landed your internship, it’s helpful to have an idea of what’s to come before heading into your first day on the job. Our experts shared a few insights about what you can expect from a typical finance internship.
1. Expect to learn
Be prepared to do plenty of learning while you’re on the job. It’s true your finance degree has helped you build a strong foundation of knowledge, but the learning doesn’t stop there. There are certain aspects of the job that just can’t be taught in a textbook.
Having a learning mentality takes special effort, and it’s one your internship supervisors will probably notice. Volunteer to do a variety of tasks so you can get a taste for everything. Not only will you learn new skills to add to your resume, but you’ll also learn what you like and dislike about the career.
2. Expect to have expectations
Both you and the company you’re working for step into an internship with preconceived notions. That’s why Brownlow says it’s important to communicate about expectations before you even begin.
Find out what the company is looking for from their interns. Be honest about what you want to get out of the internship as well. This conversation should be a big indicator of whether or not the position is right for you, and it will help you get off on the right foot by knowing exactly what’s expected of you on the job.
3. Expect to be challenged
Don’t expect your finance internship to be a walk in the park. As mentioned above, there are certain things that can’t be taught in a classroom. So when faced with them on the job, they will undoubtedly be difficult.
But this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Think of it as an opportunity for you to learn to solve problems and face challenges head on. Seek out these opportunities and even ask for them if they don’t present themselves. These experiences make for great resume boosters, and they push your limits to grow both personally and professionally.
How should you choose your finance internship?
Now that you the benefits of finance internships and what to expect on the job, check out these tips for finding an opportunity that suits you.
1. Find the right environment
You may want to intern at a large corporation as a financial analyst, at a planning firm as a financial representative or at a nonprofit in accounting. No matter where you end up, it’s important to find an environment that fits your career goals and values their interns.
“In my opinion, a student should look for a long-standing company with a well-respected history and a commitment to the internship company-wide,” Brownlow says. He also recommends finding a company where you can fully invest yourself and feel like a true member of the team.
2. Find the work experience you want
Do you want a variety of financial responsibilities or would you rather focus on honing one area? Do you want to gain experience working with outside clients or would you prefer to work with an in-house team? These are the types of questions to consider when you think about your ideal internship experience.
“I would suggest seeking out internships that align with you and how you are wired,” Brownlow advises. Not quite sure what you’re looking for from an internship? Linehan recommends finding an internship at a smaller, private company. These companies tend to rely on their interns to provide a wide range of financial services. This will give you an opportunity to try a variety of things and discover what you enjoy the most.
Finding success in finance
You now have a much better understanding about finance internships and what they can offer you. The experience and connections you gain from this opportunity can help set you up for a successful career in finance.
Learn more about what you can expect working in the field in our article: What I Wish I Knew Before Working in Finance.