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Breaking Down the Junior Year Summer Internship Process: Landing an Internship

In part one of a three part series about summer internships, we talked to previous corporate interns regarding their internship experiences following their junior year of college.

Are you a current college junior? A freshman or sophomore? If so, chances are you know at least one person who has completed an internship sometime within her college career. You may even know certain seniors who, upon completing a summer internship, have accepted a job offer and are in the process of planning out their lives post-college, before the school year has even started.

The remainder of seniors (at least those not planning on attending graduate school immediately) are caught up in the frenzy of career fairs, information sessions and interviews for employment positions. In the midst of these recruitment events, each student is attempting to put her best foot forward – addressing why her academic major, interests, life goals, leadership activities and lastly, work experiences, make her the right candidate for the job.

With previous work experience a strong quality that recruiters look for, here are some tips offered by recent summer interns on securing, succeeding in, and making the most out of your junior year internship.

How to Strengthen Your Chances of Finding (and Landing) an Internship Opportunity

Claire K., (Duke University, ‘14)
Asset Backed Division Intern at Wells Fargo

The recruiting process can be overwhelming, and it will be really helpful to start thinking about what you want to do and where you want to do it early. Reach out to as many people in the industry as you can to learn more; the most you will learn will be from speaking to people. The more you know about the opportunities available, the better prepared you will be for recruiting, but more importantly you will be better prepared to pursue the opportunity that is the best fit for you.

Also, it is very important to keep in mind that recruiters are very good at this process. The best trick out there is to be honest with yourself, recognize your strengths and go with your gut. If you truly believe that a position is perfect for you, chances are that recruiters and interviewers will notice that too.

Claire S., (Texas Tech University, ’13)
Technical Design Rookie at Under Armour

Start researching and looking around early for opportunities and companies you might be interested in and make a list of your top choices. Also, begin preparing a resume or portfolio in advance so that when you find potential openings, you can make slight adjustments to submit an application as soon as possible.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to not limit your options. If a company interests you, apply to it without being too selective at first. When I was first looking for an internship, I applied to over 20 firms. It’s better to have more options available and be able to narrow them down in the end once you find out more about each and also interview with them.

Brooke S., (Duke University, ‘14)
Real Estate Investment Banking Summer Analyst at J.P. Morgan Chase

The worst thing that can happen in this process is being prepared for an interview and not getting a chance to show it off. My advice would be to focus less on the material now and focus on making meaningful relationships with people at the firms you are interested in to get you into the first round.

They key word here is meaningful.  Do your basic research first by getting together with seniors or juniors who have done the job. Then go to every possible coffee chat, info session, and dinner in order to learn more. The way to make relationships at these is to get them on the phone after and ask about their experiences at the firm and relate with whomever you are talking to on a personal level. Hopefully, they will remember you and that is what really counts pre-interview stage.

After you pass a certain level of competence in an interview, the way you get hired is by being yourself. If you are a good fit, the interviewer will know and they will want to hire you. Interviewing is a fabulous time to do sit down and do some soul-searching about what you really want. If you figure that out, the honesty will show through in an interview. You will also be less nervous because you are being honest and it will let your personality show through. Think about the mindset of an interviewer: they don’t want to hire someone unless they want to see a lot more of them. Be yourself; show them you want it and be interesting.

Shelby W., (Duke University, ‘14)
Financial Institutions Summer Analyst at Goldman Sachs

One recommendation would be to keep up with the news – read the Wall Street Journal (and Dealbook for those interested in Investment Banking). You do not have to read these publications cover-to-cover, just some major headline articles while skimming others.

In regards to networking, it is important know your university’s recruiting team (the professionals from a company who come to school to recruit). Forging relationships with these individuals is important. Try to connect with them on a personal level as a lot of them may have attended your school. Ultimately, they are the ones who will decide if you get a first round interview and then conduct the interview. You want one or more of these guys pulling for you!

One last thing – apply everywhere! Maximize your options. Apply to boutique firms and bulge brackets. Even if you do not like some firms, you can always change your mind. Also, applying to more places gives you extra practice, which is very valuable for the long-term.

Alyssa M., (Ashland University, ’14)
Retail Merchandising Rookie at Under Armour

I would highly recommend going to career fairs and meeting employers face-to-face. When it comes to paper, resumes can look the same. However, what will set you apart from your competition is your personality and how it fits with the position and company you are seeking out. Make sure you have a sufficient amount of interview practice before you land your “dream” interview and be confident when answering questions. Always be truthful and have confidence that you are being interviewed for a reason, as you have already been selected out of thousands of applicants for a first round interview.

Kristin C., (Duke University, ‘14)
Institutional Equities Summer Analyst at Morgan Stanley

Soak up knowledge from as many different sources as possible. For prospective finance interns, I recommend Bloomberg radio and articles, The Wall Street Journal, Training the Street, Vault Guides, and books such as Too Big To Fail and Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. I also suggest that younger students, regardless of the industry he or she pursues, find a “Board of Directors.” By this, I mean that the individual should not only have one or two mentors, but several, each of whom knows the student in a different way. These mentors should range in age, interests, and personality. I learned this concept from a very wise man who works at my university Career Center. Cultivate these relationships, and you will reap rich rewards for years to come, because through them you can gain and maintain invaluable perspective.

Zsofia S., (Duke University, ‘14)
Global Financial Institutions Summer Analyst at Wells Fargo

If you don’t have a traditional finance background, come up with at least five ways in which you explain why you want to go into banking (or consulting). Interviewers might push you to answer how your experiences in X, Y, and Z are relevant to the job and you want to have a very clear answer. Creating a narrative about your trajectory at school (which might not have had a clear trajectory) is critical. The interviewer has to be convinced that your “unique” background is appropriate for the job in every way.

From my experience, the most important thing while going through interviews is to remember who you are and what you want to get across to the interviewer. In high stress finance or consulting interviews, it is easy to get guided outside of your comfort zone where you end up talking about something completely foreign to you. Once you are here, never “defend” yourself. The easiest way to get out of these situations is to try to answer the question calmly and to the best of your capabilities.

If you don’t know the answer, simply express this. It is better to be honest than to lie. In this instance, conclude with a statement about what you specifically could offer to the position instead. Be precise and conscious with the words you choose – simple buzzwords can land you the interviewer’s approval, but the reverse is also true.

Continue in the series to read about securing the job offer.

Caroline Herrmann is a junior at Duke University majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in German Studies. She is working on a Markets & Management Studies certificate. Her goal is to attend business school and she would love to work in marketing or consulting in the United States or Europe. She was a part of the first Forté College Leadership Conference and can be found on Twitter at @caroooline717.

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