If you think you’re interested in working for an investment bank or financial services firm, you can’t wait until just before you graduate to apply. – Banks line up student recruits years in advance, and if you only focus on getting in during the year before you graduate, you’ll be too late.
You need to start thinking about your banking job as soon as you arrive at university.
What to do as a first year (sophomore) student
The moment you arrive in your first year, you’ll need to start creating your CV and online profile. Visit banks’ careers websites and look at the campus sections for information on jobs for students. Check banks’ websites for their spring (in EMEA) and sophomore (in the U.S.) internship application deadlines. Submit applications to these internships. If you can achieve a place on a spring week or a sophomore internship and banks like you, they should fast-track you for an internship in your second year.
Join university clubs and societies relevant to the career you're interested in. Attend as many events – online and on campus as possible. During vacation time, look for work-shadowing placements or do voluntary work if you’re in a position to do so financially. This is the time to add experiences to résumé.
What to do as a second year student
The start of your second year is the key moment for securing a banking job when you graduate. Immediately you arrive in September, you need to update your resume with the previous summer's work experience. Check banks’ careers sites for deadline dates for summer internships (known as summer analyst programs in banking). Some U.S. banks open their summer analyst applications even before September – so you may even want to start checking whether these applications are open in July or August (in the U.S, some banks have been known to close intern applications in July) while you’re still on vacation.
You need to apply like crazy. Deadlines for internship applications are typically in mid to late November (although they can stay open through to December for harder to fill roles), but banks often hire on a first come first served basis, so don’t hang around.
If your applications are successful, you can expect the first semester of your second year to be filled with digital interviews and online tests, which banks use to screen applicants before interviewing human to human.
Ideally, you’ll get a place on 10 or 12 week summer analyst program (internship) in the summer of your second year. And if you do well on this program, the bank will offer you a place to join fulltime when you graduate.
What to do as third year student
In the perfect scenario you arrive in your third year at university with a full time graduate job lined up after your summer internship. If this isn’t the case, you now need to apply for graduate jobs like crazy.
Check all the banks’ sites for their deadlines for full time places on graduate training programs. Typically banks try to fill their graduate programs with interns from the previous summer, so competition for the remaining positions is intense. Some banks will open their graduate recruitment processes in July or earlier – so keep a very keen on eye on banks’ careers sites throughout the summer. In the U.S. banks’ deadlines for full time applications are typically October; in Europe, they can be November.
Not everyone will get a place on a graduate recruitment program at a big bank, and not everyone will follow this perfect timeline. If you don’t it’s not the end of the world. It’s becoming increasingly common for people to intern in investment banks after they’ve graduated (it can help if you intern and go on to study a relevant Masters, although this is another big expense). Many banks also run “off cycle” internships with different application deadlines.
If you don’t get a job at a big bank you can always try smaller firms with a more flexible approach.
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