Gaining work experience in financial services while you’re still in school can add up to great career prospects after graduation.
According to a recent Accountemps study, gaining prior work experience in the financial service industry is becoming a prerequisite for most jobs, even at the entry level. The study revealed that 78% of Chief Financial Officers said it was important for entry level accounting and financial professionals to gain practical experience while still in university.
While this may seem counter-intuitive, Accountemps Division Director David Augustin says, in the current market, employers in this field “want any new hire to come in and contribute effectively immediately.”
How to get an internship
Internships and co-op positions can often be set up through your school career center or academic advisor, or found online here on TalentEgg.ca, but David says that, increasingly, students are finding positions through networking.
If you are unable to find internships through school or your personal networks, he says you should look into volunteer options for school clubs or local organizations. While working as the treasurer for you school’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity may not be as glamorous as working in a big firm, it will still give you the work experience and resume blurb that you need to impress future employers.
Acing the internship interview
Whether you find the internship openings through friends, family or your school, once you get to the interview stage, David says you should highlight the soft skills that will make you a great intern.
Most students applying for internships don’t tend to have much technical experience, so you’ll need to highlight your work ethic, positive attitude, communications skills and attention to detail that would make you a great hire.
The companies can teach you on-the-job skills, but these soft skills are essential for a successful internship and are therefore something that employers look for in the interview process.
How to stand out at your internship
Go outside your job description
Think of your internship like your big break into the industry – you don’t want to fade into the crowd, you need to stand out.
Though it may be a bit intimidating at first, David says you shouldn’t be afraid to take initiative and volunteer for different projects that grab your interest. Sticking to your job description won’t help you showcase your skills to employers.
“They’re trying to get the most out of you, but you should be trying to get the most out of them,” David says. “To really stand out, you want to go above and beyond”
Additionally, David says that conducting yourself in a professional manner is imperative. In the age of social media, students can sometimes forget that what they tweet or post. Updates can be seen by your friends, but also by your employers, so he advises interns to use caution before hitting the “post” button.
Finally, while internships may not always entail the most exciting work, David says that a positive attitude can go a long way in leaving a positive impression on your bosses and co-workers.
How to make the most of your experience
Build your professional network
Getting out of the classroom and into the workforce for the first time is one of the first major opportunities students have to network with working professionals in the finance and accounting field, says David.
Making connections with co-workers and managers who can be references for future job applications is essential – these are the people who represent the beginnings of your professional network.
Measure your skills and accomplishments for your resume
When it comes time to add your internship to your resume, he adds that it’s important to draw attention specific skills that you gained during your experience so you can demonstrate that you not only have the skills, but that you can also communicate what you learned effectively.
Additionally, David says that you should focus on areas where you went above and beyond, such as those projects that you volunteered to be a part of rather than just those that you were assigned to.