Securing an internship or graduate job in the banking sector is as tough as it’s ever been. Recruitment volumes remain high, but with the number of applications rising, competition is considerable. So, what do you need in order to get your foot on the first rung of the career ladder?

What degree do you need?

Most companies are interested in graduates from all degree backgrounds – you don’t need to have a finance, economics or
mathematics-related degree in order to be considered. In fact, many employers are now increasingly looking for different degree disciplines as this provides more diversity of thinking within their workplaces. Employers will invest considerably in your training and development, and will expect your degree to demonstrate your intelligence, analytical ability and drive more than career-specific training.
Most employers are looking for potential rather than pure academic achievement. You need to demonstrate you’re a well-rounded candidate and not just have great exam results.

Essential skills

One of the most important things all recruiters will be looking for is a keen interest in financial markets. Being well informed about the industry in general, as well as the specific organisation you are applying to, and having the ability to form your own opinions about current issues affecting the industry is crucial.

In order to set yourself apart, you will also need to show you have:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Leadership qualities and interpersonal skills
  • Initiative and enterprise
  • Analytical ability and a talent for problem solving
  • Influencing skills and the ability to negotiate
  • The ability to be inquisitive and research topics thoroughly
  • Resilience
  • Strong communication skills.

Try to think of separate examples of how you have demonstrated these abilities as part of your degree, extracurricular activities and work experience, as you are likely to be asked to write about this during the application process.
While you are still at university, undertaking voluntary work or getting involved with a society can be a good way to show you have a wide range of skills from project management through to financial planning and can be a fantastic avenue to find out about opportunities and meet people in the industry. It can sometimes be challenging to take on extra commitments, but try to draw out things from your life that demonstrate responsibility, individuality and flexibility.

Languages

Although by no means a necessity, a second language is also very desirable, particularly as investment banks recruit on a global scale. Despite strong competition for most roles, banks can actually struggle to fill very niche positions, so if you happen to have the language skills and interests a particular role demands, it can put you in a very strong position as a candidate.

Experience

Work experience can be crucial to getting that first job: not just as a way of learning more about the industry and gaining new skills, but also to demonstrate your commitment to a career in banking. Many graduates are offered jobs or internships as a direct result of a summer internship or a spring insight week they’ve carried out with a firm.

To maximise your chances of securing a job in this competitive environment, previous work experience/work shadowing is important. In fact, candidates will often have completed multiple internships before leaving university. If this is an area that you are serious about entering, you need to be thinking of lining up some work experience as soon as you can.

Lastly, a genuine hunger for joining the industry, as well as demonstrating the motivation, enthusiasm, confidence and imagination which is needed in order to succeed in investment banking will ensure that you stand out from the crowd.

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