If you're a first year university student and you're not about to start a spring week internship in an investment bank, then bad luck. Spring weeks (known as sophomore internships in the U.S., or as discovery programs and spring insight programs) have become a crucial part of investment banks' recruitment processes.
"I did two spring weeks and they were foundational for my career," says James Smith (a pseudonym), an M&A analyst at a bank in London. "My two spring weeks led to two M&A summer internships, which in turn led to two full time job offers."
For this reason, you not only need to apply for as many spring weeks as possible, but you should not go into one unprepared.
There is nothing wrong with multiple spring weeks
It's standard for students applying for banking jobs to have four or five spring internships to their names, so don't be shy about applying. "I applied to 20, I know people who applied to 40," says one incoming intern. "The optimum is applying to 15+ to beat the odds."
He adds that it's best to applying as soon as the spring intern applications open (check in October) as applicants are accepted on a rolling basis, and spring weeks are "immensely competitive" to get onto.
Know how the bank you're joining uses Spring Weeks
Many, but not all, banks use spring weeks to select staff for summer internship programs in the following year (if you get a spring week at Barclays, Perella Weinberg Partners, or Rothschild, this will seemingly be the case, for example). But this doesn't mean you'll make a smooth transition. "Some banks have far more Spring Week interns than places on the summer programmes: they just use the Spring Weeks to weed out the best candidates," says Smith. He advises that you find out how many summer internship opportunities there are. - If only a few spring interns will get places, you need to work your spring week all the harder.
In most cases, you'll be expected to complete an assessment during the spring week that will decide whether you go directly to the summer internships. Some firms don't offer this, though: at Pimco, for example, the spring internship isn't a fast-track to the summer internship.
Spring weeks are for networking - and not just with bankers
Both Smith and another former spring week intern stress that spring week is about networking. But not in the way you might think.
"Obviously, network with the professionals, get their business cards, etc. But the most valuable thing for me has been to stay in touch with the other interns!," says another ex-spring weeker who's joining a bank full time this summer. "Someone usually creates a large Whatsapp/Facebook group chat which is invaluable because even for those who don't convert, they'll probably be at another bank by next summer anyway," he says.
Many of the people you meet during your spring week will go into jobs in the industry: don't lose touch with them.
Know something before you start the spring week
Although the aim of Spring Weeks is to give you an introduction to investment banking, Smith says you'll benefit from knowing a bit before you start. - This way you'll be able to network more effectively with senior bankers and be better placed to work out where you want your spring week to go and the areas of the bank you'd like to target.
Don't be shy
A former spring week intern at the Big Four says you need to be visible. "We were put into groups/teams where we had to work on a consultancy/project pitch to an imaginary client offering x number of solutions to problems detailed in a scenario," he says. "You need to ensure you get involved as much as possible in these tasks. - They will look for someone who is able to speak and get their voice heard but also someone who allows others to speak and who can work in a team."
Don’t be seen as a liability
Most banks will also try to make spring weeks fun. There will be parties. Beware.
"Just don’t do anything stupid," says Smith. "Don't get drunk at a party. Don't mouth- off. Don't show any sort of behaviour that makes HR think you’re a bit of a liability. - You will be dumped."
You might have multiple spring internships, but don’t boast about them says Smith. "Investment banking is a small, competitive and very jealous world. If your preferred bank thinks you’re likely to go elsewhere at this stage, they won’t work as hard to keep you. That can mean not getting a summer internship offer. Be political and tactical – it’s a necessary evil."
"Don't be complacent," says one ex-spring intern. "On the 3rd, 4th or 5th day, some students can be late, talk during presentations or even going on their phones during sessions. This is not a good move as usually a professional or HR are keeping an eye on you! Imagine every day is your 1st day there!"
Remember what your ultimate aim is – securing an offer for a longer term internship. Spring Weeks are an important step, but they’re really about opening the first door in your investment banking career.
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