It’s recruiting season again – the busiest time of the year for Harrison Careers – and it seems like the market for internships and jobs in Finance, and in multiple other areas, has never been more competitive. One of the questions I am often asked is how can a university student make the most of the resources that are freely available in order to land a top finance internship?

In this article, I will discuss 3 key things you can do as a university student to further your job search – (1) become friends with your university’s career services department, (2) attend (virtual) networking events, and (3) reach out to your alumni network.

Become friends with your career services department

Many universities have entire departments dedicated to developing the careers of their students, and many of the leading universities are exceptionally good at this. The key thing to understand is that it is this department’s job to help you find a job – that’s literally why they’re there! You can get free counseling, free interview coaching and great networking help – IF you manage to build a strong relationship with the career services department.

Many students use the services of this department and never show their faces again – they don’t tend to invest in their relationships with career services department employees, commonly attending ‘CV grilling’ or similar sessions, saying a quick thank you, and disappearing into the ether.

However, you should be different. Connect with the staff on a personal level. Send follow-up thank you emails. Continue meeting with them, and keep them in the loop with your job search. Eventually, your relationship will grow – and they will go the extra mile for you. These people know what it takes to get a top internship. They have all the industry connections – and if they like you, they will help you, for example by referring you to interviews with top companies.

Attend virtual networking events

Goldman Sachs received 15,000 applications for their summer internship program in London last year. By the time HR went through the first 5000 applications, it is highly likely that their entire internship class was already full. That is why they always say that they recruit on a ‘rolling admissions’ basis – many think that this means the earlier you apply, the better. This is true, but it’s only half the truth.

The earlier you apply, the further ‘up’ you are in the company’s CV ranking system (which ranks which CVs they should look at first). So yes, apply early – but also ensure that you are even further up in this ranking system by attending the company’s networking events, and applying with the same email address you used for the networking event. The same is true when you attend a virtual networking event – the system records your attendance – so apply using the same email address, and the system will ensure that you are ranked further up. (Of course, building relationships out of these networking events helps a lot too!)

Reach out to your university’s alumni network

Nothing works better than getting a direct referral from someone who currently works within the company you are applying to. Create a LinkedIn profile, make sure it makes you look great, and then reach out to friends and friends of friends. Ask around, or do a LinkedIn search, to see who currently works at the company you are applying to.

The best practice is to then set up a short 10-minute phone call with the person and ask them a few insightful questions. Make sure they are not standard ‘what is it like to work there’ type of questions – do your research and ask specific questions. What do you think about the XYZ development at your company? How did you know that the specific field you are currently working in is the right one for you? Those kinds of questions can open up longer and more interesting conversations – and ultimately will help you to build strong relationships that will further your career.

End the call by saying ‘It would be great if I could send you my CV and get your thoughts on it. Never ask for a referral through – the referrals will come by themselves if you are impressive on the call.

Good luck with your job search!

If you need any help with interviews, or with networking your way into a great internship or full-time job (especially now that applications are closed for many of the top finance, and other, companies), let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

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