Why you MUST get an internship

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Don't spend next summer at the beach, spend it at a bank. In the wake of the financial crisis, firms are refocusing their recruitment on summer internships in order to provide them with an inexpensive and proven talent pipeline when it comes time to recruit permanent graduate trainees.

Interns aren't paid much for the weeks they work and there isn't an obligation to take on permanent headcount in today's volatile market. But a year down the track (when the interns graduate), banks still have a ready-made supply of potential employees, thus reducing their reliance on costly campus hiring-drives.

At most major banks, about 80% of trainees are former interns. "We definitely aren't doing as much recruitment at universities to get our trainees. We're relying much more on our interns joining us when they graduate," says the head of HR at a major bank, who asked not to be named.

Internships are vital to both students and banks, says Sally Whitman, Deutsche Bank's Asia Pacific head of graduate resourcing.

"They are a great way to improve your skills and knowledge, not to mention your chances of being offered a full-time position on the graduate programme. A key purpose of our internship programme is to provide a strong pipeline and we are currently out on campus hiring interns for next summer," says Whitman.

Goldman Sachs JBWere, like most firms, isn't axing its interns. "We're absolutely committed to the summer internship programme...We will be offering the same kind of numbers as last year," says a spokeswoman for the bank.

Thousand of Aussie students apply for internships, but only hundreds are chosen, so students should do all they can to secure a spot.

But how do you become one of the lucky few? Applicants should gain knowledge of the finance industry and the individual bank, advises a spokeswoman from Citigroup.

"Read the business and finance sections of newspapers and know about recent deals. Know who the key players are, and speak to as many people as you can in the industry. Visit the website, research the company's recent deals, gain an understanding of the firm's structure and business lines," she adds.

Deutsche's Whitman says interviewers expect you to do your homework, "so a top tip would be not to ask the obvious questions, or questions that you can find the answers to elsewhere".

Most domestic banks will start recruiting for 2009/10 summer internships towards the middle of this year.

As an example of potential numbers, ANZ offered 52 internships in 2008, in areas such as operations, institutional banking, IT, risk, finance, strategy and markets. "It's a great way for students to learn about our business," says ANZ's acting head of graduate strategy Sarah O'Brien.

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