It's that time of year again. A few hundred first year university students who think they might want to go into banking when they graduate are about to spend five days getting to know the industry. Those five days are investment banks' so-called, 'spring weeks.'
If you're one of the lucky students, you can be assured that you won't do much (if any) actual work during the spring week. Instead it will be mostly spent watching presentations, networking with banks' staff, playing online games relating to banks' businesses, and work shadowing the analysts and associates. Spring weeks aren't about actually working in a bank - they're about banks selling you the idea of a career in banking when you graduate. You won't get a job offer from a spring week. If you're lucky, you might get fast-tracked into an interview for the banks' summer internship. Sometimes you won't even get that.
Nonetheless, spring weeks can be valuable. And it is possible to mess them up. If you're lucky enough to have a place on one, this is how you can blow your chances of a banking career before it's even begun.
You may not be working during the spring week, but this does not mean that lateness is acceptable. You are in a professional environment. Being late one morning due to transport issues might be ok. Being repetitively late won't be. The same applies to the return from lunch: make sure you are at all your sessions on time.
Spring week is one big informational session. Nadia Capy-Osgood, a former Deutsche Bank graduate recruiter who works for Graduate Solutions, an independent City-focused graduate recruitment firm, says that students who've attended spring weeks will encounter more difficult questions when they interview for summer internships in investment banks. For this reason, she says you need to write down and remember everything that you learn over the five days.
"If I'm interviewing someone who's been on a spring week, I'll give them an 'upper level interview'," says Capy-Osgood. "A surprising number of people who've done spring weeks do get rejected at the first round of summer internship interviews and that's because they're not properly prepared and still don't know much about the industry despite having spent a week working in it," she adds.
As well as learning about the industry, spring weeks are about networking. "You need to get out there and to speak to the right people," says Lewis Talbot, former head of the equity and multi-asset group at Blackrock, who now runs City Internships (an internships firm). "A spring week is all about learning a little bit about the industry and making some connections. It's up to you to ensure that happens," he adds.
David Ainscough, deputy director of Cambridge University's careers service, says he advises Cambridge students on spring weeks to take down the names of bankers they meet so that they can get in touch with them in future [although pestering people is clearly inadvisable]. It also helps if spring week interns spend some of their free sessions getting in touch with alumni from their universities who work at that bank, says Ainscough. Make the most of the opportunity to meet as many people as possible.
If you're on a spring week, you're probably 19-21. You may think you know a lot about economics and finance. You probably do know a lot about economics and finance. Don't let this come across too forcibly, however.
Ideally you want people to remember you from your spring week - and for the right reasons. "Always follow up any exposure you've had to people in the bank with a polite email thanking them for their time and expressing your interest," says Ainscough.
Banks will never admit it, but it can be a hard call selecting people for spring week programmes. First year university students don't tend to be very differentiated. They will all claim to be interested in finance, many will have excellent academics.
In their effort to select the best spring week applicants, rumour has it that banks will often choose students whose family work in finance already. Aged 19, the sons and daughters of bankers are the most likely to have some financial services experience on their CVs. Be sure to be very pleasant to everyone else on the spring week, therefore.
You are in a bank, not a bar. Play it very safe with your outfits - especially on dress down day, advises Ainscough.
You're going to be in London. The City has a new(ish) shopping centre. That's not the purpose of your week.
If you want to convert your spring week into a summer internship, you should use what you learn as the starting point for improving your knowledge about finance. Go away and research concepts, ideas, valuation techniques and financial products. That way you will be properly prepared when you apply for a summer internship in eight months' time. You need to put the effort in yourself - the spring week will point you in the right direction.