Summer internships are the most important thing you can do as a student trying to get into a bank, and there's no shortage of advice on how to make the most of them and eventually secure a full-time role. But most follow a similar pattern: work hard, learn fast, network and exceed expectations. All these pearls of wisdom do undoubtedly contribute to your success.
But I think you have to do more to stand out. This piece is not about how to ace your time as a summer intern at a top financial institution, but about what made me redefine my own standards for success beyond the norm.
I am part of the new generation of millennials and that in and of itself is a powerful statement. Why? Because millennials represent the new age of information. Since we were born, we have had the world at our fingertips, enormous amounts of information and endless opportunities to explore. That resulted in the creation of the most complex and informed generation so far. We are continuously changing and will change the rules of the game in financial services.
Succeeding at my summer internship was largely down to two assets that most millennials possess, but not all harness – forward thinking and the power of authenticity.
1. Forward thinking
As any other millennial, I am very passionate about how technology works and how I can use it to make things better. Being fascinated by how easily we can bring great positive changes in our everyday lives through programming and new technologies, I started to learn the basics of coding and to educate myself in how artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and the internet of things work.
Pursuing a B.S. in Economics and Politics, I have little to do with the world of programming, but I realized the importance technology has gained in every aspect of our lives and its increased interconnectedness with any existing profession.
Forward thinking has empowered me to design a self-initiated automation project in the first weeks of my internship after identifying internal communication issues. It also made me participate in a hacking competition organized by the company, where, alongside a team of interns we came up with ways to analyze news and to use the findings in trading by integrating machine learning and sentiment analysis.
I was also inspired to come up with an idea and design an app that integrates existing technologies in order to facilitate secure mobile payments.
Forward thinking not only helped me extend my network and meet people from different areas of the business who I would otherwise never speak to, but also paved my way to getting one-to-one meetings with senior management. I had the chance to present my ideas to the COO, CFO and CEO of wealth management.
2. The power of authenticity
What that means for me, is embracing and enhancing the things that make you stand out and that empower you to be different.
Harnessing your authenticity through your personal education, skills, culture, country, language, life experience and hobbies gives you the power to bring a matchless contribution to the workplace. Our generation is more empowered than ever to innovate and improve everything. In my case, relying on my distinct approach in tackling the given objectives of the Barclays internship helped me to come up with new ideas for products and improving the client experience.
One of the most influential Wall Street female figures, Carla Harris of Morgan Stanley, often says: “Own your power.” Our generation has a great creative instinct and entrepreneurial spirit, and we should own our power to innovate and improve the culture and the ways of doing business in the financial services industry. This also means that the bar is set higher, and you need to do more than ever to stand out from your talented peers.
Irina Stoian is a student at King’s College London set to graduate later this year. She has done internships at Barclays, Raiffeisen Bank and BRD, a subsidiary of Societe Generale, and is the co-founder and business head of ArtScope, a fintech startup.
Photo courtesy of Stoian