Spring Weeks in investment banking are pitched as a taste of the industry, but the reality is that they’re really the essential first step into getting an investment banking job.
I’m a couple of years into my career in the City, and completed two Spring Weeks at leading banks while I was at university. They led directly to two M&A summer internships which in turn led to two full-time job offers (I got to choose). As I see it, those spring weeks are the foundation of my career.
It's a great shame, therefore, that I now see Spring interns come into my firm without a clue about how to make the most of them. If you're doing a Spring Week, you need to come prepared.
1. Know how your bank uses Spring Weeks
Spring Weeks are feeders into summer internships, but some banks hedge their bets. Some have far more Spring Week interns than places on the summer programmes: they just use the Spring Weeks to weed out the best candidates. For others, it’s one a few ways of recruiting summer interns and there are far more places available than Spring Week candidates. Work out which kind of bank you're Spring Weeking at. Find out how many summer internship opportunities there are. If not all Spring interns will get offers, you’ll need to network harder, stand out in the group activities and to develop the skills and knowledge you’ll need to get through the interview later.
If you're on a less competitive type of Spring Week, focus less on converting it into a summer internship and more on really getting to know the bank - how it operates and what you actually want to do there.
Lots of people in the organization put time aside to meet the Spring interns – this is a rare opportunity. Network with the bankers. Get to know your fellow interns too.
Networking with bankers is a great opportunity to get an idea about which teams you'd most like to work for. Hopefully, when you've bagged your offer of a summer internship, it'll help you get ahead in getting the department and team you really want.
Building a network within a bank is also really important marketing for yourself – no matter how big banks may seem, you’ll always be surprised by just how quickly you will start to build a name for yourself.
I’m still in contact with interns I met on my Spring Weeks; they are sprayed across financial services organisations across the world. I have contacts who can help me in my career. You will cross paths with your Spring Week contacts again.
3. Come armed with industry knowledge
The aim of Spring Weeks is to give you an introduction to investment banking, and banks will make a big effort to take you through the basics. But you need to research the industry and firm before you begin.
One reason for this is to ensure you’re not on the defensive – if you haven’t put in the effort you’ll be behind the other (usually super-keen) interns.
Secondly, it’ll help you network with more senior bankers. If they have to spend five minutes explaining the basic parts of their jobs to you, you’ll never get to the more interesting conversations.
Finally, prior knowledge of the industry helps you focus on the Spring Week and work out where you want your career to go. If you know something already, you'll know which people you want to target and which sessions will be of real value – otherwise, it’s all a bit overwhelming.
4. Don’t be seen as a liability
Spring Weeks are supposed to be fun. You have no responsibility and for probably the only time in your career, banks are trying to win you over. There will be parties – enjoy them, you want people to like you and you want to get to know them when they let their hair down a bit.
Just don’t do anything stupid. 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.
5. Don’t brag
If you’re fortunate to have multiple internships, don’t brag about it. This might sound petty, but 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.
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.
James Smith had two offers to work in M&A before deciding to take a job at a large strategic consultant instead.