CAREER ADVICE

How Juniors Should Prepare for an Internship in Financial Services

April 17, 2019

When it comes to a career in software engineering, quantitative research, or trading, internships are an integral part in establishing your skillset and discovering which paths you might want to follow over the coming years. As summer internship season will soon be upon us, we asked Citadel Securities’ talent development professionals for advice on how you can best utilize the months before your summer internship officially begins. Use this guidance to prepare for your upcoming internship and steer you towards a successful, long-term career in financial services.

Distill Your Personal Learning Goals

First and foremost, congratulations! At this point, you’ve made it through several rounds of interviews and are clearly one of the best and the brightest students with your particular background. It’s your career that is coming up and you should own it. Owning your career begins with identifying what you want to learn from your upcoming internship. While the firm will provide you with specific project goals, you’ll want to have a point of view on what you want to learn. Here are some example “personal learning goals”:

  • How do the best in this industry collaborate with one another?
  • What does winning look like for this firm and the team you are on?
  • What type of impact would you be able to make on a day-to-day basis if you were to commit to a long-term career in the industry?
  • What could your career look like in the future? A year from now? Five years from now?

Write three to four of these goals down and prepare to have a conversation with your manager about them on day one. Try to convey your commitment to continuous learning. Some of your peers may state their goals in a too-forward and selfish manner. Frame your goals as a way for you to learn about adding value at the firm.

Take Your Understanding of the Firm to the Next Level

Between the time that you’ve accepted your internship offer and when you officially start, you’ll want to absorb as much information about your organization as possible. Examine your firm with both a macro and micro lens.

From the macro lens, you should take time to consume more information about your firm’s role in the broader financial system. Check out your firm’s blog and see if they have explanations about the type of impact they make in the world. For example, our own Donnie Phillips explains the role of market makers.

From a micro lens, you should reach out to your future manager with some preliminary questions. We at Citadel Securities provide you with the contact information for your manager and potentially even a mentor prior to your first day. The act of sending along preliminary questions will show your passion to tackle complex challenges and take on significant responsibilities during your internship. Potential questions to ask include:

  • “What topic areas should I brush up on in advance of starting in the summer?” If you’re joining a technology team, your manager may steer you in the direction of topics such as machine learning or cloud computing. Alternatively, you may get a leg up by reading about a specific financial asset class.
  • “How can I prepare for the culture of the firm and your team?” For example, your manager may recommend a book or podcast that tangentially highlights aspects of the firm’s culture.
  • “Can you share an example of an intern stepping up from last year on your team?” This question highlights your desire to truly leverage your talents to push forward the firm you’re joining.

With this prep work complete, you’ll have laid the foundation for a successful and exciting internship.

Approach Your Internship as a Full-Time Career

At Citadel Securities, we empower interns with responsibilities and learning opportunities that are almost indistinguishable from those who are full-time team members. Similarly, you should approach your internship with the same level of passion that you take to anything that you may do for years and years. Specific ways to prepare in advance to consistently apply your passion include:

  • Outlining the types of people you’ll want to have on your “Personal Board of Directors.” You’ll want to build rapport with colleagues from across a number of teams who can provide you with advice today, next year, and throughout the course of your career. Write down the titles of roles for colleagues you may want to inquire. For example, if you’re joining as a quantitative researcher, you may want to build rapport with another researcher who was promoted quickly and a trader who effectively partners with the quantitative research teams.
  • Develop agenda items for your future meetings with your manager. Your manager will have a point of view on what topics should be covered in your regular meetings. You should have a point of view as well. You can make it a point to ask questions about why certain aspects of the business are the way they are. In addition, you can commit to bringing one new idea to your manager every time you meet.

We put a lot of thought, passion, and energy into the structure of our internship program. To make the most of any internship you have coming up, you should also put thought, passion, and energy into the preparation that will allow you to come out of the internship as a winner in your own career.

Learn more about our internship programs.