Guest blog by LSE alumna Sobia Shaikh who now works for RBS Corporate and Institutional Banking:
I studied Economics at LSE because I had a genuine passion for the subject matter and its relevance to everyday life. I hadn’t really planned what I wanted to do once I had finished university, but towards the end of my first term at LSE, spring internship mania kicked in on campus. As I saw fellow first year students frantically applying to spring internships, I too decided to join the herd. In the end, I applied to numerous week-long internships at various different banks and received two successful offers within the financial markets division.
During the spring week internship, my perceptions of banking (mainly created by ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’), were shattered very quickly. The banking industry has changed significantly post the financial crisis and I enjoyed the idea of working through the challenges posed by increased regulation. In my penultimate year at university, I secured a summer internship at RBS and was offered a graduate role. I have been working there for the past two years and my current role is targeted at capital mitigation and reducing Risk Weighted Assets (RWA).
From applying for my first internship to finishing my graduate programme a few weeks ago, below are the top bits of advice I would have liked to have known when starting out:
To increase the chances of getting into banking, apply early. The majority of banks have spring internship programmes for first year students and not only is this a great opportunity to get an overview of banking and see whether it’s for you, it is also the easiest point of entry into the industry.
Your degree subject is irrelevant
A common misconception is that you need to do an economics degree to get into banking but this could not be further from the truth. Increasingly, banks are actively looking for graduates with foreign language skills and graduates from different degree backgrounds. As long as you are intelligent and show a passion for the job, your degree subject will not hinder your chances.
Network, network, network
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, not exactly, but it certainly helps open doors. Making sure you speak to as many professionals as you can and leaving a good first impression is essential. Be friendly, introduce yourself and let your enthusiasm to learn shine through. Perhaps even send a few follow up emails to those you connected with – you never know when these connections may prove useful.
It is impressive when a junior does a given task well and on time but what is even more impressive is anticipating the needs of your seniors and delivering on that without being asked. Think of how tasks can be done more efficiently and how processes can be streamlined to become a valuable asset to the team.
Be open to change
The banking industry is evolving constantly and the role you are hired to perform early on will not define the rest of your career. Make sure you are constantly learning, being challenged and always be open to new opportunities that come your way. Remember: flexibility is made possible by developing a strong set of skills that are applicable in a variety of roles.