Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CFN on Campus: Countdown to Summer

Consortium students across the country have reached that point where they can take a breath, acknowledge what they've accomplished during the year and start the steady countdown to graduation or summer.

Summer internships, summer respites before starting new jobs, new opportunities and the Consortium Orientation Program for yet another new batch of Consortium students are just around the corner.

For Consortium students in finance, 2010 has been more promising and more upbeat than the uncertainties and confusion of 2009. Many are quick to say we aren't quite there yet--the good old days when MBA students might need two hands to count the number of offers and opportunities or when some were astonished by sign-on bonuses and starting compensation. In recruiting, it's still a battle, a hard, long game to endure from the moment school starts right up to spring break.

This year, however, many students accomplished the goals they set during the first week of the school year. Consortium finance students will be interning at major financial institutions everywhere and will redirect their school energies into turning those internships into full-time offers by September.

Consortium interns this summer will be at JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America/Merrill, and UBS. Most of these will be in investment banking and private banking roles.

As in previous years, because sales & trading groups at major banks seldom sponsor formal internship programs, few students are heading into that direction, although some maintain interests. The same applies to hedge funds, private-equity companies, or small asset-management firms. They don't disregard MBA candidates; they just tend to hire on a one-off basis.

Some students will be a smaller banking boutiques, and some will use the summer to explore something different--e.g., energy companies, industrial companies in corporate finance, or non-profits. A few Consortium students will split the summer--working for different companies or working in two different parts of the country--to explore more what they might want to do in the long run.

And some decided this is the best time to take an international assignment. Instead of studying abroad for a few weeks, why not work 10 or more weeks in a different country or learn another language, culture and financial system? One Consortium finance student, Aaron Barrera of Indiana, for example, will be in Jakarta, Indonesia this summer.

Some Consortium students have already begun to prepare to convert those internships into full-time offers. No student wants to be caught unaware where he or she stands by the eighth week of the summer, still wondering whether there is a shot of getting that offer.

At major companies and financial institutions, the odds work in the students' favor. Their objective is to hire as many as they can for full-time spots, if only to reduce the burden of having to hire on campus in the fall. Yet they want to make sure they made the right choices among the interns.

As always among MBA finance students, they want to be assured everybody has first-rate technical skills. They assume MBA students are competent technically, but hope they hired those who are technically strong. Thus, MBA interns ought to find every opportunity to prove how polished they are. So while there will be the usual social events to meet senior managers and after-work cocktail gatherings to impress each other, MBA interns should leap at the chance to work on projects, deals, presentations, and research to show technical competence.

Also, they shouldn't wait to solicit feedback or find out how they are faring. The 10 weeks fly by swiftly. Sometimes time goes so fast that students find they didn't get many chances to work on projects or get proper feedback. At worst, they don't want to find themselves in situations where an end-of-summer selection committee is struggling to figure out what they accomplished, how they proved themselves, or who they are.

MBA interns, therefore, help themselves by reaching out to mentors and supervisors regularly, by taking initiative to work on projects or participate in deals or research whenever possible, and by asking managers often, "How am I doing?"

Second-year Consortium students, on the other hand, are still climbing to the surface after the impact of the financial crisis. Opportunities the past two year evaporated, and they couldn't get the right internships to channel them into coveted full-time spots--because offers were scarce. Most have survived, have turned their eyes to Plan B, have made the best of the abysmal circumstances, and will, in fact, be headed off to solid full-time roles all over. This year's graduates will be at JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Standard Chartered, the Federal Reserve, Bank of America, and more.

Now is the time for this class to ease toward the finish line and take some of those fascinating courses they couldn't get to last year: Ethics, strategy, real estate, venture capital, entrepreneurship, portfolio analysis, derivatives, trading analysis, market competition, or financial regulation.

One Consortium second-year student, Paul Ababio, at NYU-Stern this spring organized a trip to Africa to Tanzania to explore that country's economic and business prospects. He and other deputies led 80 MBA students who studied marketing, operations, program management and human resources during their time there. They visited Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and other sites and met with leaders from financial institutions.

Ababio's trip proved to be one of the most popular and successful spring excursions at Stern, and he expects the school will continue the program to Africa next year, when he has graduated. After graduation, Ababio will enter the management-associates program at Standard Chartered. After training in Singapore, he will work in the bank's office in Ghana.

Tracy Williams

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