Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First-Year MBAs: Internships and Recruiting

What are current sentiments, trends, and outlook, as MBA students prepare for a tough job market in 2012-13? What are the best tools, advice, and guidelines to get ready?

The Consortium Finance Network hosted a webinar Nov. 22 for first-year Consortium MBAs in finance to discuss strategies for recruiting and securing internships for the summer, 2012.

Panelists included Consortium graduates Eddie Galvan, Denzil Vaughn, and Enoch Kariuki. CFN founding members Tracy Williams and Camilo Sandoval (also a Consortium alumnus) and the Consortium's D-Lori Newsome-Pitts organized the webinar.

Fortunately for students, the hiring environment for 2012 is not as discouraging as it was in 2008-09, when financial institutions worried more about survival than bringing aboard new MBAs.  Yet with announcements every other day from banks about rounds of lay-offs, finance students know the task of winning an offer for a meaningful internship will be tricky.

Market volatility in recent months, frenzied discussions about U.S. debt reduction, a stumbling economic recovery and persistent rumblings from Europe all have impact even in hiring MBA students.  The webinar provided strategies for new students.

Panelists said there is some optimism--despite all.  Financial institutions are in better shape now than they were in 2008. They have stronger capital cushion and are flooded with cash reserves, although they momentarily are suffering from trading losses or slow deal flow.  They are, however, hopeful they'll get over a late-2011-2012 hump, endure a long election year and want to be prepared for 2012-13.

Many large firms, panelists said, are optimistic and hopeful, but cautious. There are areas of opportunity (private banking, risk management, middle-market banking, e.g.), but there are also areas of decline or little hope (some sectors in trading).  Financial reform, not just economic conditions, will also affect recruiting trends. 

For now, financial institutions this fall made the rounds at Consortium and other top business schools, as they usually do, no matter the environment. A few canceled planned presentations on campus--still unsure about deal flow, new clients, new business, and costs to support business efforts in the short term. Most institutions are struggling to count how many spots for MBA internships it will offer.  The same institutions have a decades-long history for not getting the number right (over-hiring, under-hiring, and doing so too quickly). They certainly have a habit for changing the expected number throughout the process.

MBAs, nonethless, throughout the post-crisis fracas, continue to have degrees of interest in finance. Over 80 students in this year's Consortium first-year class expressed interest in financial services, banking, sales & trading, investment research, and asset management.

Panelist during the webinar provided a road map for students.  How do you take advantage of networks? How do you choose the right finance sector, culture and fit?  Why is it important to keep up with current topics?  How do you confront technical interviews?  Will you succeed in certain environments? How do you impress an institution where you prefer to work? How do you control and master rounds and rounds of interviewing?

Panelists shared stories of how they chose to work at a certain firm, why they chose one firm over another, or why they took a detour and went into a non-banking role.  They showed, too, how they tapped networks to find opportunities.  They advised on how students can manage academics, recruiting and keeping up with trends and events in markets. They reminded students to handle technical interviews with confidence and preparation.

They discussed trends in diversity. Are the major institutions still committed? Will institutions be committed in all times--good times, downturns, booms?

And once you have the offer, how do you negotiate and accept it? How do you make sure the summer internship leads to a full-time offer?  Panelists shared their experiences.

CFN, upon request, will share details of the presentation to Consortium students and alumni.

Tracy Williams

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