From a first year placement to a graduate role

A student joining Credit Suisse this autumn tells Hannah Langworth how her internships led to a job offer

Jacqueline Heybrock did two internships at investment bank Credit Suisse while studying history at the University of Oxford. She'll be joining the bank's Strategic Derivatives team after taking her finals this summer.

I didn't have a great deal of finance experience before university, but I spent a day at RBS while at school, and found it really interesting. After that, I had a chance to properly experience financial services while at university through my internships, and it was brilliant. You never know what a job in a particular industry will be like until you actually work there.

First year steps

I went to a number of finance graduate recruitment events once I started university, and through attending these, I applied for first year spring week programmes at a number of financial services organisations. I was offered a place at Credit Suisse, and after spending one week in their offices, I took part in an assessment centre on the final day. After that, I had two interviews about a week later, and was then offered my summer internship place.

Spring weeks, and other first year events, are a great route to securing internships. I know several people who applied for summer placements without having any work experience in their first year, and it was much more difficult for them to get an internship, although certainly not impossible. Getting my place through first year work experience also meant that I didn't have to apply for internships during my second year at university, which was really useful because doing so takes a lot of time.

Working it out

A few months before I started my internship, Credit Suisse sent us some exercises to complete online. These were particularly useful for me as my degree was completely unrelated to finance - they helped to give me a sense of the concepts and equations I would be working with when I arrived. I would also recommend doing some relevant reading beforehand to show you're interested in what the organisation does and that you actually want to work there.

I was in the Strategic Derivatives team, which works on structuring specialised equity derivatives products for clients. The work was very technical, so for the first few weeks I spent a great deal of time reading and talking to different members of my team, who did a fantastic job of explaining everything. I found that everyone was really willing to help me.

Getting to know you

In a way, the internship was a seven-week interview, for both myself and for Credit Suisse. From an employer's perspective, it's much easier, and fairer, to establish what a person is like by working with them for several weeks rather than from just one or two meetings. After I did each piece of work, I'd have to write up how I felt it went and ask my supervisors for feedback. We also all had assessment meetings halfway through the internship, during which they let us know how we were doing. During our fifth week, we were asked to do a presentation, which I actually enjoyed because the people I presented to were really encouraging. In general, I never felt I was under excessive pressure, or that someone was watching me the whole time. And all the way through, the Credit Suisse team emphasised that they wanted us to use the time to make sure we'd be happy working at Credit Suisse, so it was a seven-week interview from both sides.

At the end of my internship, I was offered a graduate place on the team I had been working in. I learnt a great deal while I was an intern, and I'm looking forward to building on my knowledge when I go back.

Succeeding on an internship

Here's Jacqueline's advice

Talk to lots of people: "It's definitely worth getting a feel for lots of lines of work. I found that everyone was really approachable and happy to go for a coffee to tell me about their job."

Take notes: "When you talk to people, take a notepad with you and write down what they're saying; it shows that you're listening and that you're interested in their work."

Ask questions: "No question is a silly question; in the long run it's better to ask and receive an answer straight away than to wait and get things wrong!"

Get to know other interns: "Being an intern in a large organisation means you have opportunities to meet all the other interns, giving you contacts in a whole range of departments, which can be very useful."

Stay positive: "Being upbeat will mean that people are more likely to want to work with you during your internship and in the future."

And if you haven't got one yet...

Credit Suisse and most graduate employers open their internship application processes early in the autumn. Here's Jacqueline's application advice

Go to events: "I would really recommend going to events before you start making applications; I went to a Credit Suisse women's event, which was really useful. It demonstrates that you're interested in the employer, and people will remember you if you talk to them. You don't always have to speak to the most senior bankers; analysts and associates can be really helpful too, because they remember what it's like to be in your position."

Find out about the differences between employers: "I'm a member of a finance society at Oxford and before I applied, the society enabled me to meet other people doing internships at various banks, who were able to tell me whether or not they had enjoyed working there and what the people they met were like."

Don't make too many applications: "I applied to only seven banks, which meant I could take time over each application and make sure it was tailored to the relevant bank."

Check out information online: "There are so many practice tests that you can do, and you'll also be able to find out more about the organisation in general to prepare you for interviews."

Be proud of your achievements: "Employers want to hear about you and the things you've done, so do yourself justice on application forms and in interviews."