First Year Work Experience in Finance

We’re all well aware of the importance of having relevant work experience when it comes to applying for jobs, but surely that’s not something you need to think about in your first year of university?!

Well sure, you don’t have to, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. The truth is that competition for jobs in the finance industry is high, so the earlier you start working on that CV, the better!

Having a number of work experience placements isn’t only about making you look good, of course – it’s also a perfect chance for you to try out the different areas (and different companies!) in the finance industry. Any work experience placement is a two-way deal: a chance for you to show yourself off to the company you’re working for, but also an opportunity for the company to sell themselves to you.

Luckily for you, the finance industry is rife with work experience opportunities so, without further ado, let’s have a look at your options…

Insight/Open Days

What are they?

Many large firms (including KMPG, PwC, Deloitte and EY) run open days for students at various stages of their education. These are a great way of getting a taste of the finance world, as well as different firms. They are also a perfect opportunity to network; often, you’ll get the chance to speak to the graduate recruitment team, current employees and trainees, which can give you a point of contact when applying for more formal internships.

What does the application process involve?

Another bonus of open days is that they are relatively easy to get a place on. Most firms will require that you satisfy their academic criteria and provide a short statement as to why you want to attend, but that’s as strenuous as the application process gets.

First Year Internships

What are they?

Firms are increasingly offering internships for first year students. These tend to be both less competitive and much shorter (usually one to two weeks) than the vacation schemes and extended summer placements available to second and third years.

These internships will often involve sitting with a team in one of the firm’s core business areas so you can get a deeper understanding of how the firm works. If you then decide to apply to the same firm for a graduate scheme, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon in the application process. It will also prove to the firm that you have a vested interest in them!

What does the application process involve?

The application process for a first year internship is likely to be a bit tougher than that for an open day. You may have to fill out an online application form and do some kind of an interview, either telephone, group or individual (or a mixture of the three!). Some firms also require you do some psychometric tests.

Speculative Applications

What are they?

Funnily enough, the majority of companies in the financial services industry don’t have structured work experience placements, especially not for first years! But that doesn’t mean they aren’t open to giving work experience. In fact, many of them do offer work experience on an ad hoc basis to a whole range of students, from GCSE level to graduates.

So how do you get these mysterious unadvertised placements? The answer is in speculative applications!

How do I make a speculative application?

If you’ve scoured a certain company’s website and can’t find even the whiff of a structured work placement opportunity, giving the relevant department (usually HR) a call can’t hurt.

Key questions to ask would be:

  1. Do you accept speculative applications? (Obviously!)
  2. Who should I address it to?

Once you have the relevant details, it’s time to craft that perfect cover letter (remember to include your CV!).