If you don't land a summer internship, is that the end of your dream of working for an investment bank?
Not necessarily, according to the banks. Although they typically draw around 50% of their full-time graduate hires from the summer internship pool, the other 50% are non-interns. "If you don't get a summer internship, it's not the end of the world," says Derek Walker, head of graduate recruitment at Barclays Capital.
However, Walker says the failure to secure a summer internship in an investment bank should not be treated as a license to work in a surf shack at Newquay: you may not be spending the summer learning about bond pricing, but you should nevertheless spend it doing something constructive.
Quite what 'something constructive' amounts to is a matter of dispute, with different banks' graduate recruiters offering differing advice. So what else do they suggest you do?
Go blue chip
Barclays Capital's Walker says 'something constructive' generally, but not always, means applying for structured internships at other blue chip companies - he says Barclays Capital has hired plenty of people who interned at Big Four accountancy firms, for example.
But SallyAnn Birchall, head of graduate recruitment at Deutsche Bank, says it's better to try and work in an investment bank in any role, even if it's only doing something administrative. "The best thing you can do is to sign up with a couple of really good temping agencies that investment banks use," she says. "Get a foot in the door and it will give you an understanding of how banks work." Agencies to try include Michael Page, Norman Broadbent, and Hays.
Join the club
Any finance club, that is. If you don't land an internship in an investment bank, Allison Bridle, head of graduate recruitment at BNP Paribas, says you'll need to demonstrate your interest in finance in other ways. This could mean joining your university finance club, playing share trading games run by investment banks, or applying for work experience at smaller companies like local stockbroking firms.
Go for shorter work experience stints
Miranda Rands, an analyst in a UK client relationship team at Goldman Sachs, for example, joined the bank last July after completing a masters in physics at Oxford University. Although she didn't undertake a summer internship, she did several two-week work placements at companies such as Cazenove (an investment bank which is now part of a joint venture with JPMorgan), Fortis Investments, an asset manager, and Chiltern, a tax consultancy. "By spending time in related areas, I was able to learn about the industry and make an informed decision about what I wanted to do," she says.
Pack your bags?
Recruiters disagree as to whether travelling the world amounts to a constructive use of the summer. Walker thinks not."A holiday in Mexico is just that - a holiday." But Brian Hood, head of graduate recruitment at Citigroup says travelling, if combined with volunteering, can be valuable. "Travel is all about independence and resilience," he says.
Spending your summer travelling may therefore be a viable proposition, as long as you combine it with some form of voluntary work and as long as you can talk positively about the experience during an interview. Hood says: "As long as students can make a link between what they gained from travelling with what they have to offer an employer in terms of their skillset, it's worthwhile."
Similarly, recruiters say charity work in the UK can be a good idea, particularly if you work for a large organisation, such as Cancer Research UK.
Go for a positive spin
Whatever you do, it's arguably the ability to talk positively about what you do instead of a summer internship, and draw parallels between that and the skills banks are looking for, that will really determine your success when applying for a full-time graduate position.
"It's all about understanding the benefits of the work experience you've undertaken," says Scott at Morgan Stanley. "You need to be positive, but realistic about your work experience -we're looking for initiative and entrepreneurship and most jobs, however junior, provide an opportunity to demonstrate that somewhere."