The virtual internships are coming. Bank of America's virtual interns arrive next week, on June 15th. Goldman, Citi and JPMorgan's are all turning up on July 6th. Most other banks with pandemic-inspired remote programmes have similar timing. For some students, the virtual internships will be an opportunity to walk into a full-time job offer. For others, they're already causing huge headaches.
"Some students don't have a quiet place to work, a decent webcam or a good enough laptop," says Andrew Osayemi, head of banking consulting and business programmes at Rare Recruitment and a former trader at RBS in London and New York. "Virtual internships are definitely going to cause issues for some people."
Rare Recruitment helps improve the social mobility of black heritage students with programmes designed to help them into roles at professional employers like banks, consulting firms and the law. Upreach, a programme run by former SocGen director John Craven, helps all disadvantaged students into professional jobs irrespective of race. Research conducted early in the pandemic by Upreach found that 35% of students on its programme don't have adequate internet access, let alone a quiet place to work. "We've had one student saying that if they need a lot of data for the virtual internship then the rest of their family have need to stop using data as they only have a limited data contract," says Craven. "It's a big issue."
There are ways of overcoming these problems, but they require already disadvantaged students to do additional groundwork before the virtual internships begin. Osayemi says he's linking-up students who need a quiet space for the internship and encouraging them to rent private rooms (on AirBnB or other platforms if necessary) so that they can ensure they're undisturbed. Students are well paid during banking internships and should invest to ensure the experience goes as well as possible, says Osayemi. "Instead of saving that money, spend it to make sure you have the right location and equipment."
In some instances, banks themselves will equip students with laptops and webcams. Craven says he's also encouraging banks to provide students with dongles so that they have unlimited wifi when it's not available at home. Where this isn't possible and students don't have the bandwidth to attend by video, he's working to make sure their circumstances are recognized and their lack of a visual presence isn't held against them.
Once the groundwork is in place, Osayemi says students who want to succeed in banks' virtual internships need to think extra hard about communication. "You will be judged by how well you communicate on video calls and how well you communicate by email," he says. "If you send someone a bad or snappy email that can be forwarded on it will very quickly work against you." Like Wall Street careers coach Roy Cohen, Osayemi advises sending follow-up emails after Zoom sessions: "It's about constantly being in touch to remind people that you're there."
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