Friday, May 28, 2010

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Internship

by Marthe Druska, Senior Associate Director, Employer Relations and Development

As the end of the academic year approaches, many students are preparing to begin summer internships in a wide range of fields across the country and around the world. Whether you’re headed off to your dream internship or into a temporary position that’s just meant to pay the bills, here are some important tips for making the most of your experience:

  1. Be on time. This may seem commonsense (because it is), but being punctual at your internship is of the utmost importance. This doesn’t just apply to the first few weeks on the job--we mean the entire summer. Even the Monday morning after your significant other was visiting for the weekend? Yes. Even the day after you returned from a vacation with your family? Yes. Even the very last day of your internship, when all of your projects are done and you’re just showing up for a farewell lunch? Yes. Be on time to your internship every single day. Punctuality shows an employer that you are reliable and that they can count on you to be in the office when they need you. And since you likely want your summer employer to either offer you a full-time job or serve as a fantastic reference for future applications, you definitely want that person to know they can count on you.

  2. Dress the Part. The transition from classroom casual (sweatpants and yesterday’s semi-clean t-shirt) to business casual (somewhat dressy clothing that is clean and ironed) can be a jarring one when first starting out. Dressing well for a position doesn’t stop after the interview (although check out this article for tips on proper interview dress and presentation). You need to dress professionally and appropriately every time you show up at the office. Don’t let the day that you go to work in ripped jeans and flip flops be the day that your supervisor calls in sick and asks you to deliver an important document to the director of the company. As a general rule, plan to overdress on your first day of work--that is, wear an outfit that you would wear to an interview. Take stock of how the other staff in the office dress, and then aim to dress slightly better than they do. Why? Because they already have full-time jobs. If you want to stand out as an intern, make sure you’re doing so on all fronts.

  3. Do your work. You may be thinking, “Well, what else would I do?”, but picture this: it’s 3:45 PM on a Friday afternoon in July. The weather outside is perfect: 85 degrees outside, with a sunny blue sky. Your roommate has already texted you twice to say that he is on his way to the beach/pool/your favorite coffee shop with an outdoor patio. You, however, have been pouring over a spreadsheet, analyzing data for the past three hours, and you have at least three more hours of this ahead of you before you’ll be done for the day. What do you do? Don’t leave the office! Unless you have express permission from your immediate supervisor, resist the urge to cut corners, fail to see projects through to completion or just flake out in general. It only takes one slip-up to make a bad impression on an employer. And while you may think that it’s “only” a summer internship, the connections you make at your internship can easily influence your next step. Which brings us to…

  4. Network. We know--you hate it. If you have to hear about the importance of networking one more time, you’re going to throw your laptop out the window. You don’t want to contact complete strangers, and you especially don’t want to become buddies with that weird guy down the hall who always wants to talk about his latest family vacation. Too bad. Networking--with your fellow interns, with other staff in your place of work, with alumni on the Alumni Careers Network (yes, that’s a shameless plug)--is crucial to your continued career development. Make an effort to get to know the people who work in your office. What do they do, where did they come from, and what advice do they have for a college student who wants to work in the same field they are in? Then, stay in touch. As you approach the end of your internship, ask your colleagues if you can take their business cards, and if you can be in touch in the future with questions about your resume and positions that might be a good fit for you. If you’ve made a really good impression, they may even contact you when positions open up that you might be interested in.

  5. Be a team player. In many job descriptions, after the listing of responsibilities and qualifications for the position, there is the caveat that reads something like “Other duties as assigned.” For a summer internship, these “other duties” can range from pitching in on a brainstorming session to taking out the trash. So go into your internship prepared to do just about anything. Don’t be intimidated if you’re asked to be part of a high-level project--they hired you for a reason, and they value your work. Likewise, don’t turn your nose up at menial, clerical or manual labor that you might be asked to do. Like it or not, you’re an intern, which means you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. If someone asks you to do something unappealing, do it well, and do it with a smile. Being willing to pitch in and help out at all times makes you stand out, and standing out (in a good way) is what you want at the end of the day.

  6. Stay late. We know. You’ve been at work since 8:30 AM. You had to get up at 6:00 AM and ride the subway for an hour and a half to get there. Now, it’s 5:00 PM and all the other interns are going to the bar downstairs for happy hour, but your supervisor needs help finishing up a last minute presentation. What do you? By now, we hope the answer is obvious—you stay late and help your supervisor. This goes back to being a team player. If there’s an opportunity to step up and help out, regardless of the time of day, take it.

  7. Watch your behavior (and your mouth) outside of the office. It’s 7:00 PM and you've finally finished the presentation you were slaving over all day. Luckily, all the other interns are still at the bar downstairs, three drinks in and SO excited that you finally made it. Here’s the moment of truth. Are you going to be able to resist the urge to immediately drink four drinks—just to catch up—and make a fool of yourself? There is a time and a place for revelry, but that time and place is not when you're with your co-workers (not even if they're fellow interns). This means no over-indulging when you’re at the office happy hour, no gossiping about other interns or co-workers, and, if you learn nothing else from this post, no posing for inappropriate photos that will inevitably end up on Facebook! Seriously, we promise you won’t think they’re nearly as funny five years from now, so just avoid embarrassment and swear off cameras when you’re out socializing.

For more tips about preparing for your internship and making the most of your summer, make an appointment with a CAPS staff member by calling (773) 702 – 7040.

Still looking for a summer internship? There still a variety of summer internships listed on Chicago Career Connection. Log on today to view your options, and then come to CAPS for help creating a targeted resume and cover letter.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Want To Do Sales, But I Don’t Like People

by Keith Dipple, Assistant Director, Employer Relations and Development

“What can I do for you today?” I asked the student in my office.

“I wanna be a trader,” he said. “Have done ever since I can remember. I don’t want to do, try or be anything else. It’s trading or bust.” He’d convinced me up that point, so I thought I’d ask the most sensible question.

“You like taking risks then?”

He looked surprised, sat back slightly and said, “Ooh, no. I don’t like risk. Never have.”

There are many types of businesses that make up the world we refer to as “financial services,” and just because you are a good fit in one doesn’t mean you will be in another. They all require different skill sets and traits. Now, this doesn’t mean that introverts can’t be good sales people, but it sure helps to be a tad outgoing. What I offer here are some simple guidelines as to what you’ll need in just a few select areas—trading , sales, equity research, investment banking and private wealth management.

To be a good trader you need to buy low and sell high, for the other way around is a shortcut to a very quick end to your career. But that is no more than 20% of the job, because lots of people can do that when times are normal and markets stable. But what about when they’re anything but, you find yourself $500,000 down, and the boss is looking at you wondering what your next move will be? How will you react? Do you have that rare ability to think logically under extreme pressure while maintaining the same level of rationale that you had when you opened the position? Think carefully, because psychiatrists say that only one in 1,000 people can actually say “yes” to the last questions, which is why most people chose to do something else for a living. It’s 80% of the job, so the ability to think clearly and logically when chaos surrounds you is vital.

What about sales? Well you may have heard about the four P’s in Marketing 101 (product, price, place, promotion), but you need the three P’s in sales: product, price and personality. Imagine you’re on the sales desk at ABC Bank selling currency options. Your trading desk is great, especially the woman who trades the Dollar against Yen. So you have the product and you have the price, but so does DEF International, GHI Trust and JKL Bros. So how will you sell $/Yen to your clients when these things don’t differentiate you? Easy—make them like you more than they like the competition. In short, do you have the personality? Sales are all about dealing with people, and to do that, you’ve got to get them to like you. (And it helps if you like them too.)

With equity research, you need to know about equities, and you need to know how to, well, research. But once you’ve done your homework you will have to pitch your stock and convince your bosses or clients why the one you’re advocating for is the best at that moment in time. For this you will need superior presentations skills (no animation or sound effects on your PowerPoints, please) and the ability to write and communicate well. But you’re also going to have to defend your pitch in front of people who are there to pick it apart piece by piece, so you need to have a very thick skin and the fortitude to not take things personally. Those who are attracted to equity research—but offended if someone calls them a silly rabbit--need not apply.

Investment banking, or “I-banking” if you’re hip and trendy (or simply IB for those of us who are fully paid up members), is not for anyone worried about beauty sleep. It’s about hard, grind-it-out work, incredible attention to detail, and dedication that borders on the insane. But it’s also about immense creativity and finding new and inventive ways to satisfy clients’ needs while making money for your institution. To be successful here you have to be an innovator and a superior critical thinker. Is it good money? Sure. But that’s the worst reason to go into it. The best reason is because you want to work shoulder to shoulder with staggeringly smart, motivated and successful people in the ultimate meritocracy. Good money? Yes—but you’ll earn every single penny of it.

Private Wealth Management (PWM) combines many of the traits needed for all the roles I’ve discussed already. You’re going to have to understand markets like a trader, get on with people a la sales, be able to get your ideas across to experts and laymen alike, just like in equity research, and you’re also going to have to be innovative and work like a dog to be successful—as if made for IB. You always have to look good and display charm while inwardly getting ready to kill the competition. You are a living paradox because you must be a friendly, smiling assassin.

So there you have it. We have scratched the surface and taken a look at the most important qualities needed for a few roles in financial services. Ask yourself the question, which one do I like the most? Now ask yourself, which one do I best fit? Are they different? Hmmm…food for thought guys, food for thought.

Keith Dipple worked in financial services for more than twenty years before joining CAPS as an Assistant Director for Employer Relations and Development. Keith advises students who are interested in careers in financial services and technology. To make an appointment with Keith, call the CAPS reception desk at (773) 702-7040.

Monday, May 3, 2010

All the Right Answers

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Last week, I wrote about the importance of asking good questions in an interview. If you do your research prior to the interview, and think critically about why you want the position, you can impress the interviewer with your preparation, insight and interest. But as important as asking good questions is, an equally (probably more) important part of the interview is answering the employer’s questions well. After all, the point of an interview is for the interviewer to get to know you in a professional context! And no matter how good your questions are, if you bumble your way through the rest of the interview, you probably won’t get the job.

To get ready for an interview, consider what questions you might encounter, and then prepare yourself accordingly. Below is a list of ten of the most common interview questions—culled from experience and the all-knowing Internet—as well as advice about how to answer them. Of course, every interview will be different, and you should try not to over-prepare…you don’t want to sound like a robot or an actor just reciting lines. If you’re having a difficult time finding the right balance, remember that you can always schedule a mock interview at CAPS by calling (773) 702-7040. Your practice interviewer will be able to give you advice and feedback about your interviewing style, and pointers on how to improve. Remember: interviewing is a skill, and as with most skills, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Tell me about yourself.
This is one of the most common questions to start an interview with, and it can be a really tough question to answer because it’s very broad. Additionally, most people have a hard time talking about themselves, especially in a laudatory way. The best thing to do is keep your answer short and relevant. Touch on your education and work history, current life situation, and a few details about how/why you became interested in the position. The interviewer doesn’t need to hear where you were born or how you ended up in a particular city, but he or she is interested in learning why you are interested in the field that you are now applying to work in.

Why are you interested in this position?
If you didn’t include this information in your answer to the first question, this is the time for you to highlight how and why you’re great for this position. Try to avoid self-descriptions like the “ideal” or “perfect” candidate (no one is perfect), but feel free to talk about relevant experiences and accomplishments that fit well with the job description. You can also include information about why you’re looking for a job, but if you do, stay positive. Bad-mouthing a current or former employer won’t score you any points with the interviewer.

Why are you interested in working for XYZ Company?
This is a chance for you to let your preparation show. You will have done your homework, so address anything you’ve learned about the company that you found interesting or exciting. As always, stay positive and enthusiastic. “Because I need to make money” may be the honest answer, but in an interview, discretion is certainly the better part of valor.

What relevant experience and/or skills do you have?
If you have relevant experience in spades, this will be a straight-forward answer. If not, a little more creativity may be required. Draw on co-curricular interests and hobbies to paint a picture of why you’re qualified. Be careful not to lie, though—if you don’t know what a vlookup is, don’t tell the interviewer you’re a master of Excel.

How would your current/previous coworkers or supervisor describe you?
Hopefully, your coworkers and supervisors would use nothing but superlatives to describe you. However, if expletives are more likely, now is NOT the time for full disclosure. Again, don’t lie—you never know who the interviewer might know—but try to find a way to maintain a positive tone. If you’ve ever gotten a really nice compliment from a coworker, this is a good time for specific quotations.

How well do you work when under pressure?
The super-obvious (and correct) answer to this is “Very well” or something along those lines. You can say this in a variety of ways: you work well under pressure, you prefer working under pressure, you thrive on a challenge. Whatever you say, keep it positive and as close to the truth as possible. After all, if the reality is that pressure gives you hives, your employer will find that out if they hire you. If you have to lie to get the job, you probably shouldn’t be in that position.

What’s your greatest strength?
This is a chance for you to toot your own horn, which can be difficult for some people. If you have trouble talking about yourself, pick one quality you’re proud of and give a relevant example. If you could be Narcissus’ twin brother, try to keep your answer short. Arrogance, even when warranted, is never an attractive quality. Also important: the employer is looking for a work-related answer. This may seem obvious, but now is not the time to boast about your beer pong prowess. Instead, give an example of a skills that translate well into any work environment, like stellar organizational skills or the ability to do eight different things while walking and chewing gum (if one of those actually is a strength of yours).

What’s your biggest weakness?
The key to this one is positivity. Although there might be a number of things you feel you could improve in yourself, this is not the time to make a list as long as your arm. Answer the question honestly by picking one small, work-related flaw and giving an example of how you’re working to improve it. Whatever you do, don’t say that you don’t have any flaws (that’s just a lie) or that you’re “too good at your job” or some such nonsense. You might be great at your job, but everyone can improve in some respect.

Would you rather be liked or feared?
This is a trick question: you’d rather be respected. You don’t want to say “feared” because this gives the impression that you’d be hard to work with. You don’t want to say “liked” because this could mean you’ll be a human doormat. If your coworkers respect you, you can get the job done and still have friends afterward—the best of both worlds.

What kind of salary are you looking for?
This can be a tough one, especially for young job seekers. Be realistic, but be careful. If you throw out a low ball estimate, you may not be making as much as you could. If you go high, the employer may pass you over. The best answer is to ask about what this position has earned in the past and what qualifications they consider when making salary decisions. This is also another opportunity to show that you’ve done your research. Use sites like to get an idea of what an average employee at that or a comparable company makes. Then, if pressed, you can throw out a range. But always end with “However, I’m flexible with regard to salary, given my interest in this position/organization.”

Is there a popular question that got left off the list? Leave a comment below!