Summer is an opportunity for students to get valuable work experience. For fourth year student Sarah Grogan, a summer internship turned into a major step in her career, writes Zelda Cunningham
This summer, forthyear Economics and Finance student, Sarah Grogan was accepted for an internship in Lehman Brothers’ London branch, one of the top global investment banks in the world.
This highly prestigious internship has sealed Grogan’s fate in her desired career. In a tremulous market where the all-consuming recession is inundating the news reports, Grogan was offered permanent employment at Lehman Brothers, after an impressive 10-week stint in the bank.
However, securing a post in such a well-established company was not an achievement that came easily.
“It is very competitive”, Grogan comments, “Lehman only took on 95 people last year, which is quite a lot, but this year, the way the markets were, we think they only took on 50 percent of interns.”
Grogan was on a generalist programme, which involved her partaking in two five-week placements in different departments, or desks, in Lehman’s. On her first rotation, she worked in the Equities desk and later in the lucrative business of Hedge funds.
When working in an international investment bank, getting to the office at dawn is simply an understood fact of life. The stock market will not wait, as Grogan found out this summer.
“The summer is very intense,” she explains “On the average day, I would wake up at 5 a.m. to be in the office at 6 a.m., where the rest of the desk wouldn’t be in until 6.15. That extra 15 minutes makes such a good impression. It shows dedication and enthusiasm.”
“I would spend the morning doing research, looking at how the markets are, how the markets are in the U.S., are there any major news stories coming out that day, and if so, how will it effect the market.”
The stock markets would open at 8.30 a.m. and the hectic buying, selling and trading would continue until 4.30 in the afternoon.
Throughout the day, interns would be invited to observe meetings and shadow more senior members of the company, which proved to be a great learning experience for Grogan. No time for hours spend on Bebo or Facebook!
“It is a busy day. You get your lunch and bring it back to your desk.” says Grogan, “It’s an intense few hours but you are out of the office by 5. If you are an intern, this may be later.”
The frantic pace of such a working environment undoubtedly took its toll on the interns’ social lives. Grogan found that exhaustion won out at nine in the evening most nights.
“You don’t want to be going out crazy every night. It’s not like being a student where if you have a night out you can sleep in. When you are an intern, you can’t come in late, it looks so bad.”
The experience had certainly a positive effect on Grogan and her employability. She learned to lead a more structured life, was entrusted with serious responsibilities and to master the skill of networking.
In an employment market which is becoming increasingly restrictive and competitive, the skills that the Economics and Finance student obtained this summer will undoubtedly prove to distinguish her from other potential employees.
Grogan is highly aware of the value of her experience and advises those interested in having a future in investment banking to follow her lead, despite the lengthy and highly selective application process.
Contact with alumni of the internships will also aid any advancement into the exclusive world of banking. Grogan found that becoming acquainted with these alumni was a helpful method of securing a place in Lehman Brothers, which in turn, gave her the a sturdy stepping-stone towards her ideal career.
“I was lucky, I had met an alumni and he helped me with my CV and application and told me what to expect.”
Becoming involved in the community of a company is an advantageous move, as Grogan explains, “I would advise that anyone who wants to do this should go to the events these companies hold in Ireland. Just to get to know people.”
“Don’t just go to these events for the free drink. Networking can sound like a horrible word, but that is what you have to do.”
This is true of both the receptions and the time spent within the internship.
“You don’t want it to be in a few years time people are saying, ‘What was her name again?’ You want them to remember you, and also that you were good at your job.”
“You have to suggest projects and ideas that might help the company and show that you have intelligence, and that you are a hard-working, and eager.”
The skills acquired in Lehman Brothers have propelled Sarah Grogan into the professional arena with work experience that exceeds the quality and experience of her peers.
A summer really is a terrible thing to waste.