Event Recap: What I Wish I Had Known Before I Accepted My Wealth Management Internships
For our September Forum, we hosted an expert panel that shared various viewpoints on the internship experience.
Before we share takeaways from the event, meet the panelists:
- Raelynn Grasso, PhD, Career Advising Specialist at University of Maryland Global Campus (Moderator)
- Matt Korn, Senior Manager & Program Coordinator, Campus Talent Advisors, Charles Schwab
- Zenniere Bowry-Thomas, Chief of Staff & Intern Manager at Nationwide Retirement Institute
- Jesse W. Hurst, CFP®, AIF® Certified Financial Planner & Financial Advisor & Hiring Manager at Impel Wealth Management
- Jesús Zepeda Castro, Student at Arizona State University, Former Intern & Client Services Associate at Sonmore Financial
The panelists shared lots of great advice for students considering a wealth management internship. In case you weren’t able to make it, we’ve recapped some of the top tips below.
If you don’t see much information about internships around campus, ensure you’re looking in the right places. You may also consider getting creative with your approach. Zenniere Bowry-Thomas suggested joining student organizations that promote diversity, which will help provide access to recruiters.
“There are many opportunities in the wealth management industry,” Bowry-Thomas said. “If you’re studying foreign languages, there’s an opportunity for you; many firms are working to ensure they’re serving all of America. If you’re majoring in finance or marketing, or are even considering a law degree, think about your value proposition within the financial industry.”
With this in mind, it’s important to recognize your strengths and use them to identify the right opportunities for you. Make a list of the firms you want to work for, but don’t be deterred if they don’t have any job openings. Reach out to them directly to get on their radar, so when they are hiring you’ll be at the top of their list!
Focus on Your Potential
Matt Korn encouraged students looking for an internship to focus on their potential. Charles Schwab offers 80% of its high-performing interns a full-time job once their internship is complete.
“We put an emphasis on potential,” Korn said. “We are looking for interns, so we don’t expect someone coming in to know everything. We look for students open to learning; that’s what an internship is all about.”
Korn said they look at every single internship application. If they see a fitting application, that candidate has a human resources screening, which helps the company understand their career interests and covers basic information. Next is an interview with the business manager or someone from a department where the candidate may be working.
“We look at past behaviors to indicate future performance,” Korn said. “Having specific examples can help you stand out.”
Korn’s tip: Google “STAR questions” to help you practice interview responses.
STAR questions ask candidates to share an experience. These questions may begin with, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Describe a stressful situation and how you handled it.”
Candidates should answer in the STAR method:
Korn’s final tip: Ask questions about what a company is doing to promote diversity within the company.
Be Prepared for the Interview
Digging a little deeper into the internship interview, Jesús Zepeda Castro encouraged students to push aside feelings of imposter syndrome.
“Employers are looking for soft skills to ensure interns are enjoyable to work with,” he said. “Demonstrate initiative by showing you’re prepared for the interview and talk about the activities you’re involved in outside of school.”
Castro’s other interview tips include:
- Read industry blogs (to show initiative and interest)
- Smile (showing energy and confidence)
- Ask thoughtful questions
“There will always be someone more experienced, but your colleagues will notice that you want to be better,” he said. “Demonstrate your ability to be coachable and take criticism—this is the difference between being a good candidate and a great candidate.”
Utilize the “SCORE” Method
Once you’ve conquered the interview and you have an offer for an internship, now the work begins. Bowry-Thomas shared her tip: the SCORE method.
- Stay in touch: Make sure you know what you’re supposed to do between the offer and your start date.
- Connect & Communicate: Once you start your internship, you will communicate with your team and create connections within the company.
- Optimize: Optimize the time in your internship — make the most out of it!
- Read: Read everything that comes into your email inbox or across your desk.
- Exceed expectations: During the first days, have a conversation with your hiring manager about what success looks like; try to understand what this looks like for you; this will set you up for success.
“Even if there’s not an open position when your internship is over, your coworkers will remember the work you did for years to come,” Bowry-Thomas said.
Be Client-Facing When Possible
Jesse W. Hurst explained that one of the biggest challenges in independent wealth management (in a small-to-mid-size firm) is that interns can easily get delegated administrative tasks. Hurst challenges companies to get their interns working directly with clients.
“If you have the right intern and personalities, try to get them involved in client-facing activities,” he said. “We’ve been intentional about calling clients ahead of time and letting them know we have an intern that we want to help with this; this allows the intern to get a feel for what it’s like sitting across the table from a client.”
If your manager doesn’t provide that opportunity, don’t be afraid to share your goals about working with clients. This may open a door that may not have initially been opened.
Don’t get Discouraged
Searching and applying for an internship is no easy task. It’s essential to maintain a positive mindset.
“Looking for an internship can be difficult and sometimes comes with rejection,” Castros said. “Don’t let that get you down — don’t get discouraged, think outside the box, put in the effort and the time, and you’ll get there.”