Gaining relevant industry experience is something that can add infinite value to your professional and personal development alike. Internships are a common way to immerse yourself in work that you are interested in doing as a career before entering the workforce or making a career change. Many universities have made internships a requirement for students because the value that they have is immeasurable.
As the beginning of many internships near, here are some tips and takeaways that can take your internship experience to the next level.
Financial planning and related internships often set the foundation for your career as well as provide the opportunity to apply skills and concepts that you have learned in the classroom. In these opportunities, interns often gain experience shadowing client meetings, interfacing with clients over the phone and in person, analyzing data, compiling research, learning and using relative software, and mentorship from advisors. These, and other transferable skills, can aid in your professional development as well as set you up for success in future career opportunities.
Whether you are embarking on your first internship, your second, or your third, preparing for a new opportunity is important. Goal setting is a great way to measure your progress and to challenge yourself. At the start of your internship, you should take initiative to set goals for yourself. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T. goals in that they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Example: By the end of the first month of my internship, I want to connect and have lunch with three different members of my team. Once you set goals for yourself, it may also be helpful to share your goals with your direct supervisor or a fellow intern for constructive discussion and accountability.
Tasks and responsibilities in the financial planning industry, like most others, require a combination of work styles. There will be times that you are tasked to work independently and others where you are working as a team; in both scenarios, it is imperative to take initiative and ownership. Taking initiative will allow you to guide the trajectory of your internship and to maximize your experience working with the company. Taking initiative is a small step that can go a long way and may be exemplified by volunteering to take notes, requesting constructive criticism, actively participating in conversations, asking where you can provide extra assistance, inquiring about further learning opportunities and/or potential continuing education opportunities.
Internships should be a mutually beneficial experience. As an intern, you are seeking the best experience by optimizing your knowledge intake, getting hands on skills, and networking with industry professionals. Simultaneously, you are able to contribute to the company with your unique background, education, approach to tasks, perspective, and new ideas. As the internship progresses, keep in mind, not only the experience you are able to gain and add to your resume, but also the lasting impact that you will leave on the company.
Internships are one way to gain experience in your respective field, but if you’ve found yourself unsuccessful in securing an internship for the summer, there are other ways to gain valuable experience.
- Remember that summer is not the only time that companies do internships. Keep an eye out for internship opportunities that may be held during the semester or winter break.
- Externships are also a good way to get additional experience and exposure. Many externships are open to a wide range of skill levels and provide subject matter expertise. Be sure to check out the Financial Planning Association’s Summer Externship at https://fpaexternship.org/
- Broaden your tech skills. Technology and financial planning software are often integral parts of the work that firms do for their clients. Technology certifications and training activities are another way to work toward industry success.
Internships are about both what you contribute, as well as what you take away. The experience gained in your internship whether it be this summer or fall, or sometime in the future will be valuable to yourself as a professional and your journey toward new or full-time opportunities. Take ownership of your experience, keep your goals in mind, build relationships, and most of all, have fun!