As the Spring semester approaches its end, I want to take some time to reflect on what I’ve learnt during this past recruiting season because I feel that I’ve grown a lot both in a professional and in a personal level and that my experience can be useful to others going through the same process in the future.
Myself, I am an international student living in the States and attending NYU where I am currently a junior pursuing a bachelor of science in Real Estate. I strongly believe that both my position as international student with an F-1 visa and my condition as Hispanic (although others can see me as white European -And I consider myself Mediterranean) have stood on my way as challenges to obtaining a top tier internship.
The following are some lessons I’ve learn after more than forty interviews and a handful more applications for summer internships at leading companies in the banking, real estate and technology sectors.
1. Quality over quantity
Sending applications for the sake of just sending them is stupid and not worth your time. Instead of applying to every opportunity you see on your school’s career site and other career sites, devote your time to getting to know people. Figure out what really interests you by attending info sessions, going on coffee chats, reaching out to current employees or former interns. Build relationships with this people, you’ll be surprised how likely people are to help you out. Once you’ve established a certain number of relationship aim for career opportunities within those companies.
2. Build up experience
The junior year internship is regarded as the most important step to landing a full time job after college. However, in order to get a top internship in the Banking or Technology sectors, your experience must be priorly built. So if you are going into Investment Banking, be sure to have worked priorly in a bank for a minor division (ie: Wealth Management) or at least have some sort of experience in the industry by for example interning for a Hedge Fund during your sophomore year. The hardest part about this is that in order to be an excellent candidate you must figure out during your freshman year what direction you want to take in order to build the right experience that lands you an internship.
3. Culture must be a fit
It took me a very long time to understand culture. In fact, until I landed my internship with Airbnb for this coming summer, I wasn’t sure what culture really meant but it is now clear to me that culture is primordial when determining wether to hire or not a candidate. Not only your experience must be in line with the company you are applying to but also you must culturally fit in it. The best way to be right about culture is to read it on the companies site and get to know people in the company but nothing bets the feeling you get after interviewing with them and meeting 4, 5 or 6 people on their team.
4. Practice makes perfection
Confidence cannot be faked and you are likely to not kill the first interview you show up for. Therefore, having interviewed before its likely to improve your chances to do a good interview. You’ll get nervous and feel challenged, which is absolutely normal and only by showing up to interview after interview you’ll build up the confidence to be able to display who you truly are when the right opportunity comes across.
I wish I had known this in Freshman year because I would had drafted my career path a bit differently, which would had saved me a lot of time and frustrations. However, I understand that some things can only be learnt through experience and I am extremely grateful how things have worked out and excited to be joining Airbnb this summer in San Francisco as a Real Estate intern.