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  • Christopher Willis

What do I do if I can’t land an internship?

Let’s assume your application cycle has come to an end. Despite your best efforts, you have been unable to secure a place on one of your desired internships. You may be feeling dejected, but this is not the time to give up. Many students find themselves in this position but with the right attitude and perseverance, most still end up with the job that is right for them, and you can too! Here’s how:

1. Broaden your horizons

You may have applied to all the biggest names in your preferred industry, be it bulge bracket banks for investment banking, magic circle or top US firms for commercial law, the big 3 for consulting or the big 4 for accounting. It’s important to note that these industries are made up of so many excellent firms and finding the right one for you may involve a much broader search than you originally thought. There are smaller, boutique, and specialist firms that can all offer you valuable experience. Some of these firms have smaller intern intakes but by broadening your horizons, you can increase your chances of landing a role.

In addition to applying to the biggest firms, you may have applied to one of their most competitive and prestigious offices, typically London. It is worth considering regional offices which are usually less competitive and can be more flexible in terms of recruiting cycles. You may also want to consider opportunities abroad. This can be a big step but there are some fantastic opportunities in other countries that would not only be great for your personal development but also look strong on your CV.

Finally, some students become quite tunnel visioned when applying for internships and fail to realise that there are adjacent industries that offer much of what they are looking for. Aspiring investment bankers should look into hedge funds and asset managers, while budding management consultants should explore other types of consulting.

There’s an inescapable trade-off between quality and quantity when it comes to applications. The less applications you do, the more time you can spend researching each firm and developing an in-depth understanding of how they work and what they are looking for. But on the flip side it would be unwise to put all your eggs in one basket. You have to find the right balance for you but if you have been unsuccessful the first or second time around, checking out some other firms couldn’t hurt.

2. Seek feedback

When it comes to reapplying to similar roles for which you have previously been unsuccessful, it is important to understand where you went wrong and how you can improve. The extent to which you can expect feedback depends on how far you got in the application process. Most of these firms receive thousands of applications and it would be impractical for them to provide bespoke feedback to everyone who applied. However, if you were able to reach the latter stages of the process, feedback is more of a possibility. For example, after being rejected at the final stage from a firm, I received some great advice as to how to improve the competency portion of my interviews.

3. Bolster your CV

The CV is an important part of any application and it may be the case that your CV is missing something to help you stand out. Fortunately, there are countless free courses that can help you pick up very marketable skills such as languages, coding, graphic design and many more. What’s more is that many of these courses result in professional qualifications which you can directly reference. Not only will having these skills look good on your CV but the initiative that you have shown to acquire them will also be valued by employers.

You can also bolster your CV by volunteering. The great thing about volunteering is that it enriches you in other ways than just a few lines of your CV. You can develop transferable skills and gain experience that will make you more of an asset to any firm; such experiences can be leveraged during online applications and interviews, and you get the added benefit of knowing you served a good cause.

4. Personal projects / side hustles

Applying for internships takes a lot of time. Now that your application cycle has come to an end, you have some free time, and this could be the perfect opportunity to pursue some personal projects. Perhaps you want to start a blog focused on commercial awareness, write a book, or hone some other creative skills. Even if it is not directly related to the career you want to have, it demonstrates ambition and can evidence some of your interests.


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