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Making The Most of Summer Internships: Part 1. Professional Tips & Advice

By Developing Others, Leadership, Mentorship, Planning, Resources No Comments

It’s summer internship season–new places, new faces, and hard-won opportunities await many students–including hundreds of our members nationwide. As an organization concerned with diversifying financial services, increasing equity, and promoting inclusion, we’re excited to see across-the-board increases in compensation for financial services interns, despite economic uncertainty. 

There’s ample advice on how to land coveted internships (and at Scholars of Finance, we spend a lot of time helping each other with recruiting, networking, and interviewing). But there’s comparatively less advice on what to do once you’ve started your internship. In this post, we’ve compiled advice from not only the SOF community, but across the finance industry (and even beyond) to answer common questions like:

  • What should I do now? 
  • What should I be preparing for next?
  • What do I need to accomplish?
  • How much should I learn this summer?
  • How do I make the most out of my internship?
  • How do I ensure a healthy work-life balance?
  • How do I make friends & professional connections?
  • How do I network with my new colleagues?
  • How do I get a return offer? 

Part 1.
Advice from The Scholars of Finance Community

Our Co-Founder & CEO, Ross Overline, says it’s important to focus on self-reflection and gratitude at the beginning of a new endeavor, including an internship. In a recent commentary on humility, one of our organizational values, Ross offered the following practical tips: 

  • Take an inventory of your strengths and your weaknesses, perhaps with 15 minutes of journaling time this week.
  • Ask a few people in your life for 360 feedback. Find out what your mentors, family, friends, and other peers think about you holistically. 

Stephen Sorenson, our COO, has also shared extensive advice about maximizing the value and impact of internships, including for SOF’s very own national interns. One practical piece of advice Stephen offers that we think is especially valuable is: 

  • Create a personal document where you can consolidate all of your personal and professional learning, including feedback from friends and family. 

If you’d like to implement Stephen’s advice, we love these Notion templates for personal development.

Our student members have some excellent advice, too. We especially appreciated these practical, self-reflective tips on managing up and taking control of schedules and priorities.

  • Be proactive as an intern (manage-up) and take control of your tasks/workload. As both a student and an intern, the onus is on each of us to coordinate, manage, and plan our schedules around upcoming work streams and sprints.
  • As leaders we all have a responsibility to allow for uncertainty in our schedules and be able to dedicate time to urgent projects within our planned days. Plan ahead of deadlines and allow extra time for things in your day. 

Of course, knowing what you need to do is different from actually doing it, so if you’re looking for ways to improve your executive skills like time management, planning, and prioritization, we love these two very short videos: How To Prioritize Tasks Effectively that explains prioritization using The Eisenhower Matrix; and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Animated Summary that explains the connections between mindsets and habits. 

Part 2.
(Highly Curated) Advice from the Twitterverse

Twitter might be awash in bad takes, but it’s also packed with first-hand wisdom and refreshingly candid advice–and the topic of internships is no exception. We combed through Twitter to curate some of the best advice (‘best’ is a combination of mostly our own judgment and analysis, plus a little bit of how the rest of the Twitterverse reacted). 

  • Be a go-getter, but be smart & strategic about whom you reach out to, and also how, when, and why you reach out. We love this thread from Amy Cheetham, Partner at Costanoa Ventures, on how she broke into finance at J.P. Morgan using cold email. However, be sure to be mindful of everyone’s time as well.

    Our favorite tip, related to our value of humility: “Follow-up. Many times people will provide help or assistance and then the person they helped will never follow-up. Don’t be that person. Let the person know how they helped and thank them — maybe by keeping them in the loop you’ll build a long-term relationship.”

    “When should I follow up and what should I say?” is a frequent question students ask. Our recommendation is to follow up whenever you feel like you have something to share that conveys genuine gratitude; for example, if a mentor taught you a new skill and you then applied that skill successfully to a project, you might quickly write your mentor to let them know how that skill helped you, what you were able to achieve thanks to their help, and to reiterate your ongoing gratitude for their mentorship.
  • Systematize your networking process and make technology your friend, rather than relying on your memory. Patrick Malone, MD-PHD, drops some highly concrete advice in this thread on how to create a ‘personal CRM’ (CRM = contact/customer relationship management) in a platform like Notion to help keep track of connections to build long-term value.

Our favorite tip, related to our value of integrity: “One piece of advice for systematizing networking: maintain a personal CRM. For each person I connect with, I tag things like their background/expertise, location, and when we last connected so I’m reminded to reach back out to catch up.”

For a student in a finance internship, we could imagine how creating something like a simple conversation tracking spreadsheet, would help to recall important details about peers and mentors for future interactions. 

Part 3.
Recommended Reading

We hope this curation and analysis of advice helps you to have an impactful, rewarding, and successful internship experience. If you’re still hungry for more advice, we’ve compiled a list of recommended articles below. 

From all of us at Scholars of Finance, we wish you a purpose-filled, productive, and positive summer internship experience filled with new relationships, personal growth, professional development, and lots of fun!

Look out for a bonus part 2 post soon on personal growth & self-care tips for your internship! 

An Antidote to Polarizing Controversy: Civility, Conversation and Compromise

By Compassion, Courage, Curiosity, Humility, Impact, Integrity, Principles, Resources No Comments

You may be sick of hearing about polarization, or perhaps experiencing it, but this (understandable) exhaustion eventually gives way to apathy which ultimately resigns our society to a deep, harmful division. So, I encourage you to read on, because hope is only lost when we give up on the challenges we face and become complacent. I truly believe that a major shift in bridging divides is possible, but only if each individual works at it, practicing new habits in their everyday interactions. In order to form these new habits, we must first remember and reflect on shared values. The six Scholars of Finance values provide a strong foundation and starting point for a much needed transformation in how we treat one another. In this blog post, I explore the different ways in which our principles guide us through the tough and often uncomfortable conversations with which we are consistently confronted, from a casual classroom debate to a workplace discussion about current events. I also take what I have learned from others who have had to toe the difficult line of controversy and compromise in politics, one of the most heated arenas for these conversations. 

 

Finally, I want you to know that I am no stranger to holding opposing viewpoints in tension. As someone who grew up in a conservative, Christian home and attended a liberal, secular school, I spent each day going back and forth between opinions, forming my own from what I heard my parents, teachers, and peers say. I write this not to force my own personal beliefs on anyone, but rather to help you navigate everyday situations such as my own with grace, humility, respect, and, hopefully, success.    

 

When it comes down to it, we are all human beings living on one, shared planet. When we look at the bigger picture, we can all realize that it is much more important to have respect for one another, to care for one another, and to work together for the greater good than to bombard our co-worker or family member with a barrage of statistics to explain our point of view and shut theirs down. However, holding respect for others’ viewpoints is often easier said than done. In fact, in the everyday interactions we have, we all fall into the trap of needing to be correct, of needing to convince others of our point of view, and of needing to get the last word in. Sadly, when these temporary desires take over, our values start to fade into the background, and we become creatures of the moment, easily swayed by the temptation to “win” the debate. However, this is something that when we assess rationally and outside of the heat of the moment we find to be unsustainable. If we live all of our lives trying to simply prove our point to others with the sole purpose of “winning” without listening to others’ perspectives, we will get nowhere. No one is right 100% of the time, so why go through life with that false perception, when we can instead learn and grow by listening to others? For a more concrete example of how this plays out and is a benefit to businesses, you can observe the 20% increase in innovation brought upon by diversity of thought, as discussed in a Deloitte article. In a workplace, we need to be able to harness those diverse perspectives effectively, and thus, respectfully

 

Each SoF Value has principles which speak to this issue quite well, and offer simple yet profound advice for how to live a life of civility, conversation, and compromise.

 

  • Integrity 
  •  Speak the truth at all times.  

This is the only way to get anywhere with difficult conversations. Both parties need to speak the truth, whether that be honestly sharing a personal experience, or backing up opinions with factual data.  

 

  • Compassion 
  • Foster relationships with respect and empathy. 

Maintaining respect throughout difficult conversations is absolutely critical. Without a foundational level of respect and empathy, conversations about hot button issues can quickly escalate to heated debates or even full-scale arguments.  

 

  • Humility 
  •  Ask for and share honest feedback regularly.  

Conversations within personal relationships or in the workplace will often necessitate a discussion about where things need to be improved, and are a perfect setting for practicing civility within difficult conversations. But we first need to be open to that feedback before beginning the conversation.  

 

    • Curiosity 
      •  Seek first to understand, then to be understood. 
  •  Pursue and embrace diverse perspectives.  

We live in an incredibly diverse world, and we should take advantage of how much we can learn from each other. We all grow when we step out of our comfort zones, hear a new perspective, listen carefully and begin to question our previously held views. Perhaps this leads to a change of mind, or simply solidifies our views if we have found that we disagree with the fundamentals of the opposite argument. No matter the outcome, the key is to listen to someone else’s reasoning behind their view before making a hasty judgement or interjecting with our own opinion.

 

  •  Impact 
  • Operate patiently and think long term.  

Ultimately, when we need to have a serious conversation with someone important to us (professionally, personally, etc.), there is no guarantee that everything will be worked out in a single chat. These discussions could take months or even years, and we need to be patient with ourselves and with one another. 

 

  • Courage 
  • Stand up for what you believe is right. 

While the best practice is to listen to others seriously and consider what they have to say, at no point in this process should you compromise your own beliefs and values. Compromise on common ground, but, if after carefully considering all perspectives with an open mind, you still hold the same views, don’t compromise on what you truly believe is right. 

 

In addition to our SoF values offering guidance, we can also learn from leaders within politics about how they handled polarization. I attended a Zoom lecture/Q&A with Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, who gave incredible insight into this exact topic. She explained how critical it is to be a good listener in order to see where there is common interest and overlap, which should be the most important part of a controversial conversation. 

Chris Campbell, the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions and majority staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance (which he held among other high ranking government roles), spoke to SoF students and shared his own experience balancing agendas and perspectives which were definitely at odds. He emphasized always being honest– no matter who it is you are speaking with, and to fight the instinct of thinking poorly of someone for simply having a different perspective

Lanhee Chen, a political campaign veteran, who served as the policy director for the Romney-Ryan campaign, maintains a similar perspective, and believes in beginning the process of these discussions by agreeing on a problem statement. For example, if both a Democrat and a Republican can agree that healthcare costs are too high in our country, that is a place of common ground from where they can begin, and then they can work together to find a solution. 

While it has been far easier to write this out than to put it into regular practice, I genuinely believe that if we listen carefully, assume best intentions and think well of the person across the table from us, and start from a place of common ground, we can actually begin to make progress. Remember, this doesn’t just apply to politicians; it applies to you while conversing with your dad who holds the exact opposite political views as you, to your colleague when you need to revamp your company’s sales strategy, and to your friend at dinner when she brings up the local elections. 

In summary, remember that you and everyone around you are merely humans. You are humans who make mistakes, who have had countless views thrown at you by the media, school, and family for as long as you can remember, and who are just trying to do the best for yourself and those around you. We are all going to mess up on this journey, but let’s mess up together, be understanding, and find common ground through civil discourse and legitimate compromise—and, most importantly, let’s do it all with genuine respect for one another. 

 

Further Reading + Resources: 

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to reach out to the author at: isabella@scholarsoffinance.org or bella17@stanford.edu.

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