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Sometimes, internship experiences do more in helping us understand what doesn’t work for us as opposed to what does. The point is not only to get experience but to do a real life trial run, how long the hours are, what the company culture is like, and even the location, are all factors to take note of when looking for and executing an internship. Recent Howard University graduate Moriah Thomas, found, after interning at a major investment banking firm, she simply wanted to change gears.
BlackEnterprise.com talked with Thomas, who candidly detailed her journey to realize her true career aspirations and recognizing she was cut out to pursue another path.
BlackEnterprise.com: What was the biggest lesson that you took from your recent financial services internship?
Thomas: The biggest lesson I learned was utilizing and maintaining a good network. As I made connections with senior members in the firm, I was able to leverage their assistance in my daily work and summer projects. Their feedback gave me a better edge on how to improve and excel among my peers.
What was your favorite and least favorite part of the internship?
The long hours were my least favorite part of the internships. Sometimes I was at the office for 15 hour days. It was a transition from a school schedule to work schedule. My favorite part of the internship was being around other students from several different universities. There were several nationalities represented so the diversity was refreshing.
What specific skills or knowledge did you gain there that you’ve been able to apply to real life?
I was able to work with several different types of people and personalities. However, everyone was dedicated to one common goal of getting the work done. At the firm, everyone was committed to excellence. With the diversity of backgrounds and skills I was able to work with, I have understood my role as a leader and how to effectively consolidate knowledge to apply to everyday tasks and problems.
Why didn’t you take the position there? What if anything could have changed your decision?
The deal breaker for me was the work life balance. With aspirations to attend law school in a few years I did no want to take a position where I would be worn out in just a few years. After talking to some alumni that previously worked at the bank, many only stayed a year or two due to being entirely burnt out.
What advice do you have for students about internships in general, and then specifically in the financial field.
The best advice for internships, is always ask yourself “how can I make the work of those around me easier?” In internship situations, often you are installed to alleviate other employees of basic tasks. For example I was given the job of putting together a daily report. IT was time consuming and required a lot of manual input. As you can imagine no one wanted to do the report and was very excited to hand it off to the lowly intern. I decided think outside the box and automate the report in my break time. This way I was able to leave behind mark that took the decreased the time to put together the report. It added value to the group I was working with. Always find ways to add value in anyways possible.
The financial industry is tough. Always maintain professionalism and stay longer than your boss expects you. In a dynamic industry as finance, constantly asking questions and keeping yourself up-to-date in the markets will allows you to better understand your daily tasks and function.
What advice if any do you have to companies in regards to their internship programs and how to make the best out of an interns experience?
Constant communication with interns to better understand and accommodate their interest is very important. Many students return to the same company the next year if given the opportunity. Many students also have a preference on areas of the firm they would like to try the next year. Constant communication will help understand the students goals and interests and proper placement within the company.