By Bryan Smilek
For college undergraduates and MBA students aiming to break into high-level finance, the ultimate goal is to gain a summer internship in NYC the summer before they graduate and to convert that opportunity into a full-time offer. During the summer, these interns typically live in summer apartments across the city and acclimate themselves to life in one of the busiest, high-paced atmospheres in America. Throughout my sophomore summer, I interned in the front office of a bulge bracket bank and underwent this experience. Overall, it was extremely high-paced and extremely challenging yet immensely rewarding. I had face-to-face interactions with various key executives at the bank and was able to ask my team questions easily while grabbing coffee with various co-workers to learn the daily routine within our industry.
However, as COVID-19 changed the world, my firm abbreviated the intern program and shifted it completely online. As a result, I switched teams virtually and met my new team members and analyst via Zoom meetings. Though it was unfortunate that I could not talk face-to-face with my new team, and still cannot given I am working on the same team currently, I thoroughly enjoyed the summer program.
The main reason I enjoyed the program was the heightened ability to increase interactions with my senior analyst. Before COVID-19, many individuals at the firm would always travel, and it would be difficult to find a consistent meeting time to learn about co-workers on a weekly basis. However, given the pandemic’s travel restrictions, senior employees could allocate more time to interacting with their subordinates and co-workers. As a result, I was able to talk more frequently with my senior analyst, which allowed me to pick his brain and understand his thought processes pertaining to multiple projects. In turn, my development was enhanced, and I had more opportunities to prove that I could effectively perform the job.
Based on my experience, I believe that interns should take full advantage of the opportunities that COVID-19 has provided to them. Specifically, individuals must actively try to get on their managers’ schedules to actively capitalize on their increased free time. Through doing so, an intern’s development and job prospects should spike if they perform well and ask unique questions in their increased face time with senior employees at their respective firm.
Likewise, with no commute, interns should desire to work long hours and progress along the learning curve more quickly. For instance, I would commute to NYC during the school year to my firm’s building, which cost me ~2-3 hours depending on the day. As a result of not having to travel, I did not encounter as many distractions and was able to focus on my work and advancing my skill set because I did not have to schedule out which train I would take home to attend my night classes. Therefore, without any distractions, it is easy for interns to allocate more time to their work and more successfully concentrate on their projects rather than splitting their mental capacity with planning out a daily commute.
Overall, it is apparent that interns can benefit from COVID-19 for two main reasons: 1) they can elevate their job prospects through proving their effectiveness as a worker during increased face time with managers, and 2) they have more time to focus on understanding and accomplishing their work given the lack of commuting and other distractions during the pandemic. Due to these opportunities, I urge all interns to work their hardest and get on their managers’ calendars to improve their job prospects!
Contact Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org