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Don't have an internship? Look for leadership programs and conferences

At JP Morgan Chase conference for women.

Monday, January 27, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I came into college with some high hopes and big dreams. Having big dreams is not a bad thing because I believe those dreams are what push you to work hard and strive for something great in life, but they can sometimes create a blurred reality. For example, me thinking that I was going to be running Wall Street or breaking into a top financial company at the age of 18 is extremely impractical, it is not even a possibility. Getting an internship as a freshman is hard work. This is not to say that companies will not hire underclassmen because there are some out there, but getting one might require some networking and connecting with old family friends. That is how it worked for me.

After spending two summers with MetLife Investments, I was able to get a better understanding of why companies are hesitant to hire freshmen or sophomores. If I am being honest, I did not have the academic knowledge. I barely knew any finance vocabulary or formulas, which made it challenging to attend meetings and do some of my assignments. However, having a strong work ethic, being eager to learn, and having supportive bosses, took me a long way.

Once I got a better understanding of why many companies don’t hire freshmen and sophomores, I began looking for other opportunities that were not necessarily internships. During my freshmen year, I was told about leadership programs and conferences that are hosted by large firms. Nowadays, it is very common for companies to offer programs only open to underclassmen. The application process is similar to that of an internship: you apply online for the program and then will have behavioral and technical interviews.

Capital One conference

The summer after my freshmen year, I spent a week in McLean, VA at the Capital One headquarters. That week with Capital One was one of the best experiences. The phrase “Work Hard, Play Hard” is how I would describe the experience. The program included 40 freshmen and sophomores from across the world. The days usually began at 7:00 a.m. and ended around 10:00 p.m. We spent the days listening to Capital One employees, learning vocabulary and formulas, gaining insight on the culture, and working in groups for a case competition. At the end of the week, your group would have to present a product solution to Capital One.

While you had to work hard in the mornings and afternoons, the nights were all about bonding with the other students and experiencing D.C. Capital One took us to fancy dinners, Segway tours, sporting events, and hotels. Additionally, the entire week was ALL expenses paid. They even gave us gift cards to spend on our “free” nights, where we could explore the Georgetown area, go to Museums, night clubs, or restaurants. As if the week itself wasn’t enough, they allowed all of us to skip the initial interview process and attend the final round interviews for the following summer internships.

After my sophomore year, I had a similar summer experience with JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPMorgan did a two-day conference for freshmen and sophomore women interested in commercial banking. The first day consisted of hearing from women in the C-Suite and first-year analysts. We then attended a networking dinner and enjoyed a night out in Chicago. The second day involved mock interviews, where employees would give us feedback on our interviewing skills. Just like Capital One, if you attended this event, you were able to bypass all interviews and go to the final round. Because of this program, I was able to receive and accept an offer for an internship with their Corporate Client Banking group in New York City. It finally felt like I was obtaining a small part of that dream I had when I started college.

View of Chicago from JP Morgan

My advice, if you are a freshmen or sophomore: seek out leadership programs and conferences. Even if you are unsure about a firm, but they are offering a program like this, take it. These events are phenomenal opportunities to meet other incredible students and be given a better chance of an internship.

Not only have I grown professionally from these events, but I have grown socially. Additionally, I received a lot of rejections in the past two years, but those rejections pushed me to not give up. For example, I went to the final round interviews at Capital One and had one of the worst interviews of my life, but I learned to better prepare for future ones. I was slightly apprehensive to attend another event like this after the interviews with Capital One ended so badly, but I could not let one failure stop me from attempting other opportunities. If I had never taken a chance and applied for the JPMorgan conference, I would not be in the position that I am today. Overall, there are always little steps you can take that can help you obtain that dream you have always aspired to reach, and it might be programs like these that can help.


Alex Kuper is a junior from Philadelphia majoring in Industrial Management with a concentration in Financial Engineering.
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