When many of us arrive at university, spring weeks tend to catch us by surprise. With the help of Daria-Ioana Sipos, this article aims to familiarize you with spring weeks, and how they can be converted into a summer internship.
Originally from Romania, Daria is an incoming final year Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at the University of Oxford. She is currently Vice President for Careers and Development at the Oxford Finance Society, the largest financial careers student society at the University of Oxford, representing over 4,000 members. Previously, she has also held various leadership positions in other economics and business student societies. As someone unfamiliar with the field, I reached out to her for expertise.
Approaching Spring Weeks
When Daria got to university, she notes that “I didn’t really know anything about investment banking. The way I stumbled into it, literally, was through joining the Oxford Finance Society.” In the society, Daria met older students who introduced her to spring weeks. Inspired, she started applying–through which her interest deepened. With hard work, she acquired opportunities at both Credit Suisse and JP Morgan.
When asked about what made her stand out, she first notes her own improvement during the application process. “I ended up getting the opportunities I applied for later, which I think is quite a common experience.” Secondly, Daria emphasizes the value in being genuine. In interviews, she explains: “I always tried to talk about things I was actually interested in, rather than regurgitate an answer I’d found online.” In particular, her experience in student societies gave her valuable discussion points. When faced with questions such as “tell me about a time in which you faced an ethical dilemma,” and “tell me about a time where you demonstrated your leadership skills,” she had a lot of stories to draw upon.
In spite of the perceived pressure, remember that the spring week itself is an opportunity for learning. As Daria explains, “I think it’s really important to use [spring weeks] as an opportunity for you to find out more about the firm and all the divisions… even whether finance is for you at all. It can be very daunting to think of it as an opportunity where you are being assessed.”
“You don’t need to overthink the questions that you ask, it’s just a matter of asking what you want to know about the job.” To sum it up, Daria laughs and points out: “you’re on a mission to find what suits you.”
Converting her Spring Week
At the end of her time at Credit Suisse, Daria had the opportunity to convert her spring week into a summer internship. After choosing which division she wanted to work with, she notes that the conversion interview “was sort of like an assessment day.” Having applied to equity research, she was tasked with giving a stock pitch for airline companies. However, every division was given a different assignment.
Following this, there was a round of interviews at the office, in which some people were called back for a second round.
In this, she notes: “I think they very much tailor how technical the interview gets depending on your profile. Because I don’t directly study finance at university, I wasn’t quizzed on the more specific aspects of finance.” Later on, she got a phone call from a company representative–she got the internship position.*
When talking to Daria, I found two key takeaways. First, explore what you can. As a result of her willingness to engage with what was around her, Daria not only learnt about what opportunities lay in front of her, but also was better prepared in applying for those opportunities. “If you think about it in a simplistic way,” she laughs, “luck can’t really hit you if you’re hiding away.” So, if you’re an incoming fresher, make the most of what your campus has to offer.
Secondly, be authentic. “Based on my observations, the people who seem to get conversions are the ones who made a good impression on the firm. They do pick up on those who are just gunning for the name. We all want to work at a prestigious place, but I think it really shows when it’s not underpinned by a genuine interest. Ultimately, they want you to be happy as an employee as much as they want to gain an asset for their firm. Being there for the purpose of having a good name on your CV is not good for anyone.”
So–take the leap. Just remember, being yourself will help you every step of the way.