Katherine Chan, a third-year Economics student, did the one thing everyone’s being telling us to do for years. She got work experience, and she got it early. Now she’s landed the job several thousand others wanted – a research position at Goldman Sachs. In this two part series, we will look at the route she took into banking, and her experience as a Goldman intern.
Her new position: Business Analyst for Equity Research with Global Investment Research in Europe
So what does that really mean? Well, she’ll be working in Goldman’s Global Investment Research division and over time will develop a specialism for certain stocks, for example packaged food or beverages. “There’s a guy who’s just an expert on beer stocks,” she tells me. However, when she first arrives she’ll more likely be doing client requests and pulling data to support her team.
She’ll be based in London but will spend five weeks in New York training. Some of the perks? A salary almost twice that of the average graduate starting salary, health insurance, a gym, medical centre, and according to Katherine, “an amazing canteen”.
Still interested? Here’s how she did it.
Firstly, she was persistent. Having done the obligatory two-week stint of work experience at 15, she decided that law was definitely not for her. Yet, while most of us became preoccupied with more pressing concerns such as A Levels and adjusting to university life, Katherine continued to hone what career field she was interested in.
An enjoyable month at an investment bank influenced her A Level choices (Maths, Economics, History) as she decided that banking was something she wanted to investigate further, and kick-started her interest in an Economics degree. It was during sixth form that she first also heard about Goldman Sachs – when a teacher recommended an insight day there. While it was only a brief visit, she loved the culture, and from then on recalls that, “everything else was simply a step [to getting there].”
However, it was a year at the Bank of England during her gap year that really got her thinking about what aspects of banking appealed to her.
“[It was] a very different type of finance and I really enjoyed it but I knew it wasn’t something I want to do long term, [however] it was really good as it got me thinking – I enjoyed the finance aspects but I wanted it to be a bit more commercial.”
Her original role wasn’t as glamorous as a gap year at the Bank of England sounds – while the position she applied online “completely on a whim” for was a position in monetary analysis, her actual initial role was as a secretary. However, unusual circumstances meant that Katherine got given more responsibility.
“[My placement] was in 2008 when the financial crisis happened… Because of that I took on a lot more responsibility and by the end of the year I was doing data analysis which was really interesting.”
Despite having accumulated a fair amount of banking experience for a first year university student, Katherine still got rejected at the next stage – ‘spring weeks’. “I applied to all the big names and didn’t get anything.”
For anyone interested in banking, a ‘spring week’ is a one or two-week taster course offered in the Easter holidays by the major banks, and is targeted towards first-years.
While the experience of not getting a spring week, despite appearing a very qualified applicant, was incredibly discouraging, she didn’t let that put her off, pursuing a less traditional route into finance instead.
“I volunteered at Christians Against Poverty and they’re a national debt counselling charity, so it’s a different side of finance. In first year I did that on a weekly basis and I also spent a month working in their head office in Bradford.”
Investment banking though is an undeniably hard area to break into as a young graduate, and this was reflected in Katherine’s next attempt to climb the banking ladder – getting a summer internship. Applying to 15 banks at the start of her second year – she only heard back from one, but one was all she needed.
“It just shows they’re all looking for different things,” Katherine said. “Goldman was the only one I got an interview for and I got the job but I didn’t get interviews anywhere else.”
To be continued…