Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Using Your First Year of Economics Wisely...
Firstly, feel free to write off any of the drivel I spurt out here as rubbish - this will be coming from my own personal experiences, and I know everyone is different. So today I'm going to try and give some advice into how to spend your first year studying economics at university to set yourself up for the future. I started my first year fairly clueless about how to move forward and help myself pursue a career in finance - so I contacted a third year friend who has tied down a graduate job at an investment bank. I took that advice on board and used it to steer me in the correct direction. I feel if I had known what I do now before even starting my degree I'd be better placed, but that's life and the benefit of hindsight. I'm going to go through three main points: studying, interning and 'other stuff'.
So, firstly, the studying. A lot of the people you meet at university will tell you "it's only first year, it doesn't count". Ok, yes, that is partly true. At most universities what you achieve in your first year has no effect on your final degree classification. Most will have it in their heads that they only need to achieve the bare minimum to pass, 40%, anymore would be wasted efforts. I disagree totally with this. When you get into your second year and things get serious, the only thing anyone has to go on regarding your academic ability is your first year grade. So they may see a 42% average and get the wrong impression, you could be the smartest guy alive. However, try hard in your first year and achieving a good grade isn't that difficult. Put the effort in and reap the rewards. A solid 2:1 in your first year is a great way to start your degree, it shuts no doors in your face - and in fact opens a lot. My first piece of advice for your first year studying economics would be to take it seriously, aim for a decent grade.
My second point is interning. This is the information I could really have used before I started my degree - but I was lazy and didn't put the effort into researching. My fault entirely. The bottom line is, if you want to enter the finance sector after completing your degree you need some experience under your belt. The best way to get this experience is to intern. Internships are commonly done during the Summer of your penultimate year, but you can get a head start. Many firms offer what is known as a 'Spring Week' during first year. This is essentially, as the name suggests, a week during Spring spent at the firm learning the ropes and getting an insight into the operations undertaken there. It can lead to a fast track to a second year Summer internship, which is fantastic. These aren't a necessity though, I never got a Spring week because I started applying too late, but they sure will help. Applying early is my advice. Applications for some firms can open as early as August, and as they recruit on a rolling basis getting in there early is the best bet. I applied in late December/early January and didn't even get a look in.
My third point is do 'stuff'. Ambiguous, I know, but you need to get out there and do as much as you can in the first year. Join societies, go to events, network.. everything will help. Even if it doesn't seem like its helping, it isn't doing any harm. The likelihood is that your CV will be fairly dull before going to university, you need to spend first year sprucing it up - doing things that show you'd be a great catch for some firm in the future. Get on committees for societies, volunteer, these sort of things all make your CV look good. And it needs to. Talk to people, get numbers and e-mail addresses. Having a large network of people you can talk to is vital - you'll hear it a lot but it's definitely 'who you know' that gets you places nowadays. You'll be surprised how much you can benefit from befriending and staying in contact with just a few people. So, my third tip for first year is to build up the CV fodder.
I hope my advice is helpful to some, if not then I apologise for taking up your time and I'll ask you nicely to bugger off my blog. If you want to ask any questions about being a first year economics student with a goal of the finance career then feel free, I'll be happy to answer. Best of luck.