This past month has been full of challenges (not least, finishing a mountain of Easter chocolate!). However, one of my standout memories of April 2018 will always be completing my two Spring Weeks.
If you’re not familiar with the process, “Spring Weeks” are multiple-day insight programmes ran during the Easter period. They offer a first look into an industry and are often the first step on the undergrad careers ladder.
I was fortunate enough to gain places on two excellent programmes: PwC Women in Business (Strategy Consulting) and the Barclays Spring Analyst Scheme (Front Office/Corporate Banking). I’d applied during my first term of this academic year, which felt like a lifetime ago, so when April finally came around it was time to get started.
Whilst I was thrilled to be involved, I have to highlight that the Spring Week application process is competitive, time-consuming and often industry/background specific. Not everyone wants – or is able to – participate in these kinds of programmes. Bearing this in mind, I thought I’d share my key observations reflecting on the past few weeks.
So, without further ado, these were my 5 key takeaways from my spring insight weeks:
1. Everyone is at completely different points in their career decisions at this point in time. Despite all being peers at university, some undergrads I met had been dedicated to getting into that sector for years, whilst for others, they’d applied on an impulse and this was their very first introduction. There is no right or wrong to this! There’s a common misconception that everyone on insight/internship schemes has decided for certain that this will be their future career, putting even more pressure on students to pick career paths earlier and earlier in their degrees. If you have an interest in a sector, go ahead and apply. You have nothing to lose.
2. Balancing Spring Weeks and academic work is a real challenge. If you have an interest in a specific industry, I would really recommend applying for a Spring Week in that sector. However, do bear in mind your academic workload. I met some students who were attending 3-4 programmes over the break – this is amazing experience if you can handle it (and be offered it!), but be careful to give yourself enough time to do your work and relax. There’s also a lot to be said for working hard over the Easter break and focusing on your academics!
3. Interviews for summer internships in the next year are often included as part of the programme structure. This threw me at first (summer 2019 is still a long, long time away in my eyes..!). However, if you do decide that this is something you’d be interested in doing, be aware that Spring Weeks are one of the most straightforward ways to being fast tracked onto a summer internship.
4. Networking amongst like-minded peers is just as important as making connections at any company. I met some truly amazing people during my Spring Weeks at every level of the respective organisations. I was so grateful for being made very welcome in both firms, and by how everyone I met was so receptive to my questions. Yet, what surprised me most was how much I learned from talking to other students. These kind of events and programmes are a great opportunity to meet bright peers from around the UK (and abroad!) with a huge diversity of backgrounds and experiences. There is so much emphasis on how to network with “senior” or “important” individuals in life, but I have often found that my peer network is my biggest source of inspiration.
5. You really don’t know what to expect til you get there, and that’s part of the challenge! Despite a lot of Googling and rereading my starting info about 15 times, the exact content of my Spring Weeks was pretty much a mystery until I walked through the doors on my first day. There is so much variation between programmes and content that it is almost impossible to predict! I had some ideas of what to expect, but I never would have imagined that soon I would be getting hands on with complex data analysis, learning to code and debating the future of AI. This uncertainty taught me to trust in myself to handle new and unfamiliar situations. I also enjoyed both insights immensely and they far exceeded my expectations!
As for me, it’s time to get started on the three essays I need to write in a week (turns out, I was definitely not joking about #2).
Have a great Easter break and good luck for exam season!