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The four things that will really ingratiate you during spring week at an investment bank

If you're one of the lucky handful of first year university students that has managed to secure a place on an investment bank's spring insight week, don't under-estimate its significance.

Yes, they're generally painted as a chance to introduce yourself to the industry; a little taster before you seriously consider your career aspirations, but the reality is that they're a head-start on the competition.

"On the final day of the insights programme, we assess all participants for an internship with us the following year. This is before our online application system opens to other candidates," says Fiona Hookham a graduate recruiter at UBS.

Meanwhile, RBS tells us that 80% of the people who attended last year's insight week were offered places on a summer internship, which is of course the easiest way to eventually secure a full-time position.

"These weeks are competitive programmes and first year students are not always ready to sell themselves at their best yet," says Gemma Lines, head of graduate recruitment at Citi.

You'll be offered some technical training, rotations across various desks within your chosen division, get to shadow real investment bankers, network with senior executives and, at some institutions at least, be required to give a presentation that could eventually lead to a summer internship offer.

In short, you need to make the most of this week. So, how can you?

Be prepared to ask questions, but do your research

The fact is that you'll need to have researched the industry and the particular division you want to work in before even making your application. Once you're onboard, you'll be placed in a situation where you'll be either given a lot of information or instruction and it's important to ask questions to demonstrate your enthusiasm or aptitude. But asking something basic can work against you.

"Ask intelligent questions in response to the topics being discussed or presented, not something you could easily have looked up on Wikipedia before the week started," says one head of graduate recruitment who declined to be named.

"Continually asking basic questions or asking the same question to more than one person on the same desk is a common mistake," adds Lines.

Show the right attitude, but don't try to impress with your industry knowledge

Whatever you know, or think you know, about investment banking, it's guaranteed that whoever you're shadowing will know more. Demonstrating a little knowledge is good, quoting your textbooks is not. In fact, it may prompt experienced employees to quiz your know-how further, which could result in an embarrassing scenario.

"There's no need to try and impress with your knowledge - we're more interested in your attitude, how you work independently and within a team," says Mike Maddick, head of graduate recruitment and development at RBS. "If you're successful the knowledge will come later.  Be creative with how you approach tasks and don't try and be someone you're not - try and relax and just be yourself."

Be proactive and ask for work

This is not the place for shrinking violets. Most experienced bankers helping the graduate recruitment teams for spring insight weeks have bought into the programme, but you're still interfering into the schedule of extremely busy people. Don't expect them to notice when you have nothing to do, and then give you a glowing review at the end of you rotation.

"Participants should take initiative within their teams and if they are desk-based, ask for projects and get to know as many in the group as possible," says Lines. "If their experience is more about networking, ask questions and get interested."

Don't overdo the networking side of things, however. "There's a fine line between ingratiating yourself to a particular person, and stalking them," says the anonymous grad recruiter.

Invest in a suit

It's a commonly known fact that although investment bankers might not be the most stylish of people, they can spot a cheap suit from a mile away. Not that you, as a poor student, will be able to invest in something from Brooks Brothers or Aquascutum. You will, however, be required to turn up in business clothing.

Graduate recruiters complain of people turning up in "weekend attire" or "inappropriate clothing", which basically means they haven't followed the unwritten rule of conservative business garb.

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AUTHORPaul Clarke

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