This term, in a Bright Network first, we kicked off our Alumni Networking Series with two fantastic panel events focusing on Investment Banking and Commercial Law. Bringing together over 100 of the brightest students and nine of our most successful alumni, both events were full of insightful questions and first-hand advice about what you can expect from two of the most competitive careers in the City.
After a warm welcome from the Bright Network team, students had the chance to hear from panellists from Cleary Gottlieb, White & Case, Jones Day, Clyde & Co, Herbert Smith Freehills, Barclays, BNP Paribas and J. P. Morgan across the two events.
The panels covered a range of topics, giving our members essential insights - here are a few of our highlights:
How do you stand out from the competition?
It’s the big question on the mind of every student, and our panellists recommended throwing yourself into extra-curricular activities and part time work. It doesn’t really matter what it is - with one of the panellists recalling speaking about her university’s Beyonce Society in an interview - as long as it’s something you enjoy and can speak about passionately, rather than just doing it for your CV. During the application process, these activities will prove that you’ve got key skills every graduate needs, including interpersonal skills, leadership and organisation.
Top three tips for the application process?
Our panellists had a range of tips for the application process – including practicing interview answers in the mirror, following a short and sweet structure for your cover letter and focusing on yourself rather than the competition.
How do you become commercially aware?
The secret lies in finding something you’re passionate about and becoming commercially aware about it. Think about a topic that interests you in detail, such as Brexit – and then ask how it will impact the organisation you’re applying to and the work they do. If you’re going into Law or Investment Banking, get well versed on Brexit, because you may be asked about it directly - but have non-Brexit related knowledge too.
How to prepare for assessment centres?
The format of an assessment centre may be different at every firm and bank and you’ll get better with practice. Key tips included looking up the interviewer to research what they do, trying to perform consistently throughout the day and ensuring you strike a balance between showing off your skill set and your personality.
Why did you choose this career path?
This was a popular question for our Law panel. Several panellists cited an interest in words and writing as being the catalyst for their interest in pursuing a legal career. Alongside this, work experience helped them to establish the type of law that they were, or weren’t, interested in – including family law vacation schemes, mini-pupillages and non-legal work experience, like marketing. All of the panellists agreed that Commercial Law was the best match for their skill sets and interests: it’s fast-paced, intense and client facing. If you’re still unsure about what you want to do, the panel recommended looking at what different organisations say about themselves and use this as a guide – “ask yourself if you want to be a part of that”.
How to succeed during your vacation scheme or summer internship?
“Sell yourself as a person, not just as a lawyer” was the standout message from the Law panel – and this applies to other roles and sectors too. Firms want to see that you’re sociable and can make personal connections. Focus on this throughout your vacation scheme or internship, and don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed or threatened by other students around you. Our banking panel emphasised the importance of getting as much as you can out of the experience: “Nobody expects you to know everything. Ask questions, listen to the responses and do your research. Utilise the knowledge of those around you”.
How to manage the transition from student to young professional?
Creating structure was a key theme for all of our panellists – whether that means taking charge of your own professional development or planning your downtime at the weekends. One top tip was to keep a personal skills diary throughout your graduate scheme or training contract. You can note down key points about your learning and development, or interactions that you’ve witnessed and want to learn from. While your role and work may be intense, our alumni also recommended making friends with your peers to create a support network – don’t view them as the competition.
Thank you to all of our panellists and members who came along. Keep an eye out for more Bright Network events in the future.