How I Got A Finance Internship With No Work Experience

I cold-emailed and sent in my CV to everyone.

For context, I just entered my first year in university. I had no previous internship experience. My only co-curricular achievements were from High School, which I already graduated from a few years before. However, I did contribute to some ongoing school clubs.

I started by:

  1. Drawing up a list of every possible firm that I could find
  2. Cold-emailing my CV to the most senior person I could find
  3. Telling a story of wanting to learn and just contribute anyway at all

With step one, I assumed that I'd need to reach out to many people and that it was a numbers game. I also didn't restrict myself only to companies that were openly recruiting. With companies that weren't recruiting, I could stand out more since there'd be less applicants - if at all.

I also focused on smaller companies. With a smaller team, I felt that I'd be able to learn so much more. The goal at this stage, being my first internship, was to get as much experience and exposure as possible - not prestige.

For step two, I reached out to the most senior person. This is because the team is small anyway, so it'd be best to connect with the one calling the shots. It's also more likely that you'd be given some consideration. An email in someone's personal inbox is way better than an email in some generic 'Contact Us' folder.

My cold emails were very short. Each element was roughly a sentence or two at most. I introduced myself, said I wanted to intern, mentioned my skills, and followed up with a thanks. I also attached my CV because it felt silly to make people email me back and wait for me to send it over.  

And with step three, I focused on talking about my motivations and personal experiences in the interview. I had no real hard skills to offer, so I talked about my motivations to convey my genuine interest. I think that they also know you're going to be pretty useless, so they'd at least like to see that you give a shit and are willing to learn on the go.

Talking about my motivations led on naturally to what I did to make up for my lack of work experience. I talked about what I've read, my attempts at investing, as well as my opinion on many topics. These topics included current events, investing styles, and beliefs in a particular sector. It wasn't a replacement for work experience but at least it showed how serious I was about putting in effort.

I found about 30 companies a day to build my list. I sent out 5-10 emails a day at my peak rate. By the time I hit the 50th email I started to get some responses. I went for about 6-7 interviews. Of those, I got the one offer (which I quickly took). By the end, I sent at least 120 emails or applications.

Sorry for the rough numbers, it's been a few years since then.

With these steps, I managed to get a summer internship in my freshman year.

It really helped me move on to a second internship in my sophomore year. After this internship, I also gained the confidence to network more intensively with professionals.

This was just my personal experience and it's not authoritative at all. Still, I hope this helped a bit.

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