Through the Eyes of a Financial Services Intern

When people hear the words “intern” or “internship,” especially in the context of the financial field, they often envision someone in their late teens or early twenties struggling to deliver a tray of coffee from across town to the office. The general thought people have about internships is that they are meant to serve the needs of the employer without much thought about the intern. Regardless of the characteristics portrayed in movies, internships have many benefits not only for the employer and intern, but also for the local community as a whole.

Benefits to the Intern
For many young people wanting to direct their career towards the financial industry, getting an internship is just as important as getting a college degree. This was especially true for me as I entered my sophomore year at Hampden-Sydney College. Throughout the year, I looked through internship listings online trying to find the right one for my career path. Although I spent many hours scrolling through pages, I never thought how I might benefit from an internship.
Admittedly, I had the idea that internships are just like Hollywood portrays them: a rite of passage for getting a good job in the future with no real gain in knowledge or experience in the present. However, after interning at a financial planning firm for some time now, I can say this is not the case. I’ve learned this type of opportunity gives the intern real-world experience in a field that would be very difficult to find a job in at a young age; a typical summer job usually doesn’t involve working in a professional setting.
Furthermore, an internship gives the intern a chance to see if they truly want to pursue this career path. You wouldn’t buy a car before test driving it, so why would you pursue a career without trying it out? By test driving the career, an intern can adjust their path and goals based on their likes or dislikes.

Benefits to the Employer
Besides having an employee working for low or even no wages, there are a handful of other positive aspects for an employer who is considering starting an internship program. Employers are likely to find previously undiscovered talent; they will get the first look at the abilities of young professionals in their field. If an employer is impressed by an intern, they have a much better shot at retaining the intern for a full-time position before another firm, which is crucial in the competitive industry of finance. And by bringing an intern into the firm, the employer can also gain a new perspective on things from someone with a younger mindset. This different perspective often generates many new ideas that can be extremely beneficial for the business.
Benefits to the Local Community
Young people in the Lynchburg community with aspirations to become the next successful person in the finance field feel a lot of pressure to look for opportunities in larger cities such as Charlotte, Chicago or New York. This pressure comes from the common perception that because Lynchburg is a comparatively smaller area, there aren’t opportunities here. Contrary to this belief, Lynchburg is home to a number of successful, established financial firms along with many new, younger ones. One thing all of these firms have in common is the need for employees. If all of the young talent in the area hold the belief that local opportunities are too few and far between, how would Lynchburg retain its young professionals and how would these businesses grow in the future? Creating internship opportunities will help aspiring young professionals take notice of the area’s thriving workforce and consider starting their careers here.

For the college-aged young professional with aspirations to work in the financial world, an internship is essential to getting a substantial job after graduation. It allows you to gain real-world experience all while building your network of connections. An internship also gives you the opportunity to find out more about yourself and what you want to do with your life.
For businesses considering bringing on interns, there is much to gain. Not only are you helping the intern with their career, but you are giving the business a chance to see a younger and more modern view on certain practices and perhaps retain some local talent before it looks elsewhere.
For the Lynchburg community, internships offer much more than meets the eye. Before finding my current internship, I had planned on moving away to a larger city as soon as I received my college degree. However, by realizing I can have a successful career working in the financial field in the Lynchburg area, my plans may well have changed.