Finance Work Experience – How To Get Ahead

We explain how to get work experience in finance, for a graduate career boost. OK, You’re not in school anymore, so why have you got to plan work experience? Well, for one thing, you might be missing a trick if you don’t.   Graduate recruiters…
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

We explain how to get work experience in finance, for a graduate career boost.

OK, You’re not in school anymore, so why have you got to plan work experience?

Well, for one thing, you might be missing a trick if you don’t.  

Graduate recruiters smile down favourably on work experience, with research by Highfliers concluding that, “graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process…

…and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes.”


Not to mention the fact that work experience allows you to get a feel for your chosen profession, risk-free.  

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt the old CV, either – particularly in a super competitive employment market like finance.  Work experience shows interest, motivation, and workplace savvy; strong attributes that should see you standing out from the graduate crowd.

Plus, who knows – you could end up meeting someone who can help you move up the career ladder… or even emerge with a permanent job!

How Do I Find Work Experience Opportunities In Finance?

The good news?  If you’re hankering after a graduate finance career, you’ll be tripping over options when it comes to work experience opportunities.

(Think about it… large or small, what company doesn’t need a finance department, or at least a small team to do their accounts?) 

You can download our Debut App for a plethora of ideas.  But because we’re nice like that, we’ve included some here, too.

So… to start with, how about doing a little shadowing?  

Many larger firms offer insight days or shadowing programmes because it’s as much in their interest as yours that you understand more about the career you’ve chosen, and how you could fit in to their company.  You’ll find these on offer at well-known, established organisations such as PwC, KPMG, and Deloitte.

But if you’d rather work somewhere less formal, then why not contact your firm of choice, and ask to shadow someone for a couple of days?

How About A First-Year Internship?

If scrambling for a summer placement sounds too daunting, a first-year internship may be less competitive, as well as shorter… offering a valuable, one-to-two-week glimpse of the graduate finance career that could lie ahead.

Take a look at our Debut App, to find out more about graduate first-year internships in finance.

But before you do, have you considered a year-long placement?  These could be useful if you’re on a sandwich course, giving you a chance to build up experience in a specific area of finance.

We did tell you you’d be tripping over work experience options in graduate finance… so get ready for another one!  

A vacation scheme, or an extended summer internship, perhaps?

But now we’ve tempted you, here’s the rub: these schemes are devilishly competitive to get onto.  The reason is simple: they’re considered the crГЁme de la crГЁme of finance and accountancy work experience opportunities.

This is because lots of firms recruit a high proportion of their graduate intake from them.  As many as 75%, in fact, according to a recent survey.

So, if you want one of these coveted spots, you’ll have to get in quick.  The deadlines for most are at the start of each year, though some close even earlier than that, so don’t forget to check before you apply.

More Ideas For Graduate Work Experience In Finance 

Seen as secure options with dewy golden potential, investment banking and accountancy are the well-known, big ticket items on the roll call of graduate finance careers.

But the finance sector has much more to it than can first appear… so why not broaden those horizons?  

Getting involved in other areas of finance will not only help you gain more insight into the industry as a whole, it could even introduce you to the dream job you’d never considered before.

What are these hallowed “other areas”, we hear you ask?  

Try pensions, wealth management, insurance, or retail banking for starters.

(You’re welcome).

The “other options” don’t stop there, either.  Instead of aiming for large organisations, why not try for a smaller, more specialist firm… 

…or, if you absolutely insist on the big names, how about a smaller, more specialised department?

You could also look to the public sector for opportunities, such as NHS trusts and central government departments.  Communities and charities could be a good bet, too, helping you do some good as you climb the graduate career ladder.

(Download our free Debut App for even more graduate finance career ideas, and much more besides!)

Now, Let’s Think Outside of the Box

We touched briefly on this point at the start, but pretty much every organisation has to have a finance function.

So, applying to sectors outside of the finance realm could mean uncovering a hidden nugget of career gold.  Media, arts and culture, science and engineering… the field is stretched out wide!

Going even further out of the box, if you’re a whiz with words then you could even look at financial journalism.  There are plenty of specialist publications out there, going right up to the esteemed British newspaper The Financial Times.

And if that doesn’t float your boat, then consultancies that specialise in the finance sector, think tanks, or in-depth research bodies could be just the thing instead.

What If The Finance Company I Want to Work For Doesn’t Offer A Graduate Programme?

Many don’t.

However, many more will offer work experience on an ad-hoc basis, so now would be a good time to get Googling…

…or better still, download our free Debut App and find some great work experience opportunities there!

Tell Me More About This Debut App!  

Well, since you ask, it’s a fun, free, and ridiculously easy way to apply to top graduate employers – in just one tap!

But that’s not all.

You could get yourself talent-spotted, without lifting so much as a finger.  

You can also arm yourself with real world career advice, from people who’ve been there and done that. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a range of (educational!) games to help you pass the time… with not a single pesky ad in sight.


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