“Hi Fiona, I’m a Math student at the University of Birmingham in the UK. I always thought that I would go down the finance route and so decided to do an international internship in Hong Kong in an investment bank. However, I’ve been here for about three weeks and I think I chose the wrong career field. I find the work doesn’t come naturally to me and the atmosphere stresses me out. I’m glad I did this internship because it has opened my eyes and made me realize that finance is not the career for me, but I’m not sure what to do from here. I’m looking for some tips on how to still make the most of the rest of my experience. How do I move forward from here?” – Tom
Hi Tom, thanks for getting in touch! I’m sorry to hear that you’re not enjoying your finance internship, but don’t worry, this is not an uncommon a situation. There are people who have their heart set on being a teacher, start their first day and realize that they cannot work with children all day. It may feel worrying, but I think it’s great that you’ve realized so early on in your career. I’ll share with you my top tips for still getting the most out of the rest of your internship, while deciding on your next step.
1. Give it some time
Although you may feel very certain that finance is not for you, give yourself some time. Three weeks feels like a very long time, but it’s still quite new. As you carry on through your internship you will be given more and more tasks. You may find that later on you begin to be given things that really catch your interest. This may make you excited for your internship again. The worst thing you could do at this point is quit. You never know what is around the corner with new projects and exciting work. As well as this, leaving early will alter your colleagues’ positive impression of you. You never know how these contacts may help you in the future.
2. Ask to try new things
If you’re struggling with the work that you’re being given and not enjoying it, why not ask to try something different? If you see your supervisor working on something new, why not ask if you can do anything to help? This will also make you look keen and excited to learn, which will impress your boss. You may find that one of these new projects really interests you. If you make sure to work hard, they may let you carry on with this kind of work. You could even just sit in on a few meetings and get a deeper understanding of how the business works.
3. Work on your most important skills
Although you may not necessarily enjoy all of the work that you are given, it all teaches you valuable skills. Everything you do in your internship is teaching you a new skill, which you can apply to other jobs in the future. Think about the work that you are doing and the transferrable skills that you are acquiring. Decide which will be most important for you and hone these skills.
4. Write a pro’s and con’s list
This may sound like a bit of a ridiculous piece of advice because you already know you don’t like the job, but bear with me. A great way to pinpoint exactly what it is that you like and don’t like about the jobs is to analyze the pros and cons. It’s so easy.
Grab a piece of paper, make two columns and then put down everything you like as a pro and everything you don’t as a con. The things you put down can be really menial, the more specific you are the better actually. For example, you may have ‘enjoy working with numbers’ as a pro, and ‘hate the competitive atmosphere’ as a con. Once you have your list you can look at your pro’s and this will give you a specification of your ideal job. You can use this to look at career fields or specific positions within them.
5. Do some research
Once you have your ‘perfect job’ specification, the best advice I can give you is research, research, research. Google boasts so much information and if a position exists, you will be able to find it. A great way to go about this is to begin with general searches such as “jobs for maths grads” and get more specific as you find out more information. Then begin to look deeper into the jobs that grab your attention. You can even, once you have a few positions in mind, take a look on LinkedIn and see if anyone you know has any relevant experience. You will be able to send them an email or message through LinkedIn and they can give you great first-hand knowledge.
6. Try and network
One of the best things about an international internship is the incredible network that you will build by meeting people from all over the world. The contacts you make will be so important for your later life, so make sure that you’re networking at much as possible. ‘What is networking?’ I hear you ask. Networking is essentially the business version of making friends. You are creating a circle of contacts that you can contact or work with in later life. People rarely stay in the same job or company forever so make sure that you’re being friendly and helpful to everyone at work. You never know what they’ll be doing in the future. They may hold the key to your dream job.
7. Enjoy your new city
Although the finance industry may not be quite what you were hoping, remember to make the most of your new surroundings! The internship is only one part of the experience. Make sure that you’re making the most of living in Hong Kong and everything the city has to offer. People always talk about a work-life balance. So if your work is feeling a bit rubbish, you need to balance it by having a great time outside of work! Why not make a list of everything you want to do or see in Hong Kong? Grab a few friends and see how many you can tick off before you leave. Hong Kong is full of exciting and wonderful places to explore. Living in such a vibrant city is an incredible experience in itself.
“I think I chose the wrong career” is something most people have thought at some point during their professional lives. Apply today for an international internship to try out a new career path.
2. based on Alan Schaaf, Imgur Founder, in Wellington for TEDxWellington & more, by US Embassy, CC BY -ND 2.0
3. by Fiona Johnson
4. based on Hong Kong, by Anton, CC BY 2.0