Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa the route that almost everyone takes is to complete their undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town and then immediately start working, usually in South Africa. While this is the route that I started with, after growing up in Cape Town my whole life I knew from day one that I wanted to finish my studies and begin my career overseas.
This led me to exploring options for masters degrees in foreign countries, initially with a main focus on London. However, after a bit of research I discovered Trinity – the number one university in Ireland – and more specifically, the Masters in Finance degree – rated the 27th best Finance Masters in the world. I started the application process almost immediately and was fortunate enough to secure a spot a couple months later.
The decision to attend Trinity turned out to be a great one from an academic point of view as well as a personal one. The number of international students at Trinity really allowed me to grow my network massively and to learn from many different perspectives throughout the year.
Nowadays, degrees are increasingly becoming levellers amongst job seekers rather than qualifications which make you stand out. Employers are seeking combinations of strong academic achievement as well as real-world experience.
The MSc in Finance Programme Overview
However, anyone who has recently spent any time applying for jobs will be familiar with the seemingly impossible experience-work cycle: in order to get work you need experience but in order to gain experience you need work. Virtual internships provide an opportunity to bypass this situation and bridge the gap between your studies and real-world experience.
These virtual experiences offer a way to upskill yourself in a way which the usual educational methods do not allow for, at your own pace and in subject areas of your choice. A further benefit in these “unprecedented times” is obviously that these virtual experiences can be completed from your own home in a Covid-safe manner.
Where to access these Virtual Internships
While there are many sites which offer similar opportunities, after having a look around I found the best one to be Forage. (Formerly InsideSherpa.) This platform is completely free for students and has opportunities with top companies such as JP Morgan, PwC, Boston Consulting Group and more, across multiple industries from marketing, finance and accounting to consulting and engineering.
My Virtual Internship Experience
I chose to do the Investment Banking Virtual Experience through JP Morgan Chase due to my background in Finance and my career goal of working in an investment bank on the sell-side of things. Even though I had learned a few of the concepts covered before, I found the experience to be very beneficial as there is a massive difference between completing random tasks as part of a university assignment and actually completing these tasks with information from real life examples and data.
The programmes are broken down into 4 or 5 tasks, each with videos explaining what is required of you, explained by actual employees from the company through which the internship is being offered who are currently working in the roles you are interning for. This adds a great benefit to the experience as you get to hear directly from people who have been in your position before and are now where you want to be.
There are also downloadable data sets, tutorial videos and suggested templates for your work. After completing the tasks, you are provided with an ideal version of the task you just completed for review purposes. The guidelines said that the experience should take around 5 hours to complete in one sitting. However, I found myself spending a lot longer completing the tasks and reviewing the work I produced against the suggested work.
One piece of advice which I would definitely offer is to persevere with the Virtual Internship idea even if it starts to feel as though you are not gaining anything. Try different programs with different companies in different focus areas - I actually signed up for and got started on a few different experiences before finding one which I actually enjoyed and found beneficial.
One huge benefit of this learning avenue is the availability and ease of access – it is possible to complete three or four of these experiences in a month if you put in the work. This makes it possible to try your hand in new areas and upskill yourself in areas which you didn’t even know about before the internship. From another perspective, you’re able to really drive home your skills in a specific area with internship opportunities from so many companies in each industry.