Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Career planning: SAISers go to London

How do SAIS students learn about internship and job opportunities? The Career Services office plays a critical role in helping students land rewarding internships and jobs. Today Alex Aki of SAIS Bologna discusses a recent trip organized by Career Services to London.

Almost as soon as I arrived at SAIS, I started thinking about what I was going to do next summer between my first and second year and also after graduation.

Alex Aki
Enrolling at SAIS was an easy choice but figuring out which sectors and companies to apply to is much more difficult. Fortunately SAIS’s Career Services office provides resources and training to help students refine their resumes and cover letters, network effectively and prepare for interviews.

Each year Career Services organizes treks that enable students to learn about specific organizations and particular sectors. This year Career Services in Bologna is offering four career trips -- two to London, one to Geneva and one to Brussels.

The trip to Brussels will focus on European Union institutions and other multinational and multilateral organizations, while the trip to Geneva will expose students to multilaterals and United Nations offices. One of the London trips will include meetings with a variety of multinational companies while the other was geared entirely towards the financial services industry.

I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the London finance trip this semester because I intend to pursue a career in that industry. During two days in the English capital, 20 SAIS Bologna students attended eight meetings with different firms including Black Rock, JP Morgan Chase and Fitch Ratings.

At each of the firms current analysts and managers, most of them SAIS alumni, spoke to us about their respective jobs, company culture and required skills to obtain an internship or full-time employment. Many of the alumni recommended certain academic classes and related skills courses at SAIS which would help us be more competitive applicants. They shed light on how the financial services industry is weathering the global financial crisis and how increased government regulation is affecting their work.

SAIS Bologna students on the London Career trip
My favorite part of the trip was the energy finance panel assembled by the SAIS Bologna Career Services director, Meera Shankar. The panel included two SAIS alumni working in energy project finance and a current SAIS Bologna professor (also an alumnus), Marco Dell’Aquila. All three stressed that to be successful in energy project finance we need the strong quantitative skills and robust understanding of international energy issues taught in SAIS’s Energy, Resources and Environment concentration.

The trip helped me identify which companies I want to apply to in the future and what skills I need to develop to be a competitive applicant. While I am at SAIS to study (and enjoy life in Bologna for a year), the career trek to London reminded me of the need to devote significant resources towards planning for life “in the real world” after graduation.

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