With a career goal to eventually land a job on Wall Street, Sean Liu is starting early. Liu, who just finished his freshman year studying finance at the University Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, is already more than a month into his first internship in the field he has his sights set on.
Liu joined FS Vector, a financial technology advisory firm, as an intern for the summer of 2020. He’s working closely, albeit remotely, from his family’s home in Montgomery County, Md., with his supervisor on research projects for the Washington, D.C.-based firm.
Liu is part of a growing trend, says Ashlee Chicoine, the director of undergraduate career programming in Smith’s Office of Career Services.
“We have more employers offering internship and externship opportunities to Smith first-year students because they see how sharp, motivated, and well-prepared they are,” she says. “Because of this, it is becoming more common that students complete multiple internships by graduation.”
Take the 2019 graduating class, for example, where nearly a third of Smith students said they’d completed three or more internships and nearly two-thirds said they’d done at least two by graduation.
“I feel really lucky that I got this internship,” Liu says, citing pandemic-era uncertainties. “Obviously, I wish it was in the office for networking purposes, but I knew this summer was going to be different.”
Liu had his sights set on an internship early, thanks to his experience at Maryland Smith and his participation in the student-run Smith Investment Fund. “That opened my eyes to everything in the financial industry and made me find my passion for it,” he says.
He says a lot of the other freshmen in the extracurricular club, which manages a portfolio of stocks, also landed summer internships. “The Smith Investment Fund gave us a blueprint to get the jobs you want. They said a freshman year internship is really crucial.”
He says he heard the same advice from Smith alumni he’s been connecting with who now work at Wall Street firms. “They also emphasized that having a freshman year internship would be really beneficial. The alumni network pushed me to want this even more.”
To get the internship, Liu sent cold emails to several financial firms in the region. A contact at one referred him to the FS Vector opportunity. Liu says Maryland Smith’s Office of Career Services offered critical support. A course on career search techniques, resume-writing and networking paved the way for him to land the internship. And more recently, Liu took part in a webinar with tips on how to succeed in your virtual internship.
Liu says finishing out his spring semester classes at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic prepared him for successful remote work. Each day, he logs on to compile research, tune into congressional testimony and learn more about financial technology, such as cryptocurrencies. He has regular check-in meetings with his manager and two other interns and they stay connected throughout the day on the messaging tool Slack. He’s also able to network with other FS Vector employees.
So far, Liu has learned a lot and is really enjoying his first step on his path to a career in finance.
“I’ve learned a lot about the fintech space and the financial services space,” says Liu. “FS Vector has done a great job of making this remote internship meaningful.”