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Internships are crucial to the future of advice

I've always believed that a university degree needs to be matched with a certain amount of work experience in order for a graduate to be job ready. This is why I started offering internships in 2017. Over the years I've seen a lot of university graduates (mainly Commerce) struggle to get good jobs, because potential employers want them to 'hit the ground running' and that requires practical experience. I understand this from an employer's perspective, as it's very hard to pay a salary to a new graduate given that they will be on a steep learning curve in their first year. This can be a drain on a business's resources (time and money), which means that the bulk of graduate opportunities will come from larger firms and corporates who can handle this sort of investment. I think this is a shame, as I believe new graduates learn a wider range of skills in small firms (less employees means greater range of duties) and also gain an appreciation of how businesses are started.

Benefits to the Intern

An internship offers final year students the opportunity to get some practical experience, whilst also adding value to a business. As much as the universities tout that their degrees get their business students 'job ready', this is far from the truth. Most final year students struggle with basic office tasks, such as how to greet clients, operating a business printer/ scanner, using basic software (e.g. drop box) and even making clients coffee! Given that new graduates will be starting in entry level jobs, it's important to master these basic skills.

Besides mastering basic skills around the office, interns get a chance to observe client meetings and learn the financial planning process in real time. This is invaluable, as it connects the theory with how things happen in the real world. Interns also get to spend time in different areas of the business with different team members. They learn about the whole business and develop a good working knowledge of all the processes involved. It's also important they gain exposure to financial planning specific software, as most potential employers will require this.

The intern receives credible work experience that gets them job ready and employable. At Dalton Financial Partners, we have had four interns so far. Our first two interns were not financial planning majors but are both now working full time in the financial planning industry due to the experience and skills gained through the program. Our third intern was an international business major who put her hand up for our 'marketing' internship. She proved herself and is now our full-time marketing manager, making a big difference in our business. Our last intern is an FP major and has come onboard at our firm as a client services officer. It's clear than internships work.

Benefits to the Business

Although there are many benefits for the intern, the business also greatly benefits from this arrangement.  Interns offer an extra set of hands around the office and you can delegate basic tasks to them. These tasks may seem simple to you, but they are foundation skills these undergraduates need to learn in order for them to become employable. As the intern grows in confidence, you can assign them with more difficult tasks. Because they are not paid, they have the time to make mistakes and to learn without hurting the business. If they prove themselves capable, then you may choose to offer them employment at the end of the internship. This is a fantastic way to recruit younger staff members, as  you get plenty of time to assess whether they are a good fit for your business.

How do I find an intern?

It's not that hard to find an intern and I don't believe an intense interview process is required. Internship applications have a natural candidate filter; being that only students who prioritise gaining experience over getting paid will apply. So straight away, you will be getting applications from the right type of people.

I am generally looking for students with a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic can be evidenced through a student with high grades or a student with a combination of solid grades who's also doing lots of part time/casual work to support their studies.

I open up our internships to all commerce students. My first three interns were not financial planning majors, but all three now work in the financial planning industry. I believe we need to attract good candidates into the industry, given the lack of students currently majoring in financial planning and the likely shortfall of advisers in the future.

Here are some quick suggestions for finding an intern;

  • Reach out to local universities and contact the key person in the relevant department.
  • Connect with students through LinkedIn and advertise the opportunity here (whether through a post or DM).
  • Offer to speak or get involved with University job expos/ career nights.

I think a lot of firms would be interested in offering internships, but don't know where to get started. To be honest, I didn't have much of a plan or program in place when I offered my first internship. I just figured it out as I went along. I would just recommend you don't overthink it and put together a basic plan for them. It should have different stages of progression and learning mapped out over a set time period (I like 6 months).

A chance to shape the future of the industry

Now is as greater time as any to help shape the future of our industry through internships. You have a chance to mould these young people through good mentorship and training. Your time with them will have a massive impact on their futures and shape their views and approach to the profession. If you really believe in what you do, pass your knowledge onto a younger person and watch them grow. It's one of the most fulfilling things you'll ever do.

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