August 03, 2016

Sandra Scharf: Internships are Critical to Cultivating the Next Generation of Leaders

Sandra Scharf

Sandra Scharf


Many people may hear the word “internship” and think of coffee orders, lunch runs and endless photocopying. But – done correctly – internships are a critical part of talented students’ career development and companies’ strategies for developing a pipeline of strong, diverse talent.

Internships are a time for students to find out where their true professional passion and skills lie. They may be studying one subject in school, but the ways their interest and knowledge can be applied to a career are probably broader than they realize. An interest in finance doesn’t mean that they need to become an accountant or trader. It could open doors to develop apps, advance Big Data projects, create marketing and communications campaigns, solve business problems with smart automation, recruit the next generation of talent or support the company’s legal and regulatory interests.

Internships also provide critical, on-the-job training that helps to develop high-potential talent into our next generation of leaders. Classroom learning is an important foundation, but it doesn’t guarantee career success. Many students graduate and enter the workforce only to learn that a different set of functional and professional skills are required to thrive. Internships give students an opportunity to build those skills so that their eventual entry into the workforce is smoother and less challenging.

To ensure that students are getting the most out of their internships, companies shouldn’t treat them as summer help. Students should be given real responsibilities and accountability on strategic, meaningful assignments that contribute to the overall business strategy. They will benefit from the growth that comes with feeling valued and challenged and experiencing what it’s like to truly work for a company. Companies will benefit from the new, fresh ideas and perspectives the students bring to the table.

The Campus Team at BNY Mellon has the unique opportunity to help shape the career paths of students who are just beginning their careers. We welcomed nearly 250 Summer Analysts into our 9-10 week program across all of our business functions in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland. The program gives interns an inside look into what it’s like to work for a competitive, global financial services organization. Summer Analysts participate in a variety of different events and sessions, including a senior speaker series, targeted online learning, formal and informal networking events, mentoring activities and end of internship presentations.

As a product of a college internship program, I know first-hand the influence that these programs can have on career development. It’s rewarding to be a part of impacting an individual’s career journey by providing them with support and development opportunities that will further expand their knowledge and skills in such a short period of time.

The experience and impact of an internship can be seen best through an intern’s eyes. Throughout August, we’ll feature some of our Summer Analysts’ perspectives on their time at BNY Mellon from the best advice they’ve received to their most meaningful experience. We’ll take a look at their typical day, the industry trends they’re excited about and their advice for future interns.