Last month, Rousseau Anai (ex- Head of Asia Pacific, Cantor Fitzgerald) sat down with Debolina Saha Narayanan (Editor, Apprentice Lawyer-Bar and Bench) for The Apprentice’s first “Fireside Interview.” The Fireside Interview series will run for 8 weeks and feature conversations with senior partners and regional heads of international organizations.
Rousseau has been part of the senior management of many international organizations (including UBS AG, and Cantor Fitzgerald in Hong Kong). That makes him uniquely qualified to talk about what is expected of interns in a foreign set-up. And in our conversation, Rousseau offered eight lessons that interns would do well to concentrate on while trying to convert an internship offer to a job offer. Why just eight lessons? “That’s because 8 is considered the luckiest of numbers in Hong Kong,” Rousseau said with smile. Makes sense. Rousseau spent more than 7 years living there.
Rousseau is from Australia. But most of his career has been spent outside of his home country. For 20 years, Rousseau actively pursued career opportunities in Tokyo, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong before finally moving back home in 2020. Also, though initially trained as a lawyer, Rousseau followed a career track in finance.
Rousseau describes his career trajectory as “circuitous but amazing.” Howsoever non-traditional Rousseau’s journey may have been, it shows that successful career tracks need not fit into a box and students will do well to follow their passion instead of following the herd. Also it is never too late to change one’s career route or look for opportunities abroad.
While Rousseau candidly points out that he did not have to go through any internships, he stresses that reputed international organizations look at their young interns as “potential next generation leadership of the organization.” Internships are extremely important for international organizations. So interns should take them seriously -- especially if they are looking to convert the internship offer into a job offer. Interns have to demonstrate that they have the potential to rise up to the highest level of the organization. Rousseau emphasizes, that “it is not one set of standards for the interns and another set of criteria for mid-management.” Both interns and mid-management need to show that they have the drive and ability to climb up to the top of the corporate ladder.
When asked to describe the keys to succeeding at an internships, Rousseau focused on competence, intellect, hard-work and a pro-active attitude. Delivering high quality advice in a short span of time under stressful conditions requires competence. Therefore good technical grasp over the subject is a “must” and that can only come with a drive and a motivation to succeed along with huge dollops of intellect, hard-work and pro-active attitude.
There are two types of business relationships. First, you have the relationships with outside clients. This is what helps bring in the revenue. The other type of relationship is the one you have with people within the organization. Because we all spend longs hours in the office, Rousseau suggests that interns focus on sharing information and creating a friendly atmosphere where people would like to work and spend time with each other. This is where developing good soft skills help. The right soft skills will help interns inspire trust and build a sense of camaraderie among people at office (and external clients too!).
Interns should always try to communicate clearly -- both in writing and orally. But Rousseau says what many interns forget to do is listen. And listening is critically important. It is imperative that interns have the ability to listen and clearly understand a client’s problem and the solution the client is looking for.
Rousseau stresses that it is important for interns to learn how to provide effective solutions to clients. It is not just enough to points out problems and identify the legal issues. Interns must be able to suggest possible solutions.
According to Rousseau, clients love working with ”real people.” They need to be able to connect with people on a personal level. Interns should have the confidence and courage to express their own uniqueness in such a way that they become likeable to not just their colleagues but their clients too,” Rousseau added.
Rousseau says the most successful interns use their resumes to “weave together their unique story.” For example, he says that if an intern is applying for a corporate law position, the intern should be able to demonstrate a keen interest in corporate law in less than 30 seconds by showcasing the most relevant experiences and extra-curricular activities. The person making the hiring decision should be able to say, “….I think I believe (in) that person.”
In essence, there is more to an internship program than meets the eye.
“Being a lawyer is one part, and being a legal person with a business mind is another part. When an intern is able to connect these two parts, the intern has opened up massive opportunities for oneself,” Rousseau concluded.