10 Investment Banking Internship “Don’t”‘s: How Not To Screw Up
I’ve given some internship tips in the form of a summer intern success guide and an avid reader gave some tips from his firsthand experience, but it’s often easier to give advice on what not to do (as with fashion).
Without further ado, here are the top 10 summer intern gaffs I’ve observed, both at my office and from friends’ stories.
This list applies to both Summer Analysts and Summer Associates – your role is the same, except Associates will get a bit more responsibility.
1. Argue with me over something financial/modeling-related
I see this more with Summer Associates than with Summer Analysts. Look, I understand you learned a lot about finance and accounting in business school and know all sorts of concepts that I don’t.
I also understand that you have several years (or more) of work experience and know a thing or two about how to perform well in a corporate environment.
But if you haven’t done investment banking before, you don’t know how we do things and you probably don’t realize the difference between what you learned in school and how financial work is done in the real world (corners are often cut).
Last year a Summer Associate spent 30 minutes arguing with me over how to calculate foregone interest on cash in a merger model and I said, “Yes, your way is correct but it makes a difference of less than 0.01 and would take time to change, which is why we don’t do it.”
So don’t even think of starting a debate.
2. Call me late on a Friday or Saturday night with non-urgent questions
Not that I’m bitter or anything, but this one always happens to me, and usually interns are at fault. If I’m out on a Friday night, I don’t want to be bothered with questions on Excel shortcuts or anything else that can wait until the next day (or next week).
Sure, ask questions when I’m around, but don’t go out of your way to contact me at odd hours unless it’s truly urgent.
This also brings up another point: within the Analysts at a bank, you generally want to ask questions of 1st Years first before going to 2nd/3rd Years.
Especially if the 2nd/3rd Year in question is leaving shortly.
3. Dress better than me, especially on your first day
I’m not going to lie; I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to clothing, especially compared to some other bankers out there.
Although it’s actually pretty easy to dress better than me, you still don’t want to come in wearing a $5,000 suit and gold watch on your first day.
Every office has a different culture, but most places will think this is really odd… it’s much better to wear standard business casual attire that doesn’t raise eyebrows.
Save your good clothes for when you start full-time or get a promotion.
4. Be overly enthusiastic – it’s just creepy
Look, attitude is very important as a Summer Intern… you want to be eager to learn and help Analysts save time on projects.
But there’s such a thing as being too enthusiastic as well. It would be pretty weird if I gave you an assignment that required you to pull an all-nighter and you were happy about it.
Even if you are somehow happy to pull an all-nighter, it comes across as fake and people will assume you’re lying.
5. Fail to invite me out drinking or to social events
The best part of having summer interns is that some are actually cool to hang out with. My life as an Analyst is usually pretty mundane: Excel, PowerPoint, research, rinse, wash and repeat. Having summer interns provides a great break and a chance to get to know new people.
Usually firms spend a lot of money on summer recruiting events and such, so if there’s an event/party/outing and you don’t let me know about it, I’m going to be annoyed.
Forget about just saving me time, enhance my lifestyle and you’re golden.
6. Say you’re too busy to get coffee
Similar to #5 above but from the opposite side. As Analysts, Starbucks is our lifeblood. So when we go out for coffee for 5-10 minutes and invite you to come along and you say you’re too busy, a couple things come to mind:
1) I know you’re probably lying because I give you work and determine how busy you are.
2) I think you don’t want to hang out with us and are not going to fit into our group.
Unless you have a true fire drill and really need to send something important out (unlikely as an intern), you have time to grab coffee.
7. Pretend that your internship is longer than 8-10 weeks
Personally, I am extremely nice to summer interns and rarely give them annoying work unless I’m so busy that I can’t finish everything myself.
Some Analysts have a different philosophy and as soon as they get summer interns, they turn into “Managing Analysts” and start giving all their underlings the dumbest work imaginable.
It’s unfortunate if you end up in this situation, but also keep in mind that your internship only lasts a matter of weeks – a lot less than 2-3 years. So no matter how bad you have it, it’s not worth complaining about because it’s over and done with quickly.
8. Hook up with other interns/analysts/secretaries
This one may cause some controversy, but I think it’s a really bad idea to get involved romantically with anyone else at your office, especially as an intern.
Friends have done this before but typically it’s at the end of the internship; otherwise there’s just too much risk of bad things happening and offers getting revoked.
Don’t think you can keep anything like this a “secret” – there are no secrets in an investment banking office.
One time when I was interviewing for buyside jobs, somehow not only my entire office but also multiple other offices found out and asked me how it went afterward.
If something as small as that becomes the talk of the Analyst class, you can guess how quickly news of a rendezvous with your MD’s secretary will spread.
9. Show up to work with a hangover
Control yourself when drinking and going out with other interns/Analysts. If you do anything really stupid (e.g. getting violent with an MD while drunk), your chances of getting an offer are pretty much 0.
Similarly if you show up to work with a hangover (or are still drunk), people will notice.
If you ever have to think about whether or not to do something, you shouldn’t do it.
10. Badmouth the firm/office to anyone else
This one actually came up this past year. One of our top summer analysts did very well and got an offer, but decided banking was not for him and went into another field.
That’s perfectly fine and I respected his decision. But then I find out he was going around to others interviewing at my office and telling them not to work there and such just because he personally didn’t like it.
The world of finance is very small and if someone knows something, chances are everyone else knows it too.
Openly badmouthing a firm or office to others is just unprofessional and pretty much ensures you’ll have no chance of working there in the future (I know, I know, you don’t want to, but still…).
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