by Brian DeChesare Comments (77)

What to Do When Your Summer Internship Sucks and You Can’t Make It Better or Leave Early

Bad Summer Finance Internship: What to Do“Hi Brian,

Hope you’re doing well.

I am halfway through my internship and, frankly, I am not enjoying it.

Our firm is only working with its portfolio companies and I’m mostly doing market research and thinking about partnerships, looking at competitors, etc.

I’m doing no valuation or technical work, no financial statement analysis, not even sourcing or due diligence.

We make a few presentations from time to time, but other than that there are no deliverables and I can’t name a single concrete thing I’ve learned during this internship.

I am going for full-time investment banking roles this fall, and I’m wondering how I could spin my experience. I have no real results, and the work I’m doing is barely even relevant to IB roles.

What should I do?

Ah, yes: the dreaded difficult-to-get-but-ultimately-disappointing internship.

It happens to everyone, including this reader who wrote in with the email above the other day.

And it might just be happening to you, or about to happen to you right now.

So, what do you do when you spend more time sleeping, playing Solitaire, or watching YouTube than you do on real work – but you still have to spin it into sounding useful for future internships and full-time jobs?

Discussion of Strategic Alternatives

First things first: this is NOT about what to do if you don’t get a return offer for a full-time job, or you don’t get an internship in the first place, or you want to get a return offer but don’t know how to do it – all those have been addressed in previous articles (follow the links).

This is strictly about how to spend your time when the internship is still taking place and you’ve realized that it’s unsalvageable.

You’ve already asked for more / better work and done everything you can to improve it, but you’re nearing the end and it’s still horrible.

Why Does This Happen, and Why Does It Matter?

Your first thought might be: “Wait a minute – if it’s so ridiculously competitive to win internships at bulge bracket banks, private equity firms, and other finance firms, how could they possibly go through all that effort to hire you and then give you no real work to do the entire time?”

Sometimes this happens because of changing client demands or deal activity – a group might be super-busy in the fall or winter and then slow down to nothing by the summer.

Other times, it happens because the group or firm does not even need interns but has been forced to take them on due to office politics (i.e. someone more senior forces it on them).

And still other times, the group is disorganized and does need extra help, but isn’t sure where to put you and cannot even take the time to train you.

It’s a problem because you still need to write something about it on your resume, and you’ll be asked to speak about the internship in all future interviews – and if you’ve actually completed a real finance internship, their expectations will be much higher.

It is more of a problem when you’re interviewing than when you’re networking, because they’re more likely to probe you on work experience in formal interviews.

You’re most likely to get a bad internship at very small investment firms (PE/VC) or tiny boutique banks where they don’t have much of a use for interns, but it can happen anywhere – yes, even at bulge bracket banks.

It is more of an issue if you’ve worked at a non-brand-name firm; sure, an internship at Morgan Stanley where you learned nothing and did no real work is also disappointing, but at least you have the brand name to fall back on.

What to Do: Bad Internship Recovery 101

There are really only 2 things you can do during the internship itself to get something out of it, but we’ll go through the 4 main steps to follow both during and after the internship below:

1. Turn Random Side Projects Into Work Experience / Add Your Own Technical Work to Existing Projects

This is the key strategy to use: when they’re not giving you real work, make your own.

Let’s say that, like the reader above, you are mostly doing market research and working with existing portfolio companies.

On your own time, create a valuation for one of these portfolio companies and go back and look at files related to the original investment, such as the cap table (“capitalization table,” a document that shows all the shareholders and the percentages and types of shares they hold), and turn that into a “potential” transaction.

The story: Say that this one company was potentially interested in doing another round of fundraising, and your firm wanted to get a rough idea of valuation and what the ownership structure would look like afterward. Your task was to do the market research, run the numbers, and come up with estimates for them.

The results? Well, the internship finished up and the process was ongoing when you left. But you contributed by helping the firm better understand the company, the market, and what a reasonable valuation for future rounds of funding might be.

This type of story works because all portfolio companies consider future rounds of funding and/or exits, and it’s impossible for outsiders to know what’s going on unless they also happen to be investors and/or work at the company.

Yes, you’re spinning the truth but you are not literally “making up” work experience – you’re just taking a project or client you worked with and adding additional work you did on your own.

For this tactic to be effective, you should:

  1. Pick a company that has not already announced fundraising or any other type of transaction recently (deals that fell apart are great).
  2. Pick a company that you were already doing some work with – that way, your story sounds more credible and you can speak to it more easily.
  3. Avoid naming the company – describe the industry and rough size, but don’t go beyond that. If they press you, say that you can’t give the name because it hasn’t been publicly announced yet and you would be violating confidentiality.

2. Use Your Downtime to Study the Technical Side

You can also use your downtime, or even the hours after work or on weekends, to study financial modeling and pick up the technical skills on your own.

I can already sense that someone is going to leave a comment saying that I am “over-promoting” the modeling courses we offer if I link to them here, so I’m not even going to do that.

Instead, I’ll just say that there are many, many ways you can learn the technical skills on your own, from books to online courses to free YouTube clips and even the free sets of tutorials we offer.

Really, anything other than classroom training works because you can’t exactly skip out in the middle of the week for a 3-day training session.

You’re doing this so you can back up what you learned and point to case studies, valuations, or models you completed, based on specific companies and deals.

The purpose is two-fold:

  1. Pick up the technical skills so you can answer interview questions;
  2. Use this self-study as your “Plan B” in case they don’t buy into your story about potential deals or investments, or if they ask you for more examples.

3. Leverage Your Connections at the Firm to Interview Elsewhere

Even if the internship itself was horrible, the people there might still like you and want to help you succeed elsewhere – after all, from their perspective it might have been a great internship and you may have performed well.

Managers don’t necessarily care about the technical skills you learned; if you made their lives easier, even by doing administrative work, they will like you.

Of course, it’s awkward to do this if they want you to return there full-time.

So wait until the end and if you do not receive the offer and/or the firm is not bringing back interns, approach the 2-3 people you got to know best and ask if they know people at other banks / finance firms that are looking to hire.

4. Spin It On Your Resume and In Interviews

There are many ways to do this (see the examples below), but the key point is that being vague about results is more acceptable after an internship.

A few months of work, or even 6-9 months of work, is not enough time to see the “results” in many cases because deals tend to drag on for a long time.

So take the side projects you did on your own and label them “potential” deals or investments, say that a deal died and came back and might be dead again, or label them “ongoing” when asked about their status.

And then be prepared with the self-study you did and any case studies you completed there as your “Plan B” option.

Take Me to the Examples, Please

Here are a few examples of “internships gone wrong” where you might apply the tips above:

Case #1: An IB Internship Filled with a Whole Lot of Nothing

You’ve mostly been doing administrative work, and the full-time analysts and associates are unfriendly and don’t want to give you anything real to work on…

So you look on the shared drive, find a few previous deals and clients, and start reviewing the valuation and operating model for a sell-side M&A deal that fell apart the year before (dead deals are great because they could come back to life at any time, so no one can prove or disprove your story).

In your downtime, you create your own 3-statement model for the company and update the valuation for the current market environment.

Then you also spend some time doing self-study to learn more about how to calendarize and adjust for non-recurring charges in comps.

In interviews and when networking, admit upfront that you did not focus on technical work, but that you did get some exposure to one client that was interested in selling a year ago – it fell apart, but then the company came back recently and might have been interested again.

Your role was to update the valuation for the current market environment, so as part of that you… [Explain what you did on your own here].

Case #2: A “Research-Focused” VC Internship

This happens ALL the time in venture capital, especially at early-stage firms, because you do a ton of research and little financial analysis.

Here, you should find existing portfolio companies that have at least some revenue (it’s hard to run a valuation applicable to IB roles with pre-revenue companies) and then create your own valuations for them, or look at the cap table and see how another investment would change the ownership percentages.

Then, admit upfront that there was a lot of qualitative / research work, but one company was considering an additional round of financing – and the firm wanted to get an idea of what a reasonable valuation might be and how the market had changed since last time.

When you left, the company was still considering its options so you don’t have results to point to – but you saved the firm a lot of time and helped them think through the numbers for the potential deal.

Case #3: The Cold-Calling PE Internship

This one is quite rare since most interns, even at smaller PE firms, don’t necessarily do a lot of cold calling (post-banking associates handle this).

But let’s say you are Jason from Cost of Capital and you spend the entire internship cold-calling CEOs who brutally reject you.

You might have to do that between 9 AM and 5 PM each day, but at night or early in the morning take the same approach and research past deals and current portfolio companies and build your own models for them.

You could use any number of stories for this one:

  1. The firm was revaluing its portfolio and wanted you to value previously acquired companies as a sanity check.
  2. One company was considering a future IPO or potentially selling itself, so you ran an LBO model for it based on the initial deal and your valuation.
  3. The firm was looking at consolidation plays in the sector, so you created merger models for one of the portfolio companies and several smaller acquisition candidates.

Then, tell interviewers upfront that you did a lot of “sourcing,” but you also worked with portfolio companies on the points above – there weren’t too many active deals given that the firm was about to raise another fund, but you were able to do some of the work above.

What NOT to Do

You have to be careful with everything above because you are stretching the truth. Here are the 2 most common bad suggestions I’ve seen:

Take It Too Far

There is a limit to how much you can spin, and this limit will appear very quickly in in-person interviews.

That is why it’s so important to hedge yourself by admitting the shortcomings of the internship upfront and never claim that you were involved with an active or closed deal/investment.

Limit all references to “potential” deals and companies that are considering various options, and describe them by industry name and size rather than giving names (you should never give names anyway, for any reason, unless the deal has closed).

Leave / Quit Midway Through

No matter how bad the internship is, leaving early is a really bad idea for the same reason that it’s a bad idea to renege on job offers.

Finance is a VERY small industry and if you leave in a dramatic fashion, word will inevitably get around.

This is only a good idea if the internship is somehow taking up a massive amount of time, you’re getting nothing out of it, and you can’t network/interview for other roles… but how could it be taking up a massive amount of time if you’re doing no real work?

Will Any of This Work?

No matter how well your spin your internship, no, you still won’t be on par with an intern who worked on 3 live M&A deals at Goldman Sachs.

But it will help, and it’s much better than admitting you did nothing or sheepishly making excuses that “there wasn’t much deal flow.”

It will also make more of a difference outside of pure bulge bracket investment banking roles, where the “selection criteria” is often “Did he/she work at a brand-name firm? Did he/she attend a top school and earn a high GPA? Are there active or closed deals listed on his/her resume?”

Plus, what else are you going to do the whole time? Play Solitaire / Call of Duty / FarmVille? Watch YouTube videos?

Yeah, I thought so.

Spinning a poor internship into sounding better than it was is not ideal, but it sure beats the alternatives – at least if you want to move onto something bigger and better in the future.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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Read below or Add a comment

  1. Hi Brian,

    I got placed into a very undesirable group for Citi’s capital markets program – issuer services. Should I speak to HR and try to figure out what happened? Or just suck it up and do well? The group was not even in my top five choice, disappointed that I failed to convert on sell day.

    1. You could reach out and ask them, sure, but at this stage, it’s not really a great idea to try to argue for a different group.

  2. Aubrey Graham

    Hi Brian,

    I’m currently a freshman and interning as a summer analyst at a boutique bank. I was initially of the impression that I would be with the investment banking team but I was told by HR that i’d be working with equity research (where i have 2 summers of experience so wanted to make the change to IBD) and investment management….

    I’ve spoken to a few senior associates in IBD and explained my situation. They did explain that they don’t have any analysts because the ER team does all the work that analysts would normally do. They also said if i managed to convince the MD (who i have a meeting with next week) to move me to the IBD team i would get to work on live deals but i wouldn’t get to do anything substantial enough to talk about in interviews because of the short duration of my internship.

    So now i face the tough choice of spending a third summer in ER while doing the work of an IBD analyst but not being able to call myself that on my resume, or joining IBD (presuming my chat goes well) and not having anything substantial to point to.

    What do you believe would be more useful to help win interviews for sophomore diversity programs?

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Joining IBD would still be more useful because you can always spin what you did in ER into sounding like you worked on deals. And the division name matters.

  3. How should I spin an internship with a litigation valuation shop? All I did was help with the reports sent out. There wasn’t a lot of technical modeling. The firm used DCF, but I didn’t do it. Plus it was very basic DCF modeling.

    I did however work extensively in Excel all internship. I had to sort and use pivot tables and use formulas to find revenue, price/unit, etc. Does that count as financial modeling?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d focus on the analytical work you’ve done and the impact if you’ve made. If you haven’t done any DCF then I wouldn’t list that on there, but you can list your involvement with DCF in coursework/clubs etc.

  4. Hello,

    I have just started a private equity related internship for my freshman summer year. I am coming from an engineering background and I lack a lot of finance knowledge. It is related to private equity in the sense that it is a dealership, not a fund. So they distribute private products to clients. Most of my work involves cold calling. I haven’t got into anything technical and I don’t think I will. I have about 4 ours of spare time every day so I am looking to make better use of it. I honestly don’t see much technical stuff involve with this except maybe the due diligence side. I will inquire about it and see if I can help out with it.

    But other than that, I am not sure what else I could be doing to maximize my time.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps you can set up a LinkedIn profile and contact other funds? This way you build more network down the line!

  5. Hello,

    I’m currently a rising Junior at a target school with a good GPA working with an investment management firm this summer as an intern in their fixed income group. My role is essentially the client-facing end of their FI analysts. So while I’m not in sales, I get a lot of exposure to clients through the creation of pitch books and on-site presentations. I have been mostly doing market research and competitor analysis, but definitely do not have the technical background it would appear I would need for an IB internship next summer. I’m really interested in the work done in IB and am more interested in working with companies rather than investing for retirement. Your advice to run valuations on current clients interests me, but in an IM sphere I’m not sure how to do that and translate our client contact to work done by IB. Do you have any advice for me on how to best utilize my time at an investment management firm and incorporate technical skills into my daily work?



    1. M&I - Nicole

      Good question. I’d try to get involved with valuing companies for IM, even if it’s looking at what companies to invest in, and perhaps start building relationships with management at companies since such corporate relationships can be useful to IB.

  6. Hello,

    I am currently a sophomore-year intern at a physical sciences company in Oklahoma. The project is in the beginning stages here so there is almost nothing for me to do… I just mainly sit at my computer from 10-4 after I finish my spreadsheet work in the morning. I feel useless and guilty because there are workers out on site sweating and working their tails off while I sit and do nothing and make nearly the same pay. However, when I ask for more work, they do not have anything for me. At this point, I am not learning anything and do not know what to do. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d use your time and focus on networking/applying to other jobs. Otherwise, I may quit and look for something else.

  7. Hi Brian and Nicole,
    This summer has really bothered me so far. It’s been 2 weeks and I still have not got much proper work to do as an intern from my boss. And I already reach out to another associate in another group to ask for more work since I really really want to put something on my resume!!

    And now I once again finished my and got bored. I looked around and there are still plenty of people from other groups in the same office that I don’t know. Should go to them, introduce myself and ask for even more work? (Last time was different, since the group I’m in now work with them a lot. But now I may be talking to someone who does not even know my boss) Is there any bad consequence of this?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes if your boss isn’t opposed to this, I’d ask to work with the other groups and network. However, try to stay focused or else your boss may not like it – you don’t want to seem unfocused and not interested in your current team’s work. Ideally find a time that you guys work with quite often and that way your team maybe happy that you’re helping them build a better relationship with the other team by reaching out to them

      1. So that means I need to get my boss’s permission first and then reach out. I see.Thanks Nicole.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          If you want to do more work for other teams, it maybe a wise move to do that, unless you’re very close to the other team.

  8. Hi,

    I have accepted an internship with BNY Mellon for a Tax & Income internship, but i have a passion for IB. I have part time experience with Barclays during my studies and founded my own investment society, but my university is not a top tier and i have average a-level grades. Do you think I can spin this off into an IB job after my internship?


    1. Potentially, yes, but it depends on how much time you have left… tougher to pull off if you’re moving into your last year at school.

  9. Brian, I am an undergraduate student, i just finished an internship in a global bank on investment banking division with great results, unfortunately there was no positions available so i got offers in treasury (trader) and corporate risk. Thinking on my IB career and keeping in mind that i have not got my degree yet i accept the risk position, do you think this was a good choice ? How do you suggest to manage my career since now?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think you did the best you could because that was the only option you had that time. If you want to get into IB, I’d continue interviewing over fall recruiting season and see if you can land an offer at another BB. And if you do land another offer, then you can worry about “reneging”. If not, you still have that offer and you can try always go back to b-school after.

  10. Hi,

    I’m doing a Markets summer internship at a bulge bracket. I wanted to be in trading and for my first rotation of 3 weeks I was but the desk wasn’t very friendly and the product had very, very little flow so it wasn’t at all an interesting desk.

    I went around talking to people and found Currency/FX was very interesting. I tried hard to show I wanted to be there for my 6 week rotation but unfortunately I didn’t get it (it seems it was still very random picking by HR) and I’m now in Research. From what I understand the odds are heavily skewed so that your 6 week rotation will give you an offer or not, the first rarely does.

    I’m not sure what to do now. Research isn’t terrible but not what I want to do and it’s not even FX Research. I thought I’d just keep networking with FX traders but the problem is that there are some interns on those desks and I’m not sure what I can really do. I talked to quite a few of them before the decision by HR but I’m not sure talking to them more is going to help me. I can look clever and ask good questions but ultimately if they have interns they’re going to be there every day for hours and hours doing work for them so can I really stand out and look better than them?

    Really just confused on what I should do at this stage. Many thanks for any help.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      1. I’d network a lot with the FX desks, even though they have lots of interns there. Yes, talk to them more because you may be able to make a good impression and perhaps get a spot next year. Be persistent (but not annoying). Grab coffee with them, grab a beer with them, do whatever you can. Tell them you want to move from research to their desk because you find what they do fascinating. Ask for advice.
      2. I’d also network with other banks to cast your net wide.
      3. Yes the odds are 50/50 so what you need to focus on now is to squeeze the most out of you can from this opportunity, learn as much as you can, download/read research reports (perhaps on FX/currency if that’s what you’re interested in), and network (be it using your firm’s database, own network etc…just build a solid network in the industry).

      1. The problem I have with networking is that once I do a bit of shadowing and ask the basics I’m not sure how to go further.

        Of course reading the news and asking questions based on that is okay but I can’t just keep turning up to their desk with questions on the news, right? The FX traders are by far the most busiest as they have huge flows and it’s hard to catch them at good times.

        Another problem is that whilst I’ve talked to a few traders I’m not sure how to talk to others in their team. The reason is quite similar as above – what can I ask that is new/worth asking? Once someone tells you the basics it’s all the same really. Can’t exactly ask something about news then go to another member of the team and ask the exact same question. Or maybe I’m imagining visiting them more than you’d recommend and therefore it wouldn’t be a problem – how often would you say is a good amount to visit? I have 4 weeks left.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Of course, what about catching up with them over a beer after drinks?

          Yes you can ask another member on the team a similar question. You can just phrase it differently. And rather than just asking questions you can engage in a conversation with them. Good amount to visit? I’d say a few times a week. That’s quite a bit I know but try to build up a “friendship” with a team member and maybe you can work up to popping by once a day just to hang out

  11. I’m doing an S&T summer internship at a BB but I’m doing a lot of admin type work and most of it depends on others. For example, I’ll work on a document that my team wanted me to edit (quite easy/dull) but then I’ll send that to legal or technology and they’ll take 2-3 days to get back to me and between that time I have nothing to do.

    The mix of having nothing to do and doing quite dull work is quite worrying because I feel like I’m gonna have a real hard time spinning this in interviews. What do I do in this situation? I’ve asked to help on any work if they needed but they don’t and their suggestion is just to read the news and things like that which I do anyway but there’s so much news reading you can do.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I can understand. Many are also in your shoes. I’d try to learn more about the big picture – how your tasks relates to the big picture. In interviews you can spin that even though the tasks might seem “minute” their significance is immense, and explain why that is.

  12. William Scheinman

    Yes, I find myself in the situation of being in a very boutique VC firm, abroad. Most of the companies are pre-revenue, and the few that are not have on been in operation for a year or two. I had looked over the financial valuation and accounting course offered on this site, but am unsure of how to gain technical practice with such early stage companies. I have 3 weeks left. I am being included on a deal (making diligence calls, sizing the market, sitting in on strategic meetings), but am concerned that valuing very early companies is very difficult to do (and I have tried…). Is modifying cap tables and changes in ownership really the best thing I can do at this point? What would you guys suggest?

    Warm Regards!

    1. Yes, early-stage valuation is basically all guesswork. I would say your options are:

      #1) Yes, do speak to the cap table / ownership change work and point to that for the examples of technical experience you gained.

      #2) Spin a story about thinking about potential buyers for one portfolio company… for large tech companies, stock deals are very common and so you had to understand the potential buyer’s valuation.

      To do that, you did some work valuing a few of these potential buyers by [Explain the tech companies you chose to value on your own and how you did it, and conclusions you came to about which ones might be favorable for the portfolio company].

      1. Thank you very much for the timely and useful response! Could you briefly explain a bit more about the process for #2? How would one determine which one is better for the portfolio company (or, what factors would one consider when choosing favoring a particular buyer?)

        1. For tech, strategic/product fit is most important. So if it’s a big SaaS company making enterprise software, are they missing something like a social component or a specific product that customers might want?

          Then you would also look at financial capabilities, i.e. higher valuation multiple = better buyer since it has highly valued stock, and high cash balance = better buyer since it can do the deal without raising debt.

  13. Thanks a million Brain

  14. Hi Brian

    I m in my last week to finish my 8 weeks Intern.
     I m going to ask my superior ‘the financial controller’ to write me a reference letter. 
    Could you tell me what are the key points to look after for a financial reference letter. 
    The work tasks I have done are as follows
    1. Project profitability analysis
    2.Cash flow statement checking
    3. Income reconciliation
    4.  P/L compiling
    5. Balance sheet reconcil. 

    I recon these are more accounting subjects rather than investment banking. 

    what should I emphasis on this kind of reference letter.
    How should I use this so called financial intern experience when I apply IB banks.

    I m in Trinity College Dublin and the class is going to start within 4 weeks. So I don’t have time get into the NYSF at the moment.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Reference letter – focus on the impact you’ve made, how you’ve made a difference in the organization and how you act as an employee i.e. do you go above and beyond to complete tasks? If so, what and list examples

      Resume/Application – focus on the projects you’ve been involved in and how you’ve made an impact

  15. We are waiting for your 2013 analyst bonuses results!!!

    1. As am I, as am I… (no reliably reported numbers yet)

  16. Hi,
    Sorry this is kind of an unrelated question. How does studying abroad affect the recruitment process? I go to a target school (I’m going to be a sophomore but I’m thinking of studying abroad during the fall of my junior year).

    1. It makes it harder to network and recruit. It is still possible, but you need to start further in advance and notify banks that you’ll be abroad if interviews start when you’re away. Going away in the fall is less of an issue than the winter because at least you’ll be back for when most interviews start in December/January, or on your way back.

  17. Hey, great article!

    I was just wondering what you would do if part of your internship is on a structuring desk but you want to do trading. Currently I seem to only be doing admin work – updating documentation and governance related things.

    I appreciate they need someone to do this and I’m saving them time but at the same time I want to do trading and I don’t know how I spin what I’m doing to trading. I did a few weeks on a trading desk, I should add, but now I am here for my final weeks.

    So my question is essentially how I’d spin this to trading because I’m not really doing anything intelligent. The internship is a markets internship which is why I was on trading and now structuring (this was a HR decision really).

    1. Yeah that is a tough one – I would say try to reference anything you learned on the trading desk and say that, while working in structuring, you also got exposure to traders because… [Explain anything you worked on for them, and say that initially you were in structuring but got the trading exposure because of that] and ultimately you’re more interested in trading because you are interested in [Specific Product or Desk X], and then be ready with trade ideas when they ask.

      I wouldn’t even mention much about the admin work you’ve done in structuring unless a document you worked on had some relationship with what the traders did.

  18. Hi,

    I was wondering if I wanted to secure an internship at a bulge bracket by junior year, how would an internship at a relatively unknown PE firm with <50 people (called Leonard Green and Partners in Los Angeles) look for freshman summer? Obviously not a big firm but would it help position for IBD at a big firm later on?


    1. Ok, first off Leonard Green is not an “unknown” PE firm – they did the $3 billion J Crew deal with TPG and have completed other large transactions like that. It will definitely help and will position you well for IB especially if this is a 1st year internship.

  19. Hi Brian and M&I. Nice article, I had a similar experience and the thing that worked for me was to just be open and honest about how I felt. What’s important though is that if you do tell your manager that you are bored of the work, it is important that you have an idea of what you were expecting before you started the internship so that you can articulate this to your manager.

    And slightly off topic but I really need help on this. Can an increase in capital requirements have an impact on IBD? And if so, how?

    1. And just to add: yes, capital requirements may affect IB but capital markets groups more so than M&A / advisory because it will be harder for banks to lend money in deals.

      Traditional M&A and industry groups will still be impacted because banks will have to be more conservative overall, meaning it will be more difficult to get deals done, especially those involving debt or staple financing packages.

  20. Brian, what’s your opinion on doing two internships at the same time?

    1. You need a really, really good reason to do that such as 1 internship being for money and 1 internship giving great experience and you being in a situation where you really need both ASAP. Otherwise it doesn’t make much sense.

  21. Thank you for another great article

    I am currently doing a summer internship at a Korean MM in its DCM division, think 10-12th in the league table. I am a rising sophomore and this is my first internship.

    Maybe it’s just my firm but I was surprised to see that DCM does not require that much modeling or other technical stuff compared to M&A, IPO, etc. I have been making a lot of presentations and pitchbooks though. (So, I’m taking the online courses you guys are offering!)

    How do you think I can leverage this experience into a part-time M&A internship during school year?

    I have been making some models and suggested it to some analysts/associates in the office and got some positive feedbacks do you think I can mention this during interview and in my resume?


    1. Thanks!

      I would just continue doing what you’ve been doing and create models or other tools and show them to analysts/associates there and see what you can do to make their lives easier.

      Then, tell them that you did do a lot of presentation work in the internship but also found ways to save the full-timers time by… [explain what you did] and that you got exposure to valuation and transaction modeling via the work you did on the side.

  22. Hey thanks for the informative article, I also went thought this but in a different atmosphere. I’m an engineering major in college and I worked as a technical sales engineer. For most of the summer I did accounting work like checking numbers and making photocopies.

    I’m interested in switching to finance, trading in particular. I have one question regarding networking. Someone has connected me to a managing director of a boutique, should I email him before calling, asking him for a time that he would be available, or should I just call.

    I just finished my engineering internship and received the email 2 weeks ago, I just didn’t have time to get around to it( and also what I wanted to talk about.)

    I just wanted to talk to him about trading in general, I also have a mock portfolio I have been investing on the side, so I plan on talking to him about that as well.
    Do you have any other pointers on what I should talk about?

    I would like to turn this into an internship for next summer but obviously I can’t start with that.


    1. Thanks! I would email him first and if he doesn’t respond within a week, call him.

      Yes, propose specific dates/times to speak and ask if he’s free in any of those. I would try to make your questions more specific rather than asking about trading in general… ask about how HE got into it, tips for coming in from an engineering background, and so on. He should be talking for 75% of the time.

      Your own portfolio and internship are both fine to mention, but those should be in the beginning when you’re introducing yourself briefly.

      1. Thanks for the reply.
        So my Portfolio and and past internship would be mainly part of “my story” but the rest of the conversation should me more about him and having him do the talking.

        ( sorry for being over critical in my questions, engineering schools don’t really accentuate networking haha, but the wealth of information on this site is sure helping!)

        1. Yes, correct. You need to sound credible when introducing yourself, but after that try to keep asking him questions.

  23. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the article.

    I currently doing an internship at a large Canadian pension plan in its public market group. My main responsibilities include monitor the portfolios and conduct research to support high-level asset allocations decisions. However, since the team I am in only looks after the fund’s external portfolios (managed by companies like BlackRock), we don’t do any stock-picking or company valuation in-house. Therefore, I feel that I am not getting enough technical works except for running some statistical analysis for our portfolios occasionally. Also, unlike PE/IB internships, there is no such thing as “closing a deal” here, which makes it harder for me to point out any tangible results on my resume.Can you give me some advice on how to spin such experience on my resume?

    Thank you very much!

    1. I would probably find a sector or industry that interested you because of that analysis, and then pick an individual company within it and analyze it and say that the sector interested you because of the work you did, so you decide to go beyond what they asked of you and analyze specific companies and value them yourself, just to see if they were overvalued or undervalued vs. the sector as a whole.

      So it’s more of a stretch, but it works since it is related to work you did and you’re also saying upfront that you went off and did it on your own.

  24. Hey Brian. I have been interning at an infrastructure/telecom focused PE firm this summer and I managed to secure a full time offer. I will finish my undergraduate degree this coming year. I would like to be well prepared when I start next fall so that I can hit the ground running. Do you have any recommendations with regards to how I should go about this? Any book/reading recommendations that would be particularly relevant/interesting would be greatly appreciated as well. Thanks.

    1. I have never found much useful material on infrastructure PE, but you might want to look at some Project Finance tutorials. There are probably some free clips and lessons online, though not sure how useful they are – I’ve never seen a really good course on it. Books:

  25. Hi Brian,

    Great article as always! I am currently one of those interns in a mid-sized PE firm with low dealflow. I did get the opportunity to join another PE firm right now, which has a lot of equity, thus dealflow. I guess your advice is still to stick it out and not leave midway through?

    Thanks in Advance!

    1. Thanks! Yeah I would see if you can join the other firm later and just explain that you want to complete the internship first rather than quitting midway through. If they push you anyway and tell you “now or never,” then I might consider leaving early in that case.

  26. Good article! I had a couple of related questions though.

    1) You kind of answered this but for S&T what “should” you be doing? Currently my projects are all research-based and I’ve not learned much in terms of skills – just more knowledge of the desk etc.

    2) For us summer interns, what should you do if none of your rotations were what you wanted? For example, you wanted to really be on X but you got Y and Z and don’t really like either. Would you accept if you got an offer and try then move in the grad programme or just apply elsewhere and make it clear you got an offer but for not what you wanted?

    1. 1) Yes, for S&T it’s more about product knowledge and any tools you built for traders. Investment/trade ideas you picked up could also work. But it’s most helpful if you can point to specific tools or processes you created that saved traders some time.

      2) Personally, I would just accept the offer even if it’s not exactly what you want. It is easier to transfer once you’ve already been working there full-time and you’re taking a risk if you turn it down and then apply elsewhere unless you’re very confident of your chances.

      1. Re 2)

        I thought it wasn’t that easy to move around though. I realise applying has its risks but doesn’t accepting the job with the intention to move have its risks too?

        Is it at all possible to market your offer to other companies? I’d be receiving the offer around September. Or is still too early to really make those kind of calls when grad recruitment wouldn’t have started (really) yet?

        1. It depends on where you’re moving – it’s possible to move between desks within S&T, but harder to move between entirely different groups. Either one has risks, but I think it’s riskier to turn down the offer and interview around if that’s what you were asking.

          If you can get the offer and then still interview around and indicate that you do have an offer to other companies, then yes, I would do that – even if you only receive the offer in September, you should still reach out before then because you never know how many interns groups will end up hiring.

  27. Hi Brian! I’m currently doing a 12 week internship with a boutique CF and asset management firm, and am posted in the M&A division. Due to time constraints, I haven’t been able to join on any live deals, just participate in the origination process on quite a few. It’s more research based for pitches and such, and not so much valuations or even modelling, since the firm doesn’t really do that much modelling due to the small size. Should I still go ahead and put that on my CV or should I do as suggested above and attempt my own valuation and 3 statement model of a terminated deal?

    Also, I have three options for my internship next year since I am extending my intended early graduation by another year. I can go to Hong Kong (I live in Singapore) for another M&A internship with another boutique IB, I can apply to the BBBs here which would not be confirmed, or I was thinking about testing out the buy-side at an investment group. If I ultimately want to land an analyst program place at BBB when I graduate in 2015, which should I be prioritizing?

    Sorry for the lengthy comment!!

    1. I would do both and maybe list 1-2 of the origination deals and then 1 where it’s “your own work.” That way you’re not exaggerating too much, but you’re also including some technical work.

      I would prioritize BB internships as your goal for next year if you want to win a full-time offer at one of them – after that, the M&A internship, and then the buy-side internship.

      1. Hi Brian, thanks for the super speedy reply! May I ask why you recommend we perform our own valuations etc on a terminated deal? Could I do the same but for a completed deal? My boss is more than willing to let me use the completed deal book to work on, but I’m not sure where he stands with regards to deals that have fallen through.

        1. You could do it for completed deals as well, but I think it’s riskier just in case someone interviewing you happens to be familiar with it and know more than you. Not a huge risk, though, and if your boss prefers that, you can take that approach.

  28. Thanks Brian! It is indeed very helpful. I am going through all this right now. I am a sales & trading intern at a security firm, and I was assigned to the trading desk. I haven’t been given any real work for the past 6 weeks. Mostly what I did was reading news, translations, doing research on some stocks and industry by my own, sitting with the traders and watching how they trade.

    I am worried about how to put all these on my resume and telling people about my experiences in interview. Do you have some specific suggestions for sales & trading interns ?

    Thank you so much! I enjoy reading all your articles :)

    1. Thanks! Yeah, S&T is tough because they really can’t even give you real work even if they wanted to. So the key is to point to specific skills you learned and any tools you created for traders that made their lives easier.

      For tips on what to do as an S&T intern, check out some of these stories:

  29. Great article!

    Could you help me with two questions? I recently got an offer for a IB intern position at a BB in HK. What news do you recommend to read about deals in Asia especially China? It would be great if you include any free sources, too.

    Also, that BB is famous but not particularly strong in Asia. It’s around the 10th in the league table if it ever gets in. I still have chances to get into institutional banking division in some local commercial banks in Australia. The locals are dominating DCM here and I am indifferent to HK or Aus. Should still go for the locals?

    1. Thanks.

      1) Deals in Asia – I would read the WSJ MoneyBeat Blog and search for their coverage of Asia. I think some of the site is accessible without a WSJ subscription, but a subscription is almost required for most finance roles and it’s not that expensive.

      Also see: and

      They are all global, but plenty of Asia news is covered.

      2) I don’t know why you would pass on an IB internship to do commercial banking – I would only do that if you’re not interested in IB/PE in the long-term.

      1. Thanks Brian!

  30. Minouminou

    It’s exactly what I need to read right now..thank you very much!

    Actually today it’s only the third day of my 6 month internship at a broker company. I am the shared intern for both the account Managment team and the equity research team. However I haven’t been given any tasks on equity research yet and they dont plan to, saying they alrwady have one intern so there is no work for me before this intern leaves in september.
    consequently i spent most of my time organizing spreadsheets for account managers. Then after hearing that they will have a batch of new equity research interns coming in in early september I became even more anxious about where this is going thinking I’m just the girl who does the dirty work for other superior peer. That explained why my interviews went so well and short!!

    …I tried to ask for more technical works but its the earning season and my boss is forever on the phone or in a meeting or silently eating his salads behind his screen…

    I am making plans to capitalize on this opportunity, I will try to master Bloomberg , datastream and crystal, and make a valuation of an on-and-off IPO deal proposal that i heard about from the account Managers –they are in the process to win over the role of distributor if this becomes real.

    Excuse me if I took too much of your space here…but again, I really appreciate this article of yours.

    1. Thanks! Yeah that is a tough one – I’d just learn what you can and try to get a hold of some of the real ER reports they have issued, try creating your own, and then at least say that you learned how to follow the markets and write those types of reports on real companies.

  31. I take it that this is geared towards junior year internships (I’m not there yet), but I think I’ll have to use these tips during for the interviews for next year’s summer internship when I have to talk about the internship at a boutique firm I have now.

    Also, I’d have to work these suggestions into my resume as I update it, right?

    1. Yeah, more geared toward internships just before FT recruiting but also applies to any internships before that as well. If you’ve worked at a boutique before, they’ll ask you about the experience in future internship interviews.

      Yes, you should figure out the 1-2 deals/investments to speak to and then incorporate them on your updated resume.

  32. Funny. I thought it only happened to me. In fairness to the start-up IB boutique I interned with, it was the summer of 2009 and IB was questioned as a going concern.

    Glad to read I took the right steps per your suggestions on how to spin the bad experience.

    Great read!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, if it was the summer of 2009 you definitely have an excuse there…

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