You Didn’t Get Any Investment Banking Summer Internship Offers. Now What Do You Do?
Summer internship recruiting is over.
Bankers have come to your campus, conducted interviews, finished recruiting, and now they’re back to their pitch books.
But you don’t have any offers.
No Summer Offers vs. No Full-Time Offers
There are 3 main differences:
- Timing: You have more time to find your Plan B with full-time recruiting – sometimes a year vs. only a few months with summer internships.
- Options: You have more options if you come out of full-time recruiting empty-handed: delaying graduation, going for a Master’s program, moving to Thailand…
- Seriousness: While the lack of a good junior year internship will hurt you, it’s less of an emergency than having no post-graduation plans.
You find no real internship, so you become a life guard or work in retail for the summer.
So it’s not that bad.
But it also won’t put you in a good position for future internships, or for full-time recruiting.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to avoid this scenario – even if it’s the last-minute and you don’t appear to have options.
What Went Wrong… Does It Matter?
If you didn’t get a full-time offer, you need to look at what went wrong to plan your next steps: Was it your resume? Your (lack of) networking? Your interview skills?
You can still do this if you’re applying for summer internships… but it’s not as helpful.
A few problems can prevent you from getting summer internships:
- Your GPA, especially at more competitive schools.
- Lack of networking or lack of networking-in-advance.
- Interview skills / resume or too much preparation.
The first 2 are difficult to “fix” on 2-3 months’ notice.
And even if you can “fix” these 2 problems – or even #3 – you can’t get a second chance to prove yourself.
So don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis.
What NOT To Do
We’ll start with what not to do, because that’s easier to define.
I’ve run across some people who just expect an internship to fall into their laps even if the magic 8-ball points to “no.”
While miracles are possible, don’t hold your breath: the harder you work the more your “luck” will improve.
Study for the CFA / Get Other Certifications
You probably already know my views on the CFA, but just in case…
While studying is a better use of time than doing nothing, that’s like saying that death via the electric chair is better than drowning: you’re dead either way, but one is slightly less terrifying.
The problem with studying or getting certifications over the summer is that you can’t write anything on your resume under “Work Experience” to describe what you did – so you’ll have a big gap on there.
All you’ll get is another 1-2 lines at the bottom of your resume: not a great reward for 500 hours of study time.
If you’re really set on doing these over the summer, you could still do them – but only if you treat them as a side project and you spend the bulk of your time on something that you can actually list as “Work Experience.”
If you’re in your 1st or 2nd year in university, the back office isn’t as terrible as some would have you believe – if you can get a middle or back-office role at a well-known bank, that’s much better than a summer spent at Best Buy.
This one gets less attractive if you’re looking for junior year internships, because a back office internship won’t turn heads if you’re trying to move to front-office banking in full-time recruiting.
Filling the Gap: Possible Solutions
So how do you fill the gap, find something worthwhile to do over the summer, and make sure you don’t have a gaping void on your resume?
Delaying Graduation… Again
This is certainly one option – and if you have your heart set on a bulge bracket investment banking summer internship you might want to give it another shot.
But it doesn’t solve our original problem here – what you should do this summer.
So don’t make any decisions until you have summer plans in place – and keep pursuing Plan B options on the side.
If nothing works out, delaying graduation may actually hurt you because banks will say, “So, what did you do last summer? How have you improved since we saw you last time?”
Options Within Finance
If investment banking doesn’t work out, your next best option is something else in finance – sales & trading, prop trading, wealth management, public finance, or corporate finance – to give a few examples.
The only issue here is that many of these also finish summer recruiting the same time that investment banking groups do – so if you didn’t get into investment banking at Morgan Stanley and it’s March, your chances of getting an S&T summer internship there aren’t much better.
The further away you move from large investment banks, the easier it gets to find something else in finance at the last-minute: I’ve been conducting dozens of interviews with readers, and many of them pulled this off against all odds.
How do you find these options?
Outside of Finance
These options are a notch below the finance ones, but they still beat studying for the CFA or working at Best Buy by a long shot.
In this category, you might think about marketing, sales, or accounting-type roles at “normal” companies, Big 4 firms, or anything else that’s out there.
I’m not going to “rank” any of these because it’s impossible to quantify and because “ranking” is one of my least favorite topics (just after the CFA and GPA rounding).
So if you do accounting at a Big 4 firm, working with financial services companies or helping out with due diligence on transactions is better than auditing Wal-Mart’s 10-K.
At F500 companies it’s still hard to get something at the last-minute, but overall competition is far less than in investment banking.
Keep At It But Adjust Your Focus
You should be doing this no matter what option you decide to pursue – it’s still worth spending at least a few hours per week cold-calling banks and emailing alumni just to see if anything turns up.
If it’s May and you still have nothing, you shouldn’t decide to suddenly spend 80 hours per week cold-calling – at that stage, no amount of effort will produce miracles.
But if you still have a few months left, continuing to network is always worth it.
Go Off the Beaten Path
This is a great idea if you have some time before you start your full-time investment banking job, but it’s not so great if you’re looking for a solid internship.
Banks are biased toward anyone with previous corporate finance experience – so if you’ve done something that looks completely unrelated they’ll be suspicious of you.
If you really want to start your own surf shop or you want to spend the summer climbing mountains, go ahead – but be aware that it’s not much better than the “doing nothing” option in the eyes of investment banks.
This is stupid and unfair because you often do more work and get more responsibility with these options, but that’s just how banks work.
The one exception here: if you can spin this experience into sounding relevant to finance, it may be a good idea. Certain fellowships, study abroad programs, and research opportunities may qualify.
Brand Name vs. Quality Experience
One issue that comes up with all these options is the the brand name of a firm vs. your experience.
Some people think it’s all about brand name, while others say it’s more about the experience you get.
If you’re interested in investment banking (or private equity, or hedge funds…) then you should think about it like this:
For summer internships, brand name within the same role matters more than your exact experience.
So a front-office internship at a boutique will still beat a back-office internship at Goldman Sachs.
But a front-office internship at Goldman would beat a front-office internship at a boutique, even if you work on a dozen deals at the boutique and learn advanced modeling and all you do at GS is fetch coffee for people.
It’s just the way things work: bankers scan resumes very quickly and have a strong bias for brand names and anything that reads “Investment Banking Analyst.”
So, what’s your plan of attack?
First, figure out how much time you have left before internships begin and what the lowest-hanging fruit is: Have you already done a lot of networking in one industry? Do you have good contacts at one firm, or are there a lot of alumni in one field of finance?
Then, start reaching out to your contacts in other fields while you continue to spend at least a few hours per week calling and emailing bankers. You can up this if you have a few months left.
If you’re not getting good results, keep broadening your search to consider anything that’s even tangentially related to finance.
And if nothing works out, find something else cool to do and spin it into sounding relevant to finance.
Or you could just work at Best Buy.
(Kidding, don’t do that).
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How Summer Interns Get Full-Time Offers
As we approach the end of the summer and move into the fall recruiting season, all the summer banking interns out there have to think about their next moves.
The first step in that process: figuring out whether you’re getting a full-time offer, or whether you’ll have to search for “strategic employment alternatives.”
While there’s never a 100% accurate way to tell if you’re getting an offer or not, you can improve your chances considerably if you know how banks make decisions.
Who Decides Your Fate: Key Decision Makers
Back when I wrote about the investment banking interview selection process, I indicated that Managing Directors ultimately decide who gets full-time offers and who does not. Everyone else plays a role in the process, but they have the final say.
The summer selection process is similar but differs in a few key respects:
- Analysts (and Associates) who have worked most closely with the summer interns have significant clout and suggest to the senior bankers what to do
- You’re judged almost entirely on the quality of your work – not responses to interview questions, your wardrobe or anything extraneous
- Sometimes it’s easier to get a full-time position following an internship (this doesn’t mean it’s easy – just easier)
During a summer internship you’ll mostly be interacting with Analysts and Associates – so they’ll have a large say in who gets offers and who does not.
If you do, in fact, work directly with more senior bankers (VPs and up) then they will weigh in as well.
But the process differs substantially from full-time interviews because you generally won’t say much to the MDs during your internship.
Behind Closed Doors: The Decision-Making Process
The decision-making process for summer interns works differently from bank to bank, but typically there is a “round-table” near the end of the summer where everyone discusses the interns’ performance and who should receive offers.
Back in my previous article on how to do well in your summer internship, I advised you to work with as many people as possible and take on as much responsibility as you can handle.
Now you see why: if you work with more bankers, more people will “go to bat” for you during this round-table discussion.
The fastest way to not receive an offer? Have no one vouch for you during this discussion.
The Competition: Just How Tough Is It To Get An Offer?
Competition to receive full-time offers after a summer internship is less intense than what you’d expect. It’s significantly easier to get a full-time offer this way vs. going into full-time recruiting with no previous internship.
Many summer interns are just testing the waters or are not sure they want to do banking, so they “drop out” in the middle and stop trying as hard once they realize it’s no longer for them.
And some interns are simply so bad that no one even considers giving them offers.
At some banks, competition tends to be tougher – Goldman, for example, is notorious for giving out summer offers at lower rates than other banks.
The other consideration: when the economy is poor, banks will also hire fewer summer interns.
Analysts vs. Associates
I’ve received some questions on Analyst vs. Associate summer internships, but have not addressed this topic until now because they’re almost the same.
In general, expectations for Associates will be set higher and they’ll be given a bit less busy work and more “real” work, but any summer intern at a bank is treated similarly – they assist full-time Analysts and Associates with getting work done.
The offer process is also similar for Summer Associates – they receive a “yes” or “no” based on the input of everyone they’ve worked closely with.
Analysts might have less say in the process, but it’s nearly identical otherwise.
How To Improve Your Offer Chances
So how do you improve your chances of getting a full-time offer? I’ve already covered this one in my previous collection of summer internship advice articles, but the one point I’ll re-emphasize here is that you want to please those you work most closely with – the junior bankers.
Some summer interns try to bypass them completely and go directly to VPs and up with their work. This is a mistake – you’ll annoy the Analyst you’re working with and possibly look foolish in front of someone much higher up on the ladder (see: Investment Banking Summer Internship Don’ts on The All-Nighter).
Aside from that, there’s no magic – above all, don’t screw up and don’t get into embarrassing drunken situations with your MD and you’ll be golden.
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Tips From A Former Summer Analyst And Soon-To-Be Full-Time Analyst
Today we have a guest post from a loyal reader who worked at a bulge bracket investment bank last summer and will be returning full-time this year.
He has some additional tips for everyone about to start their investment banking jobs / internships – these are great overall so I don’t have much to add, but I will throw in a few comments here and there so it looks like I did some work.
“I did a 10-week internship at a bulge-bracket investment bank last summer and will be returning there full-time in July. I’ve read a couple of the “Summer Analyst Tips / Success Guides” but I thought there might be a few additional tips that I could add.
Balance Between Being Proactive and Annoying
My process for finding this balance was simple:
1. If I was assigned a task, I got it done on time.
2. On quite a few occasions, I finished my task and was left with nothing to do. This usually happens when Analysts/Associates/Vice Presidents are busy with meetings, conference calls, attending to fire drills and forgetting about you.
I typically went up to the Analyst and asked, “Hey, is there anything you want me to do / get done?”
There’s a clear difference between that question and “Hey, is there anything I can do?”
The second one is a bit pushy and if that Analyst is busy, he/she might even get annoyed. (How do I know this? I found out the hard way because I used the second line at first and got some negative responses like “Uhh not right now.” “Umm, let me get back to you.” “Dude, come back later.”)
The first question almost always resulted in a favorable response because the Analyst was thinking in terms of how I could be of benefit to THEM, not the other way around.
Note: This is dead-on. I think of interns in terms of benefits – how can you benefit me, right now? If you emphasize this I will give you useful work.
3. On occasions where there was nothing to do, instead of browsing around aimlessly, I’d just access the team’s files on the shared folder and read about previous deals – pitchbooks, models, etc.
This actually helped when I got staffed on similar types of deals. Be careful not to flaunt this or everyone will think you’re a tool.
Note: I’ve actually done this before, mostly when I first started. BE VERY CAREFUL to keep it to yourself or else people may indeed laugh at you. I certainly will.
I also browsed the Internet and if I found any articles that could be helpful to the Analyst, I would summarize the article in bullet points and send it to him.
Note: Good idea but don’t go overboard here. If you send me 5 article summaries a day I’ll make you get my dry cleaning repeatedly.
Seeking Feedback, Especially Constructive Criticism
I received several reviews over the summer from different groups. Most of them were positive, but I sought out constructive criticism – things I could improve upon. Although they resisted at first, my groups eventually gave me the following feedback:
- You need to listen more carefully when we’re explaining instead of jumping to conclusions.
- Don’t be so entrepreneurial. Just execute.
- Don’t rush your work. Review your work by printing the documents and then giving them to me.
Note: Remember when I said “don’t do investment banking for the ‘entrepreneurial work environment’? (or the models and bottles?)” Yeah, I thought you did.
I solicited constructive criticism for 2 reasons: 1) I genuinely wanted to improve. 2) When the bank decided who to give full-time offers to, they would probably discuss my “flaws.”
Knowing my flaws allowed me to fix them before offers were handed out.
I believe that I got my offer because I made constant improvements over the summer, even though I wasn’t necessarily the best Summer Analyst there.
Finding An “Informant”
When I first started, I was clueless when it came to recruiting – luckily, early on I found a mentor from my school who told me the details of how my group recruited and selected Analysts.
He told me who the key decision makers were and how I could best position myself to get an offer. I didn’t ask these questions the first time I met him, but I made an effort to see him at least once every 2 weeks to stay in touch.
Over time, he trusted me enough to share some insights. Your “informant” can be anyone – an Analyst that’s close to you, a fraternity alumnus, your school alumnus mentor, assigned mentor, or a friend you already know who worked there.
Reliability Is Key
My last piece of advice: BE RELIABLE. Your job is to make the lives of Analysts and the higher-ups easier so they can get an extra hour or two of sleep. If you screw up and they have to fix your mistakes or face the scorn of those above them, they won’t like you very much (and you probably won’t get the offer).
One day, I had to carry 5 boxes in 98 degree weather from building to building at 2:30 PM. I didn’t go to a great school to be a UPS boy and I hated this kind of work. But I did even grunt work and manual labor like this reliably, so I had a chance to do more meaningful work as well.
On another day, I was the lead guy on a conference call with MDs and executives to examine a potential purchase of a large international finance company. The reason I was the lead guy? Because what was originally a “project” to keep me busy turned out to be a potential deal for the group and no one had worked on it but me.
So you never know.”