Helping your students succeed in Finance internships

June 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Posted in corporate culture | 6 Comments
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

More students seem to want internships in Finance over any other industry, which makes sense. Consider what Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks:  “That’s where the money is.” Fortunately, there are lots of Finance internships. For example, Internships.com lists nearly 600 Finance internships with many of them in the New York City region. New York Magazine has published a guide to teach Wall Street interns how to succeed in their internships.  According to author Kevin Roose, “Because most of your work will consist of indistinguishable number-crunching, the only real way for your superiors to judge you against other summer analysts is on the basis of what is called, in the corporate patois, ‘fit.”’ The following excerpts may be useful to your Finance students who are currently in internships or to your interns in any field:   

  • Show up early, leave late: Most analysts and associates at big investment banks work long hours — sixteen-hour days are normal. You should, too. For much of that time, you won’t actually do anything (analysts and associates don’t, either!). But showing that you’re willing to sit in your chair until midnight is part of that elusive “fit” thing, and people will judge you if you don’t.
  • Learn “LDL”: At your internship, you’ll talk with your fellow summer analysts over e-mail and instant messages, both of which will be monitored by compliance officers whose job it is to keep you from saying stupid things that are read back to executives by members of Congress when your firm is investigated. (This is especially true at Goldman Sachs, where even typing “WTF” sends up a red flag.) To avoid getting dinged for gossiping, learn to type “LDL” — Wall Street code for “Let’s Discuss Live” — before making fun of your MD’s hairpiece.
  • Befriend the staffer: On your floor, there will be a person called the staffer. Other than your direct boss, the staffer is the single most important figure you will meet this summer. He or she will decide your hours, your assignments, and which groups you end up working with. Being in this person’s good graces can mean the difference between being a boss in FIG and toiling in PWM. (Know who can teach you what those acronyms mean? The staffer.)
  • Be a good gofer: Do everything that is asked of you faster and better than expected. (Except, like, grand larceny.) If the group head wants you to take his tennis racket in for stringing, have his overgrip replaced, too. Your associate sends you out for Shake Shack, bring back a few extra shakes. Morale on Wall Street is at an all-time low right now — layoffs, deal slowdown, and the impending implosion of Europe will do that — and any bit of joy you can bring to your godforsaken colleagues will be met with childlike enthusiasm.
  • Lose the Liar’s Poker shtick: The days of bacchanalian Wall Street culture are over. In 2012, with a few exceptions at the more old-line firms and hedge funds, no boss is going  to ask you to go to a strip club and pay in quarters, or bring him a cheesesteak from Philadelphia, or any of those legendary Wall Street hazing rituals. If you expect those things — or worse, if you ask for them — you’ll look naive and stuck in 1992.
  • Don’t screw up: Wall Street internships are essentially ten-week mistake avoidance tests. As a summer analyst, you are not expected to do well — you are expected not to do badly. At the end of the summer, when your supervisors gather to decide which interns get full-time offers, no one will remember the comps model you pulled an all-nighter on. Everyone, though, will remember the reply-all you sent about the hot Asian girl in sales. So don’t do that.
  • Master non-obvious flattery: A wise man once told us that people enter into conversations with one of two goals — either we want to make the other guy think we’re the most interesting person on Earth, or we want to make the other guy think he’s the most interesting person on Earth. Perfecting the second kind of interaction is the single most important piece of advice we can possibly give you for your summer on Wall Street. If, by displaying appropriate humility, and by nodding and laughing at the right times, you can make your analysts, associates, and MD’s feel funny, worldly, and incisive, it will remind them of the times in their lives before Wall Street, when they actually were all of those things. They will love you for it, and you’ll be one step closer to making it rain $1 bills all over Bar None.

Preparing Fall interns for their new corporate cultures

August 26, 2010 at 11:18 am | Posted in Advising interns, corporate culture, Preparing interns | Leave a comment

To help your Fall interns understand the corporate culture at their upcoming internships, suggest a few research assignments, helping them assess the values, standards, and behaviors of the corporate leadership.

A good starting point is with values and goals. Ask your prospective interns to read the history of the company and the biographies of the corporate leaders. Annual reports are also an excellent source of information on the company’s achievements, challenges, or changing values. The corporate mission statement and the slogan also reveal the values in a company. And Google is helpful in tracking any information about the company that might reveal more about its values.

Next, your student interns can evaluate the company standards. One way to evaluate its position in the community is to find out if it sponsors charitable events or champions local sports teams. Reading past employee newsletters will also reveal company standards in terms of how employees are treated. Students should look for articles on employee award, bonus, or incentive programs as well as company holiday events and number of vacation days.

Finally, your interns will benefit greatly by exploring the company behaviors, including dress and language. The company Web site, brochures, and annual reports usually have images of employees at work, revealing dress codes and helping your intern know how to dress. The age of employees is also another guidepost to behavior. If most of the employees look young, the environment at work may revolve around social media and contemporary topics, ensuring that your student intern will “fit” in very quickly.

If possible, connect your prospective intern with a former intern from that company, so they can share information on corporate culture. The former intern could serve as a mentor to his/her replacement.  You could establish an intern alumni network to help all your new interns.

Q. What are some tips to help my students quickly develop positive images at their internships?

May 24, 2010 at 10:48 am | Posted in corporate culture, Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’re so right to make sure your students generate great first impressions. An internship is the perfect place to learn the appropriate behaviors that will serve them well throughout their careers. Many career centers offer a mini-course for their interns on how to develop positive images at their internships. Although some of your interns may already be familiar with the following tips, a refresher course is always helpful: 

  • Dress for success is not simply a poetic phrase. It’s based in reality. You could review the Intern Certification Program on internships.com to see the accepted style in terms of clothing, hair, and accessories. If in doubt, take the conservative approach, staying with neutral tones and traditional hairstyles. Also check the company regulations for dress code. Still unsure? Imitate the dress of the other workers.
  • Arrive early. Getting to work about 15 minutes before everyone else creates an excellent first impression. When employees walk in and see you hard at work at your desk, they immediately conclude that you have a strong work ethic. They know you’ll be an asset to the team.
  • Complete your first projects ahead of time. How you perform on your first assignment sets the tone for your entire internship. Make sure that you accurately complete the project ahead of schedule. In fact, do more than what is required.
  • Talk about work. A good way to “fit in” to the office environment is to ask work-related questions, avoiding office gossip. You’ll be perceived as a real team member rather than a temporary intern. 
  • Offer to help wherever needed. When you finish your day’s assignment, ask your office mates if they need any help. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” is a good mantra to develop. Even if the answer is “No,” you’ll have created an image as a helpful person willing to take on extra duties to lighten the office workload.

Q. How can I help my students understand the individual corporate cultures at their internships?

May 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Posted in corporate culture | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Corporate cultures can be confusing—even for long-term company employees, much less new interns. These shared values, standards, and behaviors reflect the leadership style and ultimately the success of a business. To help your interns understand and “fit in” to the corporate culture, suggest that they research the following elements in their individual companies:  

  1. Values: Prospective interns can read up on the company history to understand the initial values and goals. Annual reports are also an excellent source of information on the company’s achievements, problems or changing values. Other documents that illustrate a company’s value system are the corporate mission statement and  slogan, such as Pfizer’s “Working together for a healthier world.” Google and other search engines reveal information about the corporate leaders, reflecting the company values.
  2. Standards: Is the company a corporate citizen, sponsoring community events, including educational initiatives or fundraising? What kinds of events does it hold for employees? Is the holiday party a dinner at a fine dining restaurant or is it a buffet in the company lunchroom? Does the company award employees for reaching goals? Interns can find out this information from company newsletters or by asking employees. If interns listen to the lunchroom chatter and ask questions, they’ll hear lots of stories that will identify company standards.
  3. Behaviors: Behaviors, ranging from dress to language, can change from department to department. The executives may exhibit one behavior in the boardroom, but the employees may practice other behaviors, depending on department. Age also makes a difference in behavior. Social media may be more accepted in some departments.  
  4. Different Cultures:  Is it a bureaucratic culture, often found in government, banks, universities, hospitals, and insurance agencies? If so, the intern will probably work with forms, formal reports, and policy statements. Performance may be judged by adherence to compliance and procedures. Or is the company a work hard/play hard organization, usually true of startups, with short-term deadlines?  If so, the student should have high energy and a can-do attitude. Some companies, such as Apple, believe in management by objective and offer stock options, innovative work rules, and profit-sharing. Teamwork drives that type of culture.
  5. Interns may want to share with each other their observations on corporate cultures in their individual companies, helping each other gain new understanding.

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