Helping your students succeed in Finance internships

June 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Posted in corporate culture | 8 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.

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