Last summer I was an intern at J.P. Morgan. At the end of the internship, I got a job offer. I did none of the things you’re supposed to do to get a “conversion”.
Firstly, I didn’t suck up. I made a point of speaking the truth. For example, countless traders asked me why I wanted to work there. HR people say you need to fit into the culture and show you believe in the firm’s values. I couldn’t disagree more. – If everyone does this, you’ll blend into the crowd. You’ll stand out by speaking your mind. This is why whenever a senior trader asked me what I was doing at J.P.M., I answered with complete brutality. “I just want to work in a cool environment and pocket a nice wage,” I told one senior trader. He was stunned and at first I thought I’d blown it, but then he grasped my hand and congratulated me on being the first intern to answer the question truthfully.
That trader actually turned out to be my most useful asset throughout the internship process. The moral of the story is, ‘don’t get sucked into the idea that banking is beautiful and that the values are at the front of all banker’s minds’. The industry still is, and will always be a dog-eat-dog meritocracy with very little room for those who answer questions in an ‘out-of-the-box’, generic fashion.
Secondly, I didn’t do face time. People will tell you that sitting at your desk until everyone else has gone and working unearthly hours gets you an offer. “You must be first in, last out”. Wrong. I was in the sales and trading division and can’t speak for everyone in the investment banking division (IBD), but I saw and heard of several of my colleagues ‘graft’ away until the early morning. Not one of these grafters converted their internship offers because they were working so hard they were unaware that the desks didn’t even have the headcount for them. With Brexit, desks were busy. Management’s concerns were with the business not the interns. Face time means nothing. No one in markets should be in at 4:30am and leave at 1am: it’ll make no difference to your chances of conversion.
Thirdly, instead of burying myself in the job I busied myself working out how to get hired. You can do great work as an intern and still walk away with nothing. It’s all about working out which desks actually have spaces available. For example, I could see my desk weren’t going to hire me after Brexit because they were cost cutting, so I jumped to another one. My old desk hired zero out of five interns.
What I did do was to be friendly and personable. I asked about the families of people around me. I showed them I was a human being and not another robot produced by the bank’s sausage-machine hiring process. I was myself. A fellow intern suggested I kerb my cockney accent. I ignored him and still got an offer. He didn’t get the job.
Dan Roberts is the pseudonym of a summer analyst at J.P. Morgan in the UK