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How to make it as a Wall Street intern


We’re in the heart of intern season, which means thousands of bright-eyed college and graduate students are putting in the hours, setting themselves up for long distinctive careers on Wall Street. Others, meanwhile, are shooting themselves in foot, killing their chances of finding work down the road, at least at the bank in which they’re interning.

In an effort to help keep the latter group as small as possible, we reached out to four vice presidents on Wall Street – two investment bankers at bulge bracket firms, a hedge fund exec and a consultant – to capture the dos and don’ts of being an intern. Each source not only currently manages interns, but has been one in the past at the MBA level. Two are female and two are male. They asked to remain anonymous to give you the real dirt. And off we go…

Male VP – Investment Banking

  • Don’t take your necktie off. Ever.
  • Be awesome to your assistant – she’s probably one of the boss’s assistants too.
  • Walk fast everywhere – people will think you are busy.
  • Don’t ever, ever ask for more work.
  • When you get an offer, people will expect you to make a speech. Be prepared.

Female Hedge Fund Exec:

  • Don’t wear flip flops to work in the morning, even if it’s from the elevator to your desk. My feet hurt too. Suck it up.
  • Heels should be no higher than 4 inches. Leave your Louboutins at home. Only secretaries wear the red soles to work.
  • Don’t carry a bag that is exponentially nicer than your boss’s. And no logos. You don’t have to go super budget with a Kate Spade or Michael Kors catastrophe, but be cognizant of your surroundings. Saint Laurent or Valextra are fine.
  • Don’t count calories openly if you are skinny. Use MyFitnessPal or some other app discreetly on your iPhone.
  • No screen saver shot of your “amazing” boyfriend of __years.
  • If flying on business, NEVER wear an underwire bra, it will set off the X-ray machine at security.

Female VP – Investment Banking:

  • Ask questions! Don’t sit at your desk for hours spinning your wheels because you don’t understand something. If you have spent more than 5 minutes trying to figure something out and you know it shouldn’t take long, ask another person in your summer class and if they don’t know ask a full time analyst. Everyone assumes you are dumb and don’t know anything about this job. They won’t think less of you if you ask a question.
  • You will be asked to do several mindless tasks. Have a good attitude. The full time bankers will likely complain about their job constantly. Don’t chime in but don’t be some chipper “I love this job” crazy person. You won’t be sleeping. You shouldn’t be that happy. People will think you are on something.
  • Back to the mindless tasks, do them well. Check every email twice before sending. Check your work two or three times. You shouldn’t be making grammatical mistakes in emails. Formatting is not hard. Do it correctly. When you are asked to print out work you have done, check it when it’s printed. They will teach you this in training, but never hand anyone a sheet of paper that is literally hot from the printer.
  • As far as dress goes, no one expects you to dress like a seasoned banker but use some common sense. You were likely visited on campus by full time bankers countless times during the recruiting process. You should know what the bankers dress like. Guys: no brown suits, green shirts, brown ties…you get the picture. You can’t go wrong with a white shirt. What guys wear is not going to influence their chances of getting an offer but you will be made fun of to your face.
  • Girls, obviously, don’t be slutty. You should know that. Also don’t come in wearing Louboutins. People will think you don’t need this job and, to be honest, if you are wearing $700 shoes to an internship at age 21 you probably don’t. These choices could influence whether or not you get an offer.

Male Consultant:

  • While you are a new hire and essentially a part time employee, you are expected to act informed beyond your tenure. Do your best to project confidence in unfamiliar situations to establish credibility.
  • Demonstrate how you are a team player.  You are expected to kick ass on individual deliverables, and everyone will do this. The folks who will distinguish themselves and get hired are the best team players.
  • Go to lunch or coffee with as many people as possible to build a network of advocates for you in the company. Ask these people thoughtful questions during your chat with them.

Comments (13)

  1. some of this is the biggest bunch of junk ever.
    “When you get an offer, people will expect you to make a speech”…. this is funny.

    Quite simply…be focused, be diligent, work hard, no attitude…and be aggressive.

    Ladies…you were your expensive shoes, maybe you earned them! Men, you dress nicely, and get some nice ties! Quality. Drop some coin. ACT AS IF!

    Been in the brokerage world for years and deal with the buy side regularly…plenty of down to earth, non picky people. BUT ALWAYS PROFESSIONAL AND POLISHED.

    Wall St today is for the smartest. If not the smartest, then those who bust their asses.

  2. Wow. Are female bankers really as petty and stupid as this? Bags, calories, bras, Louboutins, a “Kate Spade catastrophe?” OMG. This is why they’re paid so well?

  3. This kind of advice may be sound, but honestly, doesn´t it show how desperate you have to be if you need to factor in all this advice?

    The main message here is, that the quality of your work is only a small part of the the job. That to me shows that this industry is overrated and unattractive.

    Why not find an industry where all this nonsense doesn´t matter and where you can focus on actually delivering value to the customer?

    I´ve been seeing so much of this kind of advice in publications like these and it just tells me: get out of this industry.

  4. Wow I wouldn’t trust that airhead female hedge fund exec to make me a cup of tea let alone manage my investments. I assume Exec translates as PA in the real world.

  5. I think this is all pretty much right on. Do your job, do it the best you know how… people will respect you for your job and how well you do it as long as they don’t notice your outfit first. DAVID… 21 yr. old intern girls DID NOT earn those $700 shoes, their daddy’s gave them to them and if their daddy’s give their girls $700 shoes than she should ask him for rent too and give the jobs to the single moms out there who will do a better job in payless flats. If you need to “drop some coin” (lol) to get a tie just to work on Wall street imma keep my ass in Michigan. If you’re a man acting “AS IF” than yup… you belong in New York, but wearing pin stripes. Young people should expect the unexpected in a new job… like speeches where appropriate. How will these interns know that unless people tip them off like Mr. Beecher Tuttle. He probably saved someone from looking like an ass. Oh yea… DAVID….. you spelled “Wear” wrong in your comment. Maybe you should take some of that advice about checking it over twice before hitting send instead of calling this good advice a bunch of junk.

  6. I deal with hedge fund folks and this woman couldn’t have characterized her ilk any better – absolutely shallow and insipid. The message for any aspiring intern: don’t work at a hedge fund or you will get to deal with clueless, vaccuous women like this. But if you stay the HF course and advance to the VP level and you wear your cognac Church’s brogues with a custom suit you bought in Hong Kong and she notices like the lame superficial tramp she is, comment on her manicure and how it makes her fingers look “full”. When she is in the bathroom trying to vomit up her carmel frappuccino dealing with the onslaught of insecurity you indirectly caused, text that cute girl you met at the gym that works in marketing. You will be the better person for it. On the other hand, if you happen to be a female intern at a HF, just flirt wtih the most senior guy that is shameless and insecure. Everyone does it and you can then get that prized job regardless of how you only looked at HFs to make big money (and put that philosphy major to good use). And this why the performances are down across the board; you have female analysts too busy looking at the color of their colleauge’s shoe soles that really should be in middle school instead of playing with other people’s money.

  7. The best advice for any intern in any industry would be: Watch closely everything that is going on on a daily basis and evaluate if that is what you would want to spend your life on. Get to know YOURSELF better. Stop being preoccupied with getting an offer. Internships give YOU the chance to evaluate the setting and your prospective employer. Once you figure out this is what you really want to do, whatever your reasons for it are, then just about anything you do will be right. Of course wanting is not always knowing how to do it, and for the most part internships will teach you who you are NOT. And that’s how you slowly, step by step, realize who you ARE. And that’s how you eventually get to the place you want to be. Be where you want to be because you know yourself, not just because others tell you to. Ultimately the best advice for any fresh graduate is: Always have in mind that you are brainwashed and try to fight that as best you can. Getting an offer is not the purpose of an internship. Figuring out if that’s what you want to do is. Since college doesn’t really teach you anything except how to learn new stuff, hands-on experience is the real education, so use it wisely and move on .

  8. This is why these imbeciles brought the world economy to a crashing halt. Not one iota of sense, starting with the notion of internship. Youth is fleeting, get a job making ice cream cones on the boardwalk for the summer. Have a social life, smile and be happy. There is plenty of time to deal with these cotton-headed bankers. As you can see, they aren’t hard to out think.

  9. So the femal hedge fund exec has the opportunity to give real advice and instead opts to insecurely dribble on about shallow and pointless things. How obsessed can this hag be about younger women? Miserable life indeed

  10. Maybe the reason our economy failed is because snobby bankers were too busy up their own asses distracted by petty hierarchies and their superficial judgments of everyone.

    Get back to work, you get paid too much to be focused on this crap.

  11. LOL, Seasoned70. That’s the best advice you can give to those female interns – flirt with the senior middle-aged men. They love it! Same at law firms. Flirt with the 50-something married partners.

  12. you need to do all this after an Ivy league undergrad and a top 10 MBA…. suck up so much to get a job in a dying industry clogged with old filthy guys and gals who are waiting for redundancy themselves….

    suck it up…you dont have to have a dream job that kills your self esteem for 14 hours a day just to brag about your awesome company to your friends at beer (no more beer with friends…maybe on FB). with a qualification like the one banks are expecting, i am sure, if you are half as patient and half as interested in a real career, go alone…try and fail its still better to find a job in a good company than a crappy job in banking…


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