The past few weeks of the internship have made me realise what’s important. You go in with preconceptions about what it is to work in investment banking, but it’s only when you’re really inside the organisation that you get to experience the reality.
Our salaries have just been paid, which is great for a student used to seeing their bank account in or close to the red, but I’ve had no time out of the office to spend it. I don’t want this diary to turn into a bitching session about investment banking hours, though, because everyone knows this is just the way it is. For me, the internship has allowed me to see beyond the obvious.
For example, banks harp on about their culture being important, which sounds like a bunch of fluff until you’re forced to confront it. Investment banking isn’t going to allow you to retire at 40 any more, it’s no longer about the money. Our intern class are bonding, we’re working well as a team and when you’re together 16-hours a day with people, you need to be able to connect with them. This, not the money or the prospect of a high-paying job next year, has made the internship enjoyable for me.
Believe me, this isn’t the case everywhere. I know a lot of people who’ve accepted an internship at the most “prestigious” bank they could, and are now miserable. Some banks over-hire interns, so there’s a huge amount of sniping and backstabbing among the class because they’re all desperately competing for an offer.
The hours are still tough. For me, because my family is overseas, the most difficult part of that is not having any time to keep in touch with them. Right now, after the initial excitement has subdued, it’s a stamina game. I’m in the process of discovering what my body will and will not stand for, and a big part of maintaining my health through the internship is ensuring that I keep some time for the gym. Sitting extensively and eating takeaway food for any period of time is very bad for you, and I want to do what I can to maintain a modicum of health.
I work in an investment banking coverage team, and projects here can last for months. This usually means that you never really know what your hours will be, so you can end up staying in the office unexpectedly. If you’re working on a product teams in the banks have more predictability about their workload and they’re not here to the small hours as much.
My other realisation about what’s important is…detail. I’ve become so much more fastidious – I made mistakes early on in the internship, but I’ve learned from them. The internship has made me pay attention to the smallest of details, because you will be pulled up on it. I’ve also learned the importance of a well-ironed shirt.
We’re still being offered opportunities to network with senior bankers, which has been great. I know a lot of juniors look at senior bankers a think ‘do I really want to be like them?’, but over the past few days my interactions with them have been genuinely inspiring. So far, the experience has been worth all the stress.
James Roberts, an pseudonym, is a summer intern on an M&A desk at a bulge bracket bank in London. He’ll be writing about his experience here.
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