In theory, banks are going easy on their interns this summer. In reality, life as an intern can still be tough. As an intern, you still ought to stay later than most people and you still might be expected to pull an all-nighter. If the latter happens and you have to sweat it out in the office for 18+ hours straight, what can you do about it? We spoke to bankers and ex-bankers who’ve been there and worn the same clothes for longer than is advisable, and this is what they suggest.
1. Don’t think about refusing
Contrary to popular perception, a bank won’t just ask you to pull an all-nighter on a whim. You won’t be working ’til you drop because it makes you look good. You’ll be putting the hours in because it’s necessary for the business and you’re part of the team that’s all in it together. Or at least this is what the people we spoke to said.
“You will never be asked to pull an all-nighter when you don’t need to,” says Mark Hatz, a former M&A banker at Goldman and Perella Weinberg Partners who now runs a company that helps college students get jobs in banking. “The nature of M&A is that the work needs to be done by a strict deadline. If you’re given something to do at 7pm and it’s needed for 11am the next day, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that you’ll have to work through the night.”
When Katz was in M&A, he says he usually did two all-night sessions every week.
2. Tell yourself it’s worth it
An all-nighter is never ‘enjoyable’ says Hatz, but it can be worthwhile. “The best way to deal with it is to try and justify it to yourself,” he tells us. “You need to say to yourself that it’s worth it – that you’re getting valuable exposure to a transaction and working with highly experienced and motivated colleagues.”
Justifying an all-nighter to yourself is harder when the work you’re doing is for a pitch rather than a live deal. In March, Gregg Lemkau, co-head of M&A at Goldman Sachs, admitted that the ‘pitchbooks’ junior bankers put together are often simply for clients’ amusement – in a down market they rarely result in a transaction (although this is changing as M&A picks up again). “If you’re being asked to work through the night just so that some marketing document can be put together, it’s less valid,” says another M&A banker, speaking on condition of anonymity.
3. Eat bananas
Forget sugary sweets and pastries, Hatz says the miracle food for all-nighters is bananas: “Most of the time, I ate loads of them.”
4. Ingest caffeine
Needless to say, you’ll also need caffeine. “You’re going to drink a lot of coffee – or tea. One of those, certainly,” says a former M&A associate.
5. Don’t bother with the spare clothes
Should you bring some spare stuff to freshen up in the office? No, according to Thomas Viguier, co-founder of Coaching Assembly and an ex-M&A banker at Moelis & Co. Go feral. “There are showers in the office, but you usually spend days wearing the same clothes,” he says.
Another M&A banker advocates going home and leaving the taxi running outside waiting to take you back to the office while you shower and change. This is the notorious, ‘magic roundabout.’
6. Don’t let yourself be abused
Hatz says it’s easier to pull all-nighters when you’re efforts are recognized and appreciated by the other members of your team. At Goldman, he says he was often allowed to come into work at 12pm the day after he’d stayed up – there was recognition and respect of the hours he’d put in. “It would be a totally different matter if they wanted me at 9am,” he says.
7. Remember, you’re a free agent
Finally, all-nighters are an unfortunate part of M&A banking, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them. “You can do what you want, you’re a free person. You just go home if you think it’s bad for your health,” says the M&A associate. “But that’s hard,” he adds. ” – It’s a team thing and you’ll always feel you’re letting down everyone else.”