Investment banks no longer top the list of ideal destinations for prospective interns. Each year, the likes of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are knocked further down the ranks by yet another tech company. It seems that the culture and perks offered in Silicon Valley have begun to outweigh the intensive training provided on Wall Street. And despite the short duration of internships, students are putting more stock in their work-life balance than they have previously.
The latest rankings from Vault.com tell the story. Tech companies now occupy the top four spots on the list of the most prestigious internships. Google, Apple, Facebook and even Microsoft have overtaken Goldman Sachs, which ranked fifth, down one spot from a year ago and two compared to 2016. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan, the second highest-rated bank on the list, has fallen from 5th to 8th over the last three years. Companies like Amazon and Tesla are now looked at as preferred destinations.
We looked at hundreds of intern reviews from Vault and Glassdoor to find out how top tech companies are keeping their interns happy while big banks sometimes miss the mark. It’s worth noting that Goldman and JPM still rank extremely high and are generally very well-reviewed. But many of their former interns walked away with a few common sentiments that weren’t shared as often by those who spent a summer working in tech.
Interns say that Google offers a compensation package that rivals any other program. Reports from Glassdoor suggest that a software engineering intern at Google will earn a prorated salary of between $83-$88k. Interns rave about the interesting and very real work that they do. “The company trusts its employees (even interns) with A LOT of confidential information,” one former intern said on Vault.
Perhaps the biggest eye-opener is Google’s culture – one that stands in stark contrast to those at investment banks.
“It really feels like a college campus, free food, lots of breaks, pretty laid back,” said one former intern on Glassdoor. Another called the work-life balance “ideal,” while referring to the culture as "challenge by choice.” A third even went so far as to mock-complain that the “luxury they provide makes you lazy.” You will hear no such comments from investment bankers.
One interesting downer for interning at Google is that expressing political opinions is tolerated, according to one intern. This comment was made before Google’s recent crackdown on uncivil debate between employees, particularly within its internal forums that have reportedly grown very heated and political.
Compensation for interns at Facebook is similar to Google, leading to similarly effusive praise. Respondents concentrated much of their comment on one broad theme: impact. Interns continually talked about how the felt they were creating real value – working within small teams while being given a level of independence many didn’t expect. And almost everyone commented on the perks, including how good the food is. The fried chicken gets particularly strong reviews.
One rather specific complaint: “Nothing for me is bad but the bathrooms.”
Goldman and JPM
As mentioned above, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan both ranked highly in their own right. So rather than cherry-picking poor reviews, we looked at some of the cons offered by interns who rated the overall experience very highly. This is where one can see the real difference between tech and banking internships.
One Goldman Sachs intern called the program “second to none” and “the best educational experience of my life,” but also noted the “intense hours” – typically 14 hours per day – and the high-stress environment. “The internship is called a ‘10-week interview’” they noted.
A second New York intern from 2017 echoed that sentiment: “Expect the intensity. Everyone has a lot of drive and ambition and even if your managers put no pressure on you, many other people will,” they said while giving a five-star review. They then added: “Wish there were a few more office perks like at tech companies.”
Others referenced the tech world as well. “To compete with the Silicon Valley intern programs, [Goldman Sachs] might consider relaxing some of its attire policies,” said a 2016 intern who also gave a five-star review.
The sentiments were similar at J.P. Morgan. One London intern called the internship “brilliant” and the culture “amazing,” but still complained about the long hours. “Hard to balance work and life,” said a current intern in New York who likewise gave the program a top rating.
Of course, dozens of interns bashed the two banks as well. (“You work hours that end up making you sad.” “Think carefully about whether you want to sell your soul away.”) But that can only be expected with the industry. And frankly, the firms likely didn’t have much interest in these interns anyway. The reason banks are struggling in the recruiting war against top tech companies is because many young people who loved the experience still showed signs of wearing down after just 10 weeks. And then they hear about all the green grass from their friends working in Silicon Valley.
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