Morgan Stanley accepts just 2% of the 90,000 people who apply for its summer internships every year. So does Goldman Sachs. Not surprisingly, around 60-70% of those accepted on internships are offered a full-time role. Make no mistake – internships are the number one graduate recruitment device for investment banks.
Increasingly, graduates who get jobs in investment banks will have completed multiple internships before they start full time, but summer analysts still need to work hard at converting their internships into job offers.
We’ve already given specific advice on handling internships in the IBD and the markets divisions of investment banks. Here are some more general tips.
1. Sell yourself
There’s little point in being a wallflower if you’re interning in an investment bank. It’ll go out of its way to ensure that you’re offered a range of internal networking opportunities in the first couple of weeks, and you need to take full advantage of these.
“It’s really important to leverage your network,” says Stephanie Ahrens, head of firmwide graduate recruitment at Morgan Stanley. “Your mentor – always a VP within Morgan Stanley – will provide career guidance and help you navigate the organisation. Your buddy – always a recent analyst who has come through the internship programme – will really coach and guide interns through the day to day workload.”
2. Make the first week count
The first week of your internship can be overwhelming, spent as it is with other interns in intensive class-room based training getting to grips with financial products, jargon and the structure of the organisation you’re interning in. You’ll also be assigned a buddy, a mentor and a ‘staffer’ – usually an associate who will doll out your work – and will be presented with opportunities to network with more senior people at the bank.
But take advantage – the relationships you develop with fellow interns in the first week can help throughout the remainder and all the Excel shortcuts and product knowledge will ultimately make you a more accurate and efficient worker.
3. Under-promise, over deliver
Too many interns take on too much work only to be overwhelmed, fail to prioritise and ultimately fail to impress. The key is to take a substantive enough workload to appear very keen, and then deliver it in a timely and efficient manner, says Marc Hatz, an ex-Goldman Sachs and Perella Weinberg associate who now offers advice on preparing for investment banking interviews.
“There’s no need to try and impress by taking on too much work or being too expansive,” he says.
4. Don’t waste your time
As logical as it seems to try and appear knowledgeable as an intern, investment banks are not expecting you to know everything. They want you to ask questions – if nothing else it demonstrates enthusiasm – but get your timing right.
“It’s important to ask questions throughout your internships – there are no stupid questions – but it’s equally important not to ask the same questions over again,” says Ahrens. “Interns are often wary of asking too many questions if they don’t understand an assignment immediately and try to work it out for themselves. Three or four hours later they go back into their managers’ office and ask for it to be explained again. That’s not a great way of managing their time.”
5. Accuracy is your main weapon
As we’ve mentioned previously, a lot of tasks assigned to interns can be relatively menial, tedious even, but it’s important to tackle each one with the requisite blend of enthusiasm and competence. If you’re trawling through vast amounts of data, accuracy is only way to impress.
“Concentrate and don’t make mistakes,” says one recent analyst. “You will only be assigned more interesting tasks if you can manage the more process-driven ones.”
6. Show your team-playing skills…and be likeable
This is a cliché – banks want team-players – but it’s unfortunately one that rings true. Investment banks HR teams will only bring you into the fold if you have elements on your CV that demonstrate an ability to work in a team. Practically, you need to be sociable and show the right attitude towards your team once you're in. Find common ground – whether that’s the same football team, university or a similar hobby. You’ll be spending enough time with them.
“Fit in well with the team: be sociable and demonstrate interest in what the job entails a few years down the line,” says a second year analyst we spoke to.
7. Be open to suggestion
You may go into an investment banking internship with a preconceived idea about where you want to work, but new opportunities could open up during your time there. This is particularly the case on a rotational internship, which may expose some business areas you wouldn't have thought of entering. For example, if you're working in IBD with an aim to ultimately end up in M&A, you could end up also spending time in corporate broking or capital markets.
8. Manage your time, particularly when it comes to the long-term project
Completing the long-term project assigned in the middle of your internship requires teamwork, it requires critical thinking and demonstration of communication skills. It also requires prioritisation. Being able to effectively complete your project whilst simultaneously dealing with a heavy workload is key to success as an investment banking intern.
“The projects expose interns to what it’s like working as an analyst," says Ahrens. "They will work cross-divisionally with other interns, which requires them to collaborate across departments and work together on a project that will be presented to a panel of senior employees. It tests teamwork, communication and presentation skills, all of which are used in their final assessment.”