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Why trying to outdo other investment banking interns is a waste of time

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An IB internship is an opportunity to showcase your abilities, not an ultra-competitive deathmatch.

Investment banks’ summer internships are incredibly competitive to get into, and there are so many young, type-A type personalities crunched up against each other that tension inevitably occurs. Some think the best tactic is to view their peers as competitors for full-time roles and spend as much time crafting a plan to deal with fellow interns as they do trying to impress their potential employer.

But I’m just going to lay it out for you: Fellow interns are your friends, or at least there is no reason why most shouldn’t be. While other IB summer analysts are technically the competition, unless you are at a boutique that takes 15 interns for five seats, you have no reason to worry about what the person next to you is doing. Here are three reasons why being overly competitive with your fellow IB interns is not the way to go:

1. Don’t obsess over the number of banking seats

Investment banks have internships so that they can get 10 weeks to screen potential hires. This is also a great time for them to invest in training and building relationships with future employees.

Their goal is retention. If a bank could give out offers to 100% of their interns and all 100% are accepted, then they would be extremely happy. The internship allows them to weed out anyone who they don’t think would be a good fit, in terms of either work ethic or culture.

Many interns come in thinking that they need to be better than everyone else or cut others down to get hired. That isn’t the case. A good worker who is a strong cultural fit and works well in teams is what banks are looking for in an analyst.

Banks also like giving offers to interns who they believe will accept. They like to tout their offer acceptance rates as an idea of how well their bank is perceived by new candidates. This also reduces their time and investment in finding new candidates. If they hire solid interns, then they don’t need to go and recruit new full-time analysts. Many banks are trying to do as little full-time recruitment of juniors as possible.

2. Your work speaks for itself

Some interns spend a lot of time worrying about what the interns in other groups are doing instead of thinking about their own work. You may get dismayed to hear one intern got to go to a bunch of meetings while you have been spending all your time building pitch books.

An intern that is put on four deal teams while his fellow intern is consistently put on pitch book after pitch book does not make one more likely to get an offer than the other. In the end, both can get offers, as it doesn’t matter how they compare against each other; it matters how well they work with their respective teams on each given task.

3. Competition is toxic

Many interns come in thinking that competition motivates them to succeed. It does in many instances, but as a banking intern, if you want to compete with anyone, then it should be yourself. The more you focus on what the next intern is doing, the worse you will do at your own work. Whoever you are working for will notice it, and the staffer will catch it.

If your fellow interns are working on something and learning a new skill that you feel would benefit you, then ask to learn it from them. You can make an enemy or you can make a friend, but only the latter will help you to get better at your own job. There will be times when you may need someone to help you get access to a file or print books, and this is when your intern friends will be great assets.

Some interns get caught up in the gossip mill of which interns are doing poorly at their job. Most full-time analysts view intern gossip as a big negative. No one likes someone with a bad attitude who takes pleasure in someone else’s weakness – cattiness and douchebaggery are not well-regarded. Bankers want to hire people they can sit next to for 80 hours a week – rather than hyper-competitive personalities, they are going to prefer the ones who consistently do good work and work well as teammates.

Anish Patel is a former investment banking analyst at BMO Capital Markets and corporate development consultant at Madison Wells Media. He created Valuation University, a resource for undergraduates interested in investment banking that provides career-development advice, insights into life at the desk, and financial modeling and valuation guides. Patel is the founder of a sparkling wine cocktail startup, Tinto Amorio.

Photo credit: cherezoff/GettyImages

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  1. Rightly said!! I agree.

    Preeti Srivastava Reply
     

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