Secrets to a Successful Internship

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Gaining a place on an investment bank’s summer internship program is incredibly competitive, but it’s also the easiest route to securing a full-time position. Depending on the bank and division you’re applying to, on average 60-75% of interns receive an offer, with some firms even filling all their front-office positions with intern conversions.

"Ultimately, I think I secured a job offer because I was very interested to learn, so I asked a lot of questions and didn’t try to bluff things," said Mia Hulla, a first year analyst in FX corporate sales at Morgan Stanley. "I’m also personable and articulate, which made me a good candidate for sales."

Typically, there are three desk rotations throughout a sales & trading internship along with classroom-based training, lectures and networking events.

"When you go to sit with someone for your next rotation or in a training session, a talk or social event, go out of your way to find out about them, their role, why they work there," adds Ms. Hulla. "It’s not just the MDs you have to impress."

Towards the end of the program you’re asked to present business ideas to senior management and answer any questions they have. "This is intimidating enough, but it’s also broadcast across the entire trading floor via our news screens – it’s a little scary," she explained.

Here are some more tips to make sure your summer goes swimmingly.

Make the first week count

The first week of your internship can be overwhelming: because students don’t always come armed with financial sector knowledge, they’re required to undertake a week of intensive classroom-based training. It’s generally a high-level overview of various asset classes and product types, so shouldn’t be overly taxing for any student who has made an effort to research the industry.

This means you should focus on another key element of the internship – networking. You’ll meet other interns, bankers and HR people (i.e. the recruiters) during this time. Make friends and make an impression – it will pay dividends later.

Learn as much as you can

"If I could offer three tips to internship success they would be: work very hard, never shun a chance to learn more whenever the opportunity presents itself, and be open-minded," said Ms. Hulla. "You may go into the bank with an idea of where you want to work, but exposure to different business areas could change your mind."

Projects: tedious, but VERY important

Some internships are rotational, meaning you spend time at multiple desks and therefore have more opportunities to impress the right people. The other kind are desk-based, which means staying with one division during your entire internship and, very often, competing with a small pool of students for a limited number of roles.

However, in both you’ll be given a number of different (often boring) projects to complete. As an intern, you’ll be given work no one else on the desk has time to do. If you’re clever, you can use it as a tool to interact with members of the desk and expand your network in the organization.

Always complete projects on time and manage expectations about when you’re able to finish them. Above all, make sure they’re perfect – no incorrect dates, clumsy careless mistakes or spelling errors.

Show the right attitude, even for demeaning tasks

You know how to fetch coffees, right? Or to take down a large lunch order for the desk? It might seem demeaning, but the reality is that it’s a (minor) test – get the little stuff right and you’ll be trusted with bigger tasks.

“One of the things interns always struggle with is managing their time effectively,” says one senior investment banker. “Between training, lectures, social and networking events, projects and rotations, interns can often get a little overwhelmed. I don’t want to see it. I look for that guy who jumps at any opportunity we give him, who does whatever it takes to get it done.”

Remember, everyone is assessing you

Investment banks want to see bright-eyed students who use the internship to learn about the industry. If someone has taken two hours out of their day to explain something to you, ensure that you understand it, and don’t ask stupid questions. It’s vital that you pick things up quickly and then execute on what you learned.

Every person you encounter during your internship will be asked to submit feedback on you. This will cover things like: Were you on time for your meeting? Did you come prepared? During the meeting, were you focused? Did you ask good questions?

You need to build a reputation or general consensus around yourself. You want everyone to mention your name when the conversations on ‘good interns’ arise.

Even if you don’t get hired by the desk you’ve been working on, you need to ensure you’ve left such a good impression that they will recommend you to another desk in their division. This is key to getting hired.

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