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How to make it as a Wall Street intern

We’re in the heart of intern season, which means thousands of bright-eyed college and graduate students are putting in the hours, setting themselves up for long distinctive careers on Wall Street. Others, meanwhile, are shooting themselves in foot, killing their chances of finding work down the road, at least at the bank in which they’re interning.

In an effort to help keep the latter group as small as possible, we reached out to four vice presidents on Wall Street – two investment bankers at bulge bracket firms, a hedge fund exec and a consultant – to capture the dos and don’ts of being an intern. Each source not only currently manages interns, but has been one in the past at the MBA level. Two are female and two are male. They asked to remain anonymous to give you the real dirt. And off we go…

Male VP – Investment Banking

  • Don't take your necktie off. Ever.
  • Be awesome to your assistant – she's probably one of the boss’s assistants too.
  • Walk fast everywhere - people will think you are busy.
  • Don't ever, ever ask for more work.
  • When you get an offer, people will expect you to make a speech. Be prepared.

Female Hedge Fund Exec:

  • Don't wear flip flops to work in the morning, even if it’s from the elevator to your desk. My feet hurt too. Suck it up.
  • Heels should be no higher than 4 inches. Leave your Louboutins at home. Only secretaries wear the red soles to work.
  • Don't carry a bag that is exponentially nicer than your boss’s. And no logos. You don't have to go super budget with a Kate Spade or Michael Kors catastrophe, but be cognizant of your surroundings. Saint Laurent or Valextra are fine.
  • Don't count calories openly if you are skinny. Use MyFitnessPal or some other app discreetly on your iPhone.
  • No screen saver shot of your "amazing" boyfriend of __years.
  • If flying on business, NEVER wear an underwire bra, it will set off the X-ray machine at security.

Female VP – Investment Banking:

  • Ask questions! Don't sit at your desk for hours spinning your wheels because you don't understand something. If you have spent more than 5 minutes trying to figure something out and you know it shouldn't take long, ask another person in your summer class and if they don't know ask a full time analyst.
  • You will be asked to do several mindless tasks. Have a good attitude. The full time bankers will likely complain about their job constantly. Don't chime in but don't be some chipper "I love this job" crazy person. You won't be sleeping. You shouldn't be that happy. People will think you are on something.
  • Back to the mindless tasks, do them well. Check every email twice before sending. Check your work two or three times. You shouldn't be making grammatical mistakes in emails. Formatting is not hard. Do it correctly. When you are asked to print out work you have done, check it when it's printed. They will teach you this in training, but never hand anyone a sheet of paper that is literally hot from the printer.
  • As far as dress goes, no one expects you to dress like a seasoned banker but use some common sense. You were likely visited on campus by full time bankers countless times during the recruiting process. You should know what the bankers dress like. Guys: no brown suits, green shirts, brown ties...you get the picture. You can't go wrong with a white shirt. What guys wear is not going to influence their chances of getting an offer but you will be made fun of to your face.
  • Girls, obviously, don't be slutty. You should know that. Also don't come in wearing Louboutins. People will think you don't need this job and, to be honest, if you are wearing $700 shoes to an internship at age 21 you probably don't. These choices could influence whether or not you get an offer.

Male Consultant:

  • While you are a new hire and essentially a part time employee, you are expected to act informed beyond your tenure. Do your best to project confidence in unfamiliar situations to establish credibility.
  • Demonstrate how you are a team player.  You are expected to kick ass on individual deliverables, and everyone will do this. The folks who will distinguish themselves and get hired are the best team players.
  • Go to lunch or coffee with as many people as possible to build a network of advocates for you in the company. Ask these people thoughtful questions during your chat with them.
author-card-avatar
AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • du
    dumb FO guy
    4 July 2014

    you need to do all this after an Ivy league undergrad and a top 10 MBA.... suck up so much to get a job in a dying industry clogged with old filthy guys and gals who are waiting for redundancy themselves....

    suck it up...you dont have to have a dream job that kills your self esteem for 14 hours a day just to brag about your awesome company to your friends at beer (no more beer with friends...maybe on FB). with a qualification like the one banks are expecting, i am sure, if you are half as patient and half as interested in a real career, go alone...try and fail its still better to find a job in a good company than a crappy job in banking...

  • Di
    Diva
    18 July 2013

    LOL, Seasoned70. That's the best advice you can give to those female interns - flirt with the senior middle-aged men. They love it! Same at law firms. Flirt with the 50-something married partners.

  • va
    vandersleuth
    18 July 2013

    Maybe the reason our economy failed is because snobby bankers were too busy up their own asses distracted by petty hierarchies and their superficial judgments of everyone.

    Get back to work, you get paid too much to be focused on this crap.

  • Si
    Silly
    18 July 2013

    So the femal hedge fund exec has the opportunity to give real advice and instead opts to insecurely dribble on about shallow and pointless things. How obsessed can this hag be about younger women? Miserable life indeed

  • Da
    Dave from Philly
    18 July 2013

    This is why these imbeciles brought the world economy to a crashing halt. Not one iota of sense, starting with the notion of internship. Youth is fleeting, get a job making ice cream cones on the boardwalk for the summer. Have a social life, smile and be happy. There is plenty of time to deal with these cotton-headed bankers. As you can see, they aren't hard to out think.

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