Diary of a back office intern: Checking my phone could cost me my place

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It’s a weird observation to make, but people keep getting me mixed up with one of the two other Johns that sit in my immediate area, with my neighbour James experiencing similar confusion. I decided to run a check of our staff database and found that the two names together account for over 5% of UK employees. If you want your kid to work in banking, definitely consider these names; if you have a daughter, probably don’t.

Anyway, having comfortably passed the half way point of my internship, I find myself reflecting on where I am with it. On my third day here I had to complete a form of objectives for my internship and in a few weeks I’m going to be asked whether I’ve met them. I think I had a healthy range of aims, focused on what I wanted to achieve and learn, but as the pressure of completing my project has distracted me, so I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on how best to use the remaining time.

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My project is beginning to frustrate me as I come to terms with the realities of trying to make changes. Having proudly drawn up a plan which would transform the way that clients are verified by using wonderfully clever new technologies, I was informed that I should shorten my gaze and see if I could come up with some common sense solutions that wouldn’t cost too much instead. I am sending numerous chaser emails each day, still trying to get data I was promised weeks ago, as it’s critical to my analysis.

This process isn’t helped by the fact that I often need approval before sending external emails; the worst having been the time I individually emailed three different colleagues to request permission to send a two-line email. As tedious as this is, I respect its necessity; there are risks in giving interns significant responsibilities due to our limited experience, and knowing that our actions are scrutinised certainly makes us that little bit more careful.

I was also taken to one side last week as someone senior on the floor mentioned to my manager that he’d seen me taking personal calls during working hours. I found this disheartening as I really hadn’t… I did use my mobile to make a work-related call, but this was merely due to the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to reach an external line from my desk phone (fear not, I have now clarified which button to push!). My mobile now sits in my bag. I dare not check my personal email even at lunchtime; it takes so little to cost an intern his/her place on the grad scheme that it’s not worth taking the risk.

For the next few weeks I have a lot of things to look forward to. I’ve got a (brief) one-on-one booked with the Head of Fixed Income, a tour of our very exciting Venture Capital department, and I’ve identified a couple of senior people who went to the same school or university as me to try wrangle a couple of meetings with and expand my network within the business. Perhaps most excitingly (although probably not for most) I now have my final interview booked for the grad scheme – a 5 on 1 panel interview following a presentation on my experience this summer.

Socially, the interns aren’t hanging out too much anymore. As we enter the final stretch there is more of a “heads-down-work-hard” feeling. For those on their third or fourth internship the pressure is really on to turn it into a job. This is my first one so I don’t feel like it would be the end of the world if I don’t. I already have one very good offer under my belt and am more concerned with really working out where the right place to launch my career is. Specifically, having only had BO experience here, I’m also keen to explore parts of the FO before committing to anything. Ironically, my instinct is that the confidence that comes with not having that worry could well give me a big advantage in the final interview – we will see!

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