It’s summer internship season in investment banking. In many ways, it’s my favorite time of the year. For both the interns and their summer employers, it represents the culmination of a journey that’s lasted up to two years - maybe even longer. If you’re an intern, it’s prime time. You’re exposed to an intense, highly stimulating new environment; how you perform on this bigger, brighter, more demanding stage over the next several weeks will largely define the first few years, at least, of your career.
As for the employers, they’ve become overwhelmingly reliant on their summer internship programs as the source of almost all of their full-time campus hires, especially in the most competitive areas (such as investment banking). Accordingly, the 70-80% of interns who perform at the requisite level will typically receive an offer to return for the full-time program.
When you’re an intern, then, there’s a lot at stake. While most will get the return offer, clearly, the failure to do so for those who don’t can count negatively when it comes time to interview for alternative opportunities with other employers.
So the question is:
What can you do to ensure you end up among the majority who get the offer - not the 20-30% who don’t?
You should start by asking yourself some common-sense questions about what investment banks are looking for when they evaluate your internship performance and what would convince them you’d make a great full-time hire. But to save you the time, I’ll tell you:
Are you enthusiastic about the work?
Hugely important. Investment banks know the work is hard. They want to see that you have the enthusiasm for it to stay the course and succeed. So show up on time. Always. Or better yet, be early. Be engaged and ask questions. A certain former Wall Street wunderkind (now senior leader) I know likes to put it simply: “Be a sponge.”
If you hear a term you don’t understand, look it up. Ask to do more. Always be learning. And always maintain a positive attitude.
Can you perform the work to a high standard?
If given actual assignments to complete, keep in mind a time-honored maxim of junior staff on Wall Street: under-promise and over-deliver. If everything goes perfectly, and you don’t encounter any obstacles or distractions, maybe you can get the work done by 12pm. So say you’ll have it done by 3; you’ll give yourself some cushion and the opportunity to survive unforeseen delays.
Moreover, pay attention to details. All of them. Every last one. One of the most common ways that investment banking interns undermine their chances is by paying insufficient attention to small details. Adopt the mindset that there is 100% correct, and there is everything else.
Do you fit in well? Are you a good team player?
The internship is not an episode of Survivor. Getting the return offer for yourself does not mean someone else has to miss out. There are jobs for all those who perform. Find ways to lift up those around you. Share information. Make others better by being helpful wherever you can. This matters.
Do you demonstrate good judgement?
Some interns forget that they’ve left the college dorm behind and entered a professional work environment. Make sure your humor is appropriate to the situation. Be honest and transparent with how you deal with people and how you navigate situations at work. Raise your hand right away if you may have made a mistake. And recognize when socializing after work that you are still in some sense, ‘on the clock'. It all sounds so obvious. So tiresome. And yet, it’s remarkable how many interns each year blow themselves up - seemingly in ever more creative ways. I could tell you stories…
So, now you know that the bank you’re working at this summer wants nothing more than to give you a return offer, and you know how to get one.
Go and be in the 70%.
Jonathan Jones is the former head of investment talent development at Point72 Asset Management and a former head of recruiting at Blackrock and Goldman Sachs.
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