Congratulations! You’ve landed yourself an internship on Wall Street this summer.
While this is just the very first step to building a career on the Street, the stakes are high — if you play this right, it could lead to an entry-level job.
“The most common path to getting a first-year analyst offer is to have completed a summer internship with that bank, or to have completed a summer internship with a related bank,” says Chandler Holbrook of OneWire, a career website for finance professionals.
Scott Rostan, the founder and CEO of Training The Street, which gives courses to prepare young people for internships and analyst jobs on Wall Street, says that banks actually want to hire their summer interns.
“This isn’t Lord of the Flies,” Rostan said. “We’re not just throwing you out there to see what happens.”
If every Wall Street intern were up to par, he said, the banks would hire them all. But some are more prepared than others.
You obviously want to be one of those, so Business Insider asked Rostan and Holbrook, as well as OneWire’s founder and CEO, Skiddy von Stade, for tips on how to prepare and what you should know before your Wall Street internship.
Here you go:
1. Establish yourself as a go-to person.
“Just being present, establishing yourself as that go-to person as much as possible — the one where they know that you can get the project done quickly, accurately, efficiently — that’s the number one goal,” said Holbrook. “Because you want to be that person that they think of when they’re sitting down, doling out offers.”
So how do you do that?
2. Work on your communications skills.
“Some skill sets that people forget about, which are critical in being successful on Wall Street, are communication skills,” said von Stade. “If you look at any successful banker on Wall Street … their greatest skill [is] communication. Because it’s a people business.”
3. Learn to work with a team.
Training The Street polled MBA students who had been offered full-time jobs on Wall Street and found that their ability to work in teams was a major reason why they were hired.
“Just being able to build relationships with the people around you is incredibly important,” said OneWire’s Holbrook.
4. Learn to use Excel.
The hard skills you will need may not be the ones you’d expect.
“They’re not expecting anyone — the interns — to come in knowing a lot when it comes to financial modelling,” said Holbrook.
She recommends brushing up on your Excel and PowerPoint skills instead, “because the faster you can make a company profile or build a valuation model, the more that will set you apart.”
Rostan recommended brushing up on your basic accounting skills as well.
It’s “kind of like learning a foreign language for a business professional,” he said. “The language of financial statements and the language of the spreadsheet. And once you’re very adept in both of those languages then you can see the applications much, much easier.”
5. Don’t waste your time with unnecessary research.
One analyst that OneWire has worked with, who started out as a summer intern, said she went into her internship having done a lot of macro-level research on the market she would be covering — but that, ultimately, she barely used that information.
Instead, what got that woman hired was her ability to build valuation models and make company profiles quickly, and her willingness to step up when needed, according to Holbrook.
6. Use online prep materials.
“There are a lot of publicly free, available, modelling tests and templates that analysts and interns can access online that can help prepare them,” said Holbrook.
7. Learn to use the Bloomberg terminal.
“The Bloomberg terminal is helpful as well because you’re probably going to be asked to look up different companies, do research on them, [and] pull information and data from them,” said Holbrook.
8. Be confident.
“You impress your peers and you impress your business managers in meetings where you get up, you stand up, and you have an opinion, and you speak with authority and with conviction,” said von Stade.
9. But be careful with your questions.
“I think there’s a limit to how many questions you ask senior people and when you ask them,” said Holbrook. “If you’re a summer intern and you don’t know something and it’s taking you a while to figure it out on your own, first ask the other summer interns — ask your peers — and if you need to go higher, just ask the analysts.”
“It kind of goes contrary to the traditional wisdom of ‘ask a lot of questions’ and ‘there’s no stupid question,’ but you want to be cognisant of the senior folks’ time — and how you’re perceived,” she added.
10. Learn to make mistakes the right way.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” said Rostan. “It’s a question of when the mistake was made and when it was realised and how do you respond to that.”
He said it helps to be humble and responsive to feedback.
11. Get as much deal experience as you can.
“A lot of the analysts are really focused in their summer internships on getting as much deal and transaction experience and modelling experience as possible,” said Holbrook. It will prepare you the most for the real world.
13. Don’t forget to show you’re interested all the time.
“If you have the opportunity to get an internship, jump at it as fast as you can and take it very seriously,” said von Stade. “Work as hard as you can, be the last one to leave, and show that you really have commitment.”
Like with any job, he said, you have to be passionate and show that you really want it.
14. Be ready for anything — including long work days.
“You’re not going to be going home at 6 pm every night and it’s just something that’s part of the experience and you have to kind of take it with a smile and just put your head down and do the work,” said Holbrook.
“Sometimes you have deadlines that are pretty aggressive and you do what it takes to get the job done. You could be working late one night and they say, ‘We have to jump on this plane to go on this live pitch’ the next morning … You have to learn to be ready for anything.”
15. Seriously, be ready to jump on an aeroplane.
Even if you’re not taking a flight with your manager, you want to be engaging and competent enough that he or she would consider it. In other words, you have to seem ready for anything.
“If I was hiring somebody at that level, I would say, ‘OK, I’ve gotta fly out to San Francisco. Do I want this person to sit next to me on the plane?'” said von Stade.
“If you look at all the people that are successful on Wall Street … they’re very outgoing, they are very smart, … they’re very good at reading a situation and adapting to a situation.”
16. Remember, they’re trying to recruit you — so get networking.
“The firms view the internship as a 10-week interview, but they also view it as 10-week recruitment,” said Rostan. “So they tend to have more social events and they want [the interns] to be able to network and talk to people and have a non-purely working experience.”
Networking opportunities will include casual happy hours, more formal events, and of course there are always opportunities to take your managers or mentors out for coffee. So make the most of it!
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