Wall Street internship season is just around the corner.
Over the coming weeks, thousands of aspiring young bankers and traders will flock to New York City and other financial hubs to get a taste of life on the Street.
Of course, these internships can be intimidating. You’ve heard the horror stories about the 100-hour workweeks. The grunt work. The tight deadlines.
But it is possible to survive your Wall Street internship and, according to one former Goldman Sachs intern, even enjoy it.
The Goldman intern, who will be returning to the bank this summer as a full-time analyst, told us how he did it.
Here’s his advice:
1. Ask for work early in the day.
This might sound counterintuitive, but interns often have downtime during the day. The reason their work hours can run so long through the week is that work can emerge late at night, and it often has a tight deadline.
Every intern’s nightmare is having a last-minute assignment dropped on his or her desk at 9 or 10 p.m. The easiest way to avoid this, the Goldman Sachs intern said, is to ask for as much work as possible early on in the day.
If you’re already staffed on a ton of projects, your analyst or associate is more likely to turn to somebody else who is a bit less busy than you at the end of the day.
2. Always get through your ‘Excel work’ first.
In an HR-driven attempt to improve the internship experience, many top Wall Street banks have set rules on how many hours interns can physically spend in the office. Bank of America, for example, does not expect interns to work between midnight and 9 a.m., while Goldman Sachs interns must swipe out and leave the building by midnight and not return until 7 a.m.
Sometimes interns still have work to do, even if they can’t be in the building, so here’s the hack: If you can’t finish all your work by the time you must leave, then at least finish everything you need to do on Excel.
It’s much easier to touch up a PowerPoint presentation from your laptop at home than to try to work in complicated spreadsheets on detailed models.
Another tip: Buy yourself a PC and a couple of screens to use at home.
3. Goldman Sachs has entire teams dedicated to making your life easier. Use them!
Most banks have some strategic services for analysts, but Goldman’s team is especially elaborate.
The intern told us it was “probably the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen” and was designed “to make analyst life easier.”
Goldman has a variety of tools all on one proprietary “strategies” web page. You can find just about anything you need there, from presentation services in which they will make nice-looking slides for your coming presentation to the data group that can pull multiples for you or set you up with a chart at a moment’s notice.
So look into what strategy tools your bank has to offer, regardless of which firm you intern with.
4. You will get a boatload of work. Learn to prioritise it.
You won’t have a lot of free time when you start interning, so you’ll have to create time to do the work you need to do. How?
“The biggest part of the job I saw was being efficient and prioritising what you should do,” the Goldman intern told us.
At any given time, he would be staffed on three or four different teams, which meant he could go from having no work one minute to a whole slew of assignments the next.
That’s why, whenever an analyst or associate gave him a new project, he would immediately ask when the person wanted it finished by. That way he could prioritise his work, rather than going after whatever assignment was at the top of the pile.
He said that sometimes, if all of his assignments were due by the next morning, he would take his chances on which ones would be looked at first and narrow it down that way.
Margin Call screenshot
You’ll definitely be working some late nights — but there are ways to make the most of your time.
5. Finishing your work super-fast isn’t always the best way to do it.
This is a big one. Of course there will always be deadline pressure at investment banks. And that’s not to be ignored! But neither is making sure the quality of your work is up to snuff.
“The one thing you learn is, trying to get stuff done fast is different than doing it efficiently,” the intern said.
If you work too quickly, there will definitely be mistakes. And that looks bad for you.
The assignment will go to a higher-up, like an associate, who inevitably returns it covered in red markups. Remember the analysts and associates are staffed on more teams than you are, so that will only add to their stress load.
It’s much better to make the time to double-check your work — and have to do it only once.
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