Hi! As you prepare for your upcoming summer internships, Sidd and I wanted to share some guidance on what we’ve seen has or hasn’t worked for summer interns looking to secure a return offer, or a good reference if full-time positions are not available.
We’ve both participated in multiple internships ourselves and seen multiple summer internship cycles, and the themes covered below tend to hold true across the board, regardless of industry, firm, location or culture. We hope you find these tips helpful and welcome you to share your thoughts with us!
First, I believe being goal oriented helps add context around these “tips” – knowing why we are emphasizing these tips and how they affect your evaluation will help you commit to the guidance in earnest and enable you to pursue them in your own unique way while maintaining your personality. So here are some of the primary criteria we believe you will be evaluated on as an intern:
- Does he/she really want to work in finance? Do they know what it means to work here, and do they have what it takes?
- Do I enjoy working with this person? Will I want to work with them during stressful hours and tight deadlines?
- Will this person make my life and the team’s life easier? Are they a constructive contributor and a team player?
- Will this person learn quickly? Are they willing to put the time in to understand new concepts and fix mistakes? Have they demonstrated intellectual curiosity?
- Does this person have a good work ethic? Will they prioritize work when necessary? Are they willing to make sacrifices to get the work done? Are they focused?
- Do they have the analytical and communication skills to succeed in this industry?
- Be happy to be there – Enthusiasm is critical
Whether your internship is remote or in-person, your ability to communicate your enthusiasm will play a meaningful role in two aspects of how you’re evaluated:
i) Does he/she really want to be here? Is this the right career fit?
ii) Is this someone who will be good to work with?
There will be several opportunities to demonstrate your enthusiasm over the course of your internship. Here are a few to get you started:
- Raise your hand for new projects
- Volunteer for cumbersome, time consuming projects that no one else wants to take on
- Respond promptly to staffing requests, and without hesitation
- Use exclamation marks, and say please and thank you
- Smile and sound energetic
- Take every learning opportunity you get, and ask for more
- Schedule internal calls and coffee chats – and use the time wisely
- Take work off of teammates’ plates
There will be times when you’re tired, unhappy or feel unappreciated; these are the most critical times for you to sound enthusiastic. The times when the best interns I’ve ever worked with have succeeded most, and the times when I’ve gotten the best feedback as an intern, are when it’s 2am, seniors are grumpy and there is a lot of work to do, but the intern has been enthusiastic and willing to help to get the work done for the team. Your internship is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get your foot in the door – treat it as such for the entire duration of your internship.
- Be a good team member – Finance is a team sport
We cannot emphasize this enough – finance is a team sport. That might sound like a stretch, but here’s the reality: you will be staffed in small teams, with a set objective of producing high quality analysis and materials, and with tight deadlines to get it done and responsibilities distributed across the team. If anyone on the team does not hold up their end of the bargain, either someone else has to do more than their fair share or the work product suffers, the latter of which is not an option in the high stakes world of finance. Similarly, if anyone on the team is not easy to work with, it adds a stressful dynamic that no team would enjoy. Having said that, being a good team player plays into the following evaluation criteria:
i) Is this someone who will be good to work with?
ii) Will this person make my life and the team’s life easier?
iii) Will this person learn quickly?
iv) Does this person have a good work ethic?
Below are a few ways you can demonstrate your team-centric work attitude:
- Underpromise, overdeliver – set realistic deadlines, and beat them
- Overcommunicate – make sure your team knows what else you’re working on and when they can expect to review your deliverables
- Ask questions – don’t spin your wheels and waste time out of fear of asking questions. As an intern you have a free pass on stupid questions
- Review your own work – Your senior’s life is easier if you give them a product that is mistake-free
- Do more than your fair share – if you overdeliver with good, timely work product and ask the right questions – you’ll be well positioned to take work off the analyst’s plate which will reflect well on you and make their life easier
- Be enthusiastic – everything highlighted in the previous section plays into being a good team player
- Share your thoughts – even as an intern, you can and will have valuable ideas that your team will appreciate. They may get disregarded, but your willingness to speak up and potentially contribute a good idea will reflect well on your willingness to contribute to the team outside your job description
- Ask for feedback – The best way to show you want to be a good team player is asking how you can be better. This feedback is invaluable to spot your own blind spots. Give yourself the best chance by asking people where you can improve, and then improve on those areas. This is good to do right after you conclude a project with a team, or even halfway through so you give yourself a chance to improve on those areas before those improvement areas are held against you during your evaluation.
- Be intelligent – You are smarter than you will feel; prove it
Finance is not rocket science, but there are a ton of concepts and terms that you will need to familiarize yourself with over the course of your internship. Demonstrating that you’ve improved your understanding is important to show you will be a reliable analyst who will be able to operate with minimal guidance – and this is a big part of what they are looking for in interns. Below are the primary evaluation criteria that you’re looking to fulfill by demonstrating your intellectual strength:
i) Will this person make my life and the team’s life easier?
ii) Will this person learn quickly?
iii) Do they have the analytical and communication skills?
Below are a few ways you can demonstrate your intellectual capabilities:
- Be curious, Ask questions – you have a free pass to ask as many questions as possible. If you do not understand something, get an answer or explanation from the analyst or associate you’re working with, or just someone next to you or in your peer group
- Leverage your peers – if you have a question, odds are someone in your intern group has had the same question – ask them to help you out
- Keep the bigger picture in mind – it is critical for a multitude of reasons to not treat your internship as a series of tasks that you are trying to fulfill. Learn about the deal or pitch process, the dynamics and rationale around transaction structuring, strategic planning, industry trends, business drivers, etc. They don’t want just an excel / powerpoint monkey even if it may feel that way at times
- Understand the context of the ask – this will help you produce the best possible work product, and help you go above and beyond by adding your own thoughts that might be additive to your pre-defined task
- Minimize errors – unfortunately, finance is one of those sectors where 99% correct, 1% wrong means the whole thing is wrong. Check your work, and then double check it before sending it to your senior. This will feel tough when it’s late at night or you’re extremely busy, but that is when it’s most important since that’s when you’re most likely to make mistakes
- Reputation of reliability is earned and essential – you will be afforded some room for mistakes when you start out, but by the end of your internship, people will expect your work to be error-free. Once you earn a reputation for making mistakes or not being detail oriented, it is a hard reputation to shake off. The opposite is also true and much preferred – people love working with someone they can rely on to produce accurate, high quality work with minimal revisions
- Read and practice in your down time – If you have free time in between staffings, use that time to read materials and practice your modeling. You’re committed to learning the industry inside-out, that’s how you’ll be able to maximize your contributions to the team, and how you’ll figure out if this is the right field for you. If it feels overly forced to read through decks or work on models on your free time, this may not be the right field for you. This should feel fun and engaging for you to enjoy 2-5 years of full time work in finance.
And there you have it! Those are our tips to navigate a successful summer internship. There are obviously many more aspects to having a successful summer internship experience, but these cover some of the basics that should hold true across groups. If you have any thoughts or questions on these, please feel free to reach out and share your thoughts. Good luck this summer!