Don’t Eff This Up: The Complete Guide to Wall Street Internships — Part Five

By
Part Six: This stock photo model responds to your unkind words about his tie. Photo: iStockphoto

Well, here we are. You, incoming Wall Street intern, are now fully apprised of where to live, how to dress, how to win in the workplace, and how not to spend your summer nights in a drunken heap on Bleecker Street.

Now, in our final installment, it’s time to learn how to seal the deal.

On a single, seemingly random day in late July, your floor at the bank will begin to fill with whispers about who will get full-time offers for next year.

That day, you will begin to view your friends at the bank with a mixture of contempt and suspicion — adversaries vying for a very limited number of available spots. Your once-friendly fellow grunts will become, to borrow from Hemingway, a “bottle of tapeworms trying to feed off each other.”

So, let's make sure you, not your punk-ass classmates, get the offer. Here are our tips:

Hide your ambivalence: At some point this summer, you will likely be asked to get coffee with one of your group’s VPs or MDs. During this coffee, you’ll be asked some version of “So, what do you think so far?” This is not idle small talk — you are being tested. The correct answer is, “I love this firm, believe in everything it stands for, and would be willing to escort two, maybe three panhandlers to an untimely end in order to work here.” An answer containing anything less than full, unbridled enthusiasm about your bank or the industry in general will count against you.

Write a note: Similarly, send a note to your group head at the end of the summer, in which you briefly — briefly! — thank him for letting you toil away on his desk. Tone is important — you want to sound genuine but also make him think you’ll have tons of options next spring unless he locks you down now. (I will write this note for you for $100 or a really good sandwich.)

But no gifts, please: One of our former interns recalled a kid in his class who, at summer’s end, brought the MD in his group a bottle of his favorite scotch. You serious with that, Alex P. Keaton? Get out.

If you get the offer: Congratulations! You have achieved what few ever will. At certain firms, you will now be asked to follow your MD up to a wood-paneled room on the executive floor, where the management committee will teach you secret handshakes, give you a key to the New York Fed’s gold vault, and brand you ceremonially with the crest of John Pierpont Morgan.

If you don’t: Go out with a blaze. We’re talking Athens-level vandalism: overturned cubicles, Hulk-smashed Bloombergs, “#OWS” spray-painted on Renoirs in the C-suite. YOLO, right?

Or, better yet: Just suck it up and apply to more banks.

A reminder: There will be an intern at your bank — probably a son or daughter of a big client — who breaks all the rules, displays no competence at anything, and still gets an offer. (Legend has it that, in precrisis days, a bulge-bracket intern charged $10,000 to his corporate AmEx on a drunken night out. As the story goes, the intern’s MD offered him a job, then paid back his expenses out of pocket.)

That will not happen at your bank. But something similar will. When it does, it’s best to grumble silently to yourself about America’s vestigial caste system and move on.

Don’t be That Guy at school: When you go back to college next fall, don’t trumpet your summer on Wall Street. Nobody likes the guy who sits in the dining hall reading the FT, using words like suboptimal, and pontificating on the history of interventionist monetary policy. (The possible exception is at Princeton, where we assume this is what everyone does.)

What if I don’t want to work on Wall Street anymore? This is a distinct possibility! If your summer has taught you that entry-level bankers are a weary-eyed bunch of type-A masochists who spend the best years of their lives crunching numbers in obscurity, you probably shouldn’t take an offer at a bank.

Here's our advice: Next fall, go to your college’s career fair. Look around. Maybe something catches your eye. Maybe you decide you want to do Teach for America or go to law school or even start your own business. Figure out what makes you happy and find a way to get paid for it.

And later, if you decide you do, in fact, want to work at a shrinking, scandal-ridden company filled with pompous Ivy League–strivers, you can always apply to Facebook.

A recap for visual learners:

Photo: iStockphoto

Thanks, all, it’s been fun!