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

By
Are you this stock photo model? Call us. Photo: Andy Shaw/Bloomberg via Getty Images, iStockphoto

Now that you know where to live and how to dress, it’s time to learn the rules of the I-bank bullpen.

There is bad news and good news about Wall Street internships. The bad news is that, as summer analysts, most of you will not be asked to do actual, revenue-generating work. The productive output of investment banking interns at most firms is limited to tracking down publicly available corporate financial data and using that data to build presentations and compare companies within an industry. (This is called “spreading comps.” It takes forever and has no discernible impact on anything.) On the trading side, expectations are even lower, since as non-registered investors, interns are essentially limited to watching and listening.

The good news: Because most of your work will consist of indistinguishable number-crunching, the only real way for your superiors to judge you against other summer analysts is on the basis of what is called, in the corporate patois, “fit.” (It means whether people like you or not.)

With that in mind, here are some tips for conducting yourself in the workplace:

Show up early, leave late: Most analysts and associates at big investment banks work long hours — sixteen-hour days are normal. You should, too. For much of that time, you won’t actually do anything (analysts and associates don’t, either!). But showing that you’re willing to sit in your chair until midnight is part of that elusive “fit” thing, and people will judge you if you don’t.

And for the love of God, don’t take time off.

“A girl in my class asked for a two-week vacation in the middle of July,” one former banking intern told Intel. We asked if she got an offer at the end of the summer. The former intern just laughed.

Learn “LDL”: At your internship, you’ll talk with your fellow summer analysts over e-mail and instant messages, both of which will be monitored by compliance officers whose job it is to keep you from saying stupid things that are read back to executives by members of Congress when your firm is investigated. (This is especially true at Goldman Sachs, where even typing “WTF” sends up a red flag.) To avoid getting dinged for gossiping, learn to type “LDL” — Wall Street code for “Let’s Discuss Live” — before making fun of your MD’s hairpiece.

Befriend the staffer: On your floor, there will be a person called the staffer. Other than your direct boss, the staffer is the single most important figure you will meet this summer. He or she will decide your hours, your assignments, and which groups you end up working with. Being in this person's good graces can mean the difference between being a boss in FIG and toiling in PWM. (Know who can teach you what those acronyms mean? The staffer.)

Be a good gofer: Do everything that is asked of you faster and better than expected. (Except, like, grand larceny.) If the group head wants you to take his tennis racket in for stringing, have his overgrip replaced, too. Your associate sends you out for Shake Shack, bring back a few extra shakes. Morale on Wall Street is at an all-time low right now — layoffs, deal slowdown, and the impending implosion of Europe will do that — and any bit of joy you can bring to your godforsaken colleagues will be met with childlike enthusiasm.

Hack Seamless (carefully): Speaking of food, read this article and learn how to milk Seamless — Wall Street's de facto lunch-ordering site — for all it's worth. Just don’t get caught sneaking a sixer of Bud Light Platinum onto your lunch order.

Lose the Liar’s Poker shtick: The days of bacchanalian Wall Street culture are over. In 2012, with a few exceptions at the more old-line firms and hedge funds, no boss is going to ask you to go to a strip club and pay in quarters, or bring him a cheesesteak from Philadelphia, or any of those legendary Wall Street hazing rituals. If you expect those things — or worse, if you ask for them — you’ll look naive and stuck in 1992.

That said: If someone wants to haze you, play along! (Again, though, no grand larceny.)

Don’t screw up: Wall Street internships are essentially ten-week mistake avoidance tests. As a summer analyst, you are not expected to do well — you are expected not to do badly. At the end of the summer, when your supervisors gather to decide which interns get full-time offers, no one will remember the comps model you pulled an all-nighter on. Everyone, though, will remember the reply-all you sent about the hot Asian girl in sales. So don't do that.

Master non-obvious flattery: A wise man once told us that people enter into conversations with one of two goals — either we want to make the other guy think we’re the most interesting person on Earth, or we want to make the other guy think he’s the most interesting person on Earth.

Perfecting the second kind of interaction is the single most important piece of advice we can possibly give you for your summer on Wall Street. If, by displaying appropriate humility, and by nodding and laughing at the right times, you can make your analysts, associates, and MD's feel funny, worldly, and incisive, it will remind them of the times in their lives before Wall Street, when they actually were all of those things. They will love you for it, and you’ll be one step closer to making it rain $1 bills all over Bar None.

A recap for visual learners:

Photo: iStockphoto

Also: send tips to Daily Intel about the ridiculous things you see — but not from your work account!

[A correction/addendum to yesterday's installment: Many of you took issue with our recommendation of black shoes with a navy suit. It works, we promise! But you were right that brown shoes are also permissible, and maybe even preferable. Just don't go so light on the brown that you risk veering into Sartorialist-bait territory.]