1). Be a Sponge – Treat your summer internship as an 8- or 10-week opportunity to learn as much as you can. Observe everything and bring a notebook everywhere you go (a phone works too, but a notebook/pen may look better). Learn from both junior and senior professionals. Identify professionals that are respected within the organization and try to find out what they do that sets them apart. Put in the effort to really understand the company and the industry, since it will also inform your decision about whether you want to continue on the career track.
2). Ask Good Questions – The quality of your questions is important. Unlike in college, where any question is fair game, at your internship, you’ll be implicitly evaluated based on the quality of your questions. Ask informed questions that show that you have done your homework. Ask questions that show you are trying to think high-level and connect the dots. Ask appropriate questions based on the seniority of the person you are speaking with. Finally, in group settings make sure to listen to others’ questions and avoid asking the same thing. Take notes on responses that you get so that you aren’t asking the same questions twice.
3). Show Up Two Minutes Early – Half of the job is consistently showing up (on time). The definition of “on time” varies from person to person, so aim to show up about two minutes early for every meeting, lunch, or intern event. Any later than that and you’ll risk being late, and any earlier than that and people may think you don’t have enough to do. A quick anecdote: someone who interned at JPMorgan as a grad student said that they hosted 20 intern events over the summer. By the end of the summer, he felt like they held so many events just to test if people would show up on time to every event. He did, and he got a full-time offer at the end of the summer.
4). Have a Positive Attitude – A positive attitude can go a long way toward making people want to work with you. In addition to having the technical skills for the job, it’s important to be someone that people want to work with. This is especially important to remember when things get stressful or the hours get long. That’s when having a positive attitude counts the most, since not everyone will during those times and you’ll set yourself apart from your peers.
5). Sweat the Small Stuff – If you can’t draft a flawless email, no one will trust you to write an investment memo. If you can’t nail the numbers on a comp sheet, no one will trust you with an investment model. It’s important to earn the trust of senior team members by getting the small stuff right every time. If you do this consistently, you’ll be trusted to take on more projects and greater responsibility. Note that if the task is particularly important, it helps to step away from it and then come back to it later with a fresh set of eyes for a final review.
6). Form Relationships – If you want to work at the firm, it’s very helpful to have advocates within the firm when end of summer hiring decisions get made. Ideally, you’ll have 1-2 mid-level professionals and 1-2 senior professionals that will go to bat for you at the end of the summer. In order to do this, you’ll want to focus on networking within the firm. At large firms, you should aim to have daily coffee chats or lunches with different professionals, and don’t shy away from asking for meetings with senior professionals (after you’ve had a few warm up chats under your belt).
7). Be a Team Player – Most organizations structure their work around teams. If you’re at an organization like this, recognize its importance and put the outcome of the team above your own personal contributions. Even if it means taking less credit for a project, it’s worth it. You aren’t expected to make any significant contributions as an intern, but you will likely be judged on how well you work in a team context.
8). Own Your Mistakes, Learn from Them – Everyone makes mistakes, especially at the junior level. When you make a mistake, own it, learn from it, and show others how you learned from it. Better yet, observe others’ mistakes and learn from them so that you’ll avoid making those same mistakes in the future. There’s nothing to gain from defending a mistake that you made, even if you still don’t think you made a mistake. It’s best to avoid being defensive in those situations.
9). Take Initiative – As an intern, you’ll be assigned projects and it’s table stakes to do an excellent job with the assigned work. But you can show initiative by going above and beyond. For example, if the assignment is to do A, B, and C, do those well, but consider adding D or E too. You can also take initiative in other ways – i.e., start a daily email summarizing industry news, organize lunches for your intern cohort, or check in frequently with your supervisor to see if they need help with anything. You don’t want to be annoying, but you do want to demonstrate that you’re always looking for small ways to add value
10). Be Professional – This is a check the box item, but exhibit professionalism over the whole summer. Be punctual, wear attire that is in the context of your team, observe appropriate email and message app etiquette, and keep informal conversations professional. You don’t want to be too robotic, and it’s definitely ok to show your personal side at times, but keep things appropriate.
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