Reflections on an Investment Banking Internship
This is a revised version of something I wrote late last summer, reflecting on my experience immediately after my investment banking internship. Now, almost 8 months later, I am getting ready to go back to the same group in the same bank that I interned at. My feelings toward banking is obviously different now, but I think the ideas at that time do give the readers who have not experienced banking a good idea of what it’s like, whether to help you decide this is something you want to do, or help you prepare for your upcoming internship.
Here is the updated story:
Before the summer started, I prepared myself mentally for the challenging experiences of investment banking that many people have told me, and I accepted the fact that I was going to dedicate my entire summer to the internship. With lower expectations, come happier realties for the first few weeks. During training week, we left at 7PM or earlier every night, leaving me lots of time for personal use. Then during the first weeks of work, the times I left for work averaged from 8 to 11PM, giving me more than 8 hours of sleep every night. Furthermore, I found the work to be just the right amount of challenging; at least in my group, I was staffed with a full-time associate and full-time analyst, so I could call on them for help if needed, and they tend to give me work that is easier on the technical side, so I can actually learn to my capacity. For the first half of the internship, I thought I was the luckiest intern on Wall Street and just enjoyed the not-so-terrible banking summer, and I actually wished that I could’ve had a “more realistic” investment banking experience. Then, during the middle of my internship, two of my bigger assignments happened at the same time, and I had to work from 8AM to 2~3AM for almost an entire week (including Saturday and Sundays, but I left earlier, as in around midnight, those 2 days). I know it could be much worse, like several all-nighters that some of my classmates told me, but that week still gave me a good idea of what the potential full work load could be light.
As for deep insights or astute observations, I really haven’t thought of any, maybe that’s a good thing, because it means I am still living in the moment and haven’t had time to reflect or slowed down to think about what happened. However, I did develop a much deeper respect for my MBA classmates who did banking before. I’ve actually found the military (perspectives of an Army Armor Officer) and investment banking to share many similarities, and maybe that’s why Wall Street likes to hire vets. First, both professions require an absolute dedication to its work: receiving a call at 11PM on a Saturday to go back to work may not be life-threatening, but it still takes an extraordinary amount of commitment to continue doing it. Second, both work are really stressful, executing billion-dollar deals accurately and quickly takes just as much agility and control as some of the missions I’ve experienced in Afghanistan, and I will have to point out that more brain-power is definitely required for finance. Lastly, both professions pushes your mind and body to levels beyond what you are usually accustomed to: in Afghanistan it was keeping composure during dangerous situations, in banking it is keeping composure after extreme mental exhaustion. I’ve only did about 8 weeks of it, so I can’t imagine myself going through it for 2 straight years. My utmost respect for those who had endured it for several years.