It’s that time of year again. The investment banks are opening their doors to floods of summer interns, all looking to make a lasting impression to secure a full-time position. But, in such a competitive industry, what can you do to stand out?

We asked an M&A banker at a global US investment bank to share their top tips on excelling in an investment banking internship.

Be Able to Learn Quickly & Ask

It is likely that you will make a few mistakes along the way, we’re only human. However, investment bankers will be looking to see whether you are able to acknowledge these in order to avoid making the same error twice. As soon as you suspect something is wrong, ask for help. This is the only way you will be able to progress forward.

Remember: only turn to analysts for help. Go to anyone more senior and you will likely be frowned upon.

Be Diligent and Demonstrate Attention to Detail

It is essential that you take precautions to avoid making mistakes in the first place. Ask for a peer review from another intern or print out your work and check it before submission. This will show the full-timer’s that you care about delivering the best result, even if that means taking a bit longer on a certain project. It is not quite a case of slow and steady because deadlines are critical, but accuracy should always trump speed.

Be Curious

The whole point of taking an internship is to learn as much as you can about the job role and all it entails. You must ensure you listen where necessary, and always possess a good attitude. No one likes a know-it-all, and you certainly won’t know-it-all if you are interning. Be attentive and absorb the experience as much as you can.

Demonstrate a Willingness to Work

You need to pull out all the stops if you want to differentiate yourself from other interns. Investment banks value self-starters so always seek out new work and exceed expectations. For instance, you could do more analysis than asked for or assign yourself an additional task that will benefit you and your team. It is essential that you are willing to go the extra mile and put in all the hours. If you have to pull an all-nighter then do so.

Other Tips Include:

Don’t forget: a smile goes a long way. Even if you’ve barely slept and have tons of work to get through, it’s important to remain positive. Try to not to appear over-enthusiastic, however, as this could come across as fake. It’s important to strike a balance.

Network: Meet as many people in your team and across the bank as possible. Converting an internship to a full-time role essentially boils down to the quantity and quality of your networking throughout your time at the firm, in addition to your work outputs. When deciding whom to award full-time positions, line managers often ask for feedback on interns from a range of different colleagues. Attending all networking events is another way to seamlessly introduce yourself to other bankers who you are not directly working with.

Self-development: Practise technical skills in your own time, such as financial modelling and valuation using online learning platforms such as Financial Edge Training. This will enable you to take on more technical work during your internship where needed, such as building a financial model. Your proactivity will not go unnoticed, as long as you are prioritizing your immediate work tasks in the first place.

Build commercial awareness: Keep up-to-date with the latest market developments and news through reliable sources such as the Financial Times, Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal. Given the current energy crisis and cost of living crisis, along with rising interest rates and inflation, it is ever more important to have an up-to-date understanding of financial markets. This can be a good talking point during networking events and can also potentially feed-in to your day-to-day work.

Find a mentor: Find someone who you can relate to, and is willing to make time to answer your questions and offer you guidance. There is no guarantee that you will be able to find a good mentor during your internship, as a mentorship usually takes time to build and relies on your proactivity.

Be sensible when asking questions: If you can Google the answer, do not ask someone in the first place. Avoid asking questions to senior colleagues about minutiae, such as Excel or PowerPoint shortcuts. Where needed, you can ask other interns or Analysts instead.

Dress smart: Banking etiquette for dress code is strict and it is important to get this right. Male bankers tend to dress in navy/grey suits with a shirt and tie, smart shoes. Dress is slightly more open-ended for female bankers, although blouses, blazers, knee-length skirts and flat shoes could be considered to be on the safe side.

Volunteer for extra work: Be proactive and challenge yourself while helping others in your team. Ask how you can directly help Analysts in your team and always volunteer to help if you have finished your work for the day before your colleagues.

Deliver on work outputs: Double-check your work, assume responsibility for all tasks delegated to you, plan ahead, and ensure clear communication with colleagues. Quality work output relies on attention to detail, financial literacy and productivity. If there is any risk of running behind a deadline, always make this clear to the person who assigned you the task as early as possible. Delivering quality work on-time is a recipe for success during your internship.

Do not sacrifice your health: Eat well, get sufficient sleep where possible and exercise regularly. It is not easy working 12-14 hours or more in a day while finding time for proper meals, a regular sleep routine or gym sessions. However, if you can find the discipline and structure to accommodate some of the aforementioned points, this is the most effective way to combat stress and stay healthy.

Arrive at the office early and leave late: First impressions count, you want to be perceived as reliable, professional and punctual.

Additional Resources

Investment Banking Course

Investment Banking Interview Skills

Investment Banking Interview: How to Prepare