10 Critical Lessons I Learned During My Internship

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

This summer I have the good fortune of interning with Linkedin. As I’ve been working on summer projects, I can’t help thinking back to 2007 when I was an investment banking intern with Lehman Brothers in New York. I was fortunate to land a full-time offer after my internship, and I joined the firm just weeks before they made history by becoming the largest company to declare bankruptcy (but that’s another story).

Towards the end of the internship I made a list of lessons I learned during my 10 weeks at the company. While some lessons speak to the unique culture of investment banking, and others sound somewhat silly, I think there are valuable tips that any intern can follow to have a great summer.

  1. Always know the details of your internship project. As an intern, almost every time you cross paths with someone, the first topic of conversation is the project you are working on. If you can clearly articulate what you are working on and show excitement in the process, everyone will assume you are intelligent and hard working.
  2. When walking down the hallways, walk very fast and have a look on your face of deep concentration. Doing this will make it appear that you are working very hard on something important.
  3. After someone gives you an assignment, restate in your own words what it is you understand you should do. If you just smile and nod, they will assume you know exactly what to do, even if they didn’t explain it very well. Avoid going back to your desk and wasting a lot of time trying to figure it out what they said or having to ask them re-explain it.
  4. Investment Bankers judge you by how late you stay at night. However, don’t go around bragging how late you were at work. Chances are they were working just as late one of the previous nights. If they ask, let them know how late you stayed, but downplay it. You want others to know that staying at work until 3am is not a big deal.
  5. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Everyone who is senior to you is really smart and can pick up on most errors with a glance. If you need to take an extra 10 minutes to look over the slide/spreadsheet, definitely do it. You can’t afford to be making mistakes on that kind of stuff.
  6. When sending emails, always say please and thank you, even if it is something small. Most people are very busy and are running on little sleep. Saying please and thank you is very easy and everyone appreciates the gesture. Being polite and showing people kindness goes a long way.
  7. Being really smart and good with numbers is not everything it takes to succeed. I thought that was the case when I first started. Being resourceful is an attribute that will take you very far. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication.
  8. When putting slides together, always be able to reference how you got to the output (excel calculations, research reports, etc). The senior banker will always ask for this data, and if you don’t have it readily available, she will get even more frustrated / stressed. This is not good because bankers are usually always frustrated / stressed to start off – no need to make them take it out on you.
  9. Go to the gym. If you take an hour and a half going to the gym, that means that you can stay later while still doing the same amount of work. This may sound dumb as a full-time analyst, but as an intern, you want to put in some good face time.
  10. When you first meet a new person in your group, and you don’t know what their title is, always guess a level above what you think they are. If you are pretty sure that they’re an analyst, ask the question, “So you are an associate, right?” No harm can come from guessing a higher rank. It might even make their day.

Intern life can be difficult and you only have a short time to make a lasting impression. But an internship is a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience, develop deep relationships and set yourself up for a rewarding career. Good luck!

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