Seven things Greg Smith can tell you about life as an intern at Goldman Sachs

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Readying the room for an Goldman intern meeting (Photo: misslizzy63)

Goldman Sachs likes to portray its internships as a happy time where students can acquaint themselves with the machinations of the bank, indulge in wholesome team-building activities and open the door for what will no doubt be a very satisfying career.

If the first (supposedly boring) chapter of a hotly-anticipated book by whistleblower Greg Smith is to be believed, it’s more like an exercise in ritual humiliation.It's available here.

Smith, you may recall, shot to fame when he quit Goldman Sachs by writing an explosive comment piece in the  New York Times where he accused the bank of neglecting its core values and regularly exploiting its clients, which it called muppets. Apparently, the reality is that its employees just really love the muppets movie.

This is what you can reportedly expect during your summer internship at Goldman (the setting is New York, we’d like to point out, but may also be relevant to London):

1. Pay isn’t that great: Just $5k after taxes for the whole summer, apparently. This was in 2000, though.

2. Lunch orders are very important: Getting coffee for everyone in the morning (and getting it right) is considered an indication of an intern’s creatively and enthusiasm. Getting  lunch in is even more important – think of it as a test of your attention to detail and how this could apply to your job down the line. Get it right and you’ll receive a perfunctory grunt of appreciation. Get it wrong and incur the wrath of the MDs. One intern ordered a cheddar cheese salad instead of a cheddar cheese sandwich and the MD “threw it in the trash”. Let’s hope you can handle that sort of pressure. Also, where can you even find a cheddar cheese salad?

3. Meetings are akin to boot camp: Every day at 6am, the interns have to attend an ‘Open Meeting’. If any single intern showed up late, the entire class had to attend the next day at 5am (or sometimes in the evening). In other words, if one person messes up, everyone  suffers, boot camp style. This didn’t work out very well for Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. If you're late, hide the soap.

4. Know everything there is to know about Goldman Sachs: In these Open Meetings, a partner would stand in front of the class and quiz them on everything from the year of Goldman’s foundation to its position on a particular stock. Smith suggests the only way to survive is to put your hand up for answers you know. One intern apparently left the meeting in tears when they couldn’t answer a question on Goldman’s view on Microsoft stock.The best response if you don't know is simply to admit it, and say you'll find it out. The point being that in a real-life situation, clients don't want a fudged answer, but would rather you researched their query and phoned them back.

5. Bring a stool: Smith says that interns were required to carry small stools around everywhere with them to every meeting and desk-side sit downs with traders. Better be quick though – apparently there weren’t enough stools for every intern, so some poor souls would have to stand for most of the day.

6. You will not blend in: Just in case you exude the sort of natural authority that could mean someone mistakes you for a full-time member of staff, Goldman requires all interns to wear bright orange name-tags showing your name and university in "big black letters".

7. People at Goldman are actually quite nice: People Smith interviewed with at Deutsche Bank and Salomon Smith Barney were “slick, and much more concerned with trying to catch you out on tough finance questions than getting to know you”. Those at Goldman are more friendly and, even if they’re likely to test your knowledge and skills, this is because it’s “just what the job is about”.

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