The lazy banking intern who wanted to leave at 7pm

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The lazy banking intern who wanted to leave at 7pm

With days to go, students worldwide are about to begin the 2021 summer internships. For the lucky ones there will be £10k (or $20k if you're on Wall Street) of mostly tax-free income to be earned in 10 weeks. If you're in the office, this summer will be largely about desk shadowing, sitting in conference rooms and sipping wine and beer at networking events. Once in a while, however, there will be an all-nighter. And this can be a problem. 

Banking pays well and it offers good job prospects. But a lot of young people today seem to care less about this than previous generations. Particularly after the publicity about the long hours at Goldman Sachs, the expectation this summer may be that hours will be moderate. 

As a senior banker, I've interviewed a lot of young people for jobs in banking. Many of them have told me that they don't want to work late. I've also experienced this attitude on the job, and believe me - it does not make you look good.

A few years ago, there was an occasion when I was in urgent assistance at 7pm London time. I asked an intern for help. All that was required were a few corrections to a presentation and that he send it around internally. It was another 30 minutes of hard work, give or take. And he declined to do it.

 After listening to my request for help, he informed me: “Before I picked up the phone I was actually on my way out of the office. I have a date tonight and I can't be late. Can this wait until tomorrow?” No, it could not.

Call me old school, but I was in shock. Why work hard to get a job in banking in the first place?

Banks partly have themselves to blame. In order to attract young talent they've created short 'spring week' programs where students don't have to do any sort of actual work. These can last one day or a full week. Most applicants have done them, so that when I look at students' CVs I struggle to make sense of their apparent 'work experience.'

Thanks to these short internships, even students from the best universities seem to have little idea what working in banking is really like. They study economics, finance and sometimes even complex financial engineering.  They can mention countless networking events and quote very senior managers talking about market trends and banking careers, but they think this is sufficient and expect to work nine-hour days. 

The attitude from today's interns seems to be that banks should want them and persuade them to work in banking rather than the other way around. You need to address this if you're part of the intern class of  2021: it won't get you a job.

Amit Itelmon is the pseudonym of a senior banker in London

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

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