How to recover from early mistakes in my SA?

I'm a summer analyst starting my second week on the desk, and I'm already worried I'm not good enough to do my job.

A couple mid-level bankers took a group of the interns on my desk out for lunch recently and told us two things about being a good intern: (1) is having a good attitude and always being available to get an assignment done, and (2) is contributing enough to your team that your full time analysts miss you when you leave.

The first is solely an effort thing. I'm the first one to the office in the morning and I don't log off until my team does. I reply immediately to my emails and I offer to my associate and analyst to process requests from the senior bankers whenever they come in. I'm not worried about the effort part of the internship because it's entirely in my control.

Actually contributing, in however small a capacity, is a different story. I'm terrified I won't ever be a net positive for my deal team this summer. I got my tasks done alright in week one…but my analyst had to give me dozens of edits over the course of an hour in a list I was updating for him. I'm really trying my hardest to be detail-oriented. I triple check my work…but things seem to still fall through the cracks, I misunderstand instructions, etc. It's very, very upsetting.

Most of the things I have been asked to handle have been extremely simple. The one time I got asked to make a slide in a deck, I couldn't get the formatting right at all. There wasn't a precedent slide for me to use but the situation was still bad.

Just this evening I asked my associate and analyst if I could help process a very straightforward powerpoint request from one of our MDs…and accidentally left the two MDs copied on the email. My analyst told me my mistake and then told me that he'd handle the comments by himself. I don't blame him, if I can't even remember to switch to the right the mailing list for my email reply, why would he trust me to work on a presentation?

I'm writing this to ask anyone if they were a slow-starting intern or if they knew a slow-starting intern. How do I turn things around? What can I focus on/change to tighten up my work product? I'm trying my hardest to be careful and thoughtful, but it's so far away from enough that it's humiliating for me.

Comments (15)

Most Helpful
Jun 22, 2022 - 1:27am
Barney_Stinson, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You'll be alright mate. Get out of your own head, it won't do you any good. Just try your best to keep improving. You sound aware of your mistakes and seem to have a hard working attitude. If the culture is not one of helping kids like that then that's on them

Jun 22, 2022 - 1:40am
rice-beer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'll suggest that don't penalize yourself too much about it - mistakes happen. All you have to do is improve and not make the same mistakes again.

I suggest you make a new document where you are tracking every mistake you are making so before submitting an assignment/task you can go through the list quickly and make sure it's not being repeated.

Also, no intern, no matter how good they are, will not be a net positive during the internship. Even as an analyst your first 6 months or so are useless five or take. Even you just being there for the team will help when it matters more. I wasn't tasked with anything meaningful but when it mattered in like week 7-8, my analyst asked me to make a short deck that needed to be circulated with MD and client in the morning, the request came in at 3-4 am I believe.

It takes ur analyst time as well to warm up and start giving you tasks so don't be worried.

I made a mistake probably worse than yours was in my first week on the desk and I ended the summer with basically top ratings and was told the same.

Believe in yourself and don't get too anxious.

Jun 22, 2022 - 3:14pm
Deal Team Six, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is really good advice, was going to comment the same thing. 

If you take away one thing, no intern is a net positive.

When you work with interns you need to triple check their work and take the time to explain things to them. Even if they don't make any mistakes (this doesn't happen, even when you hit the A1 level), you still could've done the work faster. Therefore, it is pretty much impossible to be a net positive, especially in a 10 week program.

Sounds like you are dedicated and working hard, so just keep doing your thing. Remember, you are an intern and your work should be marked up, otherwise the A1/ A2 isnt doing his or her job.  

Pro tip: One thing I would do before leaving each night is check with every team member to see if there was anything I could help them with. If they said no, I would extend the offer to the broader team of guys I knew still in the office. 

Pro tip II: Make a strong effort to build connections with your team. Ask if folks want to grab lunch / coffee, etc. 

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Jun 22, 2022 - 2:14pm

Those mistakes are literally tiny, you're not a slow starter at all. Don't even worry about them. Those are just "hey man, FYI for next time" reminders. It takes most analysts like 6 months to be able to fully catch little errors, it's just practice.

Take a breath next time before you reply, spend an extra 5 minutes going through your slide or print it if you can. I recommend printing comments (even if just a list) + using a pen to check off comments as you do them, and then highlighter or different color pen when you are checking the slide. You'll stop needing to do this later on, but helps you identify tiny errors.

Unless you are egregiously terrible or put in ZERO effort, your analyst is not going to be throwing you under the bus in reviews for things like this. Don't forget these guys were in your shoes not long ago, they get it.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jun 22, 2022 - 5:06pm

dude imma keep it a buck, no one cares what you do as an intern lol, just don't be annoying and be excited to learn

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jun 22, 2022 - 9:50pm

I feel the same way. Responses are reassuring and I mean it makes sense, takes me 40 min to an hour to do something my analyst can do in 20 to 30. I guess I save him 20 min out of the day tho. I feel really fucking useless lmao.

Jun 22, 2022 - 10:05pm
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I will tell you the same thing I tell the SAs around me: Everyone knows you know nothing. And everyone knows you're there for a very short time. So, what does that mean to you? It means that no one is writing down your mistakes. They are writing down your reaction to those mistakes. 

When they corrected you, were you pleasant about it or an asshat? Did you recognize your mistake and tell them you would improve or did you try to cover it up? When they gave you coaching the second time around, did you write things down or did you just nod the whole time? Those are the things that you will ultimately be graded on for the return offer.  

So you made some early mistakes, thats OK. Make sure you thank the people that took the time to correct you, try to not make the same mistake twice (e.g. show that you learned) and keep an upbeat attitude about all this. Just hang in there, you will be fine. 

Good luck!

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  • 5
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 22, 2022 - 10:17pm

Don't feel bad about not getting much work, you literally just started. Most strong analysts want to do work quickly and correctly, and will often do it themselves. As time goes on and people get really busy, you will get more opportunities. Also, 100% chance your team has some weaker analysts / associates, and once you get staffed with them.... trust me, the requests will start piling up.

Jun 22, 2022 - 10:34pm
sa-top tier pe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

i m so glad i saw this post. i m in the same shoes. i am also an intern from a target school and cant help but feel like i m disappointing. they always ask for my opinion and i dont know what to say. i get anxious and just not know what to say or do. also, they are always telling us to do simple slide decks with graphs and some datas and i still dont know how to do such simple task. I am lost and cant wait for these ten weeks to be over

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 22, 2022 - 11:14pm

Don't feel bad or beat yourself up too much. Interns are expected to make tons of mistakes. I still make a ton of mistakes a year in, but that's why my associate gets paid the big bucks, to catch the things I missed. As long as you you don't delete the drive and take all criticism / projects with a smile and put in your best effort I'll give my associates the feedback that you're fantastic.

Fwiw it's hard trying to figure out what work to give the interns. You have to assume they don't know anything (because honestly how are they supposed to know) and I don't want to create any additional work for myself because I want to go home asap. Also don't want to overwhelm them or give them too much work because they have their intern projects on top of everything else and we had so many talks about providing a good experience. The result is giving the interns the shitty, but easy tasks that I don't feel like doing but are super easy to see if they messed up or not and are straight forward. (Pulling research, text comments, taking notes on calls, aligning logos, taking screenshots, creds and team pages etc) Otherwise, it's easier to have them just sit next to me and for me to explain what I'm doing because then I know it's right. But that's super boring for them. 

Jun 23, 2022 - 5:36pm
waccwack, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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