Getting an S&T Return Offer - A Survival Guide for Future Interns
Heya folks. Wanted to write this while the memory's fresh and give a little back to the WSO community, which has been of invaluable help whether during recruiting and also while interning - and also because all the "trading is dying" content is frankly getting a bit stale and depressing ;)
I want to preface this by saying that there is no set way to obtain a return offer as being in the right place at the right time trumps all else. However there are things that I think could help establish an intern as a "rockstar"/"the guy/girl". I'll try to skip the basics e.g. be first-in-last-out, knowing product etc. as I think these have been regurgitated many times in this forum. I'll try to provide a more of an "ex-intern POV" while the memory's fresh. Enjoy
Quick background: Did SA this summer in an APAC office, both WFH and also in the office, received a return offer. Experiences may vary from EMEA/NA
1. You've got to want to be a good intern/top performer to become one
With everything that's going on, chances are there isn't a lot of headcount available, especially in Asia where headcount is notoriously low (2019 and 2020 offer rates have been abysmal for APAC - 2019 was 0-60% across the street I believe and this year was largely the same if not worse) barring Citi and Bofa giving free handouts - which, they'll probably trim down from the next SA class anyways.
What does this mean? Jobs are few and far between, as an SA you should want to establish yourself as the top guy in your class. If you set your mind to be a "top" performer, you'll work twice as hard, observe better, take more initiatives etc and all these things trickle back to the Ds and MDs who'll make the final call in terms of who to hire back.
In short – Most people ask "What's the return offer rate like?" while very few actually ask "How do I get a return offer?" – Although this seems to apply more for recruiting lol
2. Assume every intern is just as smart as you
Feeling pretty good about yourself for getting ahead and scheduling coffees with MDs straight away in week 1 while the others are stuck in training? WRONG. Chances are everybody else in your class is doing the same thing. Never get cocky, never think you have an "edge" over other interns, never think other interns are stupid, and you'll push yourself twice as hard and be half as complacent. Same goes for taking initiatives, tasks etc. Conversely, don't sell yourself down – just because some guy went to [insert big, prestigious target school] with a MSF/MFE degree or whatever doesn't automatically make them a good intern.
3. The best way to compete is to do your job to the best you can
There's a sizeable chance you'll be competing with another one or more intern(s) on the same desk/product group. Don't fuck others, don't deliberately lie just to get a "leg up" over others, don't take credit for shit you didn't do. Be a good guy, help others, cooperate and collaborate if necessary, and let your work speak for itself – The full-timers will notice who's good and who's not. Instead of "How can I beat this guy?" think "How can I add value/do better for my desk?" Subtle difference but does make a big change to your attitude (by extension, your work product).
4. Be able to tell your "story" and "why S&T/why this product" in your sleep. And make sure it's good
Chances are if you've landed an SA gig you already have a good answer to these questions. Practice them to the point that you can tell it in your sleep. Everyone from Analyst to Senior MD will ask you these questions the first time you meet them. Nailing these questions is imperative for even a tangible shot at landing a return offer.
5. Be in sync with your desk
IMO this is the most important part being an SA. Knowing how your desk operates (aka make money), what does a day look like (in detail, not in broad strokes), how they interact with other desks, understanding product/market lingo – All these go a long way in establishing yourself as the "go-to" guy for the desk. A good way to test this is to see if you can comprehensively explain what your desk does in layman terms. Tough to put "how to be in sync" into writing, but I guess if you're plugged in enough, sit with people, digest information and ask good questions, it only becomes a virtuous cycle from then on
6. Sound good on the phone
Not sure how this works in NA/EMEA but in APAC chances are you'll have to get to know people who sit in other offices. E.g. If you-re based in Singapore you might have to get on the phone with someone in Hong Kong, Tokyo, India, Aussie etc. And these will probably be people you have to impress e.g. desk heads, senior sales/traders (aka decision-makers). Not sounding like a zombie on the phone goes a long way in making a good impression!
Instead of just asking "anything I can do to help?" (Which you should anyways, perfectly valid question), actually do shit that you think helps the desk. Potential payoff for brownie points is far greater if you do stuff, unprompted, that makes everybody's lives a little bit easier. Having said that, don't just copy&paste a bunch of shit on BBG and pass it off as "work". Have seen dudes send out a bunch of stuff that's not actually relevant to the desk/product. I guess it also varies desk-to-desk but there's no set way to do this, just gotta use some judgement I suppose.
Also, aside from the day-to-day tasks, the best kinds of initiatives are longer-term projects that you can present to the wider product group e.g. a comprehensive trade idea(s). Work with your managers/mentors – and make damn sure the work product is impressively good. It'll be tough and you'll want to quit halfway through, especially since there's a good chance you're jammed between shadowing folks/desk work/social events, but if you can pull it off, it goes a long way in convincing the guys on your desk that you've got the hunger/desire to be there, puts you in a really good shot (if not pole position) for FT.
8. Always ask for feedback
Pretty self-explanatory but apparently not everyone does this (or properly, at least). Schedule feedback sessions with your manager – but only if you have something specific to ask, e.g. "I'm doing X and Y every day now, am I on the right track, how can I do better?" Some brown-nosers schedule "catch-ups" every couple days, I think it's a bit excessive but obviously someone more senior can chime in. Personally I scheduled one halfway through the SA program and once again before the last week.
9. Social events
Never turn down an event, don't leave early, handle your liquor well, don't do anything funny like hitting on the opposite sex (just not worth the risk ya know). Take trips to the bathroom whenever you have a window to freshen up and wash your face. It's fun to get wasted but know your limit – Try to stay sober. If you have to vomit do it discreetly and never publicly. Last but not least, have a boatload of fun, make conversation, be a cool and pleasant guy (or girl), and get to bond with people. They'll look after you and be much more receptive in helping you.
10. Build a support network that you can trust
This is super important. Leverage on. Mentors, Buddies etc. and build on those relationships. If you show people you're hungry to learn and do better, they'll be much more receptive to helping you out, coach you, and take an interest in your development (read: vouch for you come decision time). Mentors are also important for extracting information (who's hiring, who's not etc.) and they'll have a much better grasp of how the hiring decision is actually made i.e. who is the decision-maker/the "grading scheme" (aka what work is looked at most – desk work or final presentation or smth else)
That's about all I can think of, would absolutely love if senior folks could chime in below.