Internship woes

I've always imagined myself wanting to go into a bank for the short run (1-2 years) and using that to assist me in setting up my own startup/working with a startup.
So I managed to secure a MO BB internship for 10 weeks (the year I'm required to do an internship) in order to set myself up well for future IBD/ER (I know they are very different) internship applications.
Now that I've been here for a week I know that I not only hate MO (Who doesn't), I definitely don't wish to work there in the future, even if it's in FO.
Here's a few reasons why:
- The hours are long (even in MO) despite the fact I've spent over 50% of the time doing non-work relating stuff (networking, iPhone games and watching the WC/tennis). From what I hear, it's the same in FO usually.
- Org charts just depress you and make you realise you're a tiny cog in a very big watch and if you wish to become a significant part of the watch, it's a life long commitment. This may differ in smaller firms, although I have no experience of that.
- People in both MO and FO don't really want to be there long term. MO wants to land a FO role and FO wants to leave for something more exciting. It's incredibly rare to find someone who throughly enjoys their job for what it is.
- Both firm culture and banking culture in general is unappealing. Everyone seems quite depressed for one reason or another.
- MO in specific harbours people that are lacking in one or more of the following three key skills: sociability, intelligence, having a proactive nature (they can be damn lazy) or motivation.
- Post-tax pay after deductions like student loads absolutely sucks for quite a long time.

While it's possible to do something meaningful and make a shitload of money in finance, it generally takes a long time and you probably have better odds at becoming a successful entrepreneur then you do at becoming the next Peter Thiel.

While I never had life long finance ambitions to begin with, but this internship is helping me realise that even 1-2 years is going to be a massive drain. 2 years is a long time and it's probably worth considering the amount of time it takes off your lifespan too. My aim now has shifted to finding a startup in the field I like and working my way in there as it seems far cooler and relevant to my future career.

I just wanted to share my thoughts and was wondering if you had similar stories of your own or even if you disagree strongly with my line of thinking.

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Comments (24)

Jun 25, 2014 - 3:20pm

MO experience varies a lot depending on what bank you're at and what team you're in. Based on my FO vs MO experience (currently in MO approving FO deals on commercial/risk & reward assessment), the closer you are to business decisions, the more proactive and interesting the experience, largely because being close to revenue generation means you need to be more dynamic, flexible and proactive, less bowtie + cardigan wearing stickler.

My view is that it's better to start life in FO and then either "retire" to MO when FO becomes all too hard/not worth the effort (my case) or chase exit opps to PE or otherwise if you want to keep your trajectory onward and upward.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.
  • 1
Jun 25, 2014 - 3:30pm

Also, I hope you're not one of our two interns - that would reflect poorly on the experience of working with my team.

How to tell? Did I make you come out to lunch with me last week at a place with great pulled pork sandwiches but no air conditioning?

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.
  • 1
Jun 25, 2014 - 4:10pm

SSits:
Also, I hope you're not one of our two interns - that would reflect poorly on the experience of working with my team.
How to tell? Did I make you come out to lunch with me last week at a place with great pulled pork sandwiches but no air conditioning?

Doesn't ring any bells haha. I told my manager I have no interest in the line of work but I'll work hard. I just couldn't hold my disdain for the work I'm doing back. So they know the experience I'm having sucks for me. Honestly, my group is tagged as MO but I would I see it as BO. They are basically doing quality assurance on reports put out while also advising on process changes. It's horrifically dull. I don't know if it's the BO/MO experience that's offputting or banking as a whole. While the jobs are quite different, many things such as culture and atmosphere are surprisingly the same. Work at junior levels seems irrelevant and everyone seems tired of living. Client interaction, something I like, is pretty low at junior levels too.

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Jun 25, 2014 - 4:13pm

Dingdong08:

"you probably have better odds at becoming a successful entrepreneur then you do at becoming the next Peter Thiel."

Wasn't Thiel a succesful entrepreneur first with PayPal then he became more of an investor/finance guy?

I thought he started at Credit Suisse.

Best Response
Jun 25, 2014 - 5:22pm

You're correct. I didn't know that, but he made most of his money off of PayPal. To-may-toes to-mah-toes. I wouldn't use Thiel as the finance example though. Coming from finance I think of him as more of a tech entrepreneur who is now an investor. Not a big deal though.

The beauty of an internship is that it allows you to discover that you don't like something. I know that everyone on here is in the rat race of getting the golden ticket (whatever that ticket is) and it starts with that summer internship, but internships should be a two way experience. Not only does a potential employer get to check you out for an extended period rather than through a series of interviews, you get to check out what it's like to actually work in that company/industry.

Finance may just not be for you. Or that individual company or role may just not be for you.

"Work at junior levels seems irrelevant and everyone seems tired of living. Client interaction, something I like, is pretty low at junior levels too."

This is pretty common among nearly all industries. I know that as an undergrad business major you take classes that make it seem like you'll be the CEO of a Fortune 50 Company, doing deals, making critical decisions that affect the 50,000 employees who depend on you and flying around in the corporate jet but in reality it's a very often a mundane existence on a daily basis when you first start out. Ask any front office analyst out there how dull, mundane and actually unimportant their 50th revision to a model or ppt is that the senior guy and client barely glance at. Also ask the entry level guy at a startup who's sitting in front of a computer coding for 15 hours per day. TV and movies make work seem like you're doing deals with sports stars and models (Suits or any legal show for example) with people jumping up and down, making awesome arguments in an office filled with sex and intrigue and having a great time but it rarely if ever is. I do what people think is cool but in reality I'm typically grinding away taking out middle aged execs and business owners to drinks and dinner (yes at great restaurants but even they get old after a while), thinking about the importance of a really boring 200 page contract of a potential acquisition and negotiating really boring shit when I take a step back and think about it. I'm sure Carl Icahn's day looks more like Gordon Gecko's but in reality no one's life is like Harvey Specter.

edited: Just after I hit "Post Comment" on this I opened up a Merrill data room and opened a 2908 page document. Yup, that's how awesome PE is... (and no, I'm not reading that or making anyone do it).

Jun 25, 2014 - 10:26pm

No doubt about that. If you ever go out there, I would highly recommend checking out Canlis.

Jun 28, 2014 - 1:27pm

Whoever coined the term "middle office" has a serious self-esteem issue - it's back office.

Even investment banking analysts at Blackstone can be stuck with meaningless work the cleaning lady can do, so let's not confuse anybody. The people you're surrounded by on a daily basis will have a huge impact on your job, and that's what can make FO bearable for those 2 years.

You just have to accept that no job right out of college is going to be easy on you. It's all motivation to learn as much as possible and work towards something better... otherwise what's the point?

Jun 30, 2014 - 4:36am

Everyone at my bank uses both the terms back office and middle office but I agree with you.

The finance you learn and hear about through college is nothing like the BS you actually have to do and I can't put myself through a 2-3 year stint just to get to the end goal I have in mind now.

The only real hurdle is having enough capital but if you're smart and resourceful, that can be overcome. I honestly don't think the skills or network you make in banking translates well into entrepreneurship.
Making bank in finance, while less risky, takes far longer and if you don't like the job, I just can't justify it.

Jun 30, 2014 - 9:50am

I don't think any job or business school education truly translates well into entrepreneurship- it's something you're born with or stumble upon.

I do, however, know 22 year old investment bankers working on billion dollar deals, working with F500 CEOs, PE Megafunds, and VC giants while making $200k+ per year... so that's a step in the right direction if you ask me.

Jul 2, 2014 - 4:48am

"MO in specific harbours people that are lacking in one or more of the following three key skills: sociability, intelligence, having a proactive nature (they can be damn lazy) or motivation."

You would be surprised (or not) to know that more people than you think in front office roles as well as in PE, HF, FoF etc or life in general, have one or more of the three attributes you mentioned...

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
Jul 2, 2014 - 6:10am

On the note about post tax earnings - I know a few ops guys in the UK who contract with BB's through companies they've set up, paying much less tax & claiming certain (fair) expenses. (This is in their first years out of Uni having been on Ops internships with the banks during Uni).

Jul 2, 2014 - 8:12am

I think most of the things you touch on will be the same everywhere to varying degrees. Jobs normally, especially entry level, aren't that much fun. What you need to make up for that is either a great culture or group that you are in which makes it somewhat enjoyable. If you can work in an industry where you enjoy the subject matter that's even better. Bear in mind that a job is never as glamorous or as awesome as it sounds. If it's any consolation, even those guys at the top started somewhere and that's where you are. Sure some jumped a few rungs, but not many.

I would recommend you take this for what it is; it's an internship. As other posters mentioned, this is the whole point of them. Take whatever you can out of the job and make sure you understand why you didn't enjoy it. Is it that you hate finance or that you hated the experience you had in that specific group/area? I'll leave that one up to you, but It's worth thinking about (which you are obviously doing).

Jul 2, 2014 - 10:00am

Understand where you're coming from in that you shouldn't pursue it if you really hate the work (in BO or FO) - but before you go about glorifying starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur, I would suggest you read some real-life accounts of entrepreneurs (and their successes and failures) - if you haven't done so already.

Being an entrepreneur and running your own business is MUCH harder and much less glamorous than you might think, and even FO IB is a much easier way to make great money straight out of school (if that's your goal).

Jul 2, 2014 - 12:08pm

I'm not glorifying entrepreneurship at all. I've starting my own business around a regulation heavy industry and it's an absoloute ballache doing a lot of the work but there is also a fair chunk of enjoyable and exciting work which is kind of not the case in my internship. I have also become friends with a guy who ran a big business which collasped and now has a business that he's been pushing to secure major funding for almost a year and only now is it coming to fruition.

I know that startups are far from a sure thing but I'm young with no commitments and while I know the level of risk involved is high, I just can't justify not doing it while I have the chance. Compared to both FO and BO, I see the work as dull, they reward ceiling is capped and the work doesn't seem really impactful unless you hit MD and are bagging those billion dollar mergers.

Jul 2, 2014 - 10:21am

Hey man, honestly your internship sounds EXACTLY like mine, feelings and all, haha. I'm "MO" but literally what I do is audit trades all day. At least there's a light at the end of the tunnel for you, my internship is 6 months...haha.

But here's how I'm looking at it: This job is motivation for me to get off of my ass and it's serving as more inspiration than an idealist dream of "being a banker" ever could. Also, I know I'll bust my ass harder than anyone else when/if I ever make it to FO because I'll have seen the other side and will be able to appreciate its "relative" awesome-ness.

Cheers.

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