• Students and Graduates

Questions Interns Are Dying to Ask But Don’t

How do you know if you're being overly eager? Should summer analysts speak up at meetings? Here are some answers.

Halfway through a 10-week summer internship on Wall Street, summer analysts are usually burning with questions. But too often, they hold back out of fear that asking might cast them in a bad light.

We asked a group of summer analysts across different businesses at Morgan Stanley to spill their questions, and then did the asking for them. Below, a group of Managing Directors and recruiters at the firm respond to the nine most frequently asked questions. 

1. How do I differentiate myself from equally qualified summer analysts?

A key differentiator is how well you work in a team, as teamwork is an integral part of our firm’s culture

Another is how much of a self-starter you are. It’s important to complete an assigned task thoroughly, but it’s differentiating if you go the extra mile. For example, do more analysis than your manager expects for the project and an additional task no one asked you to do, but that you think could help the team. This demonstrates your interest, understanding of the product, how you can fit into the team, and how useful you can be.

2. Is there a fine line between being helpful and being overly eager and annoying? How can you know if you’ve crossed that line?

Yes, there is a fine line, but not to worry—there are ways to help keep it in balance.

Firstly, be mindful of other people’s time. Email and ask your manager if you can chat at some point about an idea you think might add value, or pick a time when he or she doesn’t look too busy. Another tip is to prep yourself before you talk to a manager. For example, write down the points you want to get across ahead of time so you know what you want to get out of that meeting.

3. When should I speak up at a meeting and when is it just better to pull my manager to the side and quietly ask a question or offer an idea?

Tough question—the answer differs very much from business to business and group to group. The best thing is to spend the first few weeks of your internship observing and getting a feel for how the team works. Many of our businesses actively seek out summer analysts' views because they benefit from having a fresh set of eyes looking at a process, or coming from a totally different angle. But if you’re just not sure, then err on the side of caution and pull your manager aside after the meeting to offer up an idea.

4. Is it appropriate for me to network with other people on a different desk that I’d prefer to be working on? Or will that jeopardize my chances of getting a full-time job?

It’s 100% okay. You have to think of your internship as a 10-week-long interview—where do you best fit in? Just don’t network to the detriment of your performance on the desk you are working on, as high performance is essential, wherever you are.

5. Should I go to happy hour with others on the desk? Or would that look unprofessional?

Going out for a drink if you’re invited and of-age is a great way to get to know people, but make it one or two drinks, not 22! Remember that when you are out with colleagues, you are representing Morgan Stanley, and that, if you’re under-age, you shouldn’t be consuming alcohol.

6. How do you go about asking for work when your group doesn’t seem to have people delegating work to summer analysts?

As mentioned, be a self-starter. When you’re in meetings, write down all of the projects that are going on and who is doing what. Pick one that you’re interested in and come up with some ideas about how you could help. Email the person doing that project, expressing your interest in learning more. Ask if there is anything they’d like you to do and add that, if nothing comes to mind, would any of your following ideas help?

7. What if I need more time to complete a project? Won’t that reflect badly on me?

No, it won’t reflect badly. If you think a project will take a few days longer than you were asked to deliver, then you should let your manager know as soon as you realize it because missing a deadline could have a cascading effect on other people’s timelines and the date of delivery to the client. Over-communicating is generally better than under-communicating. 

8. What if I don’t understand something that I’ve been asked to do, or I get stuck? How do I ask for help without looking like I’m underqualified?

Definitely reach out to other junior members of the team. If they can’t help, go to your manager. How you express your problem matters more than the fact that you’re stuck.

Here’s one approach: Go to the manager saying that you’ve done so much already for the project and you are at a point where you need some guidance. Ask whether you should tackle the problem by doing X or by doing Y. Always offer a suggestion about the way you think you might be able to solve a problem, rather than simply saying that you’re stuck and you don’t know what to do.

9. What if I’ve made a mistake? What’s the best way to deal with that? Should I just go in and say sorry and point it out, or is there a better way of admitting the mistake?

We all make mistakes; we’re only human after all! It’s also expected to some degree because you‘re learning. Just make it known that you understand how it happened and know how to ensure it doesn’t happen a second time. Immediately tell your manager as soon as you realize the mistake—doing so will demonstrate your integrity and that you’re someone who wants to do the right thing.

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