An Internship at a Hedge Fund

Here’s a letter from a reader:

Hi David,

Hope all is well.

I will be starting an internship with a hedge fund soon and want to contribute;. Any advice?. Are there any skills that I should learn/ brush up on so I  can be productive. 

Thanks a lot.

In one sense, an internship at a hedge fund is like an internship at any job.  Here’s the easy stuff:

  • Be on time.
  • Dress like those you work with, or just a little better.
  • Listen carefully, and keep a notebook, so that you can remember things, or write down questions to ask later.
  • You are new to the social hierarchy, and sorry, you are at the bottom of it.  You may get garbage jobs that the junior analysts don’t want to do.  Do those garbage jobs with as much flair as you can.
  • Don’t waste time.
  • Do ask questions, particularly intelligent ones.  If you are not sure, ask.  If it is still not clear, ask.
  • Spend extra time if you need to research something for the business outside of business hours.
  • If you can program, and there are projects that could benefit from programming, offer to write some code now to aid processes after you are gone.
  • Don’t look down on anyone.
  • Be willing to speak up in meetings, but only when you have something of high quality to say.  If they ask you your opinion, and you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  • Try to find some friendly mid-level person who can give you advice.

Now for things that are hedge-fund specific:

  • Make an effort to understand how the hedge fund intends to make money.  Once you know that, try to read up on their particular strategy.  Ask those with experience where you can learn more.
  • Realize that they are doing you a favor, and not vice-versa.  At the hedge fund I once worked at, we always paid interns, but only one intern out of many was ever worth the cost of paying and training.  So be grateful, and do what they ask, so long as it is not illegal or unethical.
  • Show interest in what others do, and learn from them.  People like to talk about their work, so when you have the opportunity, ask good questions.
  • It’s possible that they may play some practical jokes on you; bear with that in a graceful way.
  • Hedge funds are entrepreneurial, so if you do well, they will throw harder tasks at you.  Don’t be shy; do your best.

So what is the payoff for your hard efforts?

  • References for a real job, so impress those that you intern for.
  • Advisers on how to find a job if you did a good job for them, but there are no openings.
  • Also, they might rather hire privately, rather than expose the firm to risks from advertising a job publicly.  As such, if you showed that you could do great work for them, they very well might hire you.  Stay in touch with them.

That’s what I think you should do.  The comments section is open for more advice to the young man.

2 Comments

  • Crocodile Chuck says:

    - Treat everyone you work with with respect (not just the principals)
    – Be curious, read as much as you can, ask more questions; lather, rinse, repeat
    – Challenge your reasoning and logic continually; critical thinking can’t be taught, only painfully developed
    – Focus on your presentation; speaking clearly, making eye contact with everyone; assess your writing critically, edit yourself.
    Good luck!

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