So You Got the Offer, What Now?
After my summer internship in investment banking, I was fortunate enough to come out of it with an offer. I had worked hard for it, and was prepared every step of the way. However, with the offer in hand, I found myself in foreign territory. I had two semesters of school and two free months before my analyst term started. How was I supposed to spend my time? If you are in a similar situation and wondering how to spend this time off, hopefully my experience and thoughts can provide some guidance.
I had twelve courses remaining (a full course load is ten) for my last two semesters, which without the weight of recruiting for an investment banking job, is actually quite light. We all know that time is valuable and scarce (especially in investment banking where you may not have much free time at all), so it was important for me to spend my time efficiently. As someone starting work in a new city, it was also important to spend time with those most important to me. Effectively, I decided to spend my time doing things that I would not be able to do when I started work.
As someone who frequents this site and occasionally writes an article, I could not help but be influenced by Sellsidehandbook’s rather bullish sentiment of China and the value of learning Mandarin. I am Chinese-Canadian and speak Cantonese, but unfortunately Cantonese is a dying language while the value of knowing Mandarin is quickly rising along with the growth of Chinese influence. I wanted to learn a new language for a while and also wanted to get in touch with my Chinese roots, so learning Mandarin made sense. When you are working investment banking hours, it can be difficult to dive headfirst into learning a new language, so I thought I would get a head start.
My strategy for learning anything new is simple and universally applicable. Create a strategy by talking to the experts, make new friends, and make it a habit. Whether it is finance, lifting weights, or new languages, this strategy has always worked for me. I started by communicating my goals to my Chinese teacher and chatting with some non-Chinese people who spoke fluent Mandarin to get a good feel of what I needed to do. I focused mostly on speaking and pronunciation, as my goal was to be able to communicate in-person somewhat authentically, practicing a few hours each day outside of class. I then made some Mandarin friends and downloaded WeChat so I could better immerse myself in not only the language, but also the culture. It might sound intimidating, but I literally approached random people speaking Mandarin at the gym and library and asked to be friends with them (it worked on the first go, as Mandarin people are some of the most welcoming people when it comes to studying their language/culture). Finally, I made it a habit. I went to my classes, worked on my pronunciation and speaking for hours each day, and texted and chatted with my new friends for at least a few hours each week. I also started watching Chinese videos and listening to Chinese music with subtitles, slowly transitioning from English subtitles to Chinese. Practice makes perfect, especially for languages.
For investment banking, I felt that learning Mandarin could be a very useful skill. I have heard of analysts being pulled into important meetings that they otherwise would not be in because of their abilities to speak non-English languages with clients. Even if I do not get to that level, socially it goes a long way in business to be able to communicate with clients in their non-English language with at least basic proficiency.
Physical and Mental Health
My health is one of the most important things to me. Given the intensity of investment banking, I felt it important to spend time developing good habits to take with me when I start work. I am also very into fitness, and wanted to put on muscle that would be more difficult to do once work starts.
I started meditating more, something that helps with stress, anxiety, and sleeping (once you are really good at it, it also helps with focusing when you are working). For my diet, I started intermittent fasting – this helped with muscle recovery and allowed me to burn fat more easily (for my fitness goals), but also gave me more energy throughout the day, allowed me to sleep less (because I did not need it), and put me in a better mood. In terms of what I was eating, I started preparing my own meals more, bought more local fresh ingredients, and ate way more fruits and vegetables. As a gym enthusiast, I used to be too focused on my macro nutrients (fat, protein, and carbs), but what is more important for health and how you feel are micro nutrients (ex. vitamins and minerals), so eating more fruits and vegetables made me feel better physically and mentally.
For working out, I found a training partner who I used to wrestle with, and who is a fairly intense person (engineering student working at Tesla with a social life and an active lifestyle). It is important to find someone who can push you (whether you are trying to work on languages or putting on muscle), so I found an intense training partner who could outperform me in the gym and encourage me to compete. We used the Arnold workout regimen, and trained two to five hours a day together for six days a week. If fitness is something that is important to you, I would recommend that you take advantage of the abundance of time you have now. If something else is your calling, I would recommend that you take the time to enjoy that and pursue your goals as well.
There is no doubt that I worked incredibly hard to get to where I am, but I would not be here if it were not for the countless people in my corner helping me out. From senior students and alumni of finance clubs to strangers that reply to cold emails, finance is a culture of giving back. While I was still recruiting, I had little time to spare; however, with a job offer, I had plenty of time to mentor other students. It can be time-consuming, but I think it is very important to give back. It is also a great way to meet some pretty interesting people. I would say some of my closest friends now started with me asking for help or offering help.
Travelling During the Last Year of School
From what I understand, you need to pass your courses/graduate on time to fulfil your job offer requirements – for most people this should be manageable with travelling. Even if you want to crush your last year of school (perhaps you are thinking MBA), it is still very manageable with travelling, and even if your average drops 10-20%, realistically its impact on your cumulative GPA is minute. Scholarships may be a different story.
For me, I chose to travel – everyone talks about it and I had finally saved up enough money from internships to do it, so why not take advantage of an opportunity that will be scarce when work starts? With all the stuff I mentioned above I was still able to maintain the same cumulative GPA, so I can tell you personally that with some effort it is very doable and I would recommend it. During the school year I went to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seattle. Taking the time to get away to a new city, meet new people, and put yourself out of your comfort zone in the most enjoyable way was the perfect way to spend my last year. I have never heard of anyone who regretted travelling. Yes, it was very costly, and the power of compounding returns (do not forget net of taxes / inflation though!) makes it even more costly since I am still very young. However, time is also incredibly valuable, and while finance can offer a very rewarding career, it will be difficult to travel as often as I did and with as much freedom when I start work.
Travelling Between Graduation and Work
Unless circumstances do not allow for travel, I would highly recommend this. Among my business peers, I have not met a single graduate who has not taken their time off between graduation and work to travel at least for a bit, and for good reason. Where people are usually undecided is where to travel, and whether to travel to numerous cities or live in one city for an extended period of time. I can speak a bit on both.
For my time off, I went to Hawaii for two weeks and China for one month before settling in my hometown for the remainder of my time off. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to get in touch with my roots, so while Europe and South America could have been just as much if not more fun, it was important for me to travel to Asia as I had hardly been. This one is very subjective, it is hard to say where is best to travel and really depends on the person travelling.
Most of my friends and peers traveled to numerous cities. This makes a lot of sense – there is not a lot of time for travelling when work starts, and therefore you want to see and experience as much as possible. For me, after travelling during the school year, I realized that anything less than two weeks is not enough time to begin to experience what it is like to live in a city – to feel the culture, spend time with the locals, and learn the language. And that is exactly what I wanted, to experience what it is like to live in China, so I went to Shanghai for a month to study Mandarin at Hutong School while doing a couple of weekend trips to Hangzhou and Beijing.
It was an incredible experience. The food in China is very affordable and transportation (subways, bike rentals, and Didi which is their Uber equivalent) felt miles ahead of North America. For $0.20 I could rent a bike for a day, for $2 to $10 I could take a Didi almost anywhere, and for $0.60 I could take the subway almost anywhere. Everything felt incredibly efficient. Even their high speed trains which cost $100 would take me from Shanghai to Beijing, circa 1300 km, in four hours. Their communication and payment systems were all done through WeChat – think Facebook, Instagram, Paypal, E-Transfer, Snapchat, iMessage, all meshed into one. People did not carry wallets around, and even hole-in-the-wall shops and food trucks accepted WeChat Pay.
A lot of people consider doing something really relaxing like an all-inclusive resort. I would note that without anything intellectually stimulating or challenging, it can be very easy to get bored. So while a relaxing trip may be much needed, if overextended, sipping on margaritas at an all-inclusive resort is only so much fun before you start to get bored. That is why I highly recommend a trip like Hawaii, where you are able to relax on a beach, but also do cool and challenging things like diving, surfing, and climbing volcanoes.
Do not Sit Around
From what you have read, you can probably guess the trend. I think there are many other fantastic ways of spending your time off, just do not sit around and waste it. That, you will surely regret. Also, this website is very bullish on China.
*All currencies are denoted in Canadian dollars.