Half a Life Ago
Twenty summers back (goodness, that’s half my life ago!), I interned for two stockbrokers at what was then called Dean Witter. For a business-crazy Wharton student between my sophomore and junior years, who had grown up watching Wall Street Week and writing down stock info for my dad, this was somewhat of a dream internship. Not that I harbored delusions of wanting to be a broker myself, but I figured it would be a great learning experience. And it was.
I still remember stuffing resumes and cover letters into manila envelopes in my college dorm spring semester of my sophomore year. The plum internships went to students between their junior and senior years, and though I lacked confidence I had enough chutzpah to give it a shot. Out of 15 or 20 inquiries, I only got a few call-backs, but one of them was with Dean Witter, and so when I was back in San Jose for Spring Break, I scheduled an interview.
That morning, I promptly overslept, and then blamed my poor mom for not waking me up in time. (Sounds like a 20-year-old!) The brokers were very accommodating, offering to see me later that afternoon. I got the internship, which was less a function of them being impressed with me and more a function of them ramping up considerably and needing the extra labor. (The fact that they weren’t paying me probably made it easier to say yes to me, also.)
I remember them sitting me down on the first day and saying, “By the time the summer is over, you’re going to know for sure that you want to be a broker or that you don’t, but either way you’re going to have a great work experience.” And it was true; I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to be a broker, but I had a great time and soaked up a bunch of knowledge.
Working for two brokers, you really get to see a lot of different things. You get to see how stocks are evaluated, how portfolios are constructed, and how customers are handled. My two bosses gave me an incredible window into these and other things, and let me do some really cool stuff, like research stocks, develop slide show presentations, and organize seminars.
Of course, I also did quintessentially interny things. I personally collated three 6,000-contact mailers that summer. I cold-called 1,000 pension fund managers. I ran errands. (How many of today’s 20-year-olds would deign to do such things?)
All in all, I’m glad for the experience, and thankful for two bosses at Dean Witter. At the end of the summer, they took me out to lunch and handed me a big wad of cash for all my hard work. It was a great gesture and I certainly welcomed the money. But my real gain from that summer was far greater.