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Wall St CEO circulates memo with 5 things veteran employees can learn from interns

Julia La Roche

It's June 1st and that means a new crop of interns will be starting their 10-week summer programs on trading floors and investment banking and research desks across Wall Street.

In anticipation for their arrival, Richard Handler, the CEO of investment bank Jefferies (LUK), sent out a memo on Wednesday morning to the bank’s veteran employees reminding them what they can learn from their 130 summer analysts and associates.

“It might seem logical and smart to discuss what we seasoned and experienced professionals can teach these newbies over the next 8-10 weeks.  Then again, it might be more important to anticipate and reflect upon what we can learn from them.  Let’s all have our eyes, ears, and minds truly open,” Handler wrote.

In the letter, Handler outlined five possible lessons.

For starters, the youthful faces arriving on Wall Street this week are among the best and the brightest of their peers. They worked hard to land the internships. They're also eager to learn and want to add value without being incentivized by a fee or a commission.

The interns are also a reminder of an optimisitc future for Wall Street. In general, they tend to have a more upbeat outlook. This is especially important with morale being low across Wall street given the weak trading revenues and jobs cuts seen in the first quarter.

"They hopefully arrive without battle scars, judgmental opinions, negativity, sarcasm or jadedness.  The glass for each of them is not only half full, it is overflowing with optimism and excitement about the future," Handler wrote.

Here's an excerpt of the five lessons from the memo:

  1. They worked so hard to get this job, even if it is just for a summer.  Excellent academic records, intense preparation and great interviews just to get to the second round.  They brag to their friends, parents and siblings how proud they are to have a summer job at Jefferies.  We should never forget how fortunate each one of us truly is to have Jefferies as our permanent home.  Sure, we have issues and no workplace is perfect, but ours beats all the rest and we should all appreciate this as much as the interns do.

  2. Our interns view this opportunity as the very beginning of a long and successful career.  Remember when each of us had that extra glimmer of excitement of what the future could or should hold.  They hopefully arrive without battle scars, judgmental opinions, negativity, sarcasm or jadedness.  The glass for each of them is not only half full, it is overflowing with optimism and excitement about the future.

  3. Our remarkable interns have a strong desire to do well with every single person they come in contact with.  It isn’t about a commission, a fee allocation or getting credit for anything that might surface in a bonus pool.  They want to contribute.  They want to add value. They want to prove to themselves and everyone around them that they deserve to be here and we are a better firm for having them.

  4. Our summer analysts and associates are beyond eager to learn. They want to soak in every conversation, interaction and experience.  They don’t dwell on what they do know, but rather prefer to focus and explore everything they don’t know. They are sponges who are eager to be exposed to anything and everything that will make them grow. Remember what it was like when you came to work and just wanted to get better for the sake of personal improvement?

  5. The highlight for every summer intern is when they get the chance to have even a brief encounter with one of our clients.  Our interns realize how truly important and vital every client is to each of us.  Every intern realizes that they are getting the chance to deal with an important, experienced and talented individual who is truly relying on us for important work to help them best make a serious (sometimes crucial) decision.  Our interns realize our clients are the lifeblood of our organization and without them there would be no summer job—in fact, there would be no Jefferies.  Because of this understanding, they act with precision, integrity and in a tireless manner every single day.

This is just a small sample of the valuable lessons every one of us can (re)learn, remember or have reinforced by our talented team of summer interns.  There is no lesson here that is new and in fact most of us live the same way today as we did our very first day.  That said, sometimes hard work, the passage of time or just living in the real world have a way of causing us to forget a lesson or two.  We strongly suggest every one of us spend as much quality time with our summer interns as is possible given the real pressures of our daily commitments.  We have highlighted what we can (re)learn from each of them.  Now the question we leave with each of you is this:  What are you going to teach them to repay the favor?

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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