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I may be starting an internship in the Transactional Advisory Services of a Big4 Accounting firm in a week's time and am extremely nervous due to lack of finance knowledge. What should I study in this week?
June 15, 2011 3:47 PM   Subscribe

I may be starting an internship in the Transactional Advisory Services of a Big4 Accounting firm in a week's time and am extremely nervous due to lack of finance knowledge. What should I study in this week?

I am just done with the first year of my MBA and am about to start an internship in the field of Transactional Advisory Services. I have severely limited knowledge of Finance as I discovered my interest in it very recently and only have basic level of Accounting/Finance knowledge and basic Excel skills. I will probably be working with a team that would be involved in live projects involving M&As etc. advising banks and will be involved in valuations. I really want to work hard and do well in this internship and have the chance of landing a job with them when I graduate (although right now it seems I might just go into their offices and be the least knowledgeable intern/employee)

What are some things I should do this week to overcome this handicap?

1. What books can I read that give me a basic level of knowledge needed for this profession?
2. What are some Excel tutorials I could use to acquire the skills needed for Financial Modeling? My friend has some Lynda and Total Training advanced videos of Excel and I'm planning to go through those. Are there any better Financial Modeling specific Excel tutorials?
3. What are some other software/concepts I might be using and should try to get myself familiar with?

And finally,

4. What are some other sites/forums on the internet which are essential for Finance Professional and where these questions may yield better solutions?

Any tips/advice from you guys would be welcome. Thanks!
posted by libbrichus to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You've got 7 days. Relax. Trying to crash course corporate finance in 7 days will mostly just stress you out and confuse you. Assuming you didn't lie your ass off in the interviews, the firm knows what it is getting with you. They've seen your transcripts. You're an intern. They aren't going to ask you to take the lead on valuing Facebook for the IPO.

And if you did lie your way through the interview process, you can still relax. Apparently you are one hell of a lier and can probably fake it for the summer ;)
posted by COD at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to work in the consulting arm of a Big 4 firm. I can't say this will be true at your firm or department, but our best interns were on time, polite and engaging to team members and clients, and had a good attitude. It is easy-peasy to teach someone to make a pivot table or give them a book on proper accounting principles. It is a way bigger pain in the ass to teach someone who is clueless how to be polite, presentable, responsive, and have a good attitude.
Good luck - the fact that you're asking bodes well for your attitude & your future :)
posted by pointystick at 4:48 PM on June 15, 2011

Big4 worker here! Only not in TAS (I'm in Info Security). You'd do better honestly to just chill out and calm yourself down. Go and do some stuff that makes you happy. Camp, go on a hike, sit outside with a beer? Whatever it is that makes you feel content, so you'll get a nice pre-vacation before starting up.

Like COD said, they know what you know and they want you. You're all set already.

The things that you should be focusing on once you're there is starting to build interpersonal relationships in addition to the stuff you're specifically doing for your job. Coming into your internship as a happy person will be worth much more than showing up having pulled all-nighters all week.

PROTIPS if you're going to ignore my sound advice: Depending on which of the four, you might want to be aware that you're going to be using Lotus Notes for email and communications. And make sure you submit your time/expenses on time!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2011

You will learn quickly that real jobs aren't about seeming the smartest among your peers, it's about working together to get the job done. You are an intern, you are supposed to be ignorant and humble -- you are in no position right now to predict what you need to know. You may just need to know how to alphabetize and deliver mail. If you do get something substantive, most the time people will ask you "do you know how to do X" before assigning you a project. Just be honest. They will probably forward you a template or previously completed example to work from. Just ask questions to get the big picture, and let google be your first line of defense when tackling technical issues. When you have questions, try to ask them in batches, instead of pinging people every time something comes up.
posted by blargerz at 5:38 PM on June 15, 2011

For the type of senior/senior consultant positions that the Big Four hire MBAs into, you're definitely expected to have some analytic chops. Nobody's expecting you to be an expert when you start your summer associateship, but people will be looking for you to show that you can pick it up.

That doesn't mean that you have to be some former analyst type that knows every hotkey in Excel (though you will certainly come across that people like that). It's more about being able to think logically about a problem, bring yourself up to speed quickly in your firm's existing tools and methodologies for solving it, and understand which parts of them are applicable off the shelf and which ones you'll have to modify to the business situation at hand.

If you want to pick a little bit of Excel to brush up on to help you with modeling, I would focus on reference functions like vlookup(), index() and match(), and criteria-driven summary formulas like sumif() and countif() [as well as sumifs() and countifs() if you'll be working in Excel 2007]. The problem space in financial modeling you can address with those once you know them cold is larger than you'd think.

I also agree with other people who are telling you not to neglect the interpersonal stuff. In particular, don't let your nervousness about your technical skills come off as lack of confidence, but also don't bluff about what you know. Get really good at answering a question with "I don't know but I'll find out", even to a partner or a client executive, and really good at then actually finding out and following up with the answer.

Also, one side effect of the partnership structure in firms the size of the Big Four is that the office politics can rival the Byzantine court in complexity. Probably you won't have to deal with this too much as a summer associate, but just be aware that the partners have this constantly shifting network of petty grudges, rivalries, alliances and temporarily aligned or competing interests between themselves, and that the senior managers competing among themselves for who's going to make partner is usually a blood sport. Again, not something you're likely to have to deal with directly yet, but when elephants fight the grass gets trampled.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:12 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another Big 4 worker here but not TAS - interns aren't expected to actually know how to do much of anything other than be on time, be polite and helpful and have a good attitude. Chances are you'll get assigned work to do that does not require an be prepared for that.

As others have said basic excel and data manipulation is always a bonus because that means somebody just has to explain the task, not how to use excel as well. If you want to do anything else to prepare read the financial press. Especially anything to do with financial results, anything to do with transactions. And look up terms and concepts you don't understand. I have mentored interns and have seen feedback from TAS rotations that said in a nutshell - nice chap, if he's serious about TAS he needs to brush up on financial concepts and should start by readin the financial press and trying to understand what they talk about.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:42 PM on June 15, 2011

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