NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Did getting an internship on Wall Street this summer feel like you just won the lottery? It should. You are one of a few very fortunate members of an elite group of students. Competition remains keen for these coveted positions that are often the start to long, successful careers in finance. And if yours happens to pay a salary, you have yet another reason to celebrate.
Despite an uptick in hiring on Wall Street, finding a plum summer position continues to be elusive. There are fewer financial institutions with internships and many other firms have scaled back their programs.
Getting one can be extremely valuable, however, both as a resume-builder and as a professional stepping stone. But getting the job is only the first step. Now the real work of making sure the summer is a success begins. How will that be measured? You receive an offer to join upon graduation; or, you get a terrific reference; or, the company asks you stay on in a part-time capacity during the school year.
Here are eight tips to help you make the most of this terrific and potentially life-changing opportunity:
1. Get a head start. Call or e-mail the person who will be overseeing you and tell her that you are hoping to get a head start. That person is either your manager for the summer or the internship coordinator. Ask if there Is there anything you can prepare, read or research in advance. Or, if there is an important transaction about to happen, offer to begin the internship early.
2. Don't show off. It is unappreciated, makes you look like you are kissing up, and will ultimately undermine your credibility with both your manager and your peers. The best way to distinguish yourself is to work hard, stay late, don't complain, and spend time with key decision makers.
3. Polish your presentation. Interns are often asked to formally present their work at the end of the summer. If that is standard operating procedure for the company you are working for, make sure you are thoroughly prepared. It is important to rehearse, too, and to anticipate any potential pushback or challenges. You may be a pro at winging it but don't do that this time; every so often everyone screws up.
4. Chart a path. Ask junior associates what management looks for in those interns who get offers for permanent positions. That is valuable information. Also ask them to provide regular feedback during the summer so that you know you are on track. And be sure to express your gratitude. Far too often students are viewed as self-serving. Don't be a part of that stereotype.
5. Participate in office events. Go to outings, drinks, races, off-sites -- but only if invited. If you are asked to join in, don't be reckless. The equity you create through a summer of hard work could evaporate instantly if you drink too much and get sloppy.
6. Make friends with the recruiting team. Their endorsement and advocacy will go a long way when decisions are made regarding offers to extend. They will also advise you on appropriate behavior and facilitate meetings with key managers.
7. Don't ask a lot of questions. Instead, ask the right questions. It is easy to cross over from being well-informed and inquisitive to annoying and pesty. Think about what you need to know and why. Then make sure to identify who the appropriate resources are to turn to.
8. Dress like you belong there. Don't invest a fortune in a new wardrobe. On the other hand, remember: You will be judged on how well you fit in. If in doubt, ask. There are probably members of your LinkedIn (LNKD) network who can point you in the right direction sartorially. As a rule, respect all boundaries, especially on casual Friday. No flip-flops, board shorts, halters, or anything else that suggests you would prefer to spend your summer at the beach.