Generally speaking, I worked very hard. Sometimes that was due to the work. For example, for one of my vacation schemes, a partner set me a huge task (at least I thought it was huge, but he didn’t seem to notice!) – I had to write a report about an ancient law for every country the firm had an office in. I was worried that this was going to take up too much time and I wouldn’t be able to work for other people (this was for JD where this was more important). So I ended up getting in early and working on the weekend. I think that’s a bit exceptional though.
For another US firm, we had lots of assessments during the scheme, so I had to balance this with vacation scheme work. In that case, it was about being efficient and using my time wisely. We also had a client pitch and a TC interview on the last day, so I’d come home and work on those or stay late.
But it’s important to work hard on the right things i.e. the areas you think you need to work on. For me, that meant preparing questions, pushing myself in presentations or putting in the effort at a networking event.
It also means different things for different firms. For one of the other schemes, it would have looked bad if I stayed late. I’d advise against this unless you really have work to do (and can’t push it to the next day). Please don’t be the guy who used a sleeping pod on a previous scheme – especially when partners needed to use them!
Whilst you’re not always working hard in the traditional sense, I think vacation schemes are very intense. That’s because it’s a new environment where you have to be switched on all the time. I think it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the two weeks; clear out as much of your schedule as you can and devote your time to it – after those two weeks you can then relax. Likewise, if you can do things to help yourself in preparation, you’ll be really thankful during the scheme – I’ll expand on this tomorrow.