This story begins, as so many of mine do, with a conversation I had with a cute, funny, short, Asian girl who was….
interesting unavailable (facepalm). Anyways, as the topic turned, as they inevitably do, to the job that I’ve spent 131 of the first 140 days of 2012 working on, I wondered why I always find myself defending why I DON’T hate my job. Granted, its a low hurdle because you can see the bitterness literally seep out of the pores of most banking analysts. (Or maybe the seepage is the alcohol that they tried to drown their sorrows in.)
Anyways, so why DON’T I hate my job?
Part of my reason is because my second most favorite piece of advice is “why don’t you do something about it.” Obviously my doppelganger would repeat that line back in my face if I complained about my job. Yes – rather than risk being called a hypocrite, I’d convince myself that my job isn’t as sucky as others say it is. Some may call it self-denial. I call it self-protection. From negativity. Which I get more than enough of in my daily life. Ironic huh?
But the bigger and more serious part of my reason has to be about expectations – a topic I’ve explored before. I don’t blame those that come into banking thinking that they are going to get something substantial out of it. In our youth, we all need that mixture of naivete, optimism, and belief-that-we-can-change-the-world. But I certainly never expected more than a steady paycheck, a ticket to the next job, and some training in how to handle increasing amounts of ridiculous-ness without becoming a ridiculous caricature of myself in this job (more valuable than you think). Anything beyond that (learning???) is a plus. Disclaimer: I swear on my bonus that this is how I really felt last July.
It seems that the latest trend in finance are
quitters ex-bankers running as fast they can to tell the world why they quit resigned. “Hey OWS! Don’t protest us, we actually hate this industry as much as you do!” “In fact, we’ll join you!” And the story that really got to me was this guy.
I truly believe that you can’t go into banking for 1) money, 2) prestige/power/respect, or even 3) intellectual simulation. I would be the perfect candidate if I sought those 3 things because I graduated with massive student loans, from an extremely elitist “target school”, and my dirty secret is that I actually like finance…and even I haven’t received fulfillment in any of those 3.
If all of that sounds depressing or dissuades you from banking, realize this: “investment banking analyst” is really just an entry-level job in sales. The only difference between investment bankers and your neighborhood car salesman is that the product we are pimping are ourselves. If your MD can convince a CEO with 20 years of experience to give him 1.5% of $500 million to basically just provide an introduction to a potential buyer…of course he can seduce some 22-year-old who still has a healthy dose of naivete, optimism, and belief-that-we-can-change-the-world. So, don’t let the fact that investment banks pay Ivy Leaguers with six-figure salaries seduce you into fetishizing that banking is something that it’s not.
What you can do though, is learn how your
pimp masters senior bankers play the game. Figure out how the good ones trick clients, executive management, and junior bankers into giving them what they want….and as long as you don’t get tricked yourself, you will come out on top. Then, you can peace after two years with the best set of skills in presentation, excel, attention to detail, and office clutchness that 10,000 hours of work can teach.
The whole point of this blog was to compare the experiences and thoughts of two people – one who quit and one who didn’t. Well, to get to that broken chopstick in the road, we both had to have some pride in ourselves and our abilities before banking. And in banking, I see that pride manifest itself in two ways: 1) I’m above this shit…I quit, or 2) I refuse to let this shit get to me…I’m sticking around until I milk every last drop out of what I came here for.
Let this be a proclamation from the latter 1%.