Dedicated to all the entry level investment bankers.
There are very few things in life worth stressing over. Work no longer makes my list.
I used to pull my hair out over the most minuscule of set backs. Right after my worst working week and taking Will Smith’s advice, I made a simple decision to let go. Since then, I’ve approached all tasks and deadlines with the same relaxed attitude and have been able to get things done quicker and better.
Getting fired is no big deal either. For second-year analysts and beyond, you can expect emails or calls every other day from recruiters asking you to consider this opportunity or that position. The few people that I know who’ve in fact been fired are also better off, having either moved across to the buy-side, taking time off to travel or committing to that start-up they’ve been putting off.
2. Work smarter, not harder
This is a tricky one but if I had to sum it up in one sentence:
Develop a tailored system that allows you to focus on the important things and cut out the bullshit.
3. Live the pain equation
This largely relates to a situation where minimal inputs from you delivers exponential benefits to your colleague. For example, if it takes you 30 seconds to explain something that’ll get Bob home just one minute earlier, help. Besides, a minute saved today could mean hours saved tomorrow. Yes, I know you’re itching to go home, but please do Bob the favour.
Bob will appreciate it. He’ll think you’re an absolute champ and will probably return you the favour down the track.
4. Keep an ace up your sleeve
When Alan Turing cracked the Enigma, he did not tell the Germans. If I’d cracked the model to solve in under a minute instead of four, the last thing I’d do is ring up my boss and boast about it.
5. Make friends
Investment bankers spend a ridiculous amount of time together, so you might as well enjoy each other’s company. Perhaps because I’d never contemplated on being a banker for long, I’ve always maintained an attitude towards achieving the optimal work-life balance and have probably missed out on opportunities to develop life-long friendships within the workplace. Increasingly, however, I’m re-assessing my priorities and placing more emphasis on fostering these friendships. This makes sense because:
- I happen to like 99% of the people I work with;
- They share very similar values to me despite coming from all walks of life; and
- The firm has undergone a great deal of pain in picking a pool of working-hard, intelligent people with no tolerance for arrogant pricks, so you may as well utilise it.
Remember it doesn’t take much, saying yes to dinner one night may just sow the seed for a life-long friendship.
6. You’re not dumb…you’re not special either
You’re not dumb, everyone else has just been at it for longer.
The first couple of weeks on the job was very humbling for me. I constantly felt like the dumbest person in the office (I still do from time to time) and people were seemingly getting their jobs done 5-10x quicker. Don’t be discouraged. While there may in fact be a few geniuses around the office, they are by far the exception, not the norm. On the other hand, there’s every truth in the saying that any monkey could do our job. Anyone with an average IQ and a good work ethic can excel here. You may be special, but you’re not special by virtue of the fact that you’re an investment banker. So try and keep a level head.
7. Make the most out of it
Whether it’s rotating to a different industry group, moving to a new city or learning from world-class experts and CEOs, there are a myriad of perks working for a big corporation. I’m on a sponsored 3-month volunteer program as we speak. Make the most out of them.
So there you have it, seven tips from the fella who learnt them the hard way. Live long and prosper.