The fact that investment bankers work incredibly long hours will not come as a surprise to anyone. Even if you have rose coloured glasses on about every other aspect of the industry you know you are going to be working incredibly hard day in and day out for the first few years of your investment banking life.
Do you know how you would cope working the type of hours that junior bankers do? Or have you landed that magical internship or graduate job and are you wondering how you are going to cope? Here are some insights into how junior investment bankers work as many hours as they do (and are still productive at the end of it).
Half the battle is training your body to be able to work long hours
Although it may sound circular, once your body gets used to working the long hours it is not as much of an issue any more. It is a bit like going to the gym or getting back into a sport after taking the summer or winter off. Your body hurts like crazy that first time you get back into it and then slowly, as your body gets used to the activity again it gets less painful and you get used to it.
Banking is much the same. There is a period of acclimatisation where your body is just getting used to doing the long hours but if you manage to push through this pain barrier (it actually only takes a week or two) then you find it getting easier and easier to work much longer hours than you originally imagined. After a few weeks, working until 10 or even 11 at night isn’t that big a deal any more.
The downside to this is that, just like a sport, if you give your body a break for a period of time (by going on leave or taking some sort of other break) you are going to have to go through the pain all over again…but just knowing that you can do it is half the battle won.
Some good ways to cope with investment banking hours
Although getting used to it is half the battle and working until 11 pm will not seem as bad any more, I can tell you that it is almost impossible to get ‘used’ to back to back 2 – 3 am finishes. They hurt a lot and although they don’t happen every week they do happen so it is worth having some tricks up yours sleeve to cope with the long hours.
So what are good ways to cope with the long investment banking hours?
Get sleep when you can
- This may sound obvious but when you have been cooped up in your office for 2 weeks straight and you get a night off the temptation is to go out for a few drinks, let your hair down and have a blow out
- The problem is that you are not giving your body a chance to rest at all
- I’m not saying to become a hermit, but if you can be sensible about getting a decent night’s sleep when you can you may find it much easier to cope with the long hours when they do come
Minimise the face time
- Making a good impression when you start banking is important…but for some reason most graduates assumes this means that they need to work long hours
- It doesn’t. If you have finished your work…go home. If your associate or VP has no more work for you don’t ask around. Stop doing face time – working longer hours now is not going to be remembered when your bonus is due in 12 months’ time
Exercise more and Drink less
- Keeping yourself healthy plays such a massive part in coping with investment banking – especially with the hours
- If you have a choice between going for a drink or hitting the gym think about doing the latter. I found that once I started doing this I felt less tired and was actually able to do longer hours than before
Coffee / Soft drinks / Other food to get over the hump
- You may be reading the above tips thinking “that’s all well and good but I have to work until 3am tonight and it’s only 7…how am I going to last…I’m exhausted!”
- The first three points will help minimise the amount of times you should have to refer to this method…but there will be a time that you just need to get over the hump and continue working but avoid doing this if you can
- Coffee / Soft drinks (Soda / Pop) and other food are your friends when it comes to getting over the exhaustion hump. Find what works for you and have a supply of it that you turn to when you get to a point where you are just too tired to work any more
- For example I used to use Coca Cola because coffee did nothing for me at night and I never really felt hungry at 1am in the morning
- Having some sort of food or drink will typically give you a boost of energy for a while so that you can get over the hump…the tiredness will pass and you can continue
BAD ways to cope with investment banking hours
NEVER do any sort of drug (legal or otherwise) to cope with investment banking hours. This includes any form of caffeine pill or study drunk. Doing illegal drugs is just dumb and will never help you (as an aside it is incredibly uncommon to see this in investment banking offices) and the caffeine pill / study drug route are a dumb idea too because they keep you wired for hours and you really want to be able to get right to sleep once you get home at 4am (even if it is only for 3 or 4 hours)
One last tip to help you survive the long investment banking hours
Surviving investment banking is as much a mental game as it is a physical game. If you can keep yourself positive and just concentrate on doing your job and learning and enjoying it as you are doing it you will find yourself much more able to cope with the hours than if you constantly brood on how much your life sucks.
If you are looking at getting into banking don’t stress – you will be amazed at how fast you get into the rhythm of it. What tactics do you use to stay awake and get through what you need to do? Perhaps there are other methods that can help your fell bankers (or students) out.