Investment Banking is not the healthiest of industries. The lack of sleep, dinner budgets and the constant temptation of comfort food combined with a lack of exercise cause most bankers to put on more than a few pounds after starting in the industry.
Recently there have also been stories in the press about people dying or becoming seriously ill during their time in Investment Banking. This is an incredibly sad development but don’t throw away your investment banking dreams just yet. If you take care of yourself there is no reason that working in this industry should cause you any sort of serious long term problems.
The risk of illness / unhealthy living is not in the internship stage of your career
A lot of the focus in the media in recent years has been on how interns are treated during their internships and what they are made to do to land the investment banking job. This is largely overstated because:
- Interns only work for a finite period of time. They last a few months and even though you may work hard during this period it is the constant toll of late nights that really start to take its toll on you
- Interns are ‘protected’…sort of. When you are an intern you often forget that the bank actually does want to hire you. Yes they want to make sure that you can do the job but they don’t want you to hate the place so much that you will not come back. In fact the analyst pool at my bank used to get emails before the interns started each year telling us to make sure the interns that we wanted loved what they were doing
Your internship is a way for you to test whether you can handle the work load. If you find yourself becoming unhealthy or getting sick because of the lifestyle then this is not an industry for you. It is a short time period and if you hate it…seriously think of doing something else
The very real risk to your health is in the analyst pool
The stress, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and lack of sleep suffered by analysts can cause some serious health problems in banking if you don’t look after yourself. Some of the most common problems you see include
- Bankers getting really fat: All of the above issues combine into weight gain which causes any number of problems
- Being Vitamin D deficient: No one gets enough sunlight in the industry and almost everyone I knew in banking got prescribed pills to deal with the Vitamin D deficiency
- Being constantly tired and run down which makes you much more susceptible to things like the common cold
- Stress related illnesses
However this is not inevitable. You CAN be healthier in banking.
The fact is that you will not be the fittest, healthiest version of yourself while in banking but there are ways to make sure that you stay as healthy as possible. Some of them include:
Watching what you eat
- This is the hardest thing to do. When you are stressed and tired comfort food seems so appealing but resist the temptation, but the salad and watch what you eat
- Also if you are using Cola / Soft Drinks to get through the long nights look for a healthy juice substitute that works for you
Stop or limit face time
- I have written about face time before and strategies to stop it
- Saying ‘get more sleep’ often get snorts from bankers but the fact is that the amount of screwing around that happens (though things like football in the office or general chats) is incredible
- Limit the amount you do this and use your time to sleep. An extra 2 hours of sleep can make a huge difference
Stop drinking so much
- Bankers tend to party hard when they are let out of the office. I think most bankers want to maximise the time they have to relax and so tend to go very hard
- Alcohol is going to contribute to many of the problems above
- I’m not opposed to partying but lay of the booze a bit to take care of yourself
Go to the gym (if you can)
- This is difficult and is a wish-list type thing for most analysts but going to the gym will make you feel better and make you more efficient
- Join the gym near the office and go for a 20 minute run during your lunch break – you will notice the difference
Calm down…stop getting so stressed
- This is for those people that get stressed easily but you really do need to find a way to calm down
- Getting stressed is going to cause you some serious issues in the long term so find some coping strategies that work for you
Investment banking doesn’t have to be the unhealthy environment I described above
The fact is that investment banking doesn’t have to be as unhealthy as I described above. Some friends of mine work at offices where there is a real health push and the pressure is to healthy rather than the more common work hard / party hard / eat crap type attitude.
Even if your office isn’t one of the healthy ones you can institute some of those tactics I have mentioned above yourself. Find a way to do this and you’ll find your investment banking experience much more pleasant and your body will thank you for it.
Did you become unhealthy during investment banking? What were your coping strategies? Is this something that you worry about? If you want tips on Surviving Investment Banking subscribe to the Banker’s Pitch newsletter