Do you want to be an investment banker for the foreseeable future? Perhaps you’re not quite sure yet what you want to do after banking and you’re happy to keep doing banking until you work it out. If you’re not one of the mould that wants to do 2 years of banking and then leave (which seems to be quite common in the US but remarkably uncommon elsewhere) then what you really want to be able to do is to work in Investment Banking without burning out.
To survive investment banking for the longer term treat the job like a marathon…not like a sprint
In a sprint you give everything you have and you give it early. You can see the finish line and you know you can feel the pain later as long as you can get to that finish line as fast as possible.
Unfortunately this is the way that most investment bankers treat their jobs. They are willing to put themselves through an incredible amount of pain and sleepless nights in order to get the deal done and then they will gladly volunteer for the next deal. After all, they all want to be the top rated analyst, get the biggest bonus and do this year after year! Who would want to be anything less?
If you’re not looking to exit investment banking in the short term (and for all of you who are really focussed on working in Private Equity or going to a Hedge Fund think about how many people actually manage to make that jump) or if you are not quite sure what your next career choice will be then you can’t see the finish line. If you’re running a marathon and your just at the start…or even halfway through the race…you don’t give it all. You pace yourself to make sure that you finish the race.
Stop focussing on the short term and look at the bigger picture
The bragging rights of being the top ranked analyst are quite substantial. In my first year the top ranked analyst got $25,000 more in their bonus than I did as a mid-ranked analyst. That burned…and I was committed to becoming the top ranked analyst the next year.
What happened? I burned myself out and was out of investment banking after 3 years. I had lost sight of the bigger picture. I later spoke to some middle and higher ranked VPs and most of them mentioned that they were mid ranked analysts and associates. They didn’t want to work the hours that the top ranked staff did and didn’t see the need to push themselves that hard. What happened to them? They were still in the industry making incredible amounts of money long after the top ranked members of their cohort had left or had burned out.
If you want the incredible financial rewards that come from being an investment banker, you need to make it up the hierarchy. You may think that the junior bankers make good money but trust me, it is nothing compared to what the mid-level and senior bankers are taking home.
It is hard enough to run the long distance race…stop trying to do it in a sprint
Investment banking is hard enough without you putting more pressure on yourself. Stop trying to achieve everything in year one. It is fine if there is a big deal and you’re not on it. Deals come around every month and every year.
Do the work you are given and that you are interested in. Position yourself so that you are known as someone that does quality work but not as the person who is able and willing to work all hours every single day of the week. This is the image that most junior banker strive for and burn out trying to achieve.
But I’m constantly getting buried in work…how can I pace myself?
There are some things you can control and some you can’t. You cannot control a 10pm fire drill that has to be dealt with before 9am the next day. You can’t control your staffer putting you on another deal right when you thought you were going to get a break. But here are some things you can control:
- Stop volunteering for work: If it is 9 pm and you’re bored. Go home. Stop volunteering (however subtly) to get on that great deal that you know is going to happen. Even if it does happen you are never going to get that rest that you really needed after being jammed for 2 weeks before this point
- Stop the face time: This is actually incredibly hard and even though all investment banks say they don’t have face time they all do. It’s the time you spend in the office so that you look busy and look like you are constantly working hard. It is staying and checking your emails at 8 pm so you can get the taxi home after 9 pm
- Admit when you cannot take on more work: This is especially for the first year bankers. The quickest way to burn yourself out is by taking on work that looks good when someone asks you whether you have capacity, when you don’t actually have capacity. If you don’t have capacity to do it (before 11pm at night) then tell the staffer. Perhaps you’ll still get it but at least you haven’t volunteered yourself.
- Sleep when you get a chance: Bankers work hard and party hard. That is the image and that is what most of them do. But if a couple of you finish at 10pm on a Wednesday night…this is not the time to go out for 1 or 2 drinks. I used to do it and you regret it every single time
There are tons of other ways to pace yourself in banking and a lot of the Surviving Investment Banking posts on this blog are about helping you pace and survive the marathon. How do you pace yourself? Have you ever volunteered for something which blew up in your face? Share your stories below
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