Surviving the long hours and stress of Investment Banking is not easy and you don’t make it any easier on yourself by not taking your annual leave. Taking all of your annual leave is critical to both your performance as a banker and better performance leads to better ratings, better bonuses and ultimately better exit opportunities.
One of the best things you can do for your career as an Investment Banker is to take all of your annual leave every year.
Investment Banking is a marathon…not a sprint
That was the title of one of the first posts I wrote on this blog. Everything in the industry is designed to make you think it is a sprint. It is designed to make you think that you need to put in the absolute maximum effort every single day and to work really hard at all moments to get that next big bonus and to build your reputation as much as possible.
All of these actions do make you look better and may make you the best paid junior banker in your year but the big problem occurs when you burn out. The people that last in banking tend not to be the ones that push themselves as hard as they can…they are not the bottom performers but they are typically not the top performers either.
Look, it may not be what you are told when you are trying to get into banking and it may not be what you are told when you are actually working in the industry but from my experience and from what I observed the people who last the longest are those who are best able to balance their life with work. Those who keep themselves positive and who have lives outside of banking. They may not be the top ranking analysts and associates (occasionally they are) but they are not the ones who get sick of the job either.
If I’m going to be honest I was not one of those people and in hindsight I wish I had thought about this more. Investment banking is an industry where the greatest rewards are there for those who last in the industry…not those who perform the best. Obviously you don’t want to be the bottom performer (those are the ones who get fired)…but the extra effort required to be the top performer is often not compatible with the ability to have a long career in the industry.
One of the best ways to pace yourself is to take your annual leave every year
When you are actually at work it is pretty hard to pace yourself. You’re not working late out of choice and those weekends in the office are not because you love the job. And good luck keeping your job if you tell your associate or VP that you just want a night off and will get that task they want done later. It took me 3 years to be able to impose a midnight curfew on myself…and even then I broke that rule reasonably often.
No…the best way to pace yourself and be able to rejuvenate, de-stress and actually keep yourself sane is to take your annual leave each and every year. Depending on where you work this may be 3 weeks or it may be 4 or even longer. Whatever you are given…take it all!
Always take your leave in blocks
Spreading your leave throughout the year may seem like a great idea but it never actually works because it takes people in the office a while to realise that you’re not in. For the first few days of leave your emails are still going to be going off and the buzzing is going to cause you to reach for your phone.
It takes at least a week to de-stress and it was only really in the second week of my annual leave that I used to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
Three weeks would be the perfect break however most banks will not give you this in a row so two weeks of a fortnight each probably is the best option.
Make yourself as unavailable as possible
Investment banks suck at giving you personal space. Even if you are on leave the chances are that you will be contacted about the latest urgent presentation where your input is needed or a file you worked on has gone missing and they have to find it or the world is going to end.
The bank can do just fine without you and you need to make yourself as unavailable as possible. When I realised this I used to turn my phone off however I was told that this was unacceptable so I started taking leave in some awesome exotic places which had no reception whatsoever. Not only did I have a great time but there was no way the office could contact me either.
Saving up your leave may seem like a great idea…but it really isn’t!
I like to save my leave. I typically like to save at least one week of leave a year so that after a few years I have a nice little bank in case I want to do a big trip. It’s a great idea that works really well in most industry but it is a really bad idea in Investment Banking. If you can break up your holiday by taking two sets of a fortnight leave in a year and if you can manage this at busy times then this is perfect!
Take your leave at the busy times of the year
Most people take their leave over Christmas or the summer holidays. This is crazy. These are the only times of the year where the office is quiet. Book your leave in during busy periods. Obviously you need to plan this in advance. Your staffer is never going to give you leave during a busy period if you ask for it a few weeks before you want to take the leave.
Plan the leave 6 months in advance. They are never going to say no because they don’t often think that long term…and when your leave comes around they are loathe to cancel it (especially if they have to reimburse you for all your flights!)
I’m not trying to encourage you to be a slack employee
Although it may look like I’m telling you not to put in any effort that’s not what I’m doing. However for your own well being you need to work smartly within the system that exists. The system isn’t great and it isn’t going to give you many breaks so make of it what you can. Take your leave, take it in blocks and make it during busy times.
Doing this will make you more productive when you are in the office and a better long term banker all around.
Do you take your leave every year? What are you worried about with a strategy like this? I’d love to hear your thoughts below (or you can email me)!