Deciding to quit investment banking is a big step. It took time and some serious effort to get into the industry in the first place and the decision to quit should not come on a whim. So when do you know it’s time to call it quits? It really is an individual decision but there are some common signs that it is time for you to do something different.
If you are interested in why I left investment banking you can find that post here however this will be a more generic post.
Just because you feel like quitting doesn’t mean you should quit
If you work in investment banking you will almost always feel like quitting and although this is not ‘normal’ it is quite normal for the investment banking industry. Conversations between junior bankers almost always revolve around a) how they are getting screwed and how their lives suck or b) what they are going to do after banking.
Most of this is just stress relief or long term planning and you shouldn’t quit just because you’re having a bad day…investment banking comes with plenty of those.
If you start the job hunting ball rolling…it is very hard to stop
If you are thinking about quitting but are not really sure, a temptation is to ‘see what is out there’. However once you start the ball rolling it is really hard to stop. You call recruiters and look at various options just to see what is out there and before you know it…you are in the final round of a job interview and you haven’t really thought about whether you should be leaving banking.
So before you start the ball rolling make sure you have thought of the following questions and issues…
Do you want to be a banker for the rest of your life?
If you are a few years into the job and looking at the Managing Directors at your firm (the people who make the millions, delegate the work and leave the office at 6pm) and think “I really don’t want to be that person” then this is one sign that perhaps banking isn’t for you.
You may have thought that you wanted to be a banker for life but if the idea of being a Managing Director and doing the biggest deals in the industry no longer excites you…then deep down you know that this isn’t the industry for you. It may be the lifestyle and how much more pain you have to go through…but far more often it is the fact that you just work out that corporate finance isn’t your ‘thing’.
Just because you work out that corporate finance isn’t your thing doesn’t mean you should quit straight away. Make sure you have stayed long enough to maximise your exit opportunities.
Have you have done your time in order to maximise your exit opportunities?
This topic deserves a whole post on its own and I’m going to do one very soon but in summary there is a window of time during which you are most ‘marketable’ as an investment banker. That is when you have the most exit opportunities. This is the reason I don’t recommend that you quit until you finish at least one year
The most marketable you will ever be as an investment banker is after gaining between 2 and 5 years’ experience (if you start as a graduate analyst).
Any less than two years and you do not have enough experience to get a look into the really competitive jobs and any more than 5 and you are going to be pigeon holed as ‘too experienced’ or you are going to have to take a big pay cut.
If you have done any less than 2 years then I suggest staying in your job and sucking it up because a world of opportunities will open up for you if you get to that point.
Money no longer holds the appeal for you that it once did
I discussed this point extensively in my post on why I (personally) quit investment banking but to restate what I said there in more general terms – if you are no longer motivated by money and you don’t love what you are doing then investment banking really sucks.
Investment Banks are really a one trick pony when it comes to incentives. They motivate you with a big pile of cash and you give up and deal with a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t normally deal with on the promise of that cash.
If that cash is no longer motivating you because you work out you don’t need it any more…then chances are that you have no motivation to be at work any more.
The lack of motivation causes you to reach a tipping point in your life
If you are no longer motivated by money and you don’t love the idea of being a banker the chances are that your motivation and work enjoyment is at an all-time low. Motivation comes and goes in Investment Banking and most of the time bankers are able to compartmentalise the ‘bad’ feelings because there are the offsetting rewards of banking (experience and money).
Most people who are ready to quit are no longer able to compartmentalise like this and the feelings of wanting to leave are constant. To give you an example – I was sent overseas to work one on one with a big client which was incredibly rare for an analyst…but all I could think about was how much I wanted to leave and how much I was missing. I had reached my tipping point and it was time for me to leave.
If you are thinking about leaving because you believe you have reached this tipping point…stop. Wait a month. If the feeling is still there after that month then start looking at your other opportunities. Sometimes it is just a passing phase but most of the time you will know when your time is up.
Don’t fall into these traps when thinking about quitting
Quitting your investment banking job is a big step and it is rarely one that is straightforward or clear. There are contrary opinions and ideas flying at you at all points. Don’t fall into these traps when you are thinking about quitting
Don’t stay because you think by quitting you are failing
This may sound obvious but it is something that affects almost every banker who has left that I know. They believed that by quitting they were unable to handle the job. This is undoubtedly related to the lie that most people tell themselves when they go into banking: “all those people quit but I can work harder…am better”
This is an incredibly common feeling and it is an incredibly dumb one which will pass with time. It is not failing – it is working out what you want to do with your life
Don’t quit too early
Quitting before maximising your exit opportunities or because you’re having a bad week or month may not be the right decision (especially if you fundamentally like what you’re doing). Give it some time and see if it gets any better. If it doesn’t then go for it!
Ignore everyone else
Almost everyone outside Investment Banking will constantly be telling you to quit. Why? Because they can’t fathom why you are doing it nor can they imagine working that hard. This can come from parents, friends, relatives…anyone. And it is constant and it wears on you. It may be true for you or it may not. But in the end you are the only one that can make decisions about your life. Work out what is important to you and what you want to do.
Once you decide to quit make sure you start positioning yourself to leave. Don’t go out and tell everyone and make sure you think carefully about what you want to do next. Next I’m going to post about what to do once you decide to quit.
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