Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Making your first few years out of college count as a [Banker] (Part I)

Over the next few posts, I will be veering a tad off the normal conversations revolving around personal finance, probably a result from reminiscing with a couple of good mates over a few beers recently about our respective first years playing the role of a freshly minted wet behind the ears Analyst working in the investment banking division of a bank.

I would say this summary could have several solid takeaways for the general public, but it would perhaps be most relevant to college students who have recently graduated, gotten lucky and find themselves in relatively high paying, and of course highly stressful entry jobs, such as being an analyst in a front office position at a bank, a lawyer at a legal firm, a doctor serving his residency at a government hospital, or [insert others] (not aiming to quibble over what qualifies).

Well you can have a highly stressful entry job and might not have gotten lucky with the pay package, However it would be generally be the norm and not the exception that a high paying job right out of college would invariably come with a intensely stressful regime, which might be a soul-draining and mind numbing experience even for those lucky over-achieving tadpoles.

This is my version of how to deal with this and make the most out of your first few years out of college.

Dealing with your job

Firstly, congratulations on getting hired! Welcome to the firm! Now, you might be the whitest hottest shit in college and thought yourself a master of the universe, but that ends now. Nobody gives a flying fuck whether you were of pedigree, went to elite schools at each level such as Nanyang Primary, Raffles Insitution, Raffles Junior College, Harvard / Wharton / Chicago, or whether you came from the streets right through the rough and tumble of life as a juvenile delinquent who made good, managed to ace his way through Polytechnic and studied as a local University or some dandy version of that.

Because... now you are just a corporate drone in an army of many waiting to serve the whims and fancies of your clients, which by the way, as a fresh Analyst, you will not have any 'clients' per say except for your immediate boss, be it a more senior Analyst, an Associate or a big swinging dick of a Managing Director.

So my advice - Eat humble pie for breakfast, lunch, dinner and try to absorb as much as you can by throwing yourself into the frenzied chummed waters of your business. I could write another long ass post on what one should be looking out for, but if I could summarize, it would be attitude. You probably had some form of aptitude and that's how you got through the front door during the interviews, but that doesn't count for fucking shit now. Think you know what's the best way to get about completing an assignment? Nah, the Analyst (or even Summer Intern *gasp*) who's been here four more weeks than you might know better and would be generally ready to help you get up to speed so he'll have another competent drone in the pool to share the love, whoops I meant workload. So don't re-invent the wheel. Ask questions, have a great work attitude, put in the fucking hours like a real man/woman (I'm not sexist) and you'll be fine. The first to go are the fucking weasels. Make a solid impression in the first few weeks and you'll be fine. You'll be surprised how fast 'judgement' can be passed on newcomers to the floor...

Now not everyone has the same mental constitution, fortitude and resilience as Jason Bateman, Steve Rogers or Wolverine. There is a strong possibility of cracking under pressure and a developing a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Some mental retards might even come in with the notion of a "work-life balance" (yo bro, if you are earning more than S$8,000 in your first job, you're certainly not paid for the quality of your thinking or analysis, it's more likely you are compensated for being a corporate drone that forms part of the furniture in the office, so don't even try to embark on these career paths if you believe in "work-life balance", at least in your first few years out of college.

I digress. So what is the best way to deal with it?

Understand why you are doing this job (you might want the experience, or you are using this as a platform to F.I.R.E, or have S&M tendencies and enjoy working like this, or [insert why]) and accept your fate

Accept that the worst result is fucking some shit up and getting fired - hey you will still be alive, the world did not end. Accept that while this might suck balls at times (such as having your holiday cancelled, or missing your girlfriend's birthday, or grandmother's funeral, or spending your holiday in a hotel room working constantly,etc. this suck balls list is non-exhaustive), it too shall pass eventually. Accept that you have made your decision to work in this line and it's solely on you. Accept that you will not be able to have a normal 9 to 5 life because you have chosen so.

Adopt this Stoical approach and smile whilst doing so for best results.

Another measure would be the ability to break up your tasks and look forward. Trust me, as a newcomer, you will get swamped with multiple tasks, get pushed to the brink with seemingly never-ending requests and all-nighters (they are not an urban legend, these things exist, and for the (un)fortunate, they might happen weekly for quite a lengthy period of time, depending on your bank's pipeline, or what outsiders might call an 'orderbook'). Look to break up your assignments and take them down one at a time, look forward to Friday nights, where you might enjoy some form of a reprieve now and then, or when things get real fucked up and shit hits the fan, look to breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, [nightcap] and repeat.

During my toughest periods, I actually started looking forward to my daily lunch, where I would, without fail, have economy rice (eggs, sweet and sour pork, cabbage) and it became my comfort food, where I would tell myself that no matter how shitty things got, there would be those three dishes waiting for me each day. I also told myself that regardless of the shit that happens each day, I would have already accrued S$[ ] for the [morning] and I am slowly but surely moving to my goal of F.I.R.E.

And of course, you'll have the camaraderie of your fellow colleagues who are performing the same role as you. Which really helps to ease the pain a fair bit, and that is why you've got to have a good attitude, be a team player and not a fucking weasel, otherwise you'll lose the faith of this 'support group'...


  1. Hi Retireby35.SgStyle,

    Thanks for the candid sharing. An eye opener to the world of IB.

  2. Hi Retireby35.SgStyle,

    Thanks for the candid sharing. An eye opener to the world of IB.

  3. S-Reit System Investor - Happy to provide an insider's perspective :)

    Felix, what do you think?