08 March 2018

The misconceptions of the 23 year-old investment banker, by an ex-Goldman MD

Just like everyone else, bankers love telling themselves stories. And as with most stories, they are largely fictional.

I have spent 18 years in banking, and that experience has taught me that junior bankers who are starting out tell each other the same three untruths over and over again.

The first is that happiness is a million dollars. To begin with, my peers and I believed that money was going to make us happy. Money was going to set us free. As we got older, we realized that money would not set us free. A little money helps, but money does not necessarily lead to happiness. Money may lead to more money, but life is about what you are doing, who you are doing it with, and the impact you are having. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

The second misconception is that you are going to retire early. You are not. Don’t get into finance to make a quick buck. It’s not that kind of game. Yes it pays relatively well, but it’s not a get rich quick scheme. You are not going to go be retiring anytime soon.

If you want to do well in finance, you need to find an area you love. I’ve been lucky: I’ve had six jobs in eighteen years. Each has challenged me and helped me grow. You do it because you love it and because nothing else gives you the thrill.

The final and most damaging untruth is the belief you can do this on your own. When you are starting out, when you’ve just graduated, you are used to doing the tests, doing the exams, writing the papers on your own. In fact your entire life has been about doing the work individually.

As you get older you realize, sometimes too late, how important human relationships are. You see the importance of teamwork. The importance of working well with others. As the old saying goes: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

If you want to go far in your career, build a team around you. You need mentors and sponsors to guide you, a team of colleagues who you can partner with and help, and a team of juniors that will support you and provide you the help you need to succeed.

These are the truths of banking. You may not know them when you’re 23, but you certainly will 10 years later.

What I Learnt on Wall Street is an education focused business founded a group of Wall Street veterans from the best firms determined to help the next generation.