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Exhausted? Here’s how I survived 17 years in banking

Surviving banking

Investment banking, sales and trading, research: they are all hard jobs.

You will likely be stabbed in the back by your colleagues, your clients will slam the phone down on you and pull an order, and your boss will either make you doubt yourself or throw you under the bus.

Don’t sweat it. Don’t be disheartened. This is the nature of the game.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Learn how to persevere and not break down.

Many times over the last 17 years I have doubted myself, my abilities, my profession. Even today, these doubts continue. I have come close to quitting many times. But, each time I talked myself off the edge. How?

Resilience.

I got through seventeen years of banking, investing and trading because of resilience.

Resilience is being able to bounce back from your problems, it’s being able to get back up when you fail and it’s being able to keep going when you don’t know what to do and all seems lost.

Here’s what I learnt about resilience, about taking the pain and coming back stronger:

Don’t get emotional – Resilient people acknowledge difficult situations and acknowledge them early. They then keep calm and evaluate the real facts rationally so they can make a plan and act. Getting emotional or making rash decisions just leads to trouble.

Quit early – I know quitting might not sound like being resilient, but trust me sometimes that is exactly what you need to do. For example, when your company starts laying people off, you can be the smart person who sees the issues immediately and jumps ship to get a new job before all the other resumes flood the market.

Looked at in another way, this is not quitting in the normal sense of the word, but merely acknowledging that the ship you’re on is sinking.

Be prepared – It is easy to deal with bad things when you are prepared for them. Of course preparing to get fired is stressful, but you can still work to build new skills, develop your network and be irreplaceable.

An easy area I have found is just acquiring good habits – for example get into the habit for exercising three times a week, or get into the habit of going to bed an hour earlier so you can get to the desk before anyone else does, or into the habit of meeting one new person internally every day to grow your network.

Keep moving – When things get tough, people get sad or scared, retreat and distract themselves. Pretending something is not happening will not get rid of the mess.

Resilient people know that staying busy not only gets you closer to your goals but it’s also the best way to stay calm. For example say you just got laid off from your job in banking, a resilient person would immediately schedule coffee or drinks with all her old colleagues from work, talk to her old clients regularly to stay in the flow, pick up new skills that will make you even stronger, apply for an MBA, arrange a drinks event with the local alumni chapter of your university.

Help out – Sometimes helping someone else is the best way to ensure your own survival. It takes you out of yourself. It helps you to rise above your fears. Now you are a rescuer, rather than a helpless victim. If nothing else, this creates great karma for you.

And always remember the old saying – what does not kill you can in fact make you stronger.

The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learned on Wall Street (WilowWallStreet.com).

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