So, you want to work in M&A when you leave university? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Are you passionately sure (and passionate about the work)? Because if you’re not, you might as well forget it now.
So says Alex Edmans, a finance professor at the London Business School (LBS) in a new lecture on ‘Fulfilling careers and full lives,’ posted to YouTube.
An Oxford University economics graduate (1st class), Edmans took the standard route into investment banking at the turn of the millennium. First he completed a summer internship (at J.P. Morgan). Then he spent two years on the analyst programme at Morgan Stanley.
Then he had second thoughts.
“In two years at Morgan Stanley I learned that there were people far smarter than me,” says Edmans. “…There were people far smarter than me in terms of finance, people far smarter than me in terms of being street smart and business savvy, and people who were far smarter than me in terms of their emotional intelligence and ability to jive with a client. I was not going to get ahead purely on the basis of intelligence.”
Without superior intelligence in his favour, Edmans says he came to realize that excelling in banking would be all about hard work. “I also realized that if you want to be truly great at something, you need to make a sacrifice and devote a lot of time to it,” he says. “It quickly became apparent that this was not something that I wanted to do for investment banking.”
Before he became an analyst, Edmans says he genuinely thought he was passionate about banking: “I liked finance and reading the Financial Times.” However, come the weekend, he’d rather be doing something else than thinking about finance still. By comparison, other people at Morgan Stanley who were passionate about banking would work all week and then spend their weekends reading about investments. Edmans figured that these were the people who would get promoted while he’d get left behind. He quit banking and became an academic.
Reflecting on his own experience. Edmans advises LBS students not to go into banking unless they’re zealous about it. How can you tell you’re super-passionate before you start? ‘”If you want to go into investment banking or consulting, you’re an advisor,” says Edmans. “That is your passion. During the day you are working with clients to solve their biggest problems. During your spare time, you’re the person your friends call when they need advice about a sensitive issue….Only become a banker or consultant is being an advisor is who you truly are - if your passion is giving honest advice Share on twitter.”