Some boutique investment banks on Wall Street have the reputation of being “sweatshops”. As an analyst who worked as a boutique, I can tell you that you’ll have to work 80, or even 100, hours a week during peak busy periods.
This is more brutal than some of the bulge brackets and burnout is common. The way to survive or thrive is finding a routine and sticking to it without fail. You suddenly go from screwing around in college and working as little as, say, three hours a week on school work to being staffed on deals requiring 80-plus active hours a week at your desk.
Here are some survival tips to avoid crashing and burning.
Investment banking rarely gets boring because there's no built in routine, but this can also cause a lot of stress as you can't plan ahead around your work schedule. That can also cause your social life and personal relationships to suffer and lead to burnout. Based on three former colleagues working at boutiques, these are three good techniques for getting a bit of relaxation in your life.
The time to think approach: Person A said that he walks to work every morning – as long as he doesn’t wake up to an emergency email. This helps make up for the exercise that he no longer gets. At night, no matter how tired he is, he will read at least two chapters of a book. It doesn’t matter what genre. The point is to allow him to think about something else besides work so that work isn’t on his mind 24/7 and consumes him even when he’s away from the office trying to relax.
The light at the end of the tunnel approach: Person B says that everyone he knows in the industry is facing some level of depression and small mental breakdowns are unfortunately common. Therefore you need to have a positive attitude and find your own coping mechanisms to survive. His coping mechanism was thinking through a business plan for a future start-up. His positive attitude was predicated on the fact that he knew he was going to form his own start-up. He actually already had an offer to work at one after putting his two years as an investment banking analyst.
This is like my coping mechanism – booking a vacation well in advance so that I have something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel.
The mandatory exercise approach: Person C told me that he forms his own routine by working out every morning at 7:30 a.m. every day, no matter how tired he is, unless he had to pull an all-nighter that goes past this time, obviously. This allows him to have some form of predictability and survive.
Lastly, as every associate knows but some analysts learn the hard way, don’t go ridiculous on the meal allowance, because that just destroys you. You will gain a ton of weight and your health will deteriorate. There are healthy options that my friends and I get on most days. At my firm, we get $35 dollars a day, so that can get bad really quickly. Most people combat this by buying dinner and lunch for the next day with the dinner allowance – healthy body, healthy mind.
Luke Williams (a pseudonym) works for a boutique investment bank in New York.
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