What banker careers really look like: real private data

Mod Note: Throwback Thursday: this post originally went up on 8/22/12.

The most common arguments on WSO are about what it really takes to make it to Wall Street... and then what your options are if you get there. Working professionals come here to engage in witty banter and relax, only to spend half our time here debunking bullshit and writing advice based on our (limited) personal experiences.

How can we cut to the chase and give these kids hard data on which to base their life decisions, as well as save ourselves some time so we can get back to important things like ass and titties?

The answer came to me as I was googling a few ex-coworkers from a long time ago, just to see how they’ve been doing and whether I’ve done better or worse (something people do far more than they’d like to admit). The data is out there.

Four college kids started a hedge fund. Should I invest?

TBT: Originally posted August 2012

One of the biggest problems with having large corporations as clients is that there’s so much crap you’re not allowed to invest in actively in order to prevent any potential allegations of insider trading. There’s also a bunch of rules and paperwork that, honestly, few bankers have time to keep track of.

As a result, a lot of bankers just stick their money in ETFs (or a nice piece of Hamptons real estate) and forget about it. (I admit it, most of my money’s in ETFs right now.)

But let’s face it, we all know that you haven’t made it until you pay more in capital gains tax than in ordinary income tax. Passive investment is boring and is largely for betas and scrubs whose 401(k) is their largest source of liquid capital ( psssh!).

The 7 "Good" Work Habits of Bad Analysts

Throwback Thursday: This was originally posted July 2012

This is all representative of commonsense (but ultimately bad) advice I got during undergrad and followed blindly during internships. I sorted it all out by the end of my analyst program, but this was frequently accompanied by discomfort, late nights, and general suck.

You might disagree with my stance here. In fact, if you do, feel free to tell me in the comments. I'd very much like to hear that there are workplaces where the following work habits are rewarded rather than punished.

1: Turn changes as quickly as possible.

This is sometimes a recipe for disaster. The earlier you finish, the more time your boss has to second-guess everything. If you know your boss will iterate until the last moment and beyond, it often pays to build in a small amount of downtime for yourself. The finished product will be just as good (or bad), and you'll be slightly more rested for the next shit show they throw at you.

2: Never turn down a project.

Good general principle, but don't be dumb about it. It's nice to accept projects and workstreams up front from a wide variety of people so that your big workload is evident to all. This reputation can last a lot longer than the workload itself, giving you a chance to pick good projects and do well on them. On the other hand, use this reputation to parry anything likely to turn into a fire drill.

How to deal with the biggest weakness question

Mod Notes (Andy): this was originally posted on 9/26/12

Interviewer: "So... what's your biggest weakness?"

To be honest, I think the biggest weakness question is one of the most bullshit questions you can get during an interview. But people keep asking it, so you’ve got to have a strategy. There are some shops/industries where the best strategy is truth. In most banking/PE interviews, not so much.

My favorite way to answer the biggest weakness question is to imagine the interviewer at their job and think about what they would relate to most strongly. Then I build an answer starting with, “I get impatient/frustrated when....”

How to skip straight to final rounds

Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday: this was originally posted September, 2012

Guys, I'm back from four days spent recruiting at our top targets. Thought I'd share with you how a ballsy college junior with a 3.2 GPA and no internships who met me at an employer information session was able to skip straight to final rounds.

That's right: she figured out how to skip the resume screen, the phone screens, the first-round OCR, and the rest of the process we design so carefully to weed out all but the most competitive talent.

First, she was tidy, friendly, and professionally-dressed. She waited for the first wave of post-session aggression (see my last post for a description of the EIS hustle) to ebb away. She then stepped right up, shook my hand, and said, "I need advice. Could I have a moment of your time?"

The douchiest things I ever said: can you top this?

Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday: this was originally posted 6/11/12

There are some segments of the economy in which it takes a douchebag to drive value. (This is unfortunate, but empirically observable.) And Auntie Bankerella is worried.

See, over the years I’ve seen douchebaggery decline little-by-little, both on WSO and in my work life. You young monkeys currently entering the prime of your douche years are just not as douchy as we were back in the day.

I’m not saying it’s your fault. Few people achieve their full potential of douchiness naturally; it’s something most of us learn by emulation. Which means my generation hasn’t properly schooled you guys.

What every banker girl needs

Mod note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this originally went up Aug 2012 while most of you were still playing jv hopscotch. If you haven't read Bankerella's posts, go through each and every one of them now, they're fantastic. fwiw this post also went up on CNBC. Enjoy!

Okay, today's advice comes with a dirty little secret.

One thing a banker girl (or any 20-something single chick working 80+ hours a week in a stressful environment) needs is the ability to occasionally have some fun with with very little advance notice and with no strings attached.

(Sure, the perfect girl is a bastion of sexual morality and never dates anyone casually, but that's just not relevant here.) So as a banker chick, you need to get maximum hedonic return on the few hours you have left to yourself, and let's face it, those hours aren't enough to gently nurture a budding but delicate relationship. You need to be strategic about how you use that time, so you need to find people (or a person) who can do the same.

If you're reasonably hot, you'll have no lack of candidates for the role. It's like a resume screen: you need to apply some sort of quick initial test to focus in on candidates who are more likely to be rock stars.

So here are my rankings, based on my own experiences and the experiences of a few friends.

What I learned in b-school: is it worth $250k?

Mod Note (Andy) - Throwback Thursday - this originally went up July 2012

A while back I mentioned that during the two years of my MBA program at a top-5 school, I'd put a star next to every note I took that I thought was worth carrying forward into my future career.

When I moved on, I threw away the 18 handwritten notebooks, but not before compiling all the starred stuff into a document. Depending on how you look at it ,you could say this document cost me nearly a quarter million dollars (not including opportunity cost). Disappointingly, it is only 11 pages long... and that's double-spaced.

A couple people have since written asking me for the document. It's a pretty personal list, so I can't do that. But I will share a few juicy tidbits here.

Cold Hard GMAT: Are You Too Stupid to Hit 760?

Mod note: "Best of Bankerella" - this was originally posted 6/22/12

Do you want to go to a top b-school? You should have a 99th percentile GMAT.

This is hugely controversial. I have no idea why. If you’re already assured of getting into your top school because you’re so awesome or your dad’s name is on one of the buildings, go ahead and flame me. This post is not for you. If you already got into your top school with a sub-99th percentile score, awesome -- but this post is not for you.

If you currently lack certainty around getting into your top school, here's why you need a 760+ score:

My Biggest Career Mistake to Date: Prestige

Mod note: Best of Bankerella - this was originally posted 10/1/12

I occasionally get PMed by people at colleges I’ve never heard of before, asking if they have a shot at IBD.

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