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It will give you tunnel vision.

It will make you sacrifice many things you enjoy and put them on the back-burner.

It will give you a cynical (and sometimes hateful) view of your classmates.

You will seriously consider the possibility of purchasing a one-way flight to Fiji to retire. (Okay, maybe that was just me).

Recruiting will probably be the most stressful experience of your young life. Worse than college applications, worse than finals, worse than when your high school girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you. In my case, I remember the pressure being so enormous that my hair was actually falling out.

Plenty of people have better experiences than that, of course. This just happens to be mine. None of this is meant to scare you; I'd like to share something that I wish I had back when I was going through the process.

Had I known about James Altucher's writing back then, I probably would have coped better. He has two rules for staying happy under any circumstances, and both are especially difficult during recruiting season.

1. Be thankful for what you have; 2. Don't gossip.

#1 is always tough under any circumstances, but it's especially easy to feel useless and discouraged as long as you don't have that offer letter in hand. I get it.

So did my dad, who had to listen to my curse-laden rants about how much uncertainty I had about my career and life, not to mention how I wasn't eating or sleeping. What he said gave me perspective. My dad has had a very successful career on the Street, but I never knew his full story of how he broke in during the early 1980s.

When he was my age (he explained), he was still working at Record World and Burger King. He had no money to speak of and couldn't even tell you what a stock was. He certainly wasn't coming out of college gunning for front-office finance. He was not on any sort of "path" or "track."

He got his first finance gig on a recommendation from a college buddy whose firm was hiring so many people that it wasn't very selective about backgrounds. They couldn't care less where you went to school or what your major was as long as they could train you.

Yes, it was a different world then--hiring on Wall Street was skyrocketing, and in a lot of ways it was easier to break in. But the fact remained that he had stumbled on something very lucrative and rewarding pretty much by accident! And he had never even HEARD of the phrase "stable, fulfilling career" until I regurgitated it from the mouths of my supposedly knowledgeable undergrad academics.

"I had no idea what I wanted to do," he confessed. "And I don't think most of your peers really do, either--as much as they may appear to. If somebody asked me about a 'fulfilling career' back then, I'd have no idea what they meant!"

...Ahem. Needless to say, I reexamined my place.

This doesn't mean you have to make grandiose changes or bold declarations. Do what James Altucher suggests and spend a few minutes in the morning (you can spare them) counting your blessings. Your college. Your friends. The people and mentors who have helped you get where you are now, and who will help you in the future even if they don't know you yet.

I'm Catholic, so I like to pray in thanksgiving for these things, as well as for the patience and humility to never forget them.

If that's not your thing, throw it all down on paper and add to it periodically. The next time you feel tempted to throw yourself a pity party because you aren't a Managing Director at age 25, it'll keep you grounded.

Thanksgiving may still be a couple of weeks away, but you don't have to wait for the holidays to be thankful for what you DO have.

I promise you...we all have at least a few things. Mine are my current job, my friends and family, my health, my ability to get a table at McSorley's Alehouse, and a beyond-expert level knowledge of the greatest music on earth.

What are yours?

Comments (33)

  • Anihilist's picture

    This is a really great write up. I really truly believe that much of the hiring process and vetting of college kids for "Why IB, etc etc" by Wall Street firms is bull shit. There was a great article my friend gave my by Harvard Press or Business review saying the exact same thing you are, most people actually develop a passion for their job the longer they work there, so it's really very hard to say you know what you want until you've done it.

    People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.

  • DBCooper's picture

    A good, short read is "Zen in the Art of Archery." The underlying message (of Zen Buddhism) is to focus entirely on the process and to ignore the results/goals altogether. It is quite a contrast to the Western way of thinking.

    Please don't quote Patrick Bateman.

  • In reply to Anihilist
    floppity's picture

    Anihilist wrote:

    This is a really great write up. I really truly believe that much of the hiring process and vetting of college kids for "Why IB, etc etc" by Wall Street firms is bull shit. There was a great article my friend gave my by Harvard Press or Business review saying the exact same thing you are, most people actually develop a passion for their job the longer they work there, so it's really very hard to say you know what you want until you've done it.

    +1. I didn't know I actually enjoyed this until after doing it as a job in a decent environment. I don't have a great story of reading Buffett and loving it at 10 years old like some people I've interviewed...

  • Hayek's picture

    "So did my dad, who had to listen to my curse-laden rants about how much uncertainty I had about my career and life, not to mention how I wasn't eating or sleeping."

    I used to think that I could figure out what I wanted in life by doing scrupulous research and figuring out which path was best for me, and then pursuing it. But security is an illusion--how many people have spent all their time planning a career only to find out they don't like it? It's so important to live in the moment and pay attention to those things that you find legitimately interesting and compelling. Check out "The Wisdom of Insecurity" by Alan Watts, it had a big impact on me.

  • In reply to floppity
    Anihilist's picture

    Exactly. I see or hear about jobs that I think "Oh man, I could be doing that, it'd be so much cooler than what I'm doing now", however am slowly learning that I need to deliberate a little more on these whims.

    I think that if you work at something long enough, you'll grow to enjoy it if it challenges you. Personal anecdote, started in research and was supposed to work on corporates. However, was switched to specialty finance and FIGs which I initially was very annoyed about. As it turns out, I've come to really enjoy working with financials and think I could definitely see myself specializing on them in the long run.

    To echo the facebook sentiment, I think that it goes beyond even facebook and has really permeated into all fabrics of society. As much as I'd like to say to younger people "Do what you want or enjoy", you likely have not a clue to what that is and what you think you enjoy could be completely wrong. I still don't know what I want to do, it changes every few months.

    I've hypothesized about the day when I'll one day be doing the hiring and if I ask "Why my company/industry", and I hear anything remotely generic or fantastical, I'll know you're bull shitting yourself, if not me. No doubt, I'd expect you to have some passion for learning about it, but I would find it highly suspect if you try to reify your passion for success/learning/challenge as a passion for a specific position or career. //rant

    EDIT: I'm still young though myself, so perhaps someone who has actually been through or actually hired under rigorous procedures can shoot my ideas a little. I welcome another perspective.

    People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.

  • In reply to DBCooper
    AndyLouis's picture

    DBCooper wrote:

    A good, short read is "Zen in the Art of Archery." The underlying message (of Zen Buddhism) is to focus entirely on the process and to ignore the results/goals altogether. It is quite a contrast to the Western way of thinking.

    simple example of how this works - i had a great golf teacher who told me only to worry about my swing, and not where the ball went. now i'm picking up basketball again and if i worry about the shot not going in it's counterproductive. teaching myself to apply the same lessons, only focus on the process of my shot, perfecting my form, and not worrying if it goes in or not. that will come with time.

    imagine you'd recommend zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance as well?

  • chicandtoughness's picture

    Addinator wrote:

    I think part of the problem is that people tend to look past what they have towards exit ops or their friends careers etc and forget that those people didn't just end up there by accident. This frankly is one of the absolute worst parts about the facebook culture we have coming out of undergrad. Everyone is living the dream all day long. No one posts pictures of their daily jobs but rather the sweet weekend trips or perfect meals they are cooking once in a blue moon. We are way too obsessed with what is coming next or what is happening later on than what is going on in front of us. It's a shame sometimes.


    Could not agree more. One of the main reasons why I quit using Facebook (and it has freed up so much of my time, imagine that.)

    "Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."
    Currently: saying goodbye to the financial industry... going into healthcare sector
    Previously: M&A consulting (Big 4), M&A banking (MM), academic research (HBS)

  • In reply to AndyLouis
    DBCooper's picture

    I heard that Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance wasn't nearly as good. The Archery one is the original one, that inspired all the others (there's a few spin-offs by different authors). It was written by a German professor who traveled to Japan in the 20's. It's a good short read that you can bang out in a night.

    Please don't quote Patrick Bateman.

  • In reply to In The Flesh
    DBCooper's picture

    It is more geared to learning a physical activity or technical skill, but the book has a bit of a cult following in the finance world. There isn't anything mind-blowing in the book, it just offers a different perspective which is absent in Western thinking. It makes an attempt at explaining Zen, which from what I gather can't really be explained in words --- only experienced.

    I just try to keep an open mind.

    "(...) The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art (...)"

    Please don't quote Patrick Bateman.

  • BananaFantasy's picture

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