Why You're So Easy to Replace

Eddie Braverman's picture
Rank: The Pro | 21,129

Mod Note (Andy): Best of Eddie, this was originally posted in 2010. To see all of our top content from the past, click here.

"The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights." - John Paul Getty

After a particularly brutal day at the office, you might go home feeling like you're nothing more than a tiny cog in a vast investment banking machine. Hours of mundane labor leave you feeling like your contribution will never be recognized. You wonder if you've made the right career decision, and you wonder how much longer you can stand being just a cog in the machine.

You need to take a deep breath, relax, and quit flattering yourself. Even on your best day, you're not a cog in the machine. When a cog breaks down, people actually notice. You're more like the sandy bit of grease that gets squeezed out between the cogs. Completely expendable, and wiped away with as much thought as any other industrial nuisance.

Get ready, because I'm fixin' to lay some ugly truth on you.



Wall Street isn't fair.

I was inspired to write this because of a recent spate of posts written by you guys about the various screw jobs you've been forced to endure as a junior guy in this industry. VaTech4Ever just got his dream offer yanked because he broke his leg. D-Rock got hosed (BIG time) on his bonus after the hedge fund he trades for had a banner year. And who could forget a panic-stricken blumie when his boss refused to reimburse him for $8,000 in research reports he paid for on his own credit card?

G.K. Chesterton has perhaps the best definition of Capitalism that I've ever read. The fact that he penned the definition 100 years ago makes it no less applicable today. He described Capitalism thusly:

Capitalism is that economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage.

The class of capitalists to whom he refers we know of as the guys upstairs. You know the guys. The guys who make a figure roughly equivalent to your annual all-in comp over the course of a conference call. The guys who pretend you don't exist when they're forced to share an elevator with you. The guys who wouldn't piss in your mouth if your guts were on fire.

Because of the choices you've made to this point, you represent an expense to those guys. And they hate expenses. Expenses limit the number of Murcielagos they can buy, and the number of illegal aliens they can hire to wax them. You might as well be raining shit down on their happy little parades with your expectations of a living wage.

The expense of your salary is largely ignored during good times (though the bonus system is still designed to engender animosity, disappointment, and the cannibalistic urge to destroy fellow peons in the junior ranks. How else would you explain the buckets?). When the hard times roll around, however, your salary and bonus are viewed as the Achilles heel of the firm, and the wholesale slaughter of lower-rung guys is de rigueur at the first hint of a missed quarterly target.

The guys upstairs consider you eminently replaceable. Believe me, if they thought a call center in Bangladesh could produce decent pitchbooks, you'd be out on your ass already. Remember how tough it was to break into the industry? Well, there are tens of thousands of kids right behind you laboring under the mistaken notion that Wall Street is the promised land, and the guys upstairs are pretty sure they'll work cheaper than you.

In case you have any doubt about the food chain, over 20,000 Lehman employees got laid off while Dick Fuld and 4 other top execs pocketed over $1 billion in comp. Bear Stearns laid off thousands as well, while the top 5 guys there walked away with $1.4 billion. They got rich and flooded the market with experienced talent willing to work cheap. That's why, even after recording profits bigger than 2007, analysts all-in comp today is still only two-thirds of what it was then. That's if you're lucky enough to even have a job.

>


You make it too easy for them.

Investment bankers are a risk averse bunch. Don't get me wrong - they're willing to take deliriously stupid risks with other people's money. But they expect their own paycheck to arrive on time and not a penny short, as though they punch a clock in a factory.

Investment bankers all attend the same schools, where they attend the same classes. They think alike, dress alike, and have a bilious distaste for anyone who doesn't conform. Non-conformity frightens them. They spend good money to buy the kind of job where you can make six figures with little effort as long as you fly under the radar.

Investment banking is the pinnacle of employment for mere mortals. It doesn't require physical labor, it pays ridiculously well relative to effort, and enables those with no extraordinary skills to make an extraordinary income. But it is employment nonetheless, which means you make that extraordinary income at another's whim. As fast as that whim can change, your life can be turned upside down.

You're easy to replace because you think like an employee. You want to come to work, have someone tell you what to do, do it, go home at night and do it all over again the next day. You want to repeat this process daily for years, move up the ranks, and make more money along the way. Sure, it's mind numbing and soul destroying, but there's no risk, right?

If this sounds like your game plan, you suffer from a common condition known as Cerebral-Anal Hypoxia. In other words, you've got your head so far up your ass that it's choking you out. It's time to drop the lemming act and start looking out for Number One, because right now you're relying upon the kindness of strangers. Strangers who don't give a frog's fat ass about you and your family.


You're an unrestricted free agent.

It's time to quit thinking like an employee and start thinking like the CEO of You, Inc. In the game of life, you're an unrestricted free agent. What you do in this life is entirely up to you. Maximize your personal profit. If that means your objectives temporarily align with your employer's, so much the better. But never forget that your objectives have to come first.

Just about every employer will extol the virtue of teamwork, tell you that there's no "I" in "team", and tell you that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And I'll admit that there is value in pulling together with others - as long as they're pulling in your direction. But do yourself a favor and consider the source.

Was Dick Fuld playing team ball when he bankrupted Lehman and skated with hundreds of millions of dollars while thousands of employees got the shaft? The guy didn't have hisbb/business/july-dec09/solmanlehman_09-14.html"> own private elevator because he felt any solidarity with his employees.

I mean, Richard Fuld, they had a private elevator. His driver would call Lehman Brothers at the front desk, and the front desk attendant would press a button, and one of the elevators in the southeast corner of the building would become frozen. A security guard would come over and hold it until Mr. Fuld arrived in the back door. He comes in through the back door, so there's only like 15 feet where King Richard Fuld is exposed to the rabble, I guess you'd call us.

Look, it's not your fault that you have an employee mentality. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, big business has colluded with the education industry to churn out an endless supply of consumable resources in the form of employees who have been trained to work for a wage. Like any other consumable, these employees are used up and then discarded in favor of newer, cheaper consumables.

If you want to transform yourself from a consumable to an asset, you need to become a free agent. A free agent can sell himself to the highest bidder, negotiate the terms of his employment, and maximize his personal income. But free agency requires a shift in thinking, and a willingness to shoulder some personal risk.

It's decision time. Are you in it to make you rich, or are you in it to make them rich?



Time for a check-up from the neck up.

No one is looking out for you. That's a cold, hard fact. You are on your own in this world. And you don't have any golden parachute waiting for you. You've got a box full of your shit and a security guard walking you out. (side note: When you really screw the pooch, they send two security guards for you, just in case you flip out. Good times.)

So what can you do about it? I'm glad you asked. You need to re-wire the way you think about earning a living. There's nothing wrong with being an employee, as long as you recognize and embrace the transient and impermanent nature of employment. Use that to your advantage.

Learn to view everything under the lens of whether it moves you closer to your goals or further from them. Sit down and figure out what is the worst thing that would happen to you if you lost your job, and be honest with yourself. Sure it would suck, but it certainly wouldn't be the end of the world.

When you can go into a job interview and pity the interviewer because you know that he needs the job but you don't, that's power. And it's power that comes across in an interview. With that in mind, here are a few steps you should take to get your head in the right place:

  1. Read The 4-Hour Workweek. There's a reason it's been on the New York Times business bestseller list for a million years. You shouldn't be allowed to graduate college without reading it. Whether or not you agree with the premise of the book, or ever plan to implement anything suggested in the book, the book will change the way you think about business. And that's its real value.

  2. Start looking for a new job today. You don't have to be obvious about this or do anything to jeopardize your current situation. But there's a high probability that your ideal situation exists somewhere outside your current employer. And this is the best time to be looking in the past three years. Even if you're completely satisfied with your current situation, it never hurts to reach out to headhunters and see what else is out there. If the rug gets jerked out from under you suddenly, you'll be glad you have your resume polished and your interview skills honed. Don't be afraid to look outside Wall Street. There's a whole other world out there.

  3. Develop multiple streams of income. Nothing gives you more independence and a stronger negotiating position with employers (or prospective employers) than knowing you don't need the job. If all of your income is generated from one source, you experience a lot of pain when that source dries up overnight. Just ask the Lehman crew. Start developing streams of passive income to cushion any financial blows and to eventually give you the power to walk away. This can range from buying rental properties to selling baseball cards. It doesn't matter, as long as you make money. One last thing: you need a hell of a lot less than you think you do.

  4. Simplify your life, for crying out loud. In case you didn't get the memo, models and bottles are out. I'm not trying to sound like Captain Buzzkill, but conspicuous consumption has never been a good idea. I can say that because I made the mistake myself, and the recovery process can be long and painful. Ask yourself which of your possessions are really important to you and then get rid of the rest. Consider this: when I was packing up to move to Paris in 2008, I was putting a lot of stuff in storage. I came across boxes in my attic that hadn't been opened since I packed them to move into my New House in 2003. How important was that stuff?


    Don't let your possessions come to own you. Get rid of everything you don't need. It's liberating. When I moved to New Orleans in 2001, if it didn't fit in the back of my Ford Ranger, it didn't go. I guess the irony is that by the time I moved to Paris in 2008, I had enough shit again to fill a 3,000 square foot house. In my defense, I'd also picked up a wife and two kids along the way, so some things can't be helped.

  5. Ditch the salary and get paid on your P/L. This is a scary notion for a lot of you, but if you really want to move yourself out of your employer's liability column and into the asset column, start getting paid what you're worth. I realize this isn't a practical solution for everyone, but if you have the ability to get paid based on how much you make the firm you'll be one of the last guys to ever get laid off. I can chalk it up to the trader in me, but there's no way I would have been as successful if I didn't have to sing for my supper.

    If you want the big money, you have to take the big personal risks. A nice byproduct of that willingness is the ability to move from employer to employer based on who is going to give you the best deal. At that point, you no longer work for your employer, your employer works for you. He's no longer paying you to come to work, you're paying him to provide you a platform and clear your trades. And that's power.

Time to wrap this up.

In the immortal words of Drill Instructor Sergeant Martin (a man I still have the occasional nightmare about), "It's a dog eat dog world, boy. Somebody gotta get fucked."

Take the above advice and you'll be prepared the next time the guys upstairs get horny. Then you'll actually be glad you're so easy to replace.

Comments (58)

Sep 2, 2010

Lengthy post, but it has substance. Easier said than done though...especially when you are just coming out of school and just starting to realize what's out there.

Sep 2, 2010

Bravo Edmundo. Wonderful post. You are nothing, but a number.

Sep 2, 2010

Much appreciated, Edmundo. This is exactly what I needed to hear.

Sep 2, 2010

Great post Edmundo...

People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis, you can't trust people Jeremy

Sep 2, 2010

Like Edmundo said, "You are utterly fucking meaningless to the guys upstairs."

Its not just in IB, its in every fucking organization.

    • 2
Sep 2, 2010

Silver Banana

Sep 2, 2010

Best advice I ever received - Always have a plan B so that you can walk away at any time. I have been living that way since people started getting fired in large quantities.

Sep 2, 2010

This is an awesome post. If I didn' t have so few "credits" I'd award a silver banana. Even for an alcoholic, this is so right on. :) And yeah, the 4-hour work week is an amazing book (it is actually on my desk as I type).

I've been telling my friends this wisdom, too. I can't believe how guilty my buddies feel when they have to give their 2-week notices or when they start looking around. I keep telling them: if cutting your job improved NPV by 1 penny, you'd be out on your butt. As an employee, you are the lowest form of human life.

F it. Silver banana for the income stream recommendation.

Sep 2, 2010

Excellent post.

"Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." -Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) in 'Heat'.

    • 1
Sep 2, 2010
olafenizer:

Excellent post.

"Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." -Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) in 'Heat'.

Haha.. Watched Date Night last night and that was quoted in the movie.. Great line

And equally great post EB. Ever since I have been a sophomore I've been looking for that passive stream of income. Unfortunately I'm just getting the ball rolling 2-3 years later. But I think the upcoming months before I start my analyst gig will at least get me what's needed for my monthly student loan payments.. Leaving my salary untouched

Sep 2, 2010

Well written. The only thing I can add is to ignore any concept of "loyalty." Companies (at least the big firms) aren't loyal to you, and if they say they are, they are lying. Its all about what you have done for them lately, and I have seen whole desks, entire onboarding teams, and other acts of just wholesale cuts without any regard to personal performance or sacrifices made for the firm just because that business is drying up or prospects don't look good. Maybe the guy running the group will get re-assigned somewhere else, but that even seems increasingly rare (if anything, companies seem way more apt to take out the top guy, but maybe keep one or two of the guys just below them).

You have to move around in this industry, and when you start getting mistreated, leave. It really infuriates me when you go to these big division meetings and they start spouting about loyalty, when just last week the guy next to you got sent home with three weeks severance. I must say I am fortunate, 8 years in this business and I have not been laid off yet.

Sep 2, 2010

Glad to see the resounding "no loyalty" comments. The day when you owe a company anything more than 2 weeks is done and gone.

Sep 2, 2010

Good article Eddie.

I still think there is something to be said for a reasonable degree of loyalty, though. Not the 40-years-for-a-gold-watch kind, but the keeping your commitments because an employer took a risk kind.

When you get hired into ANY job straight out of school, you're making an 18-month commitment. That is, your employer loses money on you if you leave before 18 months, and it's only fair for you to stick it out that long. In the world of job hopping and brutal meritocracy, a strong sense of fairness and justice is incredibly valuable. It's something that intelligent folks with a moderate degree of wisdom can spot and tend to be attracted to in the business world.

And I know I can come off as tackily cheap sometimes (I like to say shrewdly thrifty), but at the end of the day, you need to follow the mantra of "save, save, save"- at least until you have your student debt paid off and an emergency savings fund built up. There's nothing more empowering than knowing that you would be OK for the next two or three years if you quit your job or got fired tomorrow.

Sep 2, 2010
IlliniProgrammer:

Good article Eddie.

I still think there is something to be said for a reasonable degree of loyalty, though. Not the 40-years-for-a-gold-watch kind, but the keeping your commitments because an employer took a risk kind.

When you get hired into ANY job straight out of school, you're making an 18-month commitment. That is, your employer loses money on you if you leave before 18 months, and it's only fair for you to stick it out that long. In the world of job hopping and brutal meritocracy, a strong sense of fairness and justice is incredibly valuable. It's something that intelligent folks with a moderate degree of wisdom can spot and tend to be attracted to in the business world.

It is different for guys just out of school. Firms do invest a tremendous amount of time and money in their campus hires, and just for your own good you should stick it out for at least two years, unless you are in an area you hate. I suppose it is also a dick move to "take a promotion and run," but that all depends on the circumstances. Once you have been around a bit, I don't see a reason to put up w/ so much shit though. It seems I am kind of unusual here in being mid level and not just out of school or a wannabe.

On another note, I 100% agree with save, save save. The less beholden you are to your employer, the less stress you will have. If you can swing two streams of income, even better. I have taken a few cracks at this with some reasonable success, but nothing that I can live off of. Stay out of debt (even mortgage debt if you can) and save your ass off, and you sleep a lot easier at night. Life is a lot rougher when you are not only fearing for your job which you happen to hate, but need that job to afford the monthly payment on your McMansion and BMW lease. Saving sneaks up on you, it wasn't that long ago that I woke up and checked out my bank account, and realized that I had well over a year's paychecks in my bank account, and enough investment income each month to cover my beer/food bill each month. That was a good day.

Sep 2, 2010

Great post and great replies. I'm learning a heck of a lot from you guys.

IlliniProgrammer:

I still think there is something to be said for a reasonable degree of loyalty, though. Not the 40-years-for-a-gold-watch kind, but the keeping your commitments because an employer took a risk kind.

I want to add that loyalty might be important for your resume too. An HBR article this past July explained that job hopping is not the fastest way to get to the top jobs:

"Climbing the hierarchy used to be a reward for loyalty. But in the 1980s, as firms stripped out layers of management, promotions became fewer and farther between. To get ahead, executives started moving from company to company. A 2009 survey by career network ExecuNet found that executives now stay with an organization for only 3.3 years, on average, before moving on. Outside job changes outnumber internal ones by about two to one.

But is it true that switching employers offers a fast track to the top jobs? According to my research, the answer is no. In fact, that's one of four career fallacies I identified in a study examining how managers get ahead. Understanding the reality behind job moves gives executives a leg up when planning for the future.

...

One finance-search-firm recruiter I interviewed put it this way: "We like people with two or three companies. And then you look at the patterns: ideally, 10 years in one employer, two or three years in the next, but then we want to see another eight-year run." Many search firms are looking for evidence that an executive is integrating with and being rewarded by the people who work with him or her."<\em>

Link to partial article (requires registration for full access):
http://hbr.org/2010/07/managing-yourself-job-hoppi...
You can still be loyal and a free agent inside an organization. You need to market yourself well, create good relationships, take risks, and job hop inside the company.

    • 1
Sep 2, 2010
bigmuffin:

Great post and great replies. I'm learning a heck of a lot from you guys.

IlliniProgrammer:

I still think there is something to be said for a reasonable degree of loyalty, though. Not the 40-years-for-a-gold-watch kind, but the keeping your commitments because an employer took a risk kind.

I want to add that loyalty might be important for your resume too. An HBR article this past July explained that job hopping is not the fastest way to get to the top jobs:

"Climbing the hierarchy used to be a reward for loyalty. But in the 1980s, as firms stripped out layers of management, promotions became fewer and farther between. To get ahead, executives started moving from company to company. A 2009 survey by career network ExecuNet found that executives now stay with an organization for only 3.3 years, on average, before moving on. Outside job changes outnumber internal ones by about two to one.

But is it true that switching employers offers a fast track to the top jobs? According to my research, the answer is no. In fact, that's one of four career fallacies I identified in a study examining how managers get ahead. Understanding the reality behind job moves gives executives a leg up when planning for the future.

...

One finance-search-firm recruiter I interviewed put it this way: "We like people with two or three companies. And then you look at the patterns: ideally, 10 years in one employer, two or three years in the next, but then we want to see another eight-year run." Many search firms are looking for evidence that an executive is integrating with and being rewarded by the people who work with him or her."<\em>

Link to partial article (requires registration for full access):
http://hbr.org/2010/07/managing-yourself-job-hoppi...
You can still be loyal and a free agent inside an organization. You need to market yourself well, create good relationships, take risks, and job hop inside the company.

Sep 2, 2010
IlliniProgrammer:

Good article Eddie.

I still think there is something to be said for a reasonable degree of loyalty, though. Not the 40-years-for-a-gold-watch kind, but the keeping your commitments because an employer took a risk kind.

When you get hired into ANY job straight out of school, you're making an 18-month commitment. That is, your employer loses money on you if you leave before 18 months, and it's only fair for you to stick it out that long. In the world of job hopping and brutal meritocracy, a strong sense of fairness and justice is incredibly valuable. It's something that intelligent folks with a moderate degree of wisdom can spot and tend to be attracted to in the business world.

And I know I can come off as tackily cheap sometimes (I like to say shrewdly thrifty), but at the end of the day, you need to follow the mantra of "save, save, save"- at least until you have your student debt paid off and an emergency savings fund built up. There's nothing more empowering than knowing that you would be OK for the next two or three years if you quit your job or got fired tomorrow.

Agree wholeheartedly on being 'shrewdly thrifty' and on the power of building up savings.

I tend to agree with the earlier posters on the loyalty front though. It's true that they're losing money on you for your first 18-months (or however long it actually is), but think of students who get their FT offers reneged on a month before they're supposed to start. I'm pretty sure the company in those cases is setting their careers back a bunch -possibly a ton - for their own personal gain, and doesn't bat an eyelash. Your argument would say that the company should be 'fair' and let the analysts work for a year or two so that they get the experience and resume they were promised.

Sad is it may be, and even if these aren't your personal values in general, the fact remains that in the professional world, companies will always act in the name of profit, regardless of 'fairness'. Therefore, employees need to fend for themselves before thinking of loyalty or they'll just be taken for a ride.

Best Response
Sep 2, 2010

Here's a quick note to the quants out there (IP, you just reminded me). I thought about putting this in the post but it was long as it was.

If you are a programmer working for a bank (or anyone in intellectual property, for that matter), pay close attention to your employment contract. Chances are there is a provision in the contract that allows your employer to lay claim to any code you write, even if you do it on your own time.

So if you write the gnarliest black box code that kicks the shit out of Goldman's doomsday machine and you want to go set up your own shop, chances are your firm will sue you for ownership of the code. And they'll win. Just be aware.

Virginia Tech 4ever:

Even for an alcoholic, this is so right on. :)

I'm not an alcoholic. I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.

    • 2
Sep 2, 2010
Edmundo Braverman:

So if you write the gnarliest black box code that kicks the shit out of Goldman's doomsday machine and you want to go set up your own shop, chances are your firm will sue you for ownership of the code. And they'll win. Just be aware.

Many have a slightly more limited scope in that they only claim the stuff you write at work, on company time, or pertaining to your business area.

That's why, if an MD ever turns down a strategy that you write, you get him to sign a document stating that it is outside the scope of the business.

BTW, thanks for the 4-hour workweek rec. (The electronic version is $10 at BN.com and you can start reading immediately.) I'm not sure my calvinist background and obsession with fairness lets me buy into all of it, but it's a fun read.

Sep 3, 2012
Edmundo Braverman:

Here's a quick note to the quants out there (IP, you just reminded me). I thought about putting this in the post but it was long as it was.

If you are a programmer working for a bank (or anyone in intellectual property, for that matter), pay close attention to your employment contract. Chances are there is a provision in the contract that allows your employer to lay claim to any code you write, even if you do it on your own time.

So if you write the gnarliest black box code that kicks the shit out of Goldman's doomsday machine and you want to go set up your own shop, chances are your firm will sue you for ownership of the code. And they'll win. Just be aware.

Virginia Tech 4ever:

Even for an alcoholic, this is so right on. :)

I'm not an alcoholic. I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.

Been there done that with the programmer contracts. Signing a contract just because you think your kids will starve and you are going to get kicked out on the streets can bring a whole lot of financial pain later on.

Sep 2, 2010

A classic eddie.

I don't know if this is appropriate for the street but I have wanted & been thinking about growing back my money maker Osama Bin Laden type beard without the mustache & properly trimmed. Mine always did wonders for me in my previous life & business ventures. Will the street find it a little too conspicuous for I really don't care about being on the spotlight anymore but that beards has done wonders for me, from VC's in Silicon Valley to others and in the worst case my family business which is the last thing I want to get back into. Eddie recommend away.

Sep 2, 2010

that is some pretty invaluable advice. i hope all the young kid on this site are reading this.

'dont work for your employer. make your employer work for you'

^^too right.

man made the money, money never made the man

Sep 2, 2010

Something additional that I would add: even as something less than a cog in the machine, learn to realize when you are holding all of the cards and use it to your advantage. The firms we work for have no issue taking us to the hoop whenever they feel like it. If you have a chance to do the same without morally comprimising yourself, do it.

When I was a departing 3rd year analyst at a BB in NYC we had 2 deals that were nearing final stages around Feb/March. The powers that be decided to let go of the director who I was working with on both deals. No one else in the firm knew anything about the deals as the supposed MD on them was our group head who was otherwise occupied and had long since stopped receiving a cc on anything related to either deal. The client was a large PE fund, which at the time was a major source of fees for the firm (pre-recession). After the director was let go, I had a sit down with my staffer and group head at their request. They told me that I needed to "step it up" to fill in for the director and make sure that everything got taken care of to get the deals closed, which they both knew I was capable of doing. Our group was severly understaffed and over committed at this point, plus no one had any idea of the intricacies of what was going on, or what we'd agreed to/concede to in the negotiations.

I told them that was no problem, but as I was going to be hitting well above my pay grade, they would need to do some things for me as well. I asked that they guarantee me in writing through HR that I would receive top bucket; I would receive no additional staffings for the remainder of my time at the firm (there was only a couple of months left and both deals were scheduled to close right before I'd be done) as I had continually been crushed with pitches throughout my third year as it was easier to have me do them directly with a MD over a VP/associate/analyst combo; and, I would get the entire month of June off, and it would not count against my vacation days so I would be able to continue to get paid out for all of my unused vacation after the analyst class was done at the end of June.

After a quick discussion with HR, they came back and gave me a letter in writing covering everything that I wanted. It was a fairly gutsy move, but I knew they really had no other choice. I could have sucked it up and said I'd do it for the team, but I'm certainly glad that I spoke up and asked for it in writing. I spent June of that year relaxing/traveling and came back for June 30th for my exit review and to ship my things off to my next job. I rolled into the office in shorts that day, and my staffer said that he would have done the same thing. Best work-related feeling of my entire life.

Sep 2, 2010
TechBanking:

After a quick discussion with HR, they came back and gave me a letter in writing covering everything that I wanted. It was a fairly gutsy move, but I knew they really had no other choice. I could have sucked it up and said I'd do it for the team, but I'm certainly glad that I spoke up and asked for it in writing. I spent June of that year relaxing/traveling and came back for June 30th for my exit review and to ship my things off to my next job. I rolled into the office in shorts that day, and my staffer said that he would have done the same thing. Best work-related feeling of my entire life.

Oh absolutely. When you hold all the cards- and you've been at the firm long enough to pay your dues and develop a reputation (my rule is more than one year), you can totally do that. I would have actually asked for a direct promotion to VP, designation as interim deal manager, and a guaranteed bonus of mid-six figures since I was being asked to do an MD's job and saving them several million, but hey, you play a more conservative game.

Sometimes companies aren't smart enough to get it, but you don't ask, you don't get. And when people get laid off or quit- especially programmers- you almost NEED to play your cards to the full extent.

Sep 2, 2010
IlliniProgrammer:

Oh absolutely. When you hold all the cards- and you've been at the firm long enough to pay your dues and develop a reputation (my rule is more than one year), you can totally do that. I would have actually asked for a direct promotion to VP, designation as interim deal manager, and a guaranteed bonus of mid-six figures since I was being asked to do an MD's job and saving them several million, but hey, you play a more conservative game.

Fair point, but I was burnt out and ready to get out of the BB life so I had no desire to push for a promotion, and I don't really think that they would have gone for VP, maybe could have got 2nd/3rd year associate. I've thought about what would have happened if I asked for a guaranteed number, but I wasn't quick enough on my feet and just automatically thought top bucket plus time off. I didn't prepare for the conversation with my staffer and group head and just made something up on the spot.

By the way, Go Illini! Big weekend...

Sep 2, 2010

...after reading this I thought I'd share some info on my background since graduating williams in 2002.

2002 - 2004: I killed myself for 2 years in IBD in New York at Rothschild - taught me a lot but also was not a healthy lifestyle.

2004...2004....Got my "dream job" in private equity back in Boston (my hometown) and 6 months later I was fired for no good reason. thoughts of "I made it to PE!" quickly morphed to "my career is fucked." Because I refused to take the $10k they were offering and sign the document saying that they had "no fault" (yes, I am stubborn), I was "blackballed from private equity in Boston" --that was a direct quote from a recruiter I was using at the time... I made it to 3 final rounds at other PE firms in the area and after reference checks every potential employer ran the other way because the PE firm I had been fired from would only confirm that I had worked there = RED FLAG).

I learned a year later that the PE firm was using the LIFO method of inventory accounting for their employees. Last employee hired was the first one fired....turns out a year later they had fired 80% of the investment professionals after a few more of the portfolio companies went belly up.

2005 - 2008: i FINALLY got another job in PE because a guy I worked with at Rothschild vouched for me (I had a workhorse reputation because that is what I was at Rothschild - 90+hr weeks consistently)....but this time I was not as naive to think that hard work would protect me. Luckily, my experience at Tailwind was great -- I closed some deals and got into b school. I realized how little I knew coming out of undergrad so that is why I started this site 4 years ago...

I think many of us like to think that putting your head down and working hard will lead to success, but I would argue watching your back and learning how to network properly are just (if not more) as important. Sometimes, no matter how good you are, if you're stuck in a bad situation or jump to the wrong firm, you'll be shit out of luck.

Stay Strong,
Patrick

    • 2
Sep 2, 2010

I've been splitting my time between starting a business and networking for a full time analyst gig with a bank (and school and drinking but thats a given). This post has really tempted me to just jump head in to one of them...

Sep 2, 2010

Patrick,

I'm glad you joined the conversation. I didn't feel like it was my place to point out some of the moves you've made that bear the advice of this post out. Care to expand on how a guy goes from IB to Wharton to location independence? Because they're not teaching that in undergrad last time I checked.

Sep 2, 2010
Edmundo Braverman:

Patrick,

I'm glad you joined the conversation. I didn't feel like it was my place to point out some of the moves you've made that bear the advice of this post out. Care to expand on how a guy goes from IB to Wharton to location independence? Because they're not teaching that in undergrad last time I checked.

no, they aren't teaching that -- but a good education does teach you how to think and analyze rationally whatever situation you find yourself in. I could not have made it a 3rd year in banking given the avg work week I was logging. They would have had to pay me ~$500k+ to even consider staying.

It's not that I didn't appreciate everything I had learned -- the experience was definitely valuable, but I was completely burnt out. My body just refused to go on....even if I didn't have that job lined up in Boston, I would have only lasted a few more months into the 3rd year.

As far as WSO - the idea was nothing special (message board - so revolutionary, i know). I read a BusinessWeek top 30 entrepreneurs under 30 at work one day (I think I was 25) and was wondering why I couldn't do the same thing they were doing. So I decided I had to create SOMETHING and the only thing I really knew enough about at the time was iBanking...so iBankingOasis.com was born because an online business was really the only thing I could manage at the time.

Even though I had 0 experience online and it was small at first, all of a sudden I didn't mind working until 2am after my full time job (I was working about ~50-60hrs so an extra 15-20 on WSO was no problem). It was bringing in little to no money but it was fun to see people actually signing up and helping each other out. Plus, I could have used a WSO back when I was in ugrad and an ibd analyst, so I felt like it was definitely filling a need.

Fast forward to today and I just graduated with my MBA but will likely never use it in the traditional sense. I'm always trying to convince people to start their own businesses because I know how exhausted and (un)happy I was in my early 20s and how happy (and free) i am now. I'm 30 now and WSO is still relatively small potatoes, but it gives me the freedom to travel the world (countdown to Buenos Aires has started - October) and I am excited to wake up every day...and anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that I am NOT a morning person.

Sep 2, 2010

Great post Edmundo!

Tons of great pointers in there for someone like me who is just starting out in a role as an analyst at a financial news corp. in November.

I graduated from B school last year and all my peers have been obsessing over landing cushy jobs at the BB/Big 4 etc, so your insights provide a great alternate perspective to just being a mindless slave in a huge firm.

Kudos!

Sep 2, 2010

Agree with Edmundo we "analysts / associates" are an expensive commodity...that can be replaced very easely (at least on my floor...)

What is striking me is that even the guys who spent 3 years in a group quit... After 2 or 3 weeks nobody even mention their names... No one even remember them after 3 months...

Sep 2, 2010

I'm going to buy 4-hour workweek today itself. Good thread.

Sep 2, 2010

Dont count on only working 4 hours a week, but it does have some great tips in it. I am only halfway thru the book and havent picked it up in a couple months. Funny that this thread came up this morning though, as I was planning on reading it this week.

Patrick, I am really glad you expanded on your experience. I am finishing up undergrad but have an analyst gig lined up for when I finish. For the past few years I have had experience selling merchandise online for my last job. Been trying to start one on my own and have finally got the ball rolling on a few site ideas that a friend and I have had.

Great to see you succeed and I hope I can do the same. Really looking forward to the analyst gig. Not at a BB and the hours are more manageable (60-80) so I dont think I would hate my life! Worked there for a few months as an intern and really enjoyed it. Just hoping that a website is something that I can manage on the side and bring in enough to pay down some student loans and extra savings.

Sep 2, 2010

Great post, really made a lot a sense especially to someone like me who I guess until I read it was a staunch believer in the motto "hard work = success". Maybe it does take a bit more than that to make an impression at a company, maybe some compassion, some empathy and just being a real person, but I wouldn't really know since I haven't started a real job yet...

Sep 2, 2010

This really was a great post. I think a lot of us do fantasize about entrepreneurship and the lifestyle described in the 4HWW, but we get caught up in the scenario of it not working out and us losing our marketability to high finance employers. At the end of the day, some of us truly love finance, but all of us want the big bucks. The idea of veering off the path and potentially losing access to those big bucks is scary. Personally, I think the jump is worth it, but I'm stuck at the idea generation stage. How do you guys come up with your ideas and how do you get the conviction to drop the life you've built for an unknown quantity? I don't need to be sold on the idea that starting one's own business can be fantastic, but I wonder how to formulate the idea that will get me there personally. Thoughts?

Sep 2, 2010

Greenapple, I think it all depends on your ideas.

Personally, for me, I dont have an idea that is going to be the next revolutionary idea to make hundreds of millions or some new invention etc. Plus, being slightly risk averse, my ideas tend to be something that I can work on part time while working full time, similar to what Patrick did while starting WSO.

Without a strong idea to become the next google or some new invention, itd be hard for me to leave work to pursue. However, something that I can do part time to supplement my income and possibly take over as a passive and only stream of income after a few years of work is something that I am considering and slowly starting.

Sep 7, 2010

I think that was an excellent post Edmundo. I really appreciate it.

Sep 13, 2010

I have saved this as one of my favorites and I read it when necessary

Jun 7, 2012

1.5 year bump...

Very important read

Jun 7, 2012

TL;DR

lol, jk. I read every word. Excellent post!

Jun 7, 2012

Great post as always Eddie, def gonna pick up the 4-hr work wk.

Jul 9, 2012

Love it. I always felt like I had one foot out the door at my last job because I was nothing but a "worker." One of my main provisions in finding a new job was to be, in one form or another, an equity partner of sorts. That way you come to work trying to get something ACCOMPLISHED rather than just trying to get through the day. When you're salaried, only two things matter: 1) showing up, 2) doing just enough to not get fired. When you're an equity holder, neither of those matter at all, actually. The only thing that matters is how good you or your firm does.

My compensation is a [relatively] small base salary that's really only in existence so I can feel safe at night knowing I'll get paid something no matter what, but the real motivation when it comes to pay is from getting a chunk of our incentive fees. I understand tolerating the "drone" compensation style at junior levels, even at my age since I'm still relatively junior I suppose, but it's no way to live your life. Even my dad, who hardly had two nickels to rub together, worked based on how much bullshit he sold. I guess for some people the lifestyle of just coming to work, getting paid, going home, never having a say in anything else is okay... but I'd guess a lot of people on this site did not end up coming to this website looking for insight into how to find the best $200,000 perpetuity on Earth.

Bravo Eddie. You've inspired me to write something inspirational. Maybe after the gym...

    • 1
Sep 2, 2012
BlackHat:

Love it. I always felt like I had one foot out the door at my last job because I was nothing but a "worker." One of my main provisions in finding a new job was to be, in one form or another, an equity partner of sorts. That way you come to work trying to get something ACCOMPLISHED rather than just trying to get through the day. When you're salaried, only two things matter: 1) showing up, 2) doing just enough to not get fired. When you're an equity holder, neither of those matter at all, actually. The only thing that matters is how good you or your firm does.

My compensation is a [relatively] small base salary that's really only in existence so I can feel safe at night knowing I'll get paid something no matter what, but the real motivation when it comes to pay is from getting a chunk of our incentive fees. I understand tolerating the "drone" compensation style at junior levels, even at my age since I'm still relatively junior I suppose, but it's no way to live your life. Even my dad, who hardly had two nickels to rub together, worked based on how much bullshit he sold. I guess for some people the lifestyle of just coming to work, getting paid, going home, never having a say in anything else is okay... but I'd guess a lot of people on this site did not end up coming to this website looking for insight into how to find the best $200,000 perpetuity on Earth.

Bravo Eddie. You've inspired me to write something inspirational. Maybe after the gym...

Why You're So Easy To Replace, Part 2?

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

Sep 1, 2012
Edmundo Braverman:

It's time to quit thinking like an employee and start thinking like the CEO of You, Inc. In the game of life, you're an unrestricted free agent. What you do in this life is entirely up to you. Maximize your personal profit. If that means your objectives temporarily align with your employer's, so much the better. But never forget that your objectives have to come first.

Fuck, this is gold.

The Auto Show

Sep 1, 2012

Mmm easier sait then done - there was no way I was going to be paid for doing what I do now a few years ago.
When you start - you need that experience to give you some sort of worth for future employers, no need to shop around either at that moment, that's what I did, and it did distract me from my job a lot. Better wait a couple of year.

My worth - I have a book of clients I can drag from banks to banks now, my bank knows that, and that is why I am safe. Absolutely agree on you with this.

models and bottles - if you are young do it. My first year was spent partying like a maniac and spending a lot of my cash. You do not have to be an idiot to party either... You can spend GBP 100.00 and still have a brilliant night out with a table at a club. No need to try and match Abramovitch here...

The 4 hour work week - another tosser who writes a feel good book for people to jerk on and dream. It was funny, but the "stream of income" bull shit chapter about selling online etc... What a bunch of horse crap, you can't really do this no more. But I do agree once the cash come in, do start to invest in something else than the stock market...

All in - like your post - well written by someone who has his head well screwed on his shoulder as they say. With some sound advice, but I am afraid those advice are picked up as you move in life, and no one will apply those just by reading something like that. You need to FEEL your friends struggling to pay rent after being fired from Lehman to really feel it...

Sep 1, 2012

Nice job. I need to do some reevaluation :)

......just trying to save at least one hour a day for myself....for sanity purposes.

Sep 2, 2012

Liked the post a lot. read every word. Very true words, I think this definitely something a lot of people don't think about.

Because when you're in a room full of smart people, smart suddenly doesn't matter--interesting is what matters.

Sep 3, 2012

It's all relative. The imperious boss may be on the top floor looking down on us mere mortals. Meanwhile, someone with a sense of humor is looking up, saying no thanks, that is a long way to fall. There is a book that I had the pleasure of reading, "In Search of the Miraculous". It was written by P.D. Ouspensky, disciple of the mystic George Gurdjieff. That book helped me to reorient my consciousness to the world. Most people just aren't aware that we are constantly bombarded with influences from various planetary forces and from the people around us. Just like the Moon can alter the tides on our planet through gravitational pull, other people can easily distort the way we view the world. Most times they want us to see the world in only one miserable way.

Screw that. Don't like your position? Find another one--even if you have to invent the damn thing. Just keep in mind we are living on a planet that is hurling around a very violent sun at a frightening speed, constantly trying to predict shifting weather patterns. Better keep that insurance up to date. Meanwhile, our "smart" drugs create ever more resistant strains of bacteria, etc. The cycle continues. It's a small wonder we even made it this far.

Chasing paper money is great and all, but I would rather spend more time learning how to grow my own food in any environment and sanitizing my own water. Give me those two things and I can create the next soul sucking society any day. All I would need is a bunch of people willing to be brainwashed and imprisoned. Last time I checked one of those is born every minute.

Sep 3, 2012

good stuff

Sep 3, 2012

Nice. Got to look out 4 number one.

Dec 8, 2015

Epic post! Thanks for sharing

Sep 4, 2012

Great post from Eddie... Bookmark worthy.

Dec 5, 2015

@DickFuld thoughts?

Dec 5, 2015
undefined:

@DickFuld thoughts?

Wow, that is a mountain of misinformation. I wouldn't even know where to start. Read the link in my signature for a start.

    • 1
Dec 7, 2015

People need to check Aaron Clarey on YouTube. Dude's a bit of a nut job but makes some sense.

Dec 7, 2015
Comment
Dec 14, 2015