Worst jobs on the road to success in finance?

Interested in hearing people's worst jobs in high school (or non-American equivalent), college, or career before eventually breaking in or "making it" in high finance. That job that makes you look back at how far you've come.

I know there was another thread on worst jobs in 2021 but that one was more depressing and didn't focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I'll start because my example is the inspiration for this post.

I worked at Dairy Queen for a year. I had to pay my way through school and took the first job I could get. It wasn't the worst job of all time, but it also wasn't exactly high flying Wall Street.

My trainer was mostly cool but had a temper and a super thick Mexican accent, so it was a stressful and confusing onboarding. They needed someone to do food, so I barely worked register or made ice cream my whole time there, and instead had to be the one guy running around in the kitchen. Burgers, fried chicken, salads (yes people order salads from DQ), all made to order by one guy - me. It was my first job so big adjustment going from no experience to being thrown into the fire. It wasn't fun.

I have some great and terrible stories but here is by far the worst one:

One shift I was having a bad time - loads of mistakes, slowing the team down during dinner rush, just a snowball of stress and problems. But I kept moving and telling myself it was just a rough day.

We finally closed for the night and just had some cleaning up to do. I was washing dishes when my manager stopped me to clean out the soda machine and handed me a 5 gallon bucket of hot water. I quickly took the bucket, thinking I needed to wash the floor underneath the machine. We do this for the kitchen appliances all the time, no problem. So I yeeted the entire thing on the floor, expecting the water to congregate around the drain. Instead, I flooded the entire store.

My boss took one look, explained how I was supposed to dump the water INSIDE the machine to wash out the soda, and told me to go home.

That drive home in my little 2007 Ford Focus was demoralizing. They didn't fire me because they said I had a good heart, but they cut me down to 4 hours per week for awhile.

My first full time job was in back office operations and that was no fun either, but I'll always prefer the office over the kitchen. Glad I made it to IB, much more interesting work than flipping burgers and dumping hot water all over the store.

Thanks for reading, curious what y'all got.

Comments (40)

  • Intern in S&T - Other

Couple of jobs in the last 2-3 years

1) Crew member then shift lead at Taco Bell. At 18 I was the manager and oldest person there past 6 pm. Plenty of late nights smoking in the parking lot with the high schoolers before we started closing up.

2) Crew member at McDonalds. Worst job ever but close to my house and good schedule. Had a sewage leak in the basement they refused to fix, probably spent ~100 hours shop vaccing shit. Probably paid more in labor than it would have cost to fix but what do I know about business

3) Kitchen staff at a fast-casual pizza chain. Nicer place (not like a Domino's), management is shit though. In the process of quietly quitting.

Plan on selling plasma for April/May to get to me to SA paycheck. Hopefully live frugally enough this summer and save enough to coast through senior year without having to work food service again.

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  • Intern in S&T - Other

No idea… currently a junior, so this summer will be my first exposure. As long as I'm not cleaning up poop or telling customers that hamburgers do indeed contain beef, should be a major improvement.

DrXander, what's your opinion? Comment below:

#3 sounds like Jet's Pizza. I worked there for about 9 months in High School. I was incompetent at everything except answering phones and handling getting the pizzas from the ovens into the boxes. The latter was a more intense job than you'd think, and god damn was I good at it. 

My boss was this white crackhead, just had that look in his eyes all the time and his teeth were fucked. Kind of a scary dude. He was perpetually angry, though in a very subtle, non-explosive way. He would smoke crack / weed in the bathroom and the smoke would hang in the air, and one of my co-workers would (half-jokingly) blame it on me because I smoked weed at the time.

Paid shit, but glad I did it. Pretty much all the pizza and soda I could eat as a high schooler with an endless metabolism was a nice bonus. Decent pizza. Get the turbo crust. My cheap-o dad would always try to get me to bring home extra pizza, and the crew was mostly out of it / disinterested enough to not care. 

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Most Helpful
  • Associate 2 in CorpDev

Respect for working the jobs you worked. No one understands the food industry until they've worked in it. Work in it once and suddenly you'll find an extremely high level of empathy for everyone else in the space. Food running late? You, the customer, take a deep breath instead of demanding things be sped up. Food undercooked? You mention it politely and emphasize that its no big deal. 

Ive worked plenty of shitty jobs but by far the worst was 10-12 hour shifts at a grocery store that made its own food. I did all the dishes for the entire place (massive grocery store with full butcher shop, made their own pizzas, salads, etc.). What I remember sucking the most was not the work, but the manager. He would yell at me any time I finished all the dishes and sat down for ~5 minutes. I would only break when all my work was done, but it didnt matter. 

The manager ended up marrying one of my co-workers, one of the least attractive people Ive ever seen, almost as brutal as his personality / mgmt style. 

Everyone should work at least one absolute sht job, because it puts every other job you will ever hold into perspective. 

iercurenc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

one of the least attractive people Ive ever seen, almost as brutal as his personality / mgmt style

Haha what a description.

kaiyas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Worked on a farm located within very close vicinity to a landfill, 9-5 during summers up until my sophomore year in college. Picking vegetables, lifting large rocks in fields and putting them into a skidder bucket (had to do this each year because rocks always surface), mixing dirt for mums and then filling a field with the seeded mum pots, stacking hundreds of hay bales in hayloft was definitely the worst because of how hot the loft was and I was also allergic to hay.

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ROCKYBALBOA83, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You sound like you worked on the same farm as me haha. I had those same exact tasks. The rocks were terrible, the bucket I filled it with would get so heavy. We also had lawn duty over plenty of acres. It would take 6+ hours to mow and weedwhack. The heat was unbearable some days during the summer. Whenever I think finance is tough I think back to those days working on the farm and it makes it that much easier. Really glad I did it, because it keeps things in perspective. 

washingtondullestowashingtonbullets, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Oh man, so many. The worst was door to door sales for a home improvement company that made windows and doors. I was a door-to-door door salesman.

That job also made me realize just how generous the FHA was to boomers. There are some really, really stupid fucking people with mortgages and homes lol. Bless their heart.

  • VP in IB - Gen

I bet you have some hilariously awful customer stories.

Yes - I think what I had to adapt to the most was despite being very proficient in English, I was not American and when people from either the deep South or 'the hood' called, I had a great deal of difficulty understanding what they said.  They often thought I was mocking them....which was not great given they were already upset about their phone being cut off. 

dan_yo23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Not my shittiest job, but one that stands out is a job I had in college. I worked in a university office with another student- one of us would sit at the front desk and direct students and man the phones, the other would act as a gopher for the department heads. One department head had lots of manual setup work to do, and had a separate team of student workers to do it. But being the lazy pieces of shit they were, they would often times not show up. So who was there, sitting at the front desk with nothing better to do? You guessed it- me. And the girls I worked with would always have me go do the manual work and they'd just pivot to the desk. Gender equality only goes one way.

So he'd pull me out to set up tables, move chairs, haul shit in the blazing sun. But I was desperate to keep my job so I wasn't willing to tell him to fuck off. Sometimes I'd be banking on front desk time to study for a test, get a bit of homework done. But this bald fuck would poke his head in and have me busting my ass because I was reliable and his workers were not.

One time I was literally hauling table after table in the scorching sun and my phone rang- it was the verbal offer for my after college job. Only $60k or so but I was over the moon and almost quit right there. Made it all the more sweet to get the call while hauling tables for 8 bucks an hour.

Brick House, what's your opinion? Comment below:

When I was 20, I literally drove the local garbage truck around my village, picking up people's trash and changing out garbage bags at public trash cans.

My partner was this 50 year old Mexican guy - awesome dude. He worked his ass off and blew through 2 monster energies + 9-10 cigs a day

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov

I didn't get a signing a bonus for an apartment for my first summer on Wall Street. So to cover it I worked for months as a dishwasher for minimum wage and would constantly get gross food on me and stay late to unclog the dish washing machine. I would smell like death after work, on top of balancing all my athletics, clubs, and classwork. Would also sometimes go to work at 6am for breakfast and stay in the business school til 1am.

Grit I think is the #1 thing that leads to success.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen

I had a few shitty jobs throughout HS/college

  1. First job I was a dishwasher at a higher end Italian restaurant. Perks: free food. Cons: The guy I worked with would have meltdowns when he couldn't find his cigs. He ran off one day and I had to work the Saturday night shift by myself as a 16 year old. Worked until 2am. Eerily similar to my current job…
  1. Landscaping for two summers going 6 days per week, 10-12 hours per day. The crew was actually a lot of fun for the most part although I inhaled enough cigarette smoke that summer to crave it when I got back to tailgates in the Fall. One day I moved rocks in a wheelbarrow for 13 hours. Once every two weeks I spent 5 hours weedwacking a housing complex (my forearms were massive by August). Although my favorite was finishing my gallon jug of water by noon bc it was 95 degrees. At least I got tan.

Takeaway: Sometimes you have to embrace the shittiness and just get the job done

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A

Worked as a janitor for a summer as my first job to gather enough cash to buy my first computer (to then make money through online poker) and was regularly getting massive headaches/getting sick from all the product fumes I was inhaling. The job itself is also soul sucking and repetitive.

chipotleassociate, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The worst was I worked at a highly illegal moving company that pretty much skirted every OSHA violation and fire hazard imaginable. 90 hours / week in the hot summer, coworkers were all felons less 2 guys, and a couple illegals. I drove a 40 year old truck operating on just a hand brake around a large downtown city. Coworkers were constantly not showing up because they violated parole, didn't give a fuck, etc. Only good other workers were the illegals and 2 other college guys just as desperate as me.To make matters worse, I had a target on my back. Place was originally offering $13/hr, but I leveraged the fact I had two other college guys looking to join to get us all set at $16/hr. One of the guys ran his mouth and all of a sudden all these underpaid ex cons had a big issue with me. It turned out alright though, I just taught them how to use collective bargaining power (some used it successfully, most were hotheads so they blew up before they could effectively negotiate). I also ended up being a driver and leader of a team, that came with a pay bump - again, 40 year olds from the street don't want to listen to me, but they ended up listening when they realized our team got the biggest cash tips (avg. $50/person per job, 3 jobs per day).

Some highlights: one fellow was a driver before I became one. He would smoke weed while driving, and decided it was smart to lean down when lighting up so cops don't see (always smoked out of bowls). We ended up crashing into a tanker truck full of gasoline on a train track with an incoming train. I shit you not. Luckily, train stopped in time.

One mover had severe brain damage and would rage hard unless he was consistently sedated with hash (think weed concentrate). He ran out one day and raged so hard he punched a steel elevator door and dented that shit in so far the door couldn't open. Total nutcase.

I was blamed for having an ounce of coke in the dash of my moving truck by an ex con on his first day (I was training him). Almost was fired by dispatch because I wouldn't snitch on who did it. Options were be a rat and again, surrounded by ex cons, or don't rat and be fired / potential legal issues. Luckily, dispatch had enough trust in me and figured it out himself.

Regularly ending at 4am after moving out disgusting filthy hoarders houses that don't tip (newbies got this duty), then being expected back at 6am. Get in screaminf match with dispatch about how I'm not showing up, but I would agree if he handed me the right amount of cash to shut up (usually $200). I lived 45mn away, so I would end up making a bed out of moving blankets, sleep on that, and hose myself off with a garden hose before starting the next morning.2x got bed bugs from moving out section 8 housing.

Crashed the moving truck at a rich apartment downtown because I had 10 hours of sleep total the past 5 days. Small crash, I clipped an overhang from the building that didn't have proper signage. Rich people at apartment freaking out at me, dispatcher freaking out at me, tenant trying to move freaking out, and dealt with cops. Dispatcher and I almost got in a fight when I got back until I reminded him that DOT says 8 hours off between driving and I could bring that place down.

All this and I'm still the main face on their website as I was one of the only presentable movers they've ever had, LOL.

For those that may ask why I did this: I netted over $20k in the 3 summer months. That was huge to me in college.

After that experience, life in banking has truly been considerably easier.

NuclearPenguins, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My first "real" job that wasn't something BS like coaching sports was at a Macy's / Bloomingdale's type of place. Which really wasn't all too bad except my first day was the overnight shift on Black Friday, and then over the holidays there were a number of days where the store was open for like 72 hours straight which also resulted in some terrible hours. Definitely gained a lot of respect for people working any retail / service job - people just straight up suck at times, whether that's to your face and putting people down (recall one guy mocking a coworker for not having perfect English when she wasn't fully understanding how a coupon worked), or things like leaving food / drinks around the store. Never had to personally deal with any theft issues or crazies taking a shit in the changing rooms or things like that, but yeah.

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs

I had a good childhood, but we weren't very well off. I was on the reduced price lunch program through high school and then worked 2-3 jobs during my freshman / sophomore year (e.g., food service, on campus jobs, etc.) before using paid IB internships to get me through college. 

I ultimately got lucky and networked with the right folks who gave me a chance. Ended up leveraging one summer internship offer for another and ultimately got in at a top bank (GS/MS/JPM/EVR/PJT). Worked like crazy during the summer and got a return offer and 4-5 years later, I am now at a MF PE firm in NY

I could have never predicted getting to where I am now when I first found out about WSO during my freshman year summer. There were a lot of great people that helped me along the way and I am eternally grateful for them to change the trajectory of my life.

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crazylifechoices, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Congratulations on your success. Can definitely relate and it's pretty overwhelming to know how far great people and some fortunate bounces took me.

GTLforlife, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Did construction for my old man as he wanted to teach us the value of a dollar and hard work at a young age. Was working in middle school on some Saturday's and during the summer up until I turned 16. Job was brutal as there was no air conditioning on the houses we were working in (no shit right). It would be 95 degrees outside and over 100 inside. Threw up a couple times cus I over hydrated and nearly passed out in an attic once. Waking up at 5:30 in the morning and not coming home until 7 or 8 at night, just depended on when the sun went down. My pay increased from $50 a day in middle school to $120 in high school which was lowkey baller if you're 15. Shit suuucked and as soon as I turned 16 dipped out to the first job I could get. Have never worked harder in my life. Would recommend tho cus you will be mentally strong.

MrPermaBear, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So many, but the one that I absolutely HATED was FedEx during the holidays in undergrad. It paid well, but it was 10-12 hours of nonstop bending down and stacking boxes alone in a cold trailer. No phones or headphones were allowed. No one was in the trailer with you. It was just you and your thoughts stacking heavy ass Chewy boxes all night. I spent my entire winter break working 6 days a week like that and told myself every day that I would quit tomorrow.

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  • Principal in PE - Other

I have a friend who worked overflow holiday hours for FedEx/UPS when he was in college. He basically had to ride around with a stressed out/jacked up driver and be the monkey who ran packages from the truck to the door (during the holidays they put huge demands on the delivery drivers and this type of stuff is necessary to make their quotas). Anyway, he said the lowlight for him was that one of the drivers was sick/had a stomach issue but didn't have the time to go to a store or rest area so instead he pulled over on the side of the road and shit in a bucket in the back of the truck. Right in front of my friend.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A

Worked as a houseman at a hotel when I was 17-19. Would set up for large events & would often work them as a server. That job is the reason I don't mind IB at all. They worked me like a dog, anywhere from 12-16 hour shifts during holidays or summers with no time for even a 10-15 minute break, it made me appreciate the fact that I was going to a good university and it only made me work harder so I wouldn't have to work at a place like that again.

The management was god awful, they would overbook events (if there was a wedding til 3am I'd have to stay til it finished + clean the room & set up for the following event in the morning). Customers were god awful too, inherently rude and had on one occasion someone scream at me during my first few weeks there as a 17 yo because the tables for the event wasn't set up as they requested.

Until you work within the serving industry you won't understand how people look down upon you or treat you as less than. Whenever I go to a restaurant now I try to make the servers life as easy as possible because I know what some customers can be like.

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pepsii, what's your opinion? Comment below:


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Bigbodybugatti, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Dishwasher, bouncer at a gay night club, Jimmy John's delivery driver (my manager was an alcoholic coke head who paid me to pick him up at the train every day because his license was revoked. Every night I'd have to be the one to close up shop because he'd be zooted by 7 off of a handle of Evan Williams)

radio528, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Couple shitty jobs I would add to this, most are labor jobs I worked in late high school/early college summers.

1. Worked as a laborer for a massive manufacturing plant. I was responsible for painting all of the railings in the entire warehouse yellow as well as yellow lines all around the factory floor to denote you're stepping onto the floor. You would think this would be fairly easy, but it was hot as all hell in that manufacturing plant and I had to be squatting, on my knees, or at awkward angles consistently as I painted for 9-10 hours a day for like 9.50 an hour

2. The above job was the first part of the summer so I did that for 6 weeks and then took a job as a door to door energy salesman for the last 6 weeks. It was at a time where the law passed for the right to choose your energy/electric supplier. I was selling for a predominantly solar and wind energy company in natural gas country. Our price per kwh was 40%, sometimes 50% higher and we were selling to a clientele who couldn't care less about the environment and the small percentage that did, weren't willing to pay double for it. That was a fun 6 weeks going door to door in the heat pitching a product that made no sense expanding in the region I was in.

3. Took a job as a contractor right out of college after I had 2 offers blow up based on external factors completely out of my control. It was a decent sized (150-200) Fin-Tech firm that specialized in their proprietary software providing back office solutions to asset managers. Worked there for probably 3 months learning everything I could (which was incredibly useless since the only skills learned were how to operate their software) and was consistently given no work. Boss was one of the most self absorbed arrogant guys I have ever come across and kept dismissing me when I stated I needed more work. I was finally staffed on a project where my Project Manager never reached out or worked with me in any capacity, as every time I tried I was told he had it handled. I don't think people realize how hard it is to fill up 8 hours at an office, even doing whatever you want. Days felt like weeks and weeks felt like months. I will never take for granted being busy at work because of this experience

Real Grunt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Operations Team Member at Lifetime Fitness. I was paid a few dollars above minimum wage and given a free membership to the the club as long as I was employed by them.

My two primary job duties consisted of maintaining the men's locker room (stock supplies, keep clean, etc.) and managing the towel supply for the club. Managing the towel supply involved gathering up all the dirty/used up towels from the 20+ dirty bins in the locker room, gym floor, and pool area. I would then load these towels into a large 4x4x3 foot rolling bin with wheels (think mail bin) and push into the back loading dock area of the club. From there, I would put on disposable surgeon style gloves and begin to grab and stuff towels into industrial sized washing machines. Once completely stuffed, I would start the machine, check back once the wash was complete, and flip the load to the industrial grade dryers. Once everything was dry, I would begin to fold the towels into neat stacks and restock the entire club.

Anyways, one day I was gathering towels from the last dirty towel bin in the men's locker room (there were 3 bins total) when I noticed this older man (mid to late 70s) staring at me. I gave him a wave and said good afternoon, but he immediately looked away, grabbed his bag and left the locker room. I thought this was somewhat odd, but grabbed the last of the dirty towels from the bin and headed back to the loading dock to begin the wash cycle. As I was pushing the bin, I noticed a stronger than normal odor coming from the towel bin. It was the peak of summer at the time, so figured it was just from excess sweat and moisture. Once I arrived at the back loading dock, I put my gloves on and began to grab towels to stuff them into the washing machine. I grabbed the first pile of towels and shoved them in. As I reached for the second pile of towels I noticed they were all clumped together. It looked like someone had wrapped one towel around another and around another. I knew I had to untangle these towels before washing them as they would not get clean if I didn't. I began to pull the outermost towel away from the bunch and noticed that same strong odor I smelled earlier begin to creep out from the bunch. I then pulled off the second towel and noticed a faint brown stain on the inside. I then pulled away the final towel and could not believe what I saw. A massive turd that was atleast 6 inches wide and 24 inches long, no exaggeration.

Fast forward to today, I work in operations at a MM bank and still have to deal with pieces of shit that are disguised as dirty towels. Life is good.

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  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs

Roofing in the summers to pay for school. Got paid well and it made banking look easy…

Bro_of_Y, what's your opinion? Comment below:

After completing my first year at uni, I flew back to my home country (non-English speaking) for the summer holiday, and I found a place to teach IELTS (an English test) for what was equivalent to £5 per hour. Had to get up at 8, take underground, and get there by 9 to teach for 2 hours and make £10. I have taught a couple of kids occasionally in later years, but thankfully my pay went up to about £30-40 per hour, and I was teaching maths, which is a lot more fun than IELTS. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov

Interned at a non-profit, where I was the only employee other than the CEO. The CEO left me in charge of running the organization for weeks at a time, while they took constant vacations. Also was payed in gift cards and client gifts. Was in HS at the time, and they definitely took advantage. Looking back, I had high level management skills for a HS kid and it was a good experience. The next intern only lasted a few weeks and they asked me to replace the current CEO. Money wasn't good enough, so I decided to go to college.

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  • Analyst 1 in PE - Growth

I worked in the gift shop of a popular historical site near my home back in high school. It was mostly just boring and the old ladies who came through to buy candles and Christmas ornaments would awkwardly hit on me. I did get to walk around the beautiful grounds on my lunch break though. It's a plantation so very lush in the summer

Endubis, what's your opinion? Comment below:

1. Did valet parking at a hotel. This was in 2013 right out of high school before uber became huge. I would give my cell to guests and let them know to call me if they needed a cab. A run to the airport got me a $10 kick back from the drivers, non airport was $5. Cabbies would never get a call from me if they dont pay up so they always did. This was outside of NYC, in NYC doormen would have never let me do this.

2. NYC Near union square; worked via a temp agency for a third party company that conducted over the phone political surveys. A very small office packed with really old computers like from the 80s and we read a script asking people about Trump, Chris Christie etc, this was in 2015 during the build up to the elections. 90% of people cursed us and hanged up, of the remaining, half would hang up after 1 or 2 questions.

3. Worked for a company called Cavalry at JFK airport. Many people from NJ, CT etc rent a car locally, drive to JFK , drop off the car there and fly off. We were the ones to drive the cars back to their base locations. Company mostly hired ex felons and I got the job not knowing that. We mostly worked over night to avoid traffic, and we got paid minimum wage. Every trip however was a race, he who got there first wins some money we put down as a bet before starting the trip. I had gone thru the Verrazano bridge at 110mph multiple times. Sometimes we would stop by Flatbush to grab Jerk Chicken which means we had to drive even faster to not fall behind. One day we were deep in Jersey and a couple of us got to the Enterprise parking lot early. We still had to wait for the supervisor to pick us up with the Van and drive us back, so some of the guys started smoking, and bumping music,this was at like 3am. Few minutes later, we are surrounded by a whole squad of cops suspected of being carjackers. Cops were cool after they found out we were just dropping off rental cars. But it was funny for a minute, one cop actually had gotten there first but he drove off until he got backup and came back with the whole precinct. I did this job while waiting for my cab license to come thru. I still talk to one of the guys from back then.

4. Drove a cab (graveyard shift) in the city for 3yrs mostly during college. Drove all night, campus all day. That would be another book of its own.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A

I worked for a company that ran a kayak store. I helped people in and out of them all day 9-7 down in the Houston bayou. We stored them right below the Dunleavy restaurant off Allen parkway. Cleaned the life jackets, loaded up boats, cleaned boats.

Worked all day May-August for 7.25 an hour 7 days a week.

Hard to believe this was summer sophomore year of college lol but man that sucked.

  • Director in S&T - FI

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