Learn from My Mistakes
I've always loved this site because even when I was but a wee little lurker in college I could always come on here and hear about all the little details that finance professionals picked up and wish they had known earlier.
The big questions, like which offer to take or whether to shoot for an MBA or PE vs HF never get answered by other people at the end of the day... but where the most value-add comes from is those little things that actually make all the difference sometimes. And I've made enough mistakes in my 6-7 years to have a couple of my own, though I'm sure they're shared by plenty of professionals on the boards.
Now I'm in a giving spirit lately so I feel the need to pay it forward... either that or I need a way to entertain myself as I hide from yet another insufferable 5:00pm book club meeting my fiancee organized with her obnoxious friends in the city. I'll try and walk through my career from the last chunk of college up until now to keep things organized. This may come off a bit scattered and stream-of-consciousness-like though, so apologies in advance.
College was always a weird time for me, so I'll spare you the details of my adolescent awkwardness and just say this: most people have absolutely no idea what they want in college. As promising as a career in investment banking may have sounded to you since age 13 (as many of you make it out to sound like), you really don't know that's what you want with your career until you get involved in it, or until you've at least seen all the options available to you. You're incredibly bright if you're on this site and you have a good idea of what you think you might want, but you really don't know.
The world's your oyster, so don't limit yourself so quickly. I got my break into a well-respected investment shop simply by applying to everything I could think of and having them pick me. Like everyone else I figured I wanted to do banking since eventually I wanted to be an investor of some sort. I didn't even know these guys existed when they tapped me for an interview, but had I only applied to banking gigs like everyone else, I never would have had the opportunity. I chalk this up to dumb luck, as I had no idea why I applied in the first place, but I'm sure glad I did. The shortened version of this is simply to keep your options wide open early on - sometimes it's better to let the employer pick you rather than the other way around. You're still the one with final say, so why not?
Fresh Meat was what I'd consider myself coming out of college. I was beyond naive, and had no idea how to handle being a 21 year old kid with an actual salary for once in my life. This is a time in my life I think I'll always wish I could have back, because I definitely didn't do it right... reason being that I was way too stingy trying to figure out my finances and how to handle real life. I think I even had a spreadsheet outlining my expenses and an estimate for how much I would be able to spend on leisure to keep in line with my savings goals.
Well folks, let me tell you something... consumption smoothing is retarded. If you stay in this game for a handful of years, money will be the least of your worries. Live it up, because this is the one time in your life where you might actually have time to spare. I'm sure someone will comment asking 'what about job security' and the million other reasons to save significantly early. Eat me, kid. If you're confident in your abilities as an analyst, you'll figure it out. Enjoy yourself while you still have time to.
Uncharted Territory for me was entering the hedge fund world, pretty convinced I was the master of the universe now that I could officially tell people I worked as a "hedge fund analyst." This is my way of saying I was a retard. Nothing was different about me, I wasn't special, and it turned out the job I came from was 100x better than the job I left it for. This is when I learned again the importance of keeping my options open.
No matter what your job title is, there's someone around you dropping a big pile of shit in your bowl to eat. Eat it with a smile, but don't be content with where you're at, even if you're CEO. And in my case, never delude yourself into thinking you've got the best job in the world. I stuck around way too long at a job I hate because it was one of the hot funds to be at, when in reality it was an awful gig. I just kept kidding myself for almost two years...
Getting Comfortable with myself and with what I wanted, as many of you know I finally ended up at a place I feel fit perfectly for me. And now that I'm settled in, I'm finding myself more and more annoyed when I'm asked about my job or about finance, the markets, etc. in a social setting. Once you settle down, you're job isn't going to be what consumes you anymore. It doesn't define you. And to be honest I don't even want to be master of the universe anymore. I wish I knew earlier that this is just a job, no different than anyone else's.
So when you get dinged, your life is not over, you shouldn't lose all hope, and you should move on to the next opportunity as if nothing ever happened. You know whose job I actually find myself talking about a lot when I meet them? The plumber. I love the plumber. A plumber isn't defined by his plumberness. He isn't master of the universe nor does he want to be. He just wants to fix the pipes, show off his ass crack, and get home to his wife... and that's all I really want anymore, just wish I had that mentality when I was coming out of college. Would have made things a lot less stressful, I'll tell you that much.
I'm hoping some of this actually makes sense. I read these ridiculous topics about freshman talking about their experiences "on Wall Street" and kids turned suicidal after not getting an SA gig and it just floors me that things get blown out of perspective like that. Then I realize I wasn't much different I guess...
I just wish I loved the plumber this much when I was 20.
Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted on 1/19/13