Come in if you've got time to gaze at another monkey's navel

Hi all, am new to WSO (but been reading the stuff here for a while, lots of wisdom here, props [or bananas?] to whoever started it and all the smart monkeys on here), just thought I might throw something out here for whoever wishes to pick up on it and share their bit of wisdom. Some of the trolls here are pretty vicious, but oh well, will take it as it comes.

Gonna be verbose, but in a quick word, my problem is an existentialist one. I don't think I can find an answer here (or ever at all), but since I've got time to monkey around (and type a damn lot), just like to hear what a couple random strangers would say to someone in my situation: mid-20s female, been working just over 3 years in a 2nd-tier European bank in Singapore in the corporate banking division. Currently in a MO role, which I came to 3 months back (was previously in credit team) as part of a promised plan to move me to FO "eventually".

I don't think I need to point it out but let's face it: I'm in a very mediocre place right now. I've had people tell me they think otherwise, that I'm in a good place, but to me, almost every phrase of that situation bit just screams MEDIOCRITY (2nd-tier, Eu-whereshitisgoingdown-rope, corporate-what-banking & M-yawn-O). And that was fine, key word being "was".

Some history: back in college (in Singapore too) my performance was also very mediocre (sub 3.0 GPA), because I was spending time doing everything from volunteer work to many random sports to organising college/dorm activities to um, sometimes getting myself into a mess (let's leave it at that). When I graduated at the time when economic shit'd already hit the fan, I considered myself damn lucky to have even found a place in a reasonably-respectable financial institution, even if it was 2nd tier. I've hung around this big old oak tree, where I've survived firings, had supportive colleagues/bosses, received increments/bonuses (though peanuts next to IB's astronomical/mythological standards) where some others have had zilch.

If any of you know plain-vanilla CB, it's boring, bread&butter business. Competition for business is fierce, margins are razor-thin, opportunities are limited (too many old guys at the top), and ascension through the ranks/pay-scale is pretty much based on seniority/experience and just, not being dumb in general. I know in my gut that if I continue to stick it out the next decade or whatever, I could get pretty far and come to a, well, reasonably-respectable place. But if you can see where I'm going with this, yes, this adrenaline-junkie monkey is getting very restless in this slow, comfortable realm.

I've been spending all that pent-up energy pursuing non-finance side-gigs/experiences (I like to see myself as an honest person so I try to avoid situations where there may be even a remote possibility of conflict of interest). The pace in a 2nd-tier CB is such that the hours are not insane BB IB-type hours of course, so I get to do random things. Prefer not to be too specific, but I've done stuff that's allowed me to keep my mind open e.g, meet creative types, work with big-hearted volunteers, even rub shoulders with huge international celebrities or swim with a beautiful minke whale in its natural habitat. Why was that last bit relevant? For that, you gotta know...

...a little more history: I used to be rather high-performing (in conventional terms) prior to those mad college years: I'd previously won scholarships, held leadership positions in the schools before college, and was generally the pride of my family. Several factors led to my growing disinterest in that formulaic, high-achieving life; essentially I decided to go after bucket list items (academic pursuits not being one of them), which has made me the Jack (or Jill if you prefer) of many trades that I continue to be today (hence all those random pursuits in previous para). The ride has been pretty awesome (how many people can say they've swam with a whale in the open ocean?), but now that I'm quite done with the bucket list thing, I'm wondering if I should give up being Jill (ie continue current status quo - potential prob is I don't have much left on the bucket list) and choose to become a master at something.

When I say "become a master at something", I don't necessarily mean going into IB, given that in this region, trying to get in there means having to have graduated either from the top US/UK colleges or top of class from local/regional colleges (I don't belong to either demographic) or at least having a very strong network (which I lack in the business/finance side of things - what's the use of a whale in the IB division... hm). Being Jill, perhaps there is the option of switching out and doing something completely different, but as I'm unable to make the math work in trying to get a whale to fill my plate, I am trying to convince myself to stick loosely within the industry and try to work with what I've already sorta built for myself in CB. Thing is, while I don't think I need to be in IB to be a "master" at finance, I'm not sure I want to keep plodding on in CB and get somewhere only because I am old/senior.

What would you fellow monkeys do if you were in my shoes? Would you:
a) continue being Jill,
b) switch out, do something completely different (this is WSO so I doubt many would pick this one) & be really good at it (would appreciate the insight as to how you would make the economics work for you if you do choose this),
c) try to either i) pursue an advanced degree (though I'm not sure how any respectable program will take me in with my college background) then try to get into something more demanding than where I am now, or ii) repeat undergrad studies (I'm sorta a purist so I'm not ruling out this option to try and make good the poor college GPA),
d) swing off a long branch of a tree that extends over a cliff - bucket list is done anyway, OR
c) do something else?!?!

Anyhows, I'm pretty self-critical/self-defeatist, so whichever you guys choose, try to keep in mind that at this point, in practical terms, the things that I see standing in my way, include and are not restricted to a poor college GPA and being a girl in Asia (shan't go into the feminist/racist issues around here - it's a diffferent controversy in itself). Assume no family/financial backing (fam ain't rich or very well-connected, and I have no intention of squeezing them for what they do have).

I'll be throwing out (imaginary) bananas to those who're willing to share their wisdom!

I fail to mention that my current CB gig stands at the intersection between finance and physical commodity traders. It may be an important point in your considerations, as there is perhaps a possibility of me going to client side if I stick around in the scene long enough.

sleeping with her was like reading the wall street journal...

edit: your writing is pretty good.

careful, don't get ahead of yourself ;)

i'm still Jill & in moonlighting-mode though, so feel free to hook me up if you've got a writing gig lol

Best Response

You can: 1. Stay where you are and move up over time. Given the economy right now, that's the most prudent move. A LOT of people are at jobs they hate right now, but realize that having a job is a huge bargaining chip in finding another. The people that quit or slack off and get fired have a very hard time finding a job right now.

  1. Study your butt off and get good entrance scores, then go to a good grad school. NOW is your chance to overcome the mediocrity that you've allowed yourself to be. Take some night classes, learn a language, join a club. Better yourself. You want to, now just think over how and then start moving in that direction. What else are you going to do with that time? Do you want to wake up a few years down the road and regret not doing so?

  2. Some combination of the above two. That's what I'm doing. It's time consuming and exhausting, but do you really ever want to feel like this again? Think how hard you worked growing up, ask yourself why you let up, and then look around at the slackers you now are surrounded by and say to yourself "FUCK YOU, I WILL NOT LET MYSELF END UP LIKE YOU AGAIN". Also realize that when things pick up, as they inevitably do, you will have thought more carefully about where you wanted to be.

  3. Start looking at other careers. If you really don't want to be there, get out sooner rather than later. No rash moves, just start experimenting (thought and action) with other options. I'm doing this as well: never limit yourself. Terminate any association, job, or habit that limits you. When you're 90 and on your death bed, you won't care about them, drop them now. Period. End of story.

  4. Try some excercise/diet/lifestyle modifications. Your writing indications a flat general mood punctuated by intense periods of introspection. Try Sam-E, some B-complex, or getting a little more sleep, you may wake up and be a little less agitated. Talk to a doctor and have them check your thyroid. In general, just get your health to peak condition, it will make sure you address these issues in the proper state of mind instead of making rather vital choices in a state of panic.

I'm not a fan of existentialism as a philosophy. By definition, it's temporary and decisions made during those periods should be very carefully examined. The biochemical aspect is also sublimated: existentialist writers were usually addicts, so realize that thinking about life while drugged may yeild some useful ideas, it's not a good state of mind for executive functions. This is what has helped me, especially in the last few months of life, hope some is useful for you.

Good luck

Get busy living

Thanks UFOinsider, I really wasn't sure I would find friendlies in here, but hey, that's just me being critical.

With all the side-gigs I do, I've considered 4 in various iterations, generally applying harsh assumptions admittedly, hence unable to see it working practically. More importantly though, there is a part of me that thinks that if I did switch out, I'd be throwing in the towel / surrendering too easily in an industry dominated by testosterone / ivy-leaguer / rich-family stereotypes.

I'd be throwing in the towel / surrendering too easily in an industry dominated by testosterone / ivy-leaguer / rich-family stereotypes.
Who the fuck cares about them in the first place? They're leaving for places like google and the next 'trend' anyway. Yes they're pain in the balls (or however y'all women phrase it, pain in the vagingo? I dunno). But ultimately, this is very doable and I've come to see that over the last year or so...there's plenty of people who do well and didn't have daddy call them into Harvard, you just have to figure out if this is what you really want to do and if so, then just settle in and get down to business. You can always change course later, but if you stay, just focus on doing it right this time. I too came in thinking it wasn't possible to advance or do well, but have met people who started with even less than me totally crushing it here.

And like I said, if the day ever comes where you wake up and think "Gee, I don't like this job anymore", you can always go do something else.

Get busy living

typed a long-ish response post and I don't know why the spam filter isn't letting it go through.

edit: trying a modified short version: ..continuation

Leaning towards 3. Still have questions: - is it worth fighting a stereotype & - is grad-sch THAT necessary

(Since I could, with option 1, move upwards in time or go over to join the physical commodity traders, though I'm not sure latter option will be straightforward to the extent that all the wheeling & dealing required of physical traders probably simply means I just gotta wear short skirts & be willing to sell my soul to do it. Could be wrong on this stereotype of physical traders but I welcome corrections...)

Thanks too for 5, it's an important point which I recognise, hence I've sat/exercised/slept/medicated my way through previous similar episodes of "intense introspection". Knowing the episodes are recurring and not one-off has pushed me to recognise that I don't think I can continue to be Jill, hence this post today.

The questions go on, they are not easy for me to answer. I am gonna sleep on option 3, but I invite further discussion if anyone wishes to offer up their thoughts.

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