Ask Eddie: Should I Bail On My Trading Job?
Every now and again I get PM'd a question that I think might be applicable to a lot of you on WSO. When that happens, I get permission from the person who asked me to share with the site. This is one such time. I suspect a lot of you can relate to this feeling, so here are my thoughts on it.
I just read your post on minimalism and I've got some thoughts and questions for you, if you've got the time.
I am recent graduate from a good college, just began a job as a trading analyst on the credit desk at a mid market type investment bank. Focus mostly on riskless matching, very sales driven, seems not remotely like how it was back in the good ol' days, but im still learning a lot and meeting some good people so I am happy with everything, and I'm young.
This question is more asking for advice than anything. My question is... How the f*k do I get out of this?
I was about to start typing "What my dream would be".. but realistically, I have no idea. I may just be going through a quarter life crisis, or maybe corporate life isn't particularly for me.. Who knows. But I guess I would like to ask for advice.. I would love to stay in finance because I really do enjoy what I've been involved in and find everything really interesting.. but I want to live in Monaco, or Buenos Ares, or Morocco, etc.... I want to be able to take a weekend trip to Ibiza and Berlin and party..
I could be (and realize that I probably am) babbling, but hopefully you get some kind of idea of what I'm talking about and thinking about.
The question really is, can I still work in a market facing role living and doing what I want to do? Do I move into the London office of where I work and start trading EM and then maybe move to Saudi or South Africa or Turkey? Or do I grind until I can quit (which does not seem realistic in this age of finance)?
So, that's all I've got on this slow Friday in the markets... Any thoughts would be appreciated. Talk to you soon.
There are a few things to unpack here, so I'll speak to them one at a time.
First, congrats on your success. Know that you are where a lot of monkeys would like to be right now. Gratitude is an often overlooked component of happiness in life, so it's important to remember how fortunate you are to even have these thoughts. I'm not preaching, or suggesting you don't deserve or didn't earn your success, I just think it's important to be grateful for it.
It's important not to make hasty decisions about your career trajectory. I didn't much enjoy my time in finance (especially the later years), but I was always deliberate in the decisions I made about my career. Even my bad decisions were made deliberately and fully cognizant of the consequences. You need to know that you thought everything through before you made a move. That way if things go badly you won't second guess yourself. I spent a year in exile in Mexico and the islands for screwing over a former employer, but I never once regretted doing it. When you make a move, make it because you know you've thought it through.
Now, to the point about "How the fuck do I get out of this?", that's something I have some experience with. I think it starts with figuring out what you really want in life, which can be hard. Knowing what you don't want makes it easier, though. And if what you don't want is what you're doing now, then make a plan to do something else. That doesn't mean you have to act on it, but it's a good idea to keep your options open.
By the time I really hit burnout (something I don't recommend), the answer to what I really wanted was "anything but this". On the plus side, the decision making gets a lot easier at that point. For me, it started with a walkaway number and an expiration date. To this day, I know that's the only thing that kept me sane. I was trading commodities and hated the work. I hated it to the point that I woke up every morning at 4 (I was in California where some of the markets opened as early as 5:30 am) and rolled out of bed saying, "God, I hate my fucking job."
I worked at a boutique firm where I knew the CEO well, so I went into his office on the first day of 1999 and handed him my resignation -- effective the last day of 1999 or whenever I doubled the firm's 13-year trading record, whichever came first. He actually laughed at me because he didn't think I could hit the record, much less double it. I did it before the end of June, and quietly packed my shit and walked out. I'm not telling you this to brag, I'm telling you this to illustrate how critical it is to know that you have a way out, that a bad situation is going to end one way or another, and that you'll be able to move on. It's so important to give yourself an expiration date when you're somewhere that you're not happy. You'll work so much harder and achieve so much more knowing that the end is in sight.
It sounds like you enjoy what you're doing but you've got mad FOMO. I can empathize. Spending your 20's behind a computer screen is pretty miserable when some of your peers are out enjoying life (I think it's important to stress that only some of your peers are doing it; many are far worse off than you). I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, you should probably bust your ass so you can relax later. On the other hand, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow. That's the balance we all face. You have to figure out what's most important to you. For me it was autonomy, and that's not something you'll find working for a company who's selling your time at retail and paying you cost. For you it might be something else. Maybe a high paying job is your best outcome, in which case you should probably stay put.
Should you take a transfer abroad? Absolutely. At this stage of your career it can only help. Later on there might be price to be paid for distance from the seat of power, but at this stage you should let your employer send you wherever they offer to. I wouldn't be in hurry to go to Saudi (because if the planet were to get an enema that's where they'd stick the hose) but hey, you might love it. Monaco, Buenos Aires, Morocco? Yes, yes, and yes. South Africa and Turkey? One hundred percent. Go forth, young man, and prosper. The experience (both personal and professional) will be invaluable.
Just to sum up, the important thing is to be thoughtful about it. Life isn't binary. You can make a success of any path you choose. Likewise, even the path with the highest probability of success will be fraught with failure, so it doesn't pay to sweat the small shit. Don't take any shit, help others whenever you can, and to thine own self be true. Like we used to say in the Marine Corps, free your mind and your ass will follow.
That's probably enough platitudes for one day. Hope this helps.